Even Saudi film production has revived recently, following the move of Saudi Television empires such as Rotana and ART to cinematic production. This comes after more than two decades of suppression by conservative Islamist groups who prohibited film screenings to Saudi citizens. In 2005, the Kingdom saw the opening of the first movie theatre in Riyadh, followed by the release of a couple of Saudi films with Saudi actors. The first Saudi production was Zelal Assamt (2006), followed by the film Keif al Hal. The conservative Kingdom launched the first Saudi Film Festival in 2006, entitled “Jeddah Visual Productions.” A year later, the Saudi Ministry of Culture kicked off a contest encouraging Saudi youths to enter the film field and form their own film society.
In 2008, Rotana produced the second feature film, Menahi, which tells the story of a young Saudi man of Bedouin origin who travels to Dubai and faces a series of funny situations due to the difference of lifestyle. The film sums up the paradoxical situation of Saudi media professionals at the moment: torn between the conservative lifestyle inside the Kingdom and the liberal environment of the Saudi-financed transnational media outside the Kingdom. The most recent example was the Saudi Ministry of Information’s decree imposing the national Aba’ya dress and full-head coverage on all Saudi female presenters, which has driven many Saudi women media talents to flee to Dubai and Beirut — freeing themselves from the state restrictions at home and the zealots’ claim of being the only guardians of virtue.
Today, most of the so-called pan-Arab media outlets, whether satellite channels or newspapers, are in Saudi hands. This has raised concerns that journalists might practice self-censorship in order to avoid conflicts with the Saudi ruling family that could jeopardize lucrative advertising contracts with Saudi corporations.
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Mellor, Noha (2008). Bedouinisation or liberalisation of culture? The paradox in the Saudi monopoly of the Arab media. In Al Rashid, Madawi (ed.) Kingdom Without Borders. London: Hurst & Company.
Mouad, Mohammed (2000). Studies in the Gulf Media. Cairo: Dar al-Kitab al-Hadith (in Arabic).
Tash, Adbulkader T.M. (1983). A Profile of Professional Journalists Working in the Saudi Arabian Daily Press. An unpublished PhD dissertation. Southern Illinois University.