Monday, March 10, 2008

The Fate of the Picture in Saudi Arabia: Ads and Movies

According to the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, pictures of “living beings” are normally forbidden in Saudi Arabia although TV exists in the country since the 60’. There are also numerous illustrated newspapers and all the digital facilities in particular since the opening of the Internet in January 99.

Because of those regulations which, according to the local professionals, remain unformal, ads along the roads and main streets of the Kingdom have to accept the forbidding of human representations.

Thus, using tricks invented long ago in Islamic art, today graphic designers often use in their illustrations different aliasing effects as the shape of a face or a body remains “licit” if there is no “manifestation of life” given by the human look,.
It explains why so many (male) figures represented on the billboards wear sun glasses!

Billboards which remain, when they are electric and animated, the only public screens Arabia as there are no movie houses in Saudi Arabia.

A reality presented in one of the very first local movies filmed by Abdallah al-‘Ayyaf in 2005. “Next Moovie House: 500kms,” a documentary, is about the trip, between Riyadh and Manama (Bahrain), of a Saudi movie fan who wants to go to the “real” movie...

The same year saw the not-so-private screening of another local made documentary. “Women without shadow,” a film, by Haifa Mansur, made a big fuss when the well-known Muslim preacher, Aaidh Algarne, retracted the statement he gave in the movie about the question of veiling.

The very first local fiction movie was to be released in 2006 but the main Saudi participation to the realization of “Kayfa al-hâl” (How are you?) was that of its producer, the Arab tycoon Waleed Bin Talal and his Rotana company! Thus, the “title” of the first local movie could rather go to “Shadows of Silence,” released almost at the same time by Abdullah al-Muhaiseen.

Since that time, various movies have been produced and cinema festivals are more and more openly organized.

One century after the first screening of a movie in the Arab world, in Egypt, picture has finally got some legitimacy in the Saudi kingdom. Even in the legal courts of the country which accepts, since 2005 too, pictures as legal evidences.

A decision which raises many issues in the time of the digital picture but it is another question!

Follow those links 1 and 2 to read the original and more detailed posts in French.

And to watch an interesting video where a Saudi activist shows, thanks to the camera, that a woman, yes, can drive, follow this link

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