Misk Art Week, a citywide festival of creativity taking place every December in Riyadh, has become an unmissable annual fixture in the cultural calendar. This year, things are a bit different, with elements of the event moving online to be enjoyed across Saudi and beyond. The event is known for its exploration of different art forms – from music, visual arts and performance to calligraphy and design. This year, the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation brings film to the mix with a program celebrating the present and the past, with contemporary cinema and archival treasures.
Taking stock of the massive shifts that have seen events like this become a much-loved and regular occurrence in the kingdom, the theme at this year’s Misk Art Week is CULTURE RECULTIVATED. The idea is inspired by the fast pace of social, cultural and urban change in the kingdom today. Vital questions are posed throughout the week – like how culture can help us understand the blurring of the past and the future, how change shapes tradition and inspires innovation.
The film program is all about change, past and present, personal and societal. Experience Saudi Arabia in the mid-20th century through a special exhibition and discover filmmakers of today through screenings of contemporary Saudi and Arab films.
See the past and encounter a major figure in Saudi film history, through the Safouh Naamani: Preserving Time exhibition.
Looking to the past is a way to understand the present and future. Safouh Naamani, an influential Saudi filmmaker and photographer who worked in the second half of the 20th century, would probably agree with this idea. He was fascinated by the culture around him, especially the changes – and he did much to preserve those stories for future generations. In his city films especially, we witness that transformations were already taking place in the 1950s and ‘60s. The changes were not just through his lens; he even led the way with a brand new innovation in photography – color.
The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation brings his films and photography together in one exhibition for the first time. Footage of the pilgrimage from 1963 shows a Mecca that would be unrecognisable today – though the rites and traditions remain unchanged. Restoration is a process that looks after the rolls of old films, which were physical objects, unlike the digital files of today. Over time, damage can happen, but careful restoration returns them to their original vibrancy. Archives allow us to experience the past, and this is a vital process to keep those memories safe for future generations.
Films and filmmaking in a changing world
Change makes itself present in the day-to-day. Reported on through big events, it’s felt in personal interactions and small details. That’s the focus of the films in the screening program. Each has a different perspective on changing worlds – from transforming cityscapes and the drastic effects of love and war to the tensions of social customs in rural and urban settings, as well as across generations.
Independent Saudi filmmakers panel | Thursday, December 3 19:15–19:45
We ask Abdulmohsen Aldhabaan, Hend Alfahad, Omar Almugri, Abdulelah Alqurashi. “Do the characteristics of locally produced films reflect local culture and identity?”
Last Visit | Thursday, December 3, 20:00
With his father dying, Nasser must travel to his small rural hometown with his teenage son Waleed. It’s a place of strict customs – a drastic change that tests their relationship. The debut feature from film critic and producer Abdulmohsen Aldhabaan uses this father-son conflict to consider the deepening generational divide of modern Saudi society.
1982 | Friday, December 4, 20:00
One afternoon at the end of June 1982, Lebanon was changed forever. It was also a life-defining afternoon for 11-year-old Wissam. As teachers struggle to conceal fears of invasion, knowing it will mean the outbreak of war, Wissam’s only worries are about confessing love to his classmate. This is an award-winning film from director Oualid Mouaness, which was chosen as Lebanon’s official submission for the Academy Awards.
Short Film Night | December 6 & 7, 20:00
Newlyweds make their first trip to the groom’s hometown, only to discover they come from different worlds. Nervous and desperate for her in-law’s approval, Ayah makes a daring choice, leaving Nader to wrestle with the consequences.
In an ever-changing Beirut, a man prepares for his grandson’s wedding. Manon Nammour’s film about memory explores life’s constant transformations, those that take place in our environments as well as in our hearts.
From performances, talks, workshops and exhibitions, check out what else Misk Art Week has in store, over at the Misk Art Institute website!