Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BBC Radio: Do We Need to Rethink Our Relationship with Saudi Arabia?

This morning I was contacted by BBC radio to participate in a radio program entitled "Do We Need to Rethink our Relationship with Saudi Arabia?"  The hour long show will only be available to listen to online for 28 days, so if you are interested in learning about Saudi culture from Westerners' perspectives, do tune in.

Susie in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 2015
Guests on the program presented their personal experiences of living in or visiting Saudi Arabia.   One topic discussed is the case of UK pensioner Karl Andree, age 74, who has spent over a year in a Saudi prison since being arrested by Saudi religious police for transporting homemade wine in his car.  Alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia and punishments are harsh.  Andree has been sentenced to 360 lashes.  It should be noted that Andree has lived in Saudi Arabia for 25 years, so he was well aware of Saudi's prohibition on alcohol when he broke the law.

One guest related his disturbing confrontations with the Saudi religious police during his visits to KSA for Hajj, the religious pilgrimage all Muslims are required to make during their lifetime.  

Other topics touched upon during the program include human rights, public beheadings, women's issues, culture shock, and hypocrisy. 

I was the final guest on the show and I can be heard at about 53 minutes into the show.  Please CLICK HERE to listen to the program, but be sure to do it before November 10, 2015.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"Historic Jeddah" Documentary Film Trailer

"Historic Jeddah" is a documentary film produced and directed by Jameelah Rose del Prado Liness, a Filipino filmmaker and film instructor who was born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  Her documentary is the only film from Saudi Arabia chosen as an official selection in the upcoming International Film Festival Manhattan from October 22 through 25 in New York City.

Her film is up for two awards: The Best Documentary Film and The Best Documentary (Short) Film. Another category she is hoping to win is the Most Popular Film in IFFM.

In order for her film to win in the Most Popular Film category at the film festival, you can help by watching her trailer.  The more times you watch it, the more votes her film will get.  If you do watch it more than once, please Refresh your Page each time first instead of just hitting Replay.

As you can imagine, film-making in Saudi Arabia is not an easy undertaking.  There are strict privacy laws which, if violated, can quickly land one in prison, not to mention governmental bureaucracy and red tape.  And just being a female in Saudi Arabia adds yet another layer of complicated cultural issues.  Throw into the mix the fact that there are no public movie theaters in Saudi Arabia (although the latest movies can be watched on pirated DVDs bought off the street) and one can see that there are many obstacles to overcome if someone wishes to produce a film within Saudi Arabia.

Here is what Jameelah had to say about her experiences with film-making in KSA -
When I was doing my thesis film, I chose to do a documentary. I flew to Jeddah to shoot my film. I had nobody to help me. I had no crew. It was just me and my mom. It was very challenging and rewarding, but at the same time uncomfortable. I remember that I had to pause/stop recording every time people came into the frame, especially if it was a woman. I was uncomfortable because I always had to look and check if it was okay for me to shoot or not. My mom would tell me if somebody was coming, and I would have to stop recording. My mom also carried some of my equipment while I filmed.
It was particularly very tough shooting outdoors. I am always concerned about whether someone might take my camera from me and confiscate it, or worse, smash it. This resulted in my outdoor footage becoming unsteady and very short. I had a difficult time editing it. I have already made 3 documentaries about Saudi Arabia.
The first time I ever watched in a movie theater was when I first went to the US in June 2011. The first movie I ever watched in a movie theater was Harry Potter the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I was 18 at that time. The second time I watched inside a movie theater was a year after that. I'm not really used to going to the movies and somehow, growing up in Saudi Arabia, I prefer to watch movies on my laptop or on TV.  I have only been to a movie theater twice in my life at the moment. It is quite ironic since I make films and yet I don't really go to the movies frequently.

Jameelah is a graduate of the New York Film Academy in New York City.  At the moment, she is a freelance filmmaker doing production works in Jeddah and she also teaches film-making privately.  She offers a 4 week or 8 week film-making program.  If you have any inquiries regarding her classes, you can email her at :   jameelah.lineses@nyfa.edu