Saudi Arabia's firs art house, Cinema ElHoush is championing independent movies, which veer away from mainstream commercial film-making. Independent films are often described as the cinema of the elite, given that they target an audience of refined taste and they do not make major revenues at the box office. They do, however, reap major global cinema awards.
Located in the Al Jadida neighborhood in AlUla, Cinema ElHoush is celebrating films that were screened at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
Cinema ElHoush is seeking to prove its standing as a hub for arts and cultural heritage by selecting films that back this ambition. Its selection of movies boasts the best productions from Japan, Norway, Italy, Thailand, the United States, Egypt, Morocco and other countries. Saudi cinema will also be highlighted as film-making in the Kingdom takes steady steps towards claiming its spot on the global scene.
Cinema ElHoush aims to revive the forgotten archive of classic cinema from the 1970s and 80s. It will screen films from Arab and global icons, such as Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Khairy Beshara.
Director Mahmoud Sabbagh described the new season at Cinema ElHoush as being three times greater than the previous one that was held in Jeddah al-Balad in 2019.
As winter grips AlUla, he said: "The weather is not our main concern as the cinema is still operating independently and temporarily without clear licenses."
"We are awaiting the necessary permits so that it can operate on a regular basis and expand its reach," he explained.
"We are the first art house in Saudi Arabia. This gives us an extraordinary drive to keep going, but also places a lot of responsibilities on our shoulders in raising the quality of the movie-going experience," he remarked.
Five days a week, Cinema ElHoush attracts movie-goers who are seeking a refined film experience. On offer is a selection of local independent movies and global productions.
Cinema ElHoush also boasts a cafe dedicated to receiving the audience before and after the screening of movies. On the menu are light meals and various drinks, such as sahlab and hot chocolate. Sabbagh recommends that moviegoers try the sweet popcorn offered at the cinema while they enjoy their movies.
This week, movie-goers will have the opportunity to watch the latest masterpieces that were screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Cinema ElHoush will screen award-winning films, such as "Memoria", by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The film won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year.
Another selection is "Drive My Car", directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. The movie is an adaptation of a novel by acclaimed author Haruki Murakami. The film explores the avenues of love, loss, acceptance and peace. It won three prizes at Cannes and has since racked up a slew of awards.
"Annette", directed by Leos Carax, made its premiere at Cannes. The musical explores themes of love, passion and stardom.
Norway's "The Worst Person in the World", directed by Joachim Trier, tackles the story of a 30-year-old woman and her chaotic life.
The screenings at Cinema ElHoush will continue through March 10.
It will also feature Saudi movies, such as "Had Al Tar", "Carnaval City" and "Forty Years and One Night". It will go on to screen classics, such as the "La Dolce Vita" and "Youm Mor We Youm Helw", and later contemporary Arabic films, such as "Feathers" and "Gaza Mon Amour". Movies from Afghanistan will be also be featured, followed by documentary films.
Cinema ElHoush will conclude with a selection of movies by director Wong Kar-wai, whose works often explore themes of romance or loneliness. The art house will have the privilege of screening five of his movies for the first time in Saudi Arabia. The films have been restored for the best viewing experience.