AlUla Creates names winners of first female-only film programme

They will join year-long mentorship scheme and receive $20,000 each

AlUla Creates mentors Haifaa Al Mansour (second from left); Jane Moore (centre); James Richardson (back); and Roua AlMadani (second from right) with the winners. Photo: Film AlUla
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The winners of the inaugural AlUla Creates: Film Programme have been revealed.

Hana Alfasi, Maram Taibah and sisters Raneem and Dana Almohandes were chosen from 85 submissions by Saudi female filmmakers. They will be part of a year-round programme that will include collaborations with top international film professionals. They will also have access to development funds to help them create and share their stories.

The programme is part of the wider AlUla Creates platform, which encourages female creativity in film, fashion and the arts. It is one of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiatives. The platform is funded by Film AlUla, the Royal Commission for AlUla's film agency.

The first phase of AlUla Creates was launched in March on the sidelines of the Oscars. Supermodels Helena Christensen and Eva Herzigova, who are ambassadors for AlUla Creates, wore sustainable designs by Arwa Al Ammari and sisters Abeer and Alia Oraif at the ceremony's Vanity Fair after-party. The designers were mentored by Emilia Wickstead, one of the regular dressmakers for Kate, Princess of Wales.

For the film programme, directors were asked to submit a 20-minute short film of their concept and were assessed on their originality, creativity, thematic depth, character development and potential to engage and captivate audiences. They were judged by a selection committee composed of Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour (The Perfect Candidate, Wadjda), James Richardson and Jane Moore of Vertigo Films and Roua Almadani of Film AlUla.

Alfasi’s submission centred on mental health while the Almohandes sisters pitched a live-action musical about human identity. Taibah told of female empowerment and independence steeped in magical realism.

The first phase of the mentorship commenced with a series of workshops in AlUla, led by Al Mansour, Richardson and Moore, with each of the three selected projects receiving grants of $20,000 from Film AlUla.

“A new generation of talent is on the rise in Saudi Arabia,” said Charlene Deleon-Jones, executive director of Film AlUla. "They have the drive, perspective and potential to take the Saudi industry to the global level. AlUla Creates, as a programme, facilitates that.

“By bringing together established talent with emerging Saudi filmmakers, we are enabling an exchange of experiences and knowledge. It is a two-way process of learning that will have a long-lasting impact on the trajectories of these filmmaker’s careers."

Director and mentor Al Mansour said the Saudi film industry is "opening up and flourishing".

"Since I started my career, we have witnessed a massive shift," she said. "As it continues to grow, it’s important to provide opportunities and guidance for local creatives to carve out their career on their own terms."

As part of the programme, the filmmakers will also be working with winners of the fashion programme, who will design and create costumes that will bring their stories to life.

Film AlUla’s wider strategy is to develop a film ecosystem. It includes a world-class studio and digital creative hub complex in AlUla, which is also home to Hegra, the ancient city that was declared Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008.

Updated: October 16, 2023, 2:01 PM