Khaled Al Siddiq, Kuwaiti director behind first GCC film, dies aged 76

The filmmaker was one of the foremost pioneers in regional cinema

Khaled Al Siddiq, the director behind the first GCC film, died on Thursday aged 76, according to local media reports and the Kuwait National Cinema Company.

No cause of death has been announced.

Al Siddiq was a pioneer of regional cinema. His debut 1972 film Cruel Sea was the first feature film directed and produced by a Gulf citizen. It was also selected as the Kuwaiti entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 45th Academy Awards.

The film won first prize at the 1972 Youth Film Festival in Damascus, as well as the Fipresci Prize at the Venice Film Festival that year.

Cruel Sea tells the story of a young man who pleads with his father, a former pearl diver who was injured by a shark, to let him go and earn a living collecting the precious gemstones from the sea. The film is a moving portrayal of the need to prove yourself to family and society.

"I had to sell land to make this film," Al Siddiq said during a 2018 screening of the film at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Al Siddiq went on to release several critically acclaimed features throughout his career, including The Wedding of Zein in 1976 and Shaheen in 1984. His films often sought to capture life in the Arabian Peninsula before the discovery of oil.

Tributes for Al Siddiq have begun pouring in on social media, with fans and media personalities praising the filmmaker’s contributions and offering condolences to his family.

“Imagine that he directed his film Cruel Sea when he was just 26 years old,” Twitter user Qasem Al-Qaderi wrote. “Isn’t that evidence of his creativity and distinction?”

The Kuwait National Cinema Company also posted a statement in honour of Al Siddiq, writing that the filmmaker helped to bring “Kuwait’s name to an international platform” through his work.

“He was a supreme talent among the ranks of Kuwaiti creatives,” the statement reads.

Updated: October 14th 2021, 11:43 AM