Saudi Arabia offers 40% cashback to films shot in the country

The Film Saudi programme is aimed at promoting the kingdom as a 'world-class centre for production'

Tom Holland in Cherry. Courtesy Apple TV+
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Films being shot either partially or fully in Saudi Arabia can now apply for a 40 per cent cash rebate on production costs, the Saudi Film Commission has said.

Making the announcement at the Saudi Arabia pavilion, during the continuing Cannes Film Festival, the authority said the Film Saudi programme is open to all local, regional and international film producers.

"We are delighted to open applications for our cash rebate programme, Film Saudi, and welcome productions to Saudi Arabia," said Abdullah Al Eyaf, chief executive of the Saudi Film Commission.

"The film industry is rapidly accelerating as we continue to invest in training our local crews and developing our infrastructure to ensure we are in a position to support all productions.

"Incentivising film productions will enable us to tap into the potential of our growing film industry, showcase our unique and breathtaking landscapes, and attract a diverse range of productions to the kingdom.”

The Saudi Arabia pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Saudi Film Commission

Under Film Saudi, productions that recruit Saudi crew and talent and those that feature the kingdom’s culture and its people and showcase its landscapes will qualify for the incentive.

The programme's main aim is to promote Saudi Arabia as a "world-class centre for production", the film commission said.

Saudi Arabia has already provided the backdrop for three major Hollywood films: Ric Roman Waugh’s coming action thriller Kandahar, starring Gerard Butler, and filmed in AlUla and Jeddah; Rupert Wyatt’s historical epic Desert Warrior, starring Anthony Mackie and Ben Kingsley, shot in the futuristic megacity of Neom and the region of Tabuk, and set to be released later this year; and the Russo brothers’ crime drama Cherry, starring Tom Holland, which was shot in AlUla and Riyadh, now streaming on Apple TV+.

The Abu Dhabi Film Commission offers a similar incentive, with a 30 per cent cashback rebate on productions, including feature films, television dramas and commercials shot in Abu Dhabi.

At the Cannes Film Festival, the Saudi Film Commission also hosted industry panels and showcased works by young Saudi filmmakers at the Short Film Corner. Harka, a film by Tunisian director Lotfy Nathan, the recipient of the Red Sea International Film Festival's Red Sea Souk Award in December, was also screened at the Un Certain Regard section, dedicated to rising filmmakers from around the world.

The Saudi pavilion also previewed eight local feature films that reached completion in the past year. These include Norah, written and directed by Tawfik Alzaidi, and Within Sand, directed by Moe Alatawi. Both films were recipients of a fund award at the Saudi Film Commission’s Daw Film Competition in 2019.

The Cannes Film Festival runs until Sunday. More information on the Film Saudi programme is available at film.sa.

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Updated: May 26, 2022, 12:11 PM
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