Conservative pressure shuts Saudi film festival

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's only film festival was halted before it even opened on Saturday, festival sources said, as powerful Islamic conservatives battle a popular push for more entertainment in the country.
Organisers of the Jeddah film festival were told late on Friday by the city authorities they could not go ahead, even though the event had been heralded as a highlight of the city's summer festival launched on Thursday, they said.

Conservative pressure shuts Saudi film festival
The week-long festival was to have featured a competition between eight Gulf feature films -- two from Saudi Arabia itself -- and show dozens more shorts by local and regional filmmakers.
It had gone through a laborious process of receiving permission from key ministries and regional and local officials before being officially announced, organisers said.
The festival's cancellation was a clear setback for film fans and entertainment companies hoping to reverse a three-decade ban on public screenings of films.
Hardliners in the country's senior Islamic clergy regard film, music and other entertainment as violating Islamic teachings, and have fought to block a revival of movies backed by popular demand.
People knowledgeable about the festival's cancellation said they believed the order had come came from high up in the Saudi government.
"It's cancelled. So we go backwards a step," said a dejected sponsor who declined to be identified.

Saturday, July 18th 2009

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