Saudi film ‘Norah’ selected for Cannes, first in festival’s 77-year history

Entertainment Desk Published: 17 April 2024, 12:49 PM
Saudi film ‘Norah’ selected for Cannes, first in festival’s 77-year history
Maria Bahrawi on the set of ‘Norah,’ in AlUla. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia has made its maiden entry into the Cannes Film Festival official selection with “Norah,” a drama by director Tawfik al-Zaidi set in the Kingdom in the 1990s, reports Al Arabiya.

The film will make its international debut at Cannes’ prestigious Un Certain Regard section, a symbol of Saudi Arabia’s rapidly growing film industry, following the lifting of a 35-year-old ban on cinema in 2017.

“Norah” premiered locally at the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah last December. It tells the story of an illiterate, orphaned young woman who lives in a remote village in Saudi Arabia. She faces an arranged marriage, feels trapped, and searches for a source of self-expression. Played by rising Saudi star Maria Bahrawi, Nora has a chance encounter with an artist named Nader - played by Saudi actor Yaqoub al-Farhan - who has given up painting and moved to the village to be a schoolteacher.

Their meeting unleashes Norah’s passion for art during the height of the country’s conservatism when all forms of art and painting were banned.

Norah - the first Saudi film to be shot in the ancient city of AlUla - won the top prize of a funding award from the Saudi Film Commission’s Daw Film Competition. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture launched the initiative in September 2019 to support Saudi film production and promote the next generation of filmmakers.