Saudi Arabia's Cinematic Gem 'Norah' Shines Bright at Cannes Film Festival


Saudi Arabia's 'Norah' Shines Bright, Illuminating the Future of Arab Cinema at Cannes

In a groundbreaking moment for Saudi Arabia's burgeoning film industry, the captivating drama "Norah" has been selected to grace the screens at the esteemed Cannes Film Festival. This remarkable achievement marks a significant milestone for the kingdom's cinema scene, which has been rapidly evolving since the lifting of a 35-year ban on movie theatres in 2017.

Directed by the visionary Tawfik Alzaidi, "Norah" tells the poignant story of a young, illiterate orphan named Norah, played by the mesmerizing newcomer Maria Bahrawi, who resides in a conservative Saudi village during the 1990s – a time when artistic expression was heavily suppressed. As Norah faces the daunting prospect of an arranged marriage, a glimmer of hope emerges through her encounters with Nader, a former artist turned teacher, brilliantly portrayed by Saudi star Yaqoub Alfarhan. This chaste yet transformative connection ignites within Norah a burning passion for art and a yearning for a better life beyond the confines of her village.

"Norah" first captured the hearts of local audiences at the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, and now it is set to make its international debut in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section at Cannes. The film's journey to the global stage is a testament to its powerful storytelling and the exceptional talent of its cast and crew.

What sets "Norah" apart is not only its thought-provoking narrative but also its breathtaking visuals. The film holds the distinction of being the first Saudi movie to be shot in the historic region of AlUla, renowned for its awe-inspiring landscapes that serve as a stunning backdrop to Norah's emotional journey.

The film's production is a collaborative effort, with Tawfik Alzaidi working alongside U.S. producer Paul Miller and Jordanian producer Sharif Majali. "Norah" also received significant support from the Saudi Film Commission's Daw Film Competition, which aims to nurture and promote local filmmaking talent. This recognition, coupled with the international distribution deal secured by TwentyOne Entertainment, a new venture based in Riyadh, underscores the growing prominence of Saudi Arabia's film industry on the global stage.

Faisal Baltyuor, a pioneer in the Saudi film industry and CEO of the well-known distributor CineWaves Films, praised the achievement of "Norah," stating, "These marks one more step in the right direction for the Saudi film industry to be showcased on the international level." Baltyuor highlighted the kingdom's impressive trajectory, from its inaugural participation at Cannes in 2018 with its own pavilion to the inclusion of Saudi films in other prestigious festivals such as Venice, Berlin, and Toronto.

As "Norah" takes centre stage at Cannes, it not only showcases the immense talent and creativity of Saudi filmmakers but also serves as a beacon of hope for aspiring artists in the kingdom. This cinematic triumph is a testament to the power of storytelling to transcend borders, break barriers, and touch the hearts of audiences worldwide.

With "Norah" leading the charge, Saudi Arabia's film industry is poised for a bright future, ready to captivate and inspire audiences with its unique voice and compelling narratives. As the world watches, the kingdom's cinematic landscape continues to evolve, promising a new era of artistic expression and cultural richness.