Jeddah, Asharq Al Awsat – Citizens of Saudi Arabia will be able to view the first Saudi feature film on Friday without having to leave the comfort of their own homes. The television network Showtime will exclusively air the film to Saudi viewers through ‘Home Cinema’, a pay-per-view channel between the 1 and 14 December.
During the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, the television network Rotana screened the Saudi comedy in cinemas all over the Arab world with the exception of Saudi Arabia where there are no public movie theaters.
Showtime’s decision to broadcast the film that stars Hisham Abdul Rahman, the winner of Star Academy 2, actress Mais Hamdan as well as other Saudi and Arab actors has opened the door to discussions about the capabilities of modern technology to overcome all barriers. In a statement to Asharq Al Awsat, Showtime’s marketing manager, Azhar Malik said, “the network frequently broadcasts productions through the pay-per-view service,” adding, “to have the first Saudi feature film on our channel is something to be proud of and it is a golden opportunity for our viewers in the kingdom.” He continues, “Since there are no cinemas in Saudi Arabia, this is a great opportunity for our customers as the film depicts an honest representation of Saudi society.”
Mohammed al Othaim, a play-writer and former lecturer at King Saud University criticized what he called the “contradiction between the absence of cinemas and the presence of feature films on private television networks. He tells Asharq Al Awsat about the “uselessness of some of these understandings in the face of technological advancements in today’s world. He says, “There is no way that a censor can control the flow of information due to state-of-the-art communications, which means that we cannot adopt a policy of banning.”
Regarding the criticism that the network may be subjected to due to the fact that the movie and the idea of cinema itself are both points of contention in Saudi Arabia, Azhar Malik told Asharq Al Awsat, “What distinguishes Showtime is that it gives the viewer the choice. They choose what they want to watch from the numerous programs that we offer according to the viewers taste.”
Al Othaim stated, “There are now experiments that surpass the threshold of consciousness achieved through advanced modern visual technology that can subconsciously absorb the material that the image directs without regard to morality. Consequently, it has become important to implant an awareness of morality instead of using censorship or passing strict legislations.”