Jeddah Film Festival Cancelled at last moment

 

The Jeddah Film Festival that was scheduled to open at the King Abdul Aziz Cultural Center was canceled at the eleventh hour.

 

The director of the festival confirmed the cancellation, saying that he received an official notice from the Jeddah governorate at 11 p.m. the night before the event was scheduled to open, ordering the festival canceled.

 

The adjudicating panel consisted of Omani director Khaled Al-Zajali, UAE writer Khaled Al-Bodour, Saudi producer Majdi Wadou and writer Halema Muzafar. The official explanation from the Jeddah municipality was that the festival "lacked preparations". More than 50 directors from Gulf countries and a number of other personalities had arrived for the inauguration of the festival.

 

The sponsors of the event were Rotana Studios, which are owned by liberal Saudi Prince Al Walid bin Talal.

Calls made to Rotana Studios, the official sponsor of the event, went unanswered.

 

18 July 2009

 

Analysis and forecast (↑ increasing risk)

 

Whilst the cancellation of the event itself is unlikely going to have a direct impact on the country’s stability, it nonetheless highlights the growing rift between reformists and traditionalists in the kingdom. Both camps are led by members of the royal family and are competing on how the kingdom should move.

 

King Abdullah and his half-brother Prince Nayef, third in line to the throne, are seen as sponsors of the reformist and traditionalist camps, respectively. Despite this, the real antagonism comes from more extremist religious elements within the Saudi system, even those with an ideology that finds resonance with Al Qaeda-sympathizers. Although many see Nayef as leading the traditionalist camp, there are much more extreme elements within the Saudi system (but not within the main members of the royal family), that in fact makes Nayef’s positions important to making reforms more palatable by a wider segment of the Saudi society, albeit more slowly.

 

The last-minute cancellation of the event could reflect last minute pressure leading to some sort of appeasement by the government (most likely moved by Nayef), to cancel the event, which extremists see as un-Islamic. It thus shows that those extremist elements are strong enough to warrant such appeasement.