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Major Plot Twist for Students at Saudi Arabia’s First Cinema School

"Everything is about to change,"

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A Saudi woman studies film making at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2018. VOA

Student Sama Kinsara adjusts her camera at Saudi Arabia’s only cinema school, her dream of seeing her work on the big screen coming into focus after the lifting of the country’s 35-year ban on cinema.

“Everything is about to change,” the first-year student of “visual and digital production” at Effat University in Jeddah told Reuters.

Her course is to be renamed “cinematic arts,” dropping the deceptive title employed originally to help stay under the radar of religious police and local communities opposed to the idea of men teaching women how to make movies.

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Saudi women study film making at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2018. VOA

Kinsara and her classmates on the four-year, women-only course have been able to film outside the university grounds for the first time.

“A girl carrying a camera and shooting in the streets is pushing boundaries,” said Mohamed Ghazala, head of Effat’s Visual and Digital Production Department, which began the course in 2013.

The changes follow the lifting of restrictions by reform-minded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the last year.

Authorities hope that by opening 300 cinemas and building a film industry, more than $24 billion can be added to the economy and 30,000 jobs created.

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cinema school
Saudi women study film making at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2018. VOA

Cinema is one of several new avenues for Saudi women, who can now attend soccer matches, take part in sport, and in a few months will be allowed to drive cars.

The deeply conservative kingdom is still one of most restrictive countries for women in the world, with a guardianship system requiring women to have a male relative’s approval for important decisions.

For film student Qurratulain Waheb, the chance to get off the university campus and film with her classmates is welcomed.

“Before there was a problem if we had a camera in the malls, we were not allowed to enter the malls but things are getting smoother now when we have access,” she said. “When we have permissions it gets easier, it gets better and people are more accepting. They want to see what we’re doing.” VOA

Next Story

Tech Giant Google Refuses to Remove Controversial Saudi App

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have also criticised Google and Apple for allowing the app on their platforms

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Google has refused to pull out a controversial government app from Saudi Arabia which lets men track and control women who travel, saying it does not violate its Play Store policies.

According to a report in the Business Insider on Sunday, the tech giant told the office of California Democrat Representative Jackie Speier, who had called for the removal of the app called “Absher”, that the app does not violate its terms of service.

The US Representatives Speier, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and 11 others have demanded that Apple and Google must both remove the app.

Speier called Google’s response “deeply unsatisfactory”.

“The responses received so far from Apple and Google are deeply unsatisfactory. As of today, the Absher app remains available in both the Apple App store and the Google Play Store even though they can easily remove it,” Speier was quoted as saying.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, California.

Apple was yet to announce its decision.

Absher allows Saudi users to access government services and also offers features which allow “Saudi men to grant and rescind travel permission for women and to set up SMS alerts for when women use their passports”.

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An earlier report suggested Saudi men could use the app to control female dependents.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have also criticised Google and Apple for allowing the app on their platforms. (IANS)