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Saudi Arabia launches $234m fund for emerging film sector

Cultural Development Fund
The programme will empower small and medium enterprises with financing packages

Saudi Arabia’s Cultural Development Fund (CDF) has launched a SAR 879 million ($233.9 million) film sector financing program to support local content and promote filmmaking.

The programme is open to local and international companies in the kingdom’s emerging film sector. It will further encourage a sustainable and thriving film industry by empowering small and medium enterprises with financing packages. 

“We have partnered with strategic financial institutions across the country to provide companies working in the film sector with the financial solutions to shore up the film sector, establish financial sustainability for film projects and enable healthy market dynamics,” CDF chief executive Mohammed Bindayel said in a statement.

He added that the programme will activate two funding vehicles – lending and investment.

As part of the “lending” scheme, the fund signed two agreements with its financial partners “Lendo” and “Sukuk Capital” to provide financing packages to companies in the Saudi film sector. The “investment” vehicle will be launched later this year. 

The CDF was founded in 2021 to enhance the cultural landscape and supports various cultural activities, facilitates investment, and seeks to improve the domestic culture sector’s profitability in line with Saudi Vision 2030. 

In February, Indian director Shekhar Kapur, who attended the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah last December, told AGBI that the nascent film industries of Saudi Arabia and the UAE had huge potential to change the narrative around the Arab world.

The kingdom has provided the backdrop for three major US productions over the past two years: upcoming action thriller Kandahar, filmed in AlUla and Jeddah; the historical epic Desert Warrior, shot in Neom and the region of Tabuk; and the crime drama Cherry, which was shot in AlUla and Riyadh.

The Saudi government also set its stall out at the Cannes Film Festival last May, unveiling big-ticket incentives to lure Hollywood and Bollywood producers. These include a cash rebate programme offering producers up to 40 percent back on filming carried out in the Arab state.