A New Normal? Saudi Film Screening in Israel Surprisingly Praised on Saudi Social Media

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A film directed by Saudi director Haifa al-Mansour will open an Israeli women’s film festival in Jerusalem, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.

Translation: “Haifa al-Mansour’s film “The Perfect Candidate” will be screened in the Israel Women’s Film Festival that will be held in Jerusalem next month. It is noteworthy that the Saudi film won the Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and represents Saudi Arabia in the Oscars.”

Reactions on social media varied between those who endorsed the decision to screen a Saudi film in Israel and those who opposed the gesture, demanding the film to not be screened. 

Translation: “We should boycott Haifa al-Mansour.”

Historically Saudi has aligned itself with the Palestinian cause but the recent move is the latest in what appears to be a normalization of Saudi-Israeli relations. 

Many people across the region still oppose the idea of Arab nations endorsing Israel whether politically or culturally. 

Translation: “We want peace but not from the Zionist settlers of Israel who violate human rights and kill Arabs.”

Translation: “Jerusalem is Palestine’s property and we will never compromise it.”

But other reactions to the news of Mansour’s film screening indicate that public sentiment is changing to favor a more friendly relationship between Saudi and Israel. 

Translation: “Our alliance with Israel as two great powers in the Middle East will bring prosperity to the region economically and militarily… It’s time to implement real peace, not Hamas’s violent politics, Gaza and the failed conflict.”

Translation: “Good on Israel for supporting Saudi films, hope it does the same to the other Arab countries.”

Support for the decision comes largely from social media users inside Saudi Arabia or the gulf region, whose profiles typically endorse Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman or the state in general. 

There is speculation that some of these accounts could be part of a social media campaign by the state to promote its political agenda. 

Translation: “I dream of attending art galleries of Israeli artists in Riyadh.”

Translation: “Great step. I look forward to watching the film in Israel, and for more collaborations between the two countries to come.”

The film features a Saudi female doctor character who runs for municipal elections. The Saudi Oscar Committee has chosen The Perfect Candidate as a competitor for the international feature film category.

Translation: In an unexpected step, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that the film “The Perfect Candidate” by Saudi director Haifa Al-Mansour will be the opening film at the Israeli Women’s Film Festival, set for December.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry did not mention whether it had taken the Saudi director’s permission to showcase her film nor provide much detail on her position regarding the screening.