The Seventh Saudi Film Festival – honouring Mamoun with a Lifetime Achievement Award

Mamoun was invited to the seventh Saudi Film festival held in Dammam from 1 – 7 July at Ithra, The King Abdul Aziz Centre for World Culture. Mamoun and Bahraini film director Bassam Al Al Zawadi were ’honored’ by the Festival.

It was joyous for Mamoun to be invited and ‘honored’. He had not visited his birthplace, Jiddah in Saudi Arabia, since 1965 when he took photographs of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, for The Observer Colour magazine.

Unfortunately he could not attend as he was recovering from a cataract operation. His cousins Eman and Reem accepted the Award on his behalf. On the 5 July, he gave a masterclass on the opening episodes of Vittorio de Sica’s Bicycle Thieves.

Mamoun had prepared a short speech for the event, but sadly the format of the event was limited by distancing rules so it couldn’t be delivered – even by his cousin Eman.

It is reproduced here:

When I was a boy in Jeddah my father, Dr Hamid Hassan, worked for an American mining company and we lived in an apartment in a compound a few miles from Bab Jadid. From our first floor verandah, my brother Talaat (now Dr Talaat)  and I had a view  of the Red Sea. At night we could see spots of light in the distance from the ships anchored in the deep. One of the songs of the time by the great Egyptian singer Mohammed Abdel Wahab was ‘Ya Waboor ully ra’ich hala fein, ya Waboor ully ghuyi minein’ and our mother, Fatma bint Al Sadat, used to sing it sweetly and with a light voice. We did not then realize that this pointed to our destiny.

I have found since some places where the boat went. I have worked in all five continents. To the far west, Los Angeles, Havana, Santiago and, going south, Sydney, and east to Kolkata, Colombo then to Africa and Harare, and, nearer home, to Beirut, Damascus, Amman, then to Athens at one end to Copenhagen at the other, and finally to London. From Musqat Ra’si to London, my adopted home, with Moya, my wife, and my sons, Sherief and Anies, I never stopped carrying Jeddah or Saudi Arabia in my heart.

I thought I had gone and was lost to sight, but the Director of the festival, Ul Ukh Ahmed Al Mulla, looked beyond the ships, the sea and over the horizon and brought me back nearer home. I owe al Ukh Ahmed a debt of gratitude for this visit, albeit virtual, after an absence of more than five decades. I thank him and the Saudi Arabian Film Festival for the honour they have bestowed on me. I am only sorry that I cannot share this moment with you. But, far or near, I can celebrate today with my brothers and sisters in film, an important step in the creation of a vital and flourishing film culture in Saudi Arabia.  I wish to thank my cousin Eman Al Sadat in acting as my representative.

A thousand thanks to my hosts.

Photograph shows from left to right, Ahmed Al Mulla, Director of the 7th Saudi Arabian Film Festival, Eman Al Sadat and Reem Al Sadat.