Building soft power
Just ten years ago, if someone had mentioned something about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia holding the Red Sea Film Festival, no one would have believed it. But if it was said that the occasion would feature a purely Saudi film – The Journey – the surprise would have been incredible. However, at the beginning of this month, the big event was held in the presence of 61 countries, and 131 films were shown, including short and feature films, and the usual ceremonies of film festivals took place, including parties and awarding of prizes that encourage new things in the arts and in short represent an integrated cinematographic industry. There is no intention here to elaborate on the event, and frankly, the writer is not an expert on the subject, and has never attended such events, but what he is interested in and what he presents to the reader is part of the Arab reform process. and modernity that is taking place these days in many Arab countries, with the Kingdom at the head of them. In this, he believes, there is a big gap in identifying different and diverse experiences that go bravely, boldly and quickly in a race against time, at a time when the rest of the world, which lives in a climate of competition, is racing for a long time. This is not about celebrating an artistic event, but about celebrating the interest in soft power necessary for the modern state and its position, because cinematography lies at the center of many forms of this power in terms of narration, music, theater, recitation and interaction with an important part of the process of modernization and renewal, and that is the audience. The seventh art is based on the integration of different and diverse arts into one system that has a trajectory that expresses human moments in their weakness and strength, and in their courage and cowardice. On the other hand, it is a means of interaction with other peoples of the world, as long as art in its essence is an important means to reach man in everything that concerns his metal, identity and morality by entering his mind, thoughts and feelings.
The occasion was my recent visit to the Arab-Chinese summit, commenting for the Arab television network on the events, introductions and results of an important event. And one of the outstanding results of such opportunities is to see the scale of progress in the Arab country, and it is true that during the past short period I had the opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Morocco to participate in a symposium at the Asilah Cultural Foundation, then to visit the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh during a conference on climate change and then Riyadh to attend the summit. What pleased the heart was that in the three Arab countries the reform process took place very quickly, embodied in a system of gigantic projects, the restoration of even the roots in the infrastructure and the great adventure to advance the country’s soft power. Saudi Arabia, based on its ability, prestige and the presence of the two holy mosques, has lived for a long time in a state of self-sufficiency enveloped in a large amount of restrictions, conservatism and tradition that isolates at great distances the enormous youthful energy in the Kingdom, which is educated in the most prestigious scientific institutes in the world, and is full of talents and capacity for creativity and innovation. The release of the energies of soft power took place, like all other trends of material modernization, through a network of creative activities per se. By the way, I noticed that during the matches of the World Cup in Qatar, there were often advertisements for Saudi events on the beIN sports network. One of them caught my eye, inviting tourists and viewers in the world to visit the ancient kingdoms that lived in the kingdom. There is no connection here without extracting his messages, some of which are that civilization was established in these areas and that Saudi Arabia knew power and rule centuries before. In Egyptian terms, it is possible that Egypt maintains activities for all of Egypt’s pharaonic phases in the Old, Middle, and Modern Kingdoms before moving on to the Ptolemaic, Roman, Coptic, Arabic, Islamic, and modern eras with all their architecture, art, and what derives from them in wisdom and literature.
The picture that emerges from all this is that the image that the kingdom seeks for itself is that of the modern nation-state. And more than that, he is looking for it for the entire Arab region. To say that a new Europe will emerge in our region thanks to what is happening in the reform processes in Arab countries does not separate art, urbanization, education and upbringing. Egyptian participation is present in many events, as well as in all cultural, intellectual and artistic seasons that take place in all parts of Saudi Arabia according to well-known sequences, which are introduced and invited. In fact, what is true for Egypt is true for all Arab countries from Morocco to Iraq, where the tones are different but in harmony with each other. As happens in the production processes that extract oil and gas from the earth, or use black and white sand in new industries, researches in music, tones and artistic images provide human integration for the state, which shows its integration in the moment of transience. through airports and visits to yards in different regions.
Perhaps what we need is the establishment of cultural free zones that range from “authentic” Moroccan dialogue to mountain tones in Lebanon to songs of vast deserts and the hustle and bustle of big, narrow cities, with producers, directors, visions and stories that teach, entertain and delight. I think that the Red Sea League can give more than a film festival. The infrastructure for all this is present and available in institutes, universities, schools of thought and historical experiences with their good and bad. Culture and soft power as a whole are our message to the modern world that it’s high time it saw us thinking, not looking at us angrily.
Quoted from Al-Ahram
All published articles represent the sole opinion of their authors.