Despite the advent of the 50th anniversary of Kuwait Television’s (KTV) first short feature (The Storm), the country’s film industry is still struggling to be relevant in the world of cinema today. Produced in 1965, ‘The Storm’— a 27- minute black and white shot feature — was the first cinematic venture by renowned media figure and director Mohammad Al-Sanousi who had actors Abdulhussein Abdulredah, Khaled Al- Nafisi and Johar Salem star in the film.
The feature, written by Abdulamir Al- Turki, told the story of Kuwait, pre-oil discovery and through its ongoing development back then. The film focused on the old and new generations of Kuwaitis and their conflicting ideals on whether to preserve tradition or embrace the modern era. Since then, the Kuwaiti film industry continued to struggle with producing movies and feature films with many being made through individualistic efforts and self-financing.
Speaking to KUNA on the subject, film director Walid Al-Awadi said that the lack of a basic structure for a film industry made it very hard for inspired Kuwaitis to make their own features. The director, behind the 2011 feature Tora Bora, also attributed the difficulties to a number of issues connected with private and public funding.
Al-Awadi said that doing features for television was less expensive than making a film which required the availability of high-tech equipment, locations and talented crew. In other GCC countries like the UAE and Qatar, there are authorities that back up and support their film industries, said the Kuwaiti director, stressing that Kuwait needed similar steps and infrastructures. Al-Awadi welcomed the state’s involvement in the process, noting that this could happen through Kuwait’s National Fund for Supporting and Developing Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).
On his part, documentaries director Abdullah Al-Mkhyal said that his genre of film also suffered from similar struggles, noting that the production of television documentaries was less expensive than documentary films. He called on government and production companies to get involved in making documentaries which mostly focus on delivering valuable information through research and study.
Meanwhile, in his book (Culture in Kuwait: since the beginning till modern days .. a scientific study) Dr. Mohammad Yousef Najem featured director Khaled Al-Siddiq who claimed that films had been produced since the 1940s, noting that that Mohammad Qabazar documented that era the exploration of oil in Ahmadi with his film (Kuwait between the past and today).
Al-Siddiq, better known for his 106- minutes film the Cruel Sea (Bas Ya Bahar) in 1972, said that, despite not being a film, documents such as (the Sons of Sinbad), a book by renowned Australian sailor and photographer Alan Villiers, had inspired generations of Kuwaiti directors to make their own films.
The Kuwaiti director called on public institutions to fund long feature films, affirming that once a base for an industry was established, private companies could join to take the industry to the next level. Though the struggle continues for Kuwait cinema, it seems ironic that most features focused on old Kuwait which hopefully would not become a hindrance for Kuwaiti directors’ aspirations for a true film industry.