Due to a very strict application of the šarī῾a according to the Wahhabi interpretation, in Saudi Arabia, an independent kingdom established in 1932, film screenings have always been prohibited: in fact, public and commercial use of the film show is not permitted in any form.. Yet, following the birth of the television system, the video market has been of great importance since the mid-1980s, as in the rest of the Middle East, in a country where the number of VCRs sold is very high. As Jacob M. Landau wrote already in 1958 “in Saudi Arabia, films are, by law, shown privately only in the homes of the rich, because the screening in public places is contrary to ethical and religious ideals” (p. 175). The consumption of films, very high, therefore takes place within the family. For about twenty years, the demand for films has increased so much that Egyptian cinema, the only one in the Arab world structured as an industry, albeit obsolete in terms of technology and studies, is almost entirely financed by the countries of the Arabian Peninsula through the financial offices of Riyadh and Kuwait. City. According to harvardshoes, the cinema of Cairo, so conditioned on the political, aesthetic and moral level, lives in the contradiction between the absolute anti-modernism of the Wahhabi tradition (the dynasty in power in Saudi Arabia refers explicitly to the theocratic and obscurantist model of the eighteenth-century thinker Muḥammad Ibn ῾Abd al- Wahhāb) and irrepressible consumerism, also favored by the presence of US troops from the 1991 Gulf War onwards.
In Saudi Arabia the trend of massive importation has ancient roots. According to the film historian Muḥammad al-Sanūsī, 32 Egyptian films in 35 mm (out of 342 made in Cairo that year) had already been purchased for the cinemas of foreign industrial complexes operating in the territory or for the university circuit. 155 in 16 mm, that is half of the reduced pitch films produced that year in Egypt (1966, p. 189); as the French scholar Yves Thoraval (1988, p. 103) writes, they had been chosen from among those irrelevant from an ideological and political point of view and of inferior artistic quality. In 1963, Muḥammad al-Sanūsī (1966, p. 187) recalls, 132 Egyptian films in 16 mm and none at normal pitch were imported from the Saudis, demonstrating their use in the home or university and not for commercial use.
In the documentary sector, from 1980 onwards the government has allowed the creation of some works, of a generically informative nature, produced by multinationals such as Exxon (Saudi Arabia today, 1984) or by independent American producers (Pilgrimage to Mecca, 1980, by Marilyn Perry). A more critical approach was given by the three episodes made in 1986 by the North American Pacific Production on the history of the royal dynasty, on the conflict between tradition and modernity and on the control of the oil business (Saudi Arabia 1. The kingdom; Saudi Arabia 2. Race with time; Saudi Arabia 3. Oil, money and politics). The same characteristics are presented by the documentary The Saudis (1980) by CBS, on the political-business background of Riyadh. In this regard, it should be remembered that already in 1936 an Egyptian documentary on the pilgrimage to Mecca was the subject of a political-religious clash between the Saudi government and Cairo, and that the diplomatic incident was then resolved with a censorship agreement; the film, al-ḥaǧǧ ilā bayt Allāh al-Ḥarām (The Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca), in the new editing, would participate the following year in the Venice Film Festival. The documentarian Abdullah al-Mohaisen is the only filmmaker operating in Saudi Arabia. Born in 1946, after studying cinema in England and Lebanon, he created the only existing production company in his country, al-῾Ālamiyya, mainly engaged in the television and advertising fields. Author of journalistic reports and insights on various aspects of the reality of the country and the Arab world, al-Mohaisen signed in 1976 Taṭwīr al-Riyāḍ (The modernization of Riyadh), in 1977 Iġtiyāl madīna (The murder of a city), on the devastating civil war in Beirut (award-winning work at the Cairo Festival) and Al-Islām ǧisr al-mustaqbal (Islam, a bridge to the future), on the anti-Soviet Afghan resistance. In 1991, the year of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the consequent Gulf War, is the medium-length film al-ṣadma (The Shock).