Saudi female filmmakers Hana Alfasi, Maram Taibah, Raneem and Dana Almohandes selected from over 85 finalists Winners to create short films following workshop sessions in AlUla with critically-acclaimed Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour as well as James Richardson and Jane Moore from award-winning Vertigo Films

AlUla – 10 October 2023: Film AlUla, the Royal Commission for AlUla’s film agency, today announced Hana Alfasi, Maram Taibah as well as sisters Raneem and Dana Almohandes as winners of the inaugural ALULA CREATES: FILM PROGRAMME, a platform designed to nurture creativity and empower future generations in film. The winners were unanimously chosen by a selection committee composed of Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour (The Perfect Candidate, Wadjda), James Richardson and Jane Moore of Vertigo Films (Monsters, Britannia, Bronson) and Roua Almadani of Film AlUla.
Film AlUla and the selection committee made their choice following a stringent evaluation of 85 submissions from Saudi women filmmakers. The concept submissions for a 10-minute short film were assessed on their originality, creativity, thematic depth, character development and potential to engage and captivate audiences.
The winning submissions were chosen for their strong, innovative storylines, experimental treatment and robust direction. Featuring universal themes set against the cultural milieu of Saudi Arabia, the winning submissions pushed boundaries in subject matter and approach. Hana Alfasi’s social commentary on mental health; Raneem and Dana Almohandes’ live-action musical about human identity; and Maram Taibah’s tale of female empowerment and independence steeped in magical realism, offered refreshing takes on issues at the heart of the human experience through innovative techniques.
“A new generation of talent is on the rise in Saudi Arabia; they have the drive, perspective and potential to take the Saudi industry to the global level. AlUla Creates, as a programme, facilitates that,” said Charlene Deleon-Jones, Executive Director, Film AlUla. “By bringing together established talent with emerging Saudi filmmakers, we are enabling an exchange of experiences and knowledge. It is a two-way process of learning that will have a long-lasting impact on the trajectories of these filmmaker’s careers. By anchoring our programme in AlUla, we are setting their creative discussions in a place of inspiration and connection.”  
The first phase of the mentorship commenced with a series of workshops in AlUla, helmed by mentors Haifaa Al Mansour, James Richardson and Jane Moore, to help the young filmmakers further develop their concepts into a 10-minute short film, aided by grants of USD 20,000 each from Film AlUla. They will also be working with Alia and Abeer Olaif of Atelier Hekayat, and Arwa Al Ammari of ArAm – the Saudi fashion designers selected as part of the first phase - to design and create costumes that bring their stories to life.
Mentor and Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour said: “Spending the past week with the extremely talented winning filmmakers of the AlUla Creates: Film Programme has been insightful and rewarding. Since I started my career, we have witnessed a massive shift, and I have seen the Saudi film industry opening up and flourishing. As it continues to grow, it’s important to provide opportunities and guidance for local creatives to carve out their career on their own terms. The support, whether that is practical guidance, networking, or bouncing ideas around, alongside the valuable financial support from Film AlUla, will hopefully enable the filmmakers to not only create beautiful short films that can be showcased on an international platform, but also gain invaluable insights into the film industry and how productions from across the globe operate.”
James Richardson and Jane Moore, Vertigo Films, added: “Through the judging process we have had a front row seat to the incredible talent of up-and-coming Saudi filmmakers. We had some extremely difficult decisions to make, but the winning filmmakers all blew us away with the ambition and quality of their storytelling. Working with the filmmakers this week, against the breathtaking backdrop of AlUla, has inspired everyone and we look forward to continuing to support them through the development and production process.”
The filmmakers will also be flown to London to learn about the international marketplace, meeting with key sales, distribution, post and VFX companies, with each of the filmmakers also being supported through submissions to local and international film festivals.
The AlUla Creates: Film Programme is part of ‘AlUla Creates’ – a year-round initiative that will allow exciting new women filmmakers and creatives to collaborate with leading industry professionals and access development funds to create and share their stories with the world.  The first phase of the programme was rolled out alongside the 95th Academy Awards® with a focus on fashion. Ambassadors Mila Al Zahrani, Helena Christensen and Eva Herzigova partnered with Saudi female fashion designers the sister duo Alia and Abeer Olaif of Atelier Hekayat, and Arwa Al Ammari of ArAm to design bespoke looks, supported by British fashion designer Emilia Wickstead, for The Oscars® Vanity Fair red carpet in Los Angeles as well as Cannes Film Festival. The three ambassadors will continue working with AlUla Creates, supporting emerging female creative talent from the region and forming an integral part of the initiative’s future plans.
Winner profiles:
Raneem and Dana Almohandes are writers and directors. Raneem received an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from New York University while Dana is studying Filmmaking and Animation at Princess Nourah University. The sisters co-wrote and co-directed the musical short "A Swing", which was in competition at the Saudi Film Festival 2023 and selected for the Red Sea International Film Festival. It was part of Saudi Arabia’s participation at Cannes Film Festival 2022 and received an honourable mention for the Best Female Arab Filmmaker award at the Cairo International Short Film Festival. It was also selected to be screened in multiple cities in France as part of the Saudi Film Nights initiative.
Hana Alfasi is a film producer and director with an M.A. in Film & Media Production. Hana is an alumna of Rawi Screenwriters Lab, which was run in collaboration with the Sundance Institute and the Med Film Factory by the Royal Film Commission in Jordan. Her film, “Lollipop,” was an official selection at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2017. Her work also has been featured by Aljazeera Documentary, MBC, Vizyon and KAUST.
Maram Taiba is a fantasy author and director. She has written and directed two short films. "Munukeer" premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival and was screened at the Cannes Short Film Corner. "Don't Go Too Far" recently premiered at the Saudi Film Festival and won the Golden Palm for Best Actor. It was also selected by actress Bella Thorne for the "influential shorts" screenings at the Taormina Film Festival. Maram  also has a self-published novella on Amazon called "Weathernose", a middle-grade steampunk fantasy. She is represented by CookeMcDermid in Canada and her debut fantasy novel is currently on submission in the US.
Film AlUla is the Royal Commission for AlUla’s film agency, established to promote and support international film and TV production in the County of AlUla, located in northwest Saudi Arabia. Its aim is to position AlUla as an international filming destination and develop the services, facilities, and infrastructure in the region to create a film-friendly ecosystem.