Ghaidaa bin Mahfoudh hopes to begin a master’s degree program in film production in the United States soon with the help of a grant from the Saudi Ministry of Culture. It’s a dream she’s able to pursue only after earning her bachelor’s degree last year from the School of Cinematic Arts at Effat University, in Jeddah.
“This would not have been possible if I had not first joined the university here,” bin Mahfoudh said from Jeddah. “My family totally rejected the idea of my studying cinema, because there were no job opportunities, and society did not accept women’s work in cinema,” she said. “However, I was determined to fulfill my dream and managed to convince them, especially with the presence of the school here.”
Her family is now encouraging her to complete her studies, she said.
Effat, a nonprofit women’s university, is the only university in Saudi Arabia that awards a bachelor’s degree in cinematic arts to women. That’s in addition to some workshops offered by the Dar al-Hekma University and Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University.
Effat University’s School of Cinematic Arts opened in 2013, and since then, more than 150 students have graduated from the Visual and Digital Productions Department. Some 60 female students are currently enrolled in the school’s film production and direction program, working toward a bachelor’s degree that’s awarded in collaboration with New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
“We are working on preparing cadres with international skills,” said Mohamed Ghazala, director of the School of Cinematic Arts in Jeddah. “We have developed the curricula according to the needs of the labor market with a degree from New York University, and our students have promising opportunities in an industry that begins its career with great government support.”
Economic and Social Transformations
The Effat school’s push to produce more trained film professionals coincides with moves to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil and liberalize its conservative society. (See a related article, “Crown Prince Pushes Change in Saudi Higher Education.”)