Saudi Arabia Launches Film Fund for Arab Cinema With Slate Toplined by Biopic of Singer Umm Kulthum Played by Mona Zaki Most Popular Must Read Sign Up for Variety Newsletters More From Our Brands

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has launched a new film fund called Big Time Investment to boost production of quality Arabic movies and announced a slate of Egyptian feature films toplined by a biopic of Egyptian icon Umm Kulthum who is considered the Arab world’s greatest singer.

Prominent Egyptian director Marwan Hamed, whose epic “Kira and El Gen” about local resistance to British occupation, is recent hit, will direct the film titled “El Set.” Egyptian star Mona Zaki will play Kulthum who from the late 1920s onwards became the first prominent Arab singer to disseminate her work to the masses via the new technologies of the times: radio, the phonograph, cinema and television.

The fund was announced in Cairo by GEA chairman Turki Alalshikh who said GEA will serve as the roughly $130 million fund’s primary sponsor with the Ministry of Culture acting as a co-sponsor, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Additionally, several specialized Saudi companies will contribute to the fund, including Sela Studio, SMC Company, Rotana Audio Visual Co., and Benchmark Company.

The new Big Time Investment fund, which will aim to germinate roughly 20 Arabic titles a year, follows the launch of the Red Sea Fund by Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation, a non-profit tied to the Red Sea Film Festival that provides co-funding mainly for Arabic art movies.

Titles currently screening at the Berlin Film Festival that received financing from the Red Sea Fund include Tunisian director Meryam Joobeur’s “Who Do I Belong To,” France-based African director Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Black Tea” and Lebanese director Myriam El-Hajj’s feature documentary “Diaries From Lebanon” “Who Do I Belong To.”