November 29, 2022

For the 95th Academy Awards in March 2023, Saudi Arabia nominated a coming-of-age comedy to represent the Kingdom. The feature film Raven Song (2023), directed and written by NYFA 1-Year Filmmaking program alum Mohamed Al Salman, is the country’s contender for ‘Best International Feature.’ The film stars Asem Alawad, Ibraheem Alkhairallah (Koora, Six Windows in the Desert, Comedians of the World), and Abdullah Aljafal (Stranger).

A Competitive Road Ahead for Raven Song (2023)

Raven Song follows Nasar, who reaches out to a mysterious, beautiful woman by singing a love song. The film was shot entirely in the Kingdom’s capital of Riyadh and produced by Ahmed Mousa and Telfaz 11. The film was selected by the Saudi Oscars committee, which includes Abdullah Al-Ayyaf (CEO of the Film Commission), poet Ahmed Al-Mulla, director and actress Ahed Kamel, producer Mohamed Al-Turki director Haifaa Al-Mansour (Head of Saudi Cinema Association), director Hana Al-Omair, and director Shahd Amin.

The film will enter the Academy Awards process, circulating through various screening stages before (hopefully) making it to a shortlist. The American Academy of Sciences and Arts will select the final list of films, and the winner will be presented at the Oscars.

Director and NYFA Filmmaking alum Mohamed Al Salman

In an Arab News article featuring Raven Song’s selection, director Mohammed Al Salman says, “I am very happy and proud that my first feature film, Raven Song, was chosen to represent my homeland, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Al Salman’s selection is a source of great pride for the NYFA community as well. “Each year, nations around the world can only submit one film to the Oscars, so it is truly a tremendous honor for Mohamed and his team. I wish them all the best on the path to a nomination,” says Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Senior Director of the Film Festival Department.

Raven Song and Mohamed Al Salman Found Success Before the Selection

The film was not only recognized by Saudi Arabia for the 2023 Academy Awards. Raven Song was among the winners of the Saudi Film Commission’s Daw Film Competition as a project. The Daw Film Competition fosters new Saudi filmmaking talent. According to a MIME article written by E. Nina Rothe, the imagery in Raven Song integrates themes from classical Khaliji storytellers with a contemporary narrative.

Director and NYFA Filmmaking Alum Mohamed Al Salman (left) on the set of Raven Song (2023); Image courtesy of MIME.com

The alum was sponsored by Aramco to study with NYFA in the 1-Year Filmmaking program in Los Angeles. Before his feature film, Al Salman made a series of short films, two of which–Curtain (2018) and 27th of Shaban (2019)–are available to stream on Netflix under the ‘Six Windows in the Desert’ collection.

The short film Curtain is the story of a female nurse who escapes traumatic events only to face judgment from those at her workplace. The other short film, 27th of Shaban , follows the story of Mohammed and Nouf after they meet for a date in the early 2000s, something that was strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia.

New York Film Academy wishes the best of luck to Mohamed Al Salman’s selection for the 2023 Academy Awards.

Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.