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RIYADH: An Italian screenwriter has described Saudi Arabia as having “amazing culture and traditions” after delighting cinemagoers with his very first screening in the Kingdom.

But 25-year-old Giacomo Mazzariol said he was nervous about how people might react to his film, “My Brother Chases Dinosaurs.”

“While sitting and watching your movie from another country, your mind is full of fears and doubts,” he told Arab News.

“‘Will my film be welcomed well? Does everything make sense?’ I then relaxed because I realized that people who watched the film were really satisfied and they had a warmhearted reaction. They felt that it was an honest film, full of true emotions.”

Directed by countryman Stefano Cipani, the movie was screened on June 17 as part of the inaugural European Film Festival, which saw 14 European films shown at The Esplanade VOX Cinema in Riyadh.

Mazzariol said the audience was intrigued with the movie and asked him many questions after the screening.

“The people laughed a lot because the film is full of lightness and humor, but also they took it seriously and they were fulfilled by the dramatic and touching parts.

“The story is about the emotional coming of age of my character (Gio), that goes from the incomprehension of the inner world of Gio to the complete acceptance and understanding of his diversity. The journey goes through rage and shame, surprise and courage, fraternity and solitude, and it starts from the birth of Gio till he grows up and becomes a teenager.”

While in Saudi Arabia, Mazzariol and a delegation from the EU were also set to hold a workshop for local talent in collaboration with the Alkhobar-based Arabia Pictures Group, but the event had to be postponed.

“The Kingdom has amazing culture and traditions that should be communicated more to people all over the world, not only with tourism but also through sharing local stories, through art based on nowadays life and perspectives,” he said.

“Arabia Pictures proposed to me to hold it (the workshop) during this edition of the festival, but we didn’t manage to make it happen this time. That is why I am supposed to come back to the Kingdom, during the next edition of the festival.”

Mazzariol said that on his return he hopes to be able to mentor young Saudis who are interested in the film and screenwriting business.

“I think the second edition will be in the late winter or beginning of spring. The main theme will be the relationship between books and movies based on my experience of creating the script of the movie based on my novel.”

He said he hoped to teach Saudi students how to analyze and compare the two arts of writing and film.

“This can be achieved through watching scenes of movies based on books and comparing them with the scenes of a book — Kafka’s works adapted, Dostoevsky works adapted, etc. — and also obtaining the knowledge to distinguish the unicity of those two forms of art.

“Some books are almost impossible to be shot, like ‘Ulysses’ by (James) Joyce, or the work of Proust. Not just for the number of pages, but because they reach a literary high peak which is very specific to literature,” he said.

Mazzariol said he had always had a passion for writing and loved literature classes in school.

“When I was in high school, with all the imagination and ideas that a teenager can have, I began writing for myself and tried to publish some articles.”

His career as a screenwriting began when he published a short film with his brother Gio on YouTube.

“My brother (Gio) with Down syndrome was in the film. It became viral and the person who would become my future editor contacted me to do a book on the video and my story.”

Speaking about the two days he spent in the Kingdom during the film festival, Mazzariol said: “What impressed me the most were the modern buildings, the skyscrapers, the entertainment areas, because it seems futuristic.

“It was the first time for me to visit Saudi Arabia. I love traveling and discovering new countries and thanks to the festival’s organizers and the embassy of Italy, I could get in touch with Saudis that know Saudi Arabia well.

“In the markets of the old town, I got a sensation of being at the door of another world, because there were incredible products from all over the Middle East and Asia.”

The writer said he spent some time studying in King Fahad National Library before exploring some of the natural desert landscapes the Kingdom has to offer.

“I loved the hot winds, sand as far as the eye can see. It was very inspiring because I have always read books from that scenario, for example, ‘One Thousand and One Nights,’ but never experienced it.

“The hospitality of the European Film Festival was very high standard and well done, I thank them a lot. I hope the festival will have great success also in the next editions. I know for sure it is going to be bigger and bigger.”

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