Essam Bukhary, CEO of Saudi firm Manga Productions, signs a memorandum of understanding with Hong Kong production company Salon Films at Cyberport on Dec 19, 2022. (JAN YUMUL / CHINA DAILY)
Saudi Arabia has been consuming content for a long time, and is known for exporting oil. With its recent collaboration with a Hong Kong-based company, an anime production firm from the Arab nation is looking to China to change all that.
“I grew up watching movies of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and other Chinese movies. Today, I am very happy that we are exporting our content and we’re exchanging creativity and creative products with our Chinese friends,” Essam Bukhary, CEO at Manga Productions, said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.
The Hong Kong screening took place at Cyberport on Monday and has also been dubbed into Chinese
Bukhary was in Hong Kong for the premiere showing of the Saudi-Japanese anime film The Journey, which is a collaborative effort with Japan’s Toei Animation. The Hong Kong screening took place at Cyberport on Monday and has also been dubbed into Chinese (putonghua) .
Manga Productions, which focuses on producing animation and developing video games and comics, is a subsidiary of the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation.
Manga Productions and Hong Kong film production company Salon Films signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday with the objective to provide opportunities for internships for Saudi young talent in distribution, film production, and film financing.
“I think this is a very important milestone because when you invest in people, they are your assets,” Bukhary said, noting that his country had invested in hardware and software and that now “it’s the time of investment in brainware”.
Essam Bukhary, CEO at Manga Productions, speaks at the Asia MENA Culture Technology Economic Collaboration Forum in Hong Kong on Dec 19, 2022. (ZHOU LI / CHINA DAILY)
Bukhary said that China and Saudi Arabia “share a great history” as well as values, like taking care of relationships, hospitality and of both countries being in Asia.
“We have the Silk Road. We had the Maritime Silk Road and now I think it’s the time to think about the new Silk Road. We have the Saudi Vision 2030. We have the Belt and Road Initiative of China. It’s the time of thinking about the cyber silk road, content silk road, creative silk road,” Bukhary said.
Hamad Mohammed Aljebreen (center), consul general of Saudi Arabia in Hong Kong, Shaikh Saoud Al Mualla (seventh, right), consul general of United Arab Emirates in Hong Kong, and Naser S Alghanim (eighth, left), consul general of Kuwait in Hong Kong, and others have a group photo at the Asia MENA Culture Technology Economic Collaboration Forum in Hong Kong on Dec 19, 2022. (ZHOU LI / CHINA DAILY)
“I believe China is a very important country. We think that our friendship (and) relations with the people of China are strategic and they will play a significant role in the future of the two countries,” he added.
Bukhary said there will be many opportunities to work in coproductions with China and partnerships with Chinese companies, universities and organizations in the future.
People enjoy a group photo after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Manga Productions and Hong Kong production company Salon Films at Cyberport on Dec 19. The event was followed by the premiere showing of the Saudi-Japanese anime film The Journey. (JAN YUMUL / CHINA DAILY)
He said that The Journey received higher ratings on the authoritative IMDb entertainment site than other movies from US-based firms like Disney as well as leading Japanese animation studios.
“I think the secret is in the originality of the story. If you want to succeed, you need to invest in your originality. I will not succeed by bringing stories regarding American cowboys or Vikings from Europe or ninja from Japan,” Bukhary said.
Prior to Hong Kong, the anime film premiered in Malaysia and Indonesia in September.
Bukhary called the collaboration with Asian countries “unique” even “when it came to distribution and dubbing”. The film has also been dubbed into English and German.
“I think this is the interesting part because for many years, the people when they look at Saudi Arabia, they think we only export oil. And for (many) years, we used to consume content,” Bukhary said.
“We had many talks, discussions with video games from China and other areas. So, this is only the beginning. I believe the future is very bright,” he added.
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