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Saudi Arabia has backed Mahmoud Sabbagh’s “Barakah Meets Barakah” as its 2017 Academy Awards entry for best foreign language film. The movie marks the second-ever Saudi film to be submitted for consideration.

“Mahmoud Sabbagh is a representative of a new generation who will soon be a pioneer in the history of filmmaking in Saudi Arabia,” said Sultan Al Bazie, head of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts and chairman of the nominating committee.

“This generation, who submitted more than 70 films in the third Saudi Film Festival organized by SASCA last March, are showing a lot of creativity and determination to express themselves and their culture through cinema,” he added. “We feel proud to nominate ‘Barakah Meets Barakah’ as our country’s second entry to the Oscars and we are optimistic that the next years will have more entries from Saudi Arabia.”

“Barakah Meets Barakah” made its debut at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, where it received positive reviews. The film follows a young couple on a first date in a society where public unchaperoned meetings are prohibited. It is a clash between the traditional societal values of Saudi Arabia and the modern world.

“This movie is about hope and making change. Even in the most challenging filmmaking conditions, there should be a voice that represents the normal stories of the people in Saudi Arabia,” said writer/director Sabbagh.

“Barakah Meets Barakah” will make its North American debut next month at the Toronto International Film Festival. MPM Films is handling worldwide sales but the film is still looking for North American distribution.