More than 900 people gathered at the Ithra Theater on Saturday, Nov. 29, to honor the creativity of 15 carefully-selected young Saudis making their debut in new media, following a six-month long competition.
The evening marked the final ceremony of the new iBroadcast iThra Award for the New Media competition, an initiative designed by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture to enrich online Arabic content with visual productions. The competition featured two categories: individuals who do not have YouTube channels, and YouTube channel owners. Attended by celebrities and an assortment of well-respected individuals in the field of new media, many commented that the event was unprecedented in Saudi Arabia.
Ranging from animated cartoons to scientific experiments, the highly diverse set of video productions was evaluated both by the audience and a panel of judges comprised of opinion leaders and authorities in their fields, including: Abdullah Al-Eyaf, a Saudi film director; Reja Al-Mutari a Saudi film critic; Mohammad Qasem, a Kuwaiti professor specialized in digital information; and Ahmad Al-Shugari, a famous television show host.
The event also featured Henry Reich, creator of Minute Physics, the popular YouTube science series that strives to get youth excited about learning in a creative way through the use of stick figures. To date, the series has garnered more than 200 million views.
The master of ceremonies was YouTube star Abdulmajeed Al-Kenani. Bader Saleh, another famous YouTube personality, shared his personal experience of launching UTurn, a YouTube channel featuring standup comedy. Both Kenani and Saleh were particular favorites with the audience.
Farah Aref received the most audience votes for her comedy production “Heroes from the Past,” which uses animation and anime superheroes of the 1980s to tackle social issues.
The panel of judges selected Ali Bahrani in the Individual Category for “The Eureka Show,” a fast-paced and engaging scientific study of what happens to humans who are sleep deprived.
“Madrassat X (School X)” won the iThra Award in the YouTube Channel Owners Category for “Wise,” a sociological study on how humans behave differently than they perceive themselves under different circumstances.
Scientific, cultural submissions tops
The competition, which opened on Aug. 8, received 124 submissions. From those, judges narrowed the field to 15 through a rigorous filtration process. Scientific and cultural submissions outnumbered all other subjects, with the age of the applicants ranging from 15 to 45. Overall, the Western Province had the highest percentage of submissions followed by the Central, Eastern, Northern and Southern regions.
As part of the award program, a consultant committee supported the contestants throughout the development of their productions. Those on the committee included: Faisal Al-Amer, creator and writer of the Masameer series; Abdulmajeed AlKenani, host of the Lugemat series; Alaa Maktoom, graphic designer; Mohammad Al-Mugbel, theatrical and television actor; Kaswara Al-Khateeb, UTurn channel cofounder; Eyad Mugazel, director of the Alaa AlTayer show; and Abdullah Jaber, caricature artist and creator of the Habateen show.
The iThra Award for New Media promotes the creation of new media productions that represent the essence of the Center, which strives to drive Saudi youth toward a love of knowledge, science, culture and creative and aesthetic thinking skills.
Above, a contestant fields questions from a committee of well-known new media experts as part of the finals competition. The iThra Award for New Media received 124 submissions and was narrowed to 15 through a rigorous judging process. Left, winners Farah Aref and Ali Bahrani accept their awards for their productions “Heroes from the Past” and “The Eureka Show,” respectively.