Tyranny and Modernity: A journey to the heart of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia. Long considered one of the most repressive and closed countries in the world, the country is opening up. In recent years, this desert kingdom has undertaken numerous reforms under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. An estimated 3,000 billion euros have been invested to build solar power plants or futuristic real estate projects in the desert. However, at the same time, the Crown Prince suppresses any form of protest. In this documentary, we examine MBS’s Saudi Arabia.

In Riyadh, the capital, spectacular skyscrapers rival those of Dubai. Now, women no longer have to wear the hijab. They can travel alone, ride a bike, or drive. After 35 years of being prohibited, cinemas have finally reopened and Saudis are discovering American blockbusters – even if many scenes are cut due to the strict censorship rules of the country.

All over the Kingdom, young people are attending parties and dancing, provided they are discreet about it. Muhanned, one of the first DJs in the country, flirts with the law and never knows how the evening will end. But despite this, the country is still rooted conservatism. Some Bedouin traditions remain unchanged, such as beauty contests for camels, where the owners will do anything to win. Some will even go as far as injecting botox in the face of their animals to make them more beautiful.

Under the façade of new freedoms, MBS’s regime is in many ways, more repressive than ever before. Freedom of expression, always constrained, is now non-existent. The country it is ranked one of the ‘worst of the worst’ for political and civil rights by Freedom House. More recently, a woman was sentenced to 34 years in prison for using Twitter. Human rights violations are common in the country – where adulterous women can be subjected to stoning, while members of the LGBTQ+ community or political protestors also face execution.  


  • Year: 2023
  • Duration: 56 mins
  • Production: Ligne de Front
  • Director: Kristell Bernaud
  • Available Versions: ENG, FRA
  • Country of production: France

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