The Red Sea International Film Festival will open its long-awaited inaugural edition with Cyrano, a musical romantic drama directed by award-winning British director Joe Wright starring Peter Dinklage, Hayley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Ben Mendelsohn. The festival, which runs December 5-15 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has also announced it will close with the world premiere of Egyptian director Amr Salama’s Bara El Manhag starring including Maged El-Kidwani, Omar Chareef, Rubi and Deena Maher.
Mohammed Al-Turki, the festival’s Chairman of the Committee said: “This is truly a landmark moment as we launch our first international Film Festival to celebrate original cinematic voices and showcase an extensive selection of films from around the world to local, regional and international audiences.
“The Festival will also serve as a launchpad for young Saudi and Arab talent, support the development of our flourishing industry, introduce international Festival guests to our vibrant creative scene and bring together the global film industry to network, share knowledge and forge partnerships. We look forward to welcoming everyone to Jeddah for a packed programme of screenings, events and much more.”
The programme will feature 138 feature films and shorts from 67 countries in 34 languages from both established and emerging talent and will host 25 World Premieres, 48 Arab Premieres and 17 GCC Premieres, with a number of filmmakers and actors in attendance for many of the films.
The slate of new Saudi films will be shown alongside the best of new international cinema, featuring 27 new films from an exciting wave of Saudi filmmakers. The lineup of features and shorts will open a window for international guests to explore all aspects of Saudi society, and in turn, provide a vital platform for Saudi filmmakers to present their work on the big screen to the global film industry and local audiences.
Alongside the Red Sea Competition, Red Carpet Galas and Special Presentations, the Festival will host a range of cinema in the following sections: Festival Favourites, New Saudi/New Cinema, Red Sea Treasures, Red Sea Arab and International Spectacular, Red Sea Next Generation, Red Sea Immersive and Red Sea Episodic.
The Arab and international competition will showcase the highest creative achievements from an array of filmmakers in its Red Sea Feature and Shorts Competition sections. The lineup of 18 shorts and 16 features showcases the most compelling, unique and impressive work produced in the past year. Winners in each competition will be selected by esteemed juries and announced on December 13.
Edouard Waintrop, Artistic Director of the Red Sea International Film Festival, said: “We are delighted to announce the incredible slate of films being presented at the inaugural edition of the Festival. To be able to start so strongly, with such a wide array of incredible storytelling from both the Arab world and further afield, is significant and speaks to the promising future of this Festival, both this year and beyond. The slate also underscores the diversity of cinema being presented at the Festival, with authentic stories from all over the world coming from both established and emerging filmmakers.”
The Festival will be celebrating women and will honour two outstanding talents to salute their extraordinary contribution to cinema and continue the Festival’s mission to celebrate incredible women in film. From Saudi Arabia, the Festival will honour Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first female Saudi filmmaker, who has helped boost the women’s empowerment movement across the region and is one of the most significant figures in the Saudi film industry. The second honouree is Egyptian actress Laila Eloui, who has starred in more than 70 films and who will give an acting masterclass. Egyptian actress, singer and Yousra will also deliver a much-anticipated masterclass.
There will also be three in-conversations that will give Festival-goers insight into the careers and achievements of Haifaa Al-Mansour; Tunisian actress Hend Sabry and acclaimed Franco-Argentinian director Gaspar Noé along with Lebanese directors and artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. The Festival will also honour Jack Lang, President of the Institut du Monde Arabe and France’s former Minister of Culture and Minister of Education, in recognition of his efforts to promote relations between Saudi Arabia.
The line-up over the 10 days includes:
Director Hany Abu-Assad's political and emotional thriller Huda’s Salon will open the Red Sea Competition on December 7 and joining the lineup are Saudi directors Sara Mesfer, Jawaher Alamri, Noor Alameer, Hind Al-Fahhad and Fatima Al-Banawi with the GCC premiere of Becoming, which tells five women’s unique stories in this omnibus film.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter starring Olivia Coleman, Dakota Johnson and Jessie Buckley in the film adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name will screen, while also showing is the feature directorial debut of writer/director Bassel Ghandour, The Alleys; Memory Box, co-directed and co-written by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige and the Arab Gala is French-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch’s Casablanca Beats
Ghodwa sees Tunisian actor Dhafer L'Abidine make his feature directorial debut; Jordanian filmmaker Zaid Abu Hamdan, best known for his acclaimed shorts, makes his feature directorial debut with Daughters of Abdul-Rahman and Mamoru Hosoda’s anime Belle leads the Next Generation presentation.
Also screening are Giuseppe Tornatore’s documentary Ennio, about the late Ennio Morricone; Ana Lily Amirpour’s fantasy thriller Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon and The Colour Room directed by Claire McCarthy.
The Festival will offer a wide variety of cultural events in addition to the main screening presentations, ranging from musical to community outdoor screening events. The music events will consist of standalone acts including original Saudi rappers YR Music and a concert that will pay tribute to classic Egyptian cinema by Rima Khcheich and Band, in addition to performances that complement the Festival’s selection of films, including five rappers from the film Casablanca Beats and traditional Moroccan Gnawa music to accompany the documentary Their Heads Are Green And Their Hands Are Blue, both from the Arab Spectacular.
The Red Sea Souk, the Festival’s industry market, will offer a packed programme of curated events to foster co-production, international distribution, and new business opportunities. I, it will run from December 8-11, alongside the Film Festival. The Red Sea Souk will consist of the Project Market, which will see pitching and meetings for a selection of 23 films in development, and Works-in-Progress Screenings, a selection of rough-cut screenings made up of screenings of rough cuts of a selection of films in post-production.
All films in the Red Sea Souk will be deliberated on by two separate juries. The Project Market Jury will consist of Saudi poet and Festival director Ahmed Almulla; American producer Alix Madigan, and German producer Thanassis Karathanos, while Festival director Alex Moussa Sawadogo, Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir, and French filmmaker Ladj Ly make up the Works-in-Progress Jury. More than $800,000 will be awarded to the projects selected in the Red Sea Souk Awards.
The Souk will present seven films in market screenings looking for distribution in market screenings, titles include Junoon directed by Maan B. and Yaser B. Khalid, Soula directed by Salah Issaad, Sharaf directed by Samir Nasr, Take Me To The Cinema directed by Albaqer Jaafar, Ghodwa directed by Dhaffer L'Abidine and Daughters of Abdul-Rahman directed by Zaid Abu Hamdan.
Shivani Pandya Malhotra, Managing Director of the Red Sea International Film Festival, said: “The Festival is not only a celebration of cinema but an important opportunity for the Saudi film industry as a whole. The Festival offers not only an international stage to Saudi film professionals, but also demonstrates the abundance of talent and opportunities that Saudi Arabia can offer to the international film industry. The Red Sea Souk, in particular, will play such an important role in global exchange and partnerships between the international and Saudi film industries.”