Women's Stories: Red Sea teams with Vanity Fair in Venice to celebrate extraordinary filmmakers in Arab cinema

At a gala event hosted Friday evening, at the Palazzo Rocca Contarini Corfù in Venice, the Red Sea IFF and Vanity Fair honored six remarkable women working at the heart of the Arab film industry.
Women's Stories: Red Sea teams with Vanity Fair in Venice to celebrate extraordinary filmmakers in Arab cinema

Haifaa al-Mansour, Ahd Kamel, Sumaya Rida, Kaouther Ben Hania, Hend Sabry and Dorra Zarrouk -- six extraordinary women who are helping pave the way within the film industry in the MENA.

On Friday night, during the Venice International Film Festival, the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) and Vanity Fair came together to celebrate visionary female talent both in front and behind the camera, women who are shaping the film industry and creating extraordinary stories that resonate with audiences around the world.  

The gala event took place at the Palazzo Rocca Contarini Corfù overlooking Venice's Grand Canal, and featured stars of world cinema, models and personalities involved in the new and highly anticipated yearly event in Jeddah -- the Red Sea International Film Festival, which this year will take place from December 1st to the 10th. 

From left Haifaa al-Mansour, Dorra Zarrouk, Sumaya Rida and Kaouther Ben Hania

The event shone the spotlight on three wondrous women from Saudi Arabia including the acclaimed filmmaker Haifaa al-Mansour whose groundbreaking first film Wadjda started a cinematic movement in the country, a success which she then followed with films like The Perfect Candidate and Mary Shelley; award winning actress and filmmaker Ahd Kamel who starred in Collateral and Wadjda and is now working on her feature directorial project; and an exciting talent to watch Sumaya Rida, who has been featured in Rupture and Rashash. They were joined by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania who directed The Man Who Sold His Skin, as well as Beauty and the Dogs); celebrated actress Hend Sabry whose Finding Ola is available on Netflix, and among her other work are Noura’s Dream and Asmaa; and Dorra Zarrouk from Walls and Zombie Goes Zombie who all hail from Tunisia. 

During the event, Haifaa al-Mansour disclosed: “I am incredibly honored to return to Venice Film Festival for the Women in Cinema Gala. I am very thankful to Vanity Fair for including me in this incredible event with all of these extraordinary women. Venice has been my "home" festival since the launch of my first film Wadjda here ten years ago. I was overjoyed to return to Venice for my follow up Saudi film, The Perfect Candidate, and hope to return with another Saudi film very soon!”

Mohammed Al Turki in Valentino tux, with Carla Bruni

Among those attending the event were Shivani Pandya Malthora, Red Sea IFF’s Managing Director; Mohammed Al Turki; the CEO of the festival and Simone Marchetti, Vanity Fair’s Editor in Chief. Stars included the ever-stunning Isabelle Huppert, supermodel turned First Lady Carla Bruni, Lebanese Oscar-nominated filmmaker Nadine Labaki, American singer Sabrina Carpenter, French-Italian thespian Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Spanish actress and presenter Rocio Muñoz Morales, Canadian actress Sarah Gadon, and Italian actor Claudio Santamaria. 

Shivani Pandya Malhotra said: “The Red Sea International Film Festival has an important role to play in ensuring women’s stories are showcased to as many people as possible and providing a platform to ensure their voices are heard. We strive to establish ways for women to succeed as storytellers as they continue to shape our cultural landscape. Together with Vanity Fair we are celebrating women who are leading the way and inspiring a new generation of creatives.”

Mohammed Al Turki added: “I’m thrilled to see the rise of women filmmakers making a mark on the world of cinema and with our friends at Vanity Fair we honor these brilliant women as they continue to take the industry by storm, breaking stereotypes and bringing fresh narratives to the screen. We’re grateful for their amazing contributions and cannot wait to see what they do next.”

Images by © Ammar Abd Rabbo, used with permission

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