JEDDAH | SAUDI ARABIA – The Red Sea International Film Festival announced on Monday the program details, competition lineup and industry initiatives of its first edition at a press conference held in Al-Balad Historic Jeddah, Bait Qabil.
Set to take place March 12-21 at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Festival will shed light on local talent as well bringing a diverse selection of Films to Saudi Arabia.
Festival Director Mahmoud Sabbagh and Artistic Director Hussain Currimbhoy announced a total of 107 features and shorts that will screen in the Festival.
The selection contains 16 films in-competition, seven out-of-competition titles, 15 Retrospectives + Classic works, three Generation titles, five Immersive/VR experience, 11 pictures in New Saudi/New Cinema, 13 titles in the shorts competition, 23 Best of the Year films, 17 Tajreeb titles, which is a collection of experimental film and ‘Untitled Omnibus Feature’, an anthology comprised of 5 short films.
The Competition selection this year opens a window to the world with all of its current challenges. Prevalent themes are the advancement of women’s rights with an intense look at the scourge of domestic violence, as well as immigration, in particular, concerning marginalized individualized individuals.
The Head of the Competition jury will be American three-time Academy Award winner Oliver Stone.
Participating countries in this year’s competition include Angola, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Columbia, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mongolia, Nigeria, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Spain and United States.
‘It’s pleasing that we are bringing these great quality films discussing social issues of the day, said Sabbagh, Festival Director. ‘We have a strong desire to push diversity, particularly in women’s position in public spaces, and for a more open society. The films present a strong look at what makes society function and the relationship between the individual to patriarchy and hegemony’.
Under the theme of ‘Transmissions’, a masterclass series will be led by Arab and International cinema icons, who will pass on their knowledge, inspiration and experience to young, aspiring filmmakers. Among those presenting sessions are Spike Lee, William Friedkin, Abel Ferrara, Khairy Beshara and Yousry Nasrallah.
The pulse of next-generation talent can be seen in a carefully curated selection of short films produced or directed by the most exciting up and coming Arab contemporary voices. With a focus on diversity and innovation, the shorts competition offers a place to discover something new and to connect with the creators.
The announcement also highlighted the lineup of New Saudi/New Cinema, a program developed to introduce new, vital filmmakers and artists. The dynamic selection showcases the new voices shaping the Saudi cinema scene, all primed for launch on to international circuit.
Another title from the New Saudi/New Cinema program is the ‘Untitled Omnibus Feature’, developed in partnership with Jeddah-based production house Cinepoetics Pictures. A platform for Saudi women in the film industry, the five female filmmakers helming the films are Hind Alfahhad, Jowaher Alamri, Noor Alameer, Sara Mesfer, and Fatima Al-Banawi. Awards-winning Palestinian filmmaker Suha Arraf is screenwriting supervision on the portmanteau film.
A series of industry panels titled ‘Perspectives’ will bring together filmmakers from around the world to explore trends, ideas and issues shaping the industry today. These discussion will touch upon the animation industry, the new Saudi independent film scene, Arab international cinema, exploring European/Saudi co-production and finally, the future for Arab film production.