JEDDAH: Today begins the 2e edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF), which will be held until December 10, 2021 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Jeddah.
This edition is titled “Film is Everything” and will run for ten days. Once again, the works screened will be of great variety, with a wide range of the best international productions, classic works and contemporary Arab films, in addition to professional programs related to the film industry. The public will be able to discover one hundred and thirty-one feature and short films from sixty-one countries in forty-one languages. There are thirty-four world premieres, seventeen Arab premieres and forty-seven Middle Eastern and North African premieres, including twenty-four Saudi films. Apart from the cinema screenings, festival-goers will be able to take advantage of workshops, masterclasses and meetings within the framework of the Red Sea Souk, the industrial platform intended to promote cooperation, which allows budding filmmakers to create networks.
The festival will also host a series of themed film programs such as Festival Favorites, New Saudi/New Cinema, Red Sea Treasures, “Arab and International Show”, “Family and Children”, “Virtual Reality” and “Series” programs. In addition, New Vision is a new section dedicated to directors who push the limits of creativity.
Shekhar Kapur’s Cross-Cultural Romantic Comedy What’s Love Got to Do With It? will kick off the festival. This film reunites Lily James, Shazad Latif, Shabana Azmi, Sajal Aly, Asim Chaudhry and Academy Award winner Emma Thompson. It tells the story of a white British woman who falls in love with a South Asian man. It was written by Jemima Goldsmith, the British ex-wife of former Pakistani Prime Minister and cricketer Imran Khan. It’s the drama Valley Road by Saudi screenwriter and director Khaled Fahd who will close the event.
The program also includes The Lucky Stars by Hirokazu Kore-eda, The Banshees of Inisherin by Martin McDonagh Decision to Leave by Park Chan-wook Empire of Light by Sam Mendes How I Got There by Zeyad Alhusaini, Queens by Yasmine Benkiran, rebel by Adil el-Arbi and Bilall Fallah, Without filter by Ruben Ostlund and All Roads Lead to Rome by Lara Saba.
Among the announced guests, the American filmmaker Oliver Stone, winner of three Oscars and director of the films jfk, Platoon, Snowden and Born on July 4, will chair the competition jury. Also in attendance will be Egyptian actress Youssra, British director Guy Ritchie and Indian actor and producer Shahkrukh Khan, who will be awarded an honorary Yusr for their outstanding contribution to cinema. Lebanese director and actress Nadine Labaki and Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor will receive Variety International Vanguard Awards.
A few days before the launch, the director of the RSIFF, Mohammed al-Turki, confided in Arab News in an exclusive interview. He said cinema popularity had skyrocketed in the Kingdom over the past five years since the decades-long ban on cinemas was lifted. He admits to being very impressed by Saudi film production. “We are very proud to close the festival this year with a Saudi film [Valley Road]. This is a clear indicator of the situation of Saudi cinema. Our programmers, in particular Antoine Khalife, are very picky when it comes to films. Thus, for the Red Sea International Film Festival, accepting a Saudi film means that it is worthy of screening at an international festival.”
“There is a real appetite for cinema. If you look at the number of tickets sold, you can see that we have overtaken all the neighboring countries,” adds Mr. Al-Turki. « Our turnover has been greater than that of the United Arab Emirates or Egypt in the short time since we lifted the cinema ban in 2017. »
As we can see, the film industry is booming in the Kingdom. Thus, the premiere of the film Raven Song will take place at the RSIFF on December 3. It is one of seven films – and one of two Saudi productions – competing for the Golden Yusr for best feature film. The Saudi Film Commission chose it to represent the Kingdom at the Oscars in the category of best international feature film.
“I think we are on the right track… A lot of people are giving their best and we are trying to make up for the thirty-five years during which the cinema was not present”, underlines Mr Al-Turki.
The Red Sea Souk, a chance for young talents
The Red Sea Souk is one of RSIFF’s most important initiatives. It is a festival industry marketplace platform that includes a large number of events designed to foster international co-production and distribution deals as well as foster new business opportunities.
Representatives from forty-six countries will take part in the souk, which will take place from December 3 to 6. It will allow key players in the Saudi industry as well as some of the best emerging artists from the Arab and African scenes to assert themselves.
This year, more than three hundred and fifty distributors, producers, financiers, sales agents and festival representatives will take part in the souk and will participate in meetings and face-to-face sessions with project promoters. The winners, chosen by two juries, will receive money. The Project Market jury will award special jury mentions for development and production in the amount of 35,000 and 100,000 dollars respectively (1 dollar = 0.96 euro). All selected projects will be eligible for additional prizes funded by Red Sea Souk sponsors and partners totaling $670,000.
During his 1D edition, the Red Sea Souk had organized more than five hundred and sixty meetings and hosted some three thousand one hundred and fifteen film and media professionals. His major role has been recognized in particular for the support he provides to young talent and for the links that have been forged with established personalities in the film industry.