In March of 2020 a revolution will begin in Saudi Arabia. But the country’s royal family and even that now infamous bad boy MBS — as the crown prince is known for short — needn’t worry about getting ready with armies and bodyguards. They just need to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
That’s because the premiere edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival will kick off on March 12th and last through March 21st, 2020, in the historic old town of Jeddah, on the Saudi Arabian Red Sea coast. Personally I’ve long wanted to visit Saudi but have not had a reason to… Voila, here’s my perfect reason! I mean, I’ve been to Qatar, Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon and a myriad of other beautifully diverse countries in the Arab world, but Saudi has eluded me. Until now.
The event will be led by Festival Director and CEO Mahmoud Sabbagh. To those who know Arab cinema, he’s the masterful filmmaker of Saudi breakout hit ‘Barakah Meets Barakah’ — a film I found impossible to ignore at the 2016 Berlinale, and wrote about for both the HuffPost and Empire Arabia.
Now the filmmaker has joined forces with Hussain Currimbhoy, who previously served as a documentary programmer at the Sundance Film Festival, and will be the festival’s Artistic Director, and Shivani Pandya Malhotra, who brings a wealth of experience from the Dubai International Film Festival after managing it for 15 years. She will be the festival’s Managing Director. Industry veteran Antoine Khalife joins as Director of the Arab Program Samaher Mously as Director of Marketing and Communications and Ibrahim Modir as Head of Operations.
The Festival is supported by The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation, an independent, non-profit organization chaired by the Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, the first foundation of its kind within Saudi civil society law promoting the film culture. The Foundation aims at championing the local new film industry in the country that focuses on nurturing national storytellers and local original narratives through the Festival and it’s all year long education, grants programs and market initiatives.
Watch a wondrous trailer for the festival below, directed by Sabbagh himself and featuring a cast of young Saudi artists, including actors, cinematographers and dancers — shot entirely in Jeddah Old Town.
And last but not least, the Red Sea International Film Festival has also launched The Red Sea Lodge: “The New Arab Wave”, a script & feature lab in collaboration with the TorinoFilmLab which has opened today for submissions on July 1st, 2019. The Red Sea Lodge: “The New Arab Wave” will select 12 Arab projects of which at least 6 will be from Saudi filmmakers. Filmmakers will participate in a five-month support program designed to develop their projects with national and international film industry experts. The Red Sea Lodge will assign two $500,000 awards to the best projects from the Script & Feature Lab and additional awards to financially support the further development of the projects. See rules and regulations on their website.
So, see you in Jeddah next March! May cinema unite the world there.