Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival announces lineup

The lineup for the first International Red Sea Film Festival has been announced.

Saudi Arabia’s first major film festival, established three years ago, will return to the Unesco World Heritage site of Old Jeddah, bringing together the best new works of world cinema with new voices from the kingdom .

A total of 138 films from 67 countries are expected to be shown to the public throughout the 10 days of the festival, including 25 world premieres. It takes place from December 6 to 15.

The festival opens with Cyrano, the latest film by British director Joe Wright (Atonement). Written by Erica Schmidt, based on her 2018 musical, it’s a reinvention of the classic 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, a story of shyness and love.

Cyrano stars Game Of Thrones‘Peter Dinklage as the titular amorous blacksmith who helps the handsome, speechless Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr) woo the beautiful Roxanne (Haley Bennett) with a series of love letters.

Other major titles on the line include Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The lost girl, which won the Best Screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival in September and stars Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson and Jessie Buckley in an intriguing tale of motherhood and loss.

Period drama The color room will take place, featuring Bridgerton‘s Phoebe Dynevor as ceramic artist Clarice Cliff.

Ana Lily Amirpour, best known for A girl comes home alone at night, will present a fantastic thriller Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon. Starring Kate Hudson, the movie set in New Orleans will also star in the International Spectacular section.

Three great Arab films take center stage in the Gala section. Set in the back streets of an Amman neighborhood, the thrilling thriller Alleys is the directorial director of writer-director Bassel Ghandour, who previously wrote and produced the World War I drama in 2014 Theeb.

It will be followed by Memory box, co-directed and written by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, a very personal drama that reflects those who escaped the Lebanese civil war. Nabil Ayouch’s rap drama will also be on display Casablanca Beats, the first Moroccan drama film to play in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The screening will be followed by a live performance by five young rappers from the film.

The festival will close with the world premiere of Bara El Manhag, by Egyptian director Amr Salama, who previously co-directed the award-winning documentary Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Politician. His latest film, starring Maged El-Kidwani, Rubi and Asma Abul-Yazid, is a light fantasy about an orphan child who decides to break into a haunted house, to befriend the ghost he finds in inside.

Sixteen films from around the world will be presented in the Red Sea competition, bringing together established directors and new voices. Among the filmmakers competing for the Golden Yusr Award is Palestinian Hany Abu-Assad, whose 2005 film Heaven now was nominated for an Oscar. His latest film, Huda’s living room, is a feminist thriller and follows a young mother named Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi) whose trip to a Bethlehem living room turns into a nightmare when she is blackmailed by the owner.

Iranian directorial debut Panah Panahi, son of acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi, will also compete in the section with his acclaimed debut film. Take the road, which was named best film at the BFI London Film Festival. An exuberant road movie, it stars Hassan Madjooni and Pantea Panahiha as parents, who embark on a dangerous – and sometimes heartwarming – journey with their children through Iran in a borrowed car.

Other competing filmmakers include several from the Mena region. Farha is the first feature film by Jordanian filmmaker Darin Sallam. A story set in 1948 in Palestine, it focuses on a 14-year-old girl, hidden in a locked cellar as war breaks out in her village. Ali Suliman, who also appears in Huda’s living room, co-stars.

The prison drama of writer-director Samir Nasr, Charaf, receives its world premiere at the festival, adapted from the novel of the same name by famous Egyptian writer Sonallah Ibrahim.

Another world premiere in the section is the Moroccan drama by Al Hadi Ulad-Mohand Life is fine with me, which was one of 14 films screened at the festival to receive a grant from the Red Sea Fund.

The festival will also celebrate women in cinema, with two very special talents in the spotlight. The first is Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour, best known for her debut, Ouadjda, the first feature film shot entirely in the kingdom. She has since grown up on the international film scene, recently directing Ethan Hawke in a TV miniseries. The good Lord bird.

The second winner is the famous Egyptian actress Laila Eloui. Best known for her roles in I like cinema and Girls like, she will join the festival for a masterclass to unpack her fascinating career.

Other planned guests include French cinema icon Catherine Deneuve and Egyptian actress and singer Yousra, whose incredible work spans more than 80 films. She will host a masterclass to discuss her distinguished career, which has won her over 50 awards at festivals around the world. The often controversial work of Franco-Argentinian director Gaspar Noe, whose latest film, Vortex, had its highly acclaimed premiere earlier this year in Cannes, will also be up for discussion in what promises to be a fascinating conversation.

The festival also delivered on its promise to feature emerging filmmakers, with a short competition in which 18 films will compete. A mix of animation and live action, eight of which are directed by women filmmakers, it will include the short films Space woman, the story of a retired teacher in Tripoli by Franco-Lebanese director Hadi Mousally; animated tale The pyramid, by Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Ghazala, about a man trying to build an inverted pyramid; and tale of refugees Zawal by Saudi director Mujtaba Saeed.

There are many other sections for audiences to delve into, including Red Sea Treasures, Red Sea Immersive, and Red Sea Episodic, but also the Red Sea Souk, a film marketplace for producers, distributors and sales agents to connect. across the region. As the inaugural events unfold, it seems to be a tempting prospect for the discerning public and industry players alike.

The Red Sea International Film Festival runs from December 6 to 15. More information is available at

Updated: November 9, 2021, 13:28

About Victoria Rothstein

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