Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) will take place between 11 and 20 November, in the historic district of Jeddah, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Carrying the theme ‘Metamorphosis’, the RSIFF will celebrate cinema as a force for positive change, marking the first edition of the country’s nascent film festival.
According to the festival’s press release, the upcoming event will be “delivered by a team of Saudi and international curators, film specialists, and industry veterans, including Managing Director Shivani Pandya and Director of Arab Programs & Film Classics Antoine Khalife — both formerly of the Dubai International Film Festival.”
“Film Critic Kaleem Aftab joins as director of international programming, bringing distinctive global cinema to Saudi Arabia across In Competition, Out-of-Competition, and thematic categories. Jumana Zahid leads the Red Sea Lodge, the foundation’s incubator for Saudi and Arab filmmakers, now in its second edition.”
“The Red Sea Souk, the festival’s industry platform for distributors, sales agents, and producers is helmed by Zain Zedan, industry/souk manager. The senior team, which has a 50/50 gender split, is completed by Ibrahim Modir, head of shared services.”
The RSIFF was first schedule to hold its inaugural edition in March 2020, yet it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the precautionary measures taken by the kingdom.
In July 2020, the organisers revealed that the cancelled edition would be considered a ‘Label Edition’ and announced that the festival’s first edition will only feature a few events from its original schedule throughout the year.
Among the Label Edition’s events was honouring Egyptian renowned filmmaker Khairy Beshara, who in December 2020 held a masterclass at Mall of Arabia, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The masterclass was accompanied by a screening of Beshara’s key works, which have been restored by the Red Sea Festival Foundation, namely The Collar and the Bracelet (1986); Bitter Day, Sweet Day (1988); Ice Cream in Gleam (1992); Abracadabra America (1993); and Traffic Light (1995). This is the first time that restored works by the Egyptian filmmaker are shown on the big screen in Saudi Arabia.
The festival also released a new biography on Beshara, edited by film critic Mohammed Sayyed Abdel-Raheem, featuring never before seen archival images.
The Red Sea International Film Festival is organised by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation, being the first Saudi independent non-profit organisation with an official mandate to promote film culture.
Among the foundation’s aims is to shed light on Saudi cinema, promoting international cinema to local audiences, and supporting Saudi and international filmmakers while nurturing the cultural scene.
“Members of the Red Sea International Film Festival team shall be attending the Berlin Film Festival and more programming details are set to be revealed in the coming months,” the press release reads.
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