“The future is bright for Saudi cinema”
In its closing ceremony, the Red Sea International Film Festival ended with the same dynamism it started, albeit with a slightly more relaxed and festive note.
While there was an air of suspense on opening night over the unfolding of Saudi Arabia’s first film festival, the unprecedented turmoil that had gripped the historic Al-Balad district during the last week was a measure of the success of the event.
The festival screened 170 films from all over the world. A third of them were works by female filmmakers, and 27 of them were Saudi films.
“I am extremely proud of our team who worked tirelessly around the clock to deliver a festival which I believe exceeded expectations,” said Mohammed Al Turki, festival president, at the awards ceremony. . He also thanked the filmmakers “for trusting us to share their stories and vision over the past 10 days, which made us look at the world a little differently.”
“It was our very first international film festival. We have learned a lot that we will now build on for our second edition. “
Several films by established regional filmmakers made their Arab premieres at the festival, including Huda’s living room by Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu Assad and Communion by Nejib Belkadhi. Some of the favorites on the global festival circuit include Haider Rashid Europe, which won two prizes at the Yusr First Prizes, and Brighton 4th by Georgian filmmaker Levan Koguashvili, who won the award for best feature film.
The festival was also a springboard for emerging Arab directors who were showing their first films in the region for the first time, including You look like me, the audience-winning feature film by Egyptian-American filmmaker and journalist Dina Amer, and Jordanian filmmaker Darin Sallam Farha, who received the special mention award.
However, while the festival was a targeted movement to bring world cinema to Saudi Arabia, perhaps most important was its reinforcement of new Saudi talent.
The festival screened works by emerging Saudi female directors including Sara Mesfer, Jawaher Alamri, Noor Alameer, Hind Al Fahhad and Fatima Al Banawi. The works of the five filmmakers were screened as part of a compilation entitled To become, and examine Saudi identity as well as the country’s ever-changing society.
Another compilation, Piece, which features the works of Ragheed Al Nahdi, Norah Almowald, Ruba Khafagy, Fatma Alhazmi and Noor Alameer, explored sensitive themes of abandonment, neglect, shame and abuse within a conservative society.
Feature films by Saudi filmmakers included Fay’s palette by Hisham Fageeh as well as Breaking by Hamzah K Jamjoom, which received the Yusr Award for Best Saudi Film.
“The future is bright for Saudi cinema and our first festival is just the start,” Al Turki said at the awards ceremony. “We are here to stay and we are here to celebrate and recognize filmmakers and talent.”
Update: December 14, 2021, 7:55 a.m.