The highly-anticipated first edition of the Red Sea Film Festival finally rolled out the red carpet yesterday, right at the heart of Jeddah.
The last hours witnessed continuous efforts to prepare for a rich program offering all kinds of films. The first edition of Saudi Arabia’s first film festival began on the 6th of December and is going to continue until the 15th of December.
What was once a farfetched dream of Saudi filmmakers is now a reality. The festival witnessed the arrival of a slew of public figures, national, and international filmmakers; they all flew all the way to Jeddah just to make it to the RSFF, vouching for the great strides the Kingdom has made and continues to make in the industry of Cinema.
The festival presents 138 films of different formats, including features and short films, from 67 countries. 25 of them are having their world premiere, while 48 films are premiering in the Arab world, and 17 films are premiering in the Gulf region. In addition to the Red Sea long and short film competition, red carpet shows, and special performances; the festival hosts a plethora of programs, screenings, and workshops.
For the opening, the musical film “Cyrano” by the British director, Joe Wright, was screened. Meanwhile, the Egyptian film “Bara El Manhag”, starring Maged El-Kadwany and Ruby, was chosen to be the cherry on top at the end of the first day of the festival.
Saudi movies that are set to be screened in the RSIFF include: “Junoon” by directors Maan B. and Yaser B. Khalid, “Fay’s Palette” by Anas Ba-Tahaf, “Becoming” by Sara Mesfer, Jawaher Alamri, Noor Alameer, Hind Alfahhad, and Fatima Al-Banawi, “Kayan” by Hakeem Jomaah and “Cinema Al-Hara” by Faizah Ambah.
High-profile international films will take their turn in the festival as well; these include Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Elena Ferrante adaptation “The Lost Daughter,” Beirut’s “Memory Box”, and the Indian movie “Paka” directed by Nithin Lukose. The festival will also witness the presence of talents and stars participating in these films!
Speaking of stars, the red carpet of the Red Sea International Film Festival had a large number of Arab and international film stars and makers. Nelly Karim and her hubby, Heneidy, Yousra, Elham Shahin, Nadia El-Gendy, Laila Elwy, Tara Emad, Ashraf Abdel-Baqi, Bushra, Lebleba, and producer Mohamed Hefzy were among the Egyptian stars who flocked to the Saudi city of Jeddah.
Some of the Middle East’s most prominent names graced the red carpet as well. These include actress Sumaya Rida, international star Catherine Deneuve, Palestinian actor Ali Suleiman, Palestinian director Hani Abu Assad, Saba Mubarak, Farah Bseiso, Dhafer Abidin, Najla bin Abdullah, and dozens of other stars from all over.
Honorees and Women Empowerment
The RSIFF isn’t only about showcasing important films and hosting workshops. It is a testament to the role of women and Saudi filmmakers, as they’ve surpassed insurmountable barriers that have been hindering them over the years. It’s also an acknowledgment of their hard work and a stark reminder that everything is doable when you’re passionate and sincere enough.
The Saudi director and producer Haifaa Al-Mansour is considered one of the most prominent names in the Saudi, Arab, and international film industries. She was honored during the festival, in recognition of her achievements and her pioneering role in supporting women of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Her first feature film, “Wadjda” in 2012, was the first to be filmed entirely in Saudi Arabia. It won many nominations and awards around the world. In her speech, she expressed her joy saying, “Cinema gave me my voice. As a woman, I grew up in Saudi at a time when women and culture were not at the center. Now we are at the center. It is a new page, we will lead the country.”
Another two stars that were honored were Laila Elwi and Catherine Deneuve. The Egyptian star and icon Laila has starred in more than 70 films. Meanwhile, the French actress, Catherine, is an international artist who has many works to her name, nominations, and international awards.