SRINAGAR: Saudi Arabia is all set to host the second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) from December 1-10 in the Jeddah Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Saudi filmmaker and actress Fatima Al-Banawi on stage in the concluding event of the Red Carpet Film Festival 2021 that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hosted at Jeddah (Dec 6 -15, 2021). The festival saw majors from the global glamour and film industry, especially from the Middle East joining the event that was criticised by liberals and conservatives

Organised under the theme Film is Everything, the festival will feature 131 feature and short films, including 23 Saudi short films, 28 international short films, and seven feature films.

Earlier, movie houses were banned for four decades until April 2018 coinciding with the launch of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 programme by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). The festival also comes against the backdrop of recent Halloween celebrations in the Middle Eastern nation. The opening of the conservative Muslim nation – the home to the two most sacred spaces for Muslims, is part of the “change” that now-Prime Minister MbS is spearheading.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Mohammed Al-Turki, chairman of the Red Sea International Film Festival Committee, expressed his delight at the commencing of the festival. “This is the moment we wait for throughout the year now,” Al-Turki was quoted as having said.

During the festival, an official competition will be held for long and short films from Asia, Africa, and the Arab world. Winners from each competition will be announced on December 8.

Samaher Mously, director of marketing and communications at the event, has said: “RSIFF is not just a film festival, it is a cultural forum in which we exchange our technical, and cultural experiences, and knowledge, and discover new dimensions. It serves as an important platform through which we support the film industry at the local and regional levels.”

Festival CEO Mohammed Al-Turki also unveiled the opening and closing films.

Cross-cultural British rom-com What’s Love Got to Do With It will open the festival.

The film, directed by Shekhar Kapur, stars Lily James, Emma Thompson, Shazad Latif, Rob Brydon, Shabana Azmi, Sajal Aly, and Asim Chaudhry.

Valley Road by Saudi director Khaled Fahed will be the last film shown at the film festival.

The festival also announced last week that Film AlUla, an agency established to promote production in the city, is the new strategic sponsor of this year’s edition.

Film AlUla will present the Audience Award and the Best Saudi Film Award, each worth $50,000.

“We went all over the world with the festival and the Red Sea name was present all over Cannes, Toronto, and so on, so I can’t believe we’re actually here being ready, one month away from our festival,” Al-Turki added.

“It is pretty incredible to see so many Arab films making their way globally. Our mission continues to champion emerging established filmmakers. It is a transformative moment happening in Saudi film within an artificial selection.”

Director Antoine Khalife said that the growth of the Saudi film industry is thrilling.


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