Diverse Films from MENA Region Featured in Red Sea International Film Festival Line-up

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Diverse Films from MENA Region Featured in Red Sea International Film Festival Line-up

The Red Sea International Film Festival (Red Sea IFF) has announced its line-up for the Competition and Arab Spectacular sections.

Scheduled to run from November 30 to December 9 in the coastal city of Jeddah, the festival’s theme is ‘Your Stories, Your Festival.’

The festival will shine a spotlight on films created in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It will feature 36 films from Saudi Arabia, including both full-length features and shorts, along with documentaries and titles supported by the Red Sea Film Foundation.

The Competition category boasts 17 films from Asia, Africa, and the Arab world. The judging panel will be led by filmmaker Baz Lurhmann.

A notable premiere is “Norah,” the first production entirely filmed in the AlUla region of Saudi Arabia by Tawfik Alzaidi. It will be shown alongside “Backstage,” the debut feature by directors Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a touring dance troupe.

Other compelling entries include Farah Nabulsi’s debut “The Teacher,” filmed in the West Bank and starring Imogen Poots; Karim Bensalah’s “Six Feet Over,” recounting the story of the son of an Algerian diplomat who chooses to work for Muslim undertakers; and Parviz Shahbazi’s “Roxana” from Iran, a tale of a man striving for self-improvement in the name of love.

Also vying for top honors are Amjad Al Rasheed’s Cannes Critics’ Week film “Inshallah A Boy,” Pakistan’s Oscar submission “In Flames” by Zarra Kahn, and Amanda Nell Eu’s “Tiger Stripes” and Baloji’s “Omen.”

Kaouther Ben Hania’s “Four Daughters,” nominated as Tunisia’s entry for the Academy Awards, will be showcased in the Arab Spectacular section, which features 11 titles.

The Arab Spectacular line-up also features Tamer Ruggli’s debut “Back to Alexandria,” starring Nadine Labaki and Fanny Ardant as a mother and daughter overcoming estrangement. Yasir Alyasiri, a music video director, makes his debut with “HWJN,” starring Baraa Alem and Nour Alkhadra. Meshal Al Jaser presents a humorous thriller with “NAGA,” following a teenage girl racing against time to make her curfew after being stranded in the desert, pursued by a rabid camel. The Godus Brothers present “Fever Dream,” a story about a retired football star and his daughter seeking fame on social media.

The festival will also feature special screenings of Maïwenn’s historical romance “Jeanne du Barry,” starring Johnny Depp, which received support from Red Sea’s financing arm and opened at Cannes. Additionally, Dhafer L’abidine’s Saudi-UAE co-production “To My Son” will have its world premiere at the festival.

Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation, and Shivani Pandya Malhotra, managing director of the Red Sea International Film Festival, expressed, “Our theme this year of Your Stories, Your Festival, is reflected in the incredible selection of films from the region. These films, both from established and emerging filmmakers, showcase the rich talent from this part of the world, which is crucial to highlight in all its diversity. We believe it is especially timely to use film as a medium to explore our shared connections, and to provide a platform for the voices and experiences of people in our region and beyond, promoting insight, understanding, and compassion. We eagerly await the gathering of the global film community in Jeddah for our third edition.”

Kaleem Aftab, director of international programs, remarked, “The Red Sea: Competition brings to light the complexities of the modern world, as societal norms evolve, posing challenges to families, patriarchy, and harmonious coexistence. These films from Asia and Africa, including the Arab world, serve as a stark reminder of the numerous issues confronting humanity today.”

Antoine Khalife, director of Arab programs and film classics, added, “The vitality of Arab cinema, particularly in Saudi Arabia, stands as a testament to the region’s flourishing film industry. Arab filmmakers bravely address sensitive topics, interweaving narratives that delve into family dynamics, patriotism, and the rediscovery of values. Arab cinema increasingly mirrors the realities of everyday life. In addition to a program that celebrates the richness of Arab, African, and Asian filmmaking talent, we take pride in presenting projects from 31 female filmmakers overall, reaffirming our dedication to women in cinema.

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