The festival, taking place from November 30 to December 9 in Jeddah, has also introduced its theme for this year: "Your Story, Your Festival."
The Red Sea International Film Festival (RedSeaIFF) has announced the lineup for this year’s film selections, including works from Saudi Arabia, the Arab Spectacular, and the Red Sea: Competition categories. These carefully curated strands will showcase the creative output of both established and emerging filmmakers from the region, encompassing documentaries and films produced by the Red Sea Film Foundation.
The third edition of RedSeaIFF, taking place from November 30 to December 9, serves as a platform for celebrating cinema, fostering cultural connections, and expanding horizons, all while welcoming a diverse array of stories from various backgrounds. It stands as a comprehensive cinematic platform that champions diversity across all aspects of filmmaking, transcending the traditional boundaries of a film screening event. This year’s theme, “Your Story, Your Festival,” embodies the values of diversity, connection, and cultural exchange.
While globally celebrating the art of cinema, RedSeaIFF places a special emphasis on films originating from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, featuring 36 feature-length and short films from Saudi Arabia. The lineup encompasses both internationally recognised talents and emerging voices, ranging from Maïwenn’s historical romance Jeanne du Barry, starring Johnny Depp, which premiered at Cannes with support from the Red Sea International Film Financing arm, to Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters, nominated as Tunisia’s submission for the International Feature category at the upcoming Academy Awards. Notable directors selected for Academy Award submissions by their respective countries and featured at the RedSeaIFF include Amjad Al Rasheed with the thriller Inshallah A Boy and Zarra Kahn with the horror debut In Flames, Amanda Nell Eu’s Tiger Stripes, and Baloji’s Omen, all of which are highlights of the Red Sea: Competition.
The Arab Spectacular section will present 11 titles, showcasing a wide range of subjects and genres. Tamer Ruggli’s acclaimed debut Back to Alexandria stars Nadine Labaki and Fanny Ardant in a story of a mother and daughter overcoming estrangement. Yasir Alyasiri, known for music videos, makes his intergalactic debut with HWJN, featuring Baraa Alem and Nour Alkhadra. Meshal Al Jaser brings a humorous thriller with NAGA, following a teenage girl racing against the clock to meet her curfew, pursued by a rabid camel. The Godus Brothers present Fever Dream, a tale of a retired football star and his daughter seeking social media acclaim.
The Red Sea: Competition will screen 17 films, encompassing narrative and documentary works from Asia, Africa, and the Arab world. It promises innovative filmmaking and compelling storytelling, with prizes to be awarded by an international jury, led this year by the renowned filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. Notable entries include Norah, the first production entirely shot in the AlUla region of Saudi Arabia by Tawfik Alzaidi, and Backstage, the feature debut by directorial duo Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane, which delves into the vibrant behind-the-scenes story of a touring dance troupe. Farah Nabulsi presents her critically praised debut The Teacher, filmed in the West Bank and starring Imogen Poots, while Karim Bensalah’s Six Feet Over explores the life of the son of an Algerian diplomat working for Muslim undertakers. Parviz Shahbazi’s visually striking feature Roxana from Iran tells the tale of a man striving to better himself for love.
Speaking about the selected films, Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of Red Sea Film Foundation and Shivani Pandya Malhotra, Managing Director of Red Sea International Film Festival, said: “Our theme this year of ‘Your Stories, Your Festival’, is borne out by the incredible selection of films from the region – which spans both masters as well as debut filmmakers who are testament to the wealth of talent on offer from this part of the world, which is so important to showcase in all its diversity. We feel it is particularly timely to use the medium of film to look at what connects us, and to give a platform to the voices and experiences of people in our region and beyond to foster insight, understanding and compassion. We look forward to once again welcoming the global film community in Jeddah for our third edition.”
Kaleem Aftab, Director of International Programmes, added: “The Red Sea: Competition highlights the complexities of the modern world, as societal norms change, which presents a challenge to families, patriarchy and peaceful co-existence. These films from Asia and Africa, including the Arab world, are a stark reminder of the many issues facing humanity today.”
Antoine Khalife, Director of Arab Programmes and Film Classics, stated: “The vibrancy of Arab cinema, particularly in Saudi Arabia, stands as a testament to the region’s flourishing film industry. Arab filmmakers boldly confront sensitive themes, weaving together narratives that explore family dynamics, patriotism, and the rediscovery of values. Arab cinema is increasingly mirroring the realities of everyday life. In addition to a programme which celebrates the richness of Arab, African and Asian filmmaking talent – we are proud to present projects from 31 female filmmakers overall, backing our commitment to women in cinema.”