The films is a co-production between Egypt, Tunisia and France.
In the third edition of the Red Sea Souk, the market arm of the Red Sea Film Festival, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rani Massalha secured the prestigious top prize of $100,000. The Red Souk Awards also recognised eight feature projects and two TV series with cash and in-kind prizes.
A co-production between Egypt, Tunisia, and France, The Return of the Prodigal Son narrates the story of Salem, a pig farmer in Egypt belonging to the Coptic community, who faces the challenges of the swine flu outbreak in 2009. The film delves into the political pressures and societal dynamics during the crisis, highlighting the sacrifice of the pigs under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and media hysteria.
“Isn’t it written in the Koran that every animal is a creature of God? I don’t intend to treat my story like a documentary that will relate the facts of the ‘pig crisis,’ but rather to tell the story of a character within a Coptic family, in order to reveal its internal dynamics.”
“I intend to make an intimate thriller, from Salem’s unique perspective, following his obsessive need to make the right choices. In his neighbourhood, and the Middle East in general, there is little room for the individual. Personal dynamics are always part of the group. In my story, Salem will emancipate himself from his family, make his own choices, and regain his individuality.”
The screening lineup for the Souk included The Return of the Prodigal Son among 12 projects, accompanied by an additional 12 entries selected for the Red Sea Lodge and six projects competing in the Work in Progress section.
The Red Sea Film Festival managing director, Shivani Pandya, emphasised the significance of the Red Sea Souk in supporting projects from the Arab region and Africa, recognising the often overlooked and underfunded films from the region. She applauded the 30% increase in attendance from the previous year and highlighted the market’s role as the “heart of the festival.”
Pandya noted the market projects held over 570 meetings and congratulated the 26 winners who “walk away with support for their fantastic work.”
Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation, stated: “The winners of this year’s Red Sea Souk Awards are the cinematic voices of tomorrow and we are thrilled to play a part in the development of their talent and storytelling which will undoubtedly yield successes and international recognition.”
Among the notable awardees of the evening were Ghadeer Binabbas, who received the MBC Academy/Shahid Award, valued at $75,000, for the Saudi project In the Beginning, It Is the End. Danielle Arbid secured the $50,000 ART Award for her Arab project, Love Conquers All, a tale of love between a widow and an illegal immigrant.
The Red Sea Lodge winners each received $50,000 for their outstanding projects. The recipients included Amaal Youssif for By Hasnaa’s Side, Vincho Nchogu for Fantastic Tale, Naishe Nyamubaya for Black Snake, and Fatma Riahi for My Father Killed Bourghiba.
The Souk Project Market jury, featuring esteemed members such as director Jasmila Žbanić and French producer Jean Bréhat, played a pivotal role in recognising exceptional projects. Additionally, the Work in Progress jury, consisting of Italian producer Gaia Furrer, Iraqi-Italian filmmaker Haider Rashid, and Kenyan film director Wanuri Kahiu, evaluated and acknowledged projects in the developmental phase.