A Saudi project “Sharshaf” is one of two productions selected for $500,000 grants by the Red Sea International Film Festival; as part of its Red Sea Lodge program.
On Friday, an eminent jury comprising Russian film producer Nadia Turincev; producer, commissioner and writer Meinolf Zurhorst; and Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah selected and announced the winners during a virtual ceremony.
A total of 12 projects shortlisted for the inaugural award; which is part of a training initiative. This is to bolster the development of feature films from Saudi Arabia as well as the Arab world.
Strong female character
Commenting on the Saudi project “Sharshaf,” the jury also said: “They enamored by the touching and strong female character; and the bonds in a relationship that can bring us together and tear us apart.”
They were also intrigued that it was set in “a period of Saudi Arabia’s history the world knows so little about; unveiled to us by Hind Alfahhad.”
Hind Alfahhad’s Sharshafis set in 1978. Haila, the daughter of a conservative Imam, marries Mosa’ed, the son of a rich and well-known fabric store owner. The young couple spend their honeymoon in Cairo. “Sharshaf” is a romantic drama that follows Haila as she gets to know what she wants; through the magic of cinema and how this discovery is challenged later as extremism invades society.
“Bullets & Bread” by Mohammad Hammad got the Red Sea Lodge Award for an Arab project, by Kholoud Saad and Mohamed Hefzy.
Mohammed Hammad’s“Bullets & Bread” is about Youssef, a conscript serving his compulsory military service on the Egyptian eastern desert border who dreams of becoming a writer. Awad is a dangerous bandit from one of those tribes roaming that remote desert region who dreams of giving a better life for his family in Cairo. Their paths were not to cross but true friendship will grow between them.
The jury also enjoyed the dynamic at the film’s heart which they described as “Soldier and Gypsy; Laurel and Hardy; Friendship and Adversity. We can’t wait to be part of this road trip, this cinematic voyage.”
The Jury also gave a special mention to the Saudi project “Four Acts of Disruption” directed by Hussam AlHulwahand produced by Mohammad Alhamoud, which will be awarded $25,000 by the Red Sea Lodge for further development.
The story goes back to the 1930s while the newly formed Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is adjusting to the arrival of American oil prospectors. The jury gave special recognition to the project and stated: “The film has huge potential and we hope that Hussam AlHulwah and Mohammad Alhamoud can continue to develop the project and bring it to fruition.”
The six Saudi projects selected for the inaugural Red Sea Lodge were: “Basma” by Fatima Al-Banawi and Ali Alsumayin, “Practicing Polygamy” by Malak Qouta, “Four Acts of Disruption” by Hussam AlHulwah, “When The Star Goes Down” by Mohammed Salman, “Sharshaf” by Hind Alfahhad as well as “Hejj to Disney” by Maha Al-Saati.
The six Arab projects: Scheherazade Goes Silent by Amira Diab, Inchalla A boy by Amjad Alrasheed, The Arabic Interpreter by Ali Kareem, Bullets & Bread by Mohammed Hammad, The Basement Notes by Hadi Ghandour, as well as I Am Arzé by Mira Shaib.
In collaboration with the TorinoFilmLab, the Lodge hand-picked twelve emerging filmmakers; pairing each with an experienced mentor to support and enhance their work throughout the creative process.
The comprehensive program is for directors and producers; with scriptwriters if on board, to hone and further all aspects of their vision. Every stage of filmmaking explored, from script consultations to working with experts in the fields of directing; cinematography and sound; through to post-production as well as a commercial focus on financing, sales, and audience engagement.
On another note of exciting news: Director Maha Al-Saati’s Red Sea Lodge project Hejj To Disney was selected for TIFF Filmmaker Lab; and for the upcoming development programs at Malmo Arab Film Festival (MAFF) and El-Gouna Film Festival. Saudi director Al Saati will also participate in The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) Residency in 2021.