Red Sea IFF… Film creativity is no longer an idea but a tangible reality

RedSeaIFF... Film creativity is no longer an idea but a tangible reality

It has been a long-cherished dream of Saudis to have their own film industry since several decades. Social restrictions and stigma toward the very concept of the seventh art were the major hurdles that stood in the way of realizing their dreams, aspirations and creative ideas.

However, those fervent about the film industry continued chasing the glimmer of the lights of change that would enable them to light the flames of passion and creativity so as to ignite their dreams again and thus transforming their ideas into a tangible reality.

This pushed them towards the advanced cinematic world both as groups and individuals until the lights shone in terms of the historical initiatives launched in 2019 by Minister of Culture Prince Badr Bin Abdullah Bin Farhan.

The most remarkable among these initiatives was the launch of the Red Sea International Film Festival (RedSeaIFF), which was registered as a Saudi foundation in accordance with the regulations under which the Historic Jeddah would be its main headquarters and the center of its events and activities.

Historic Jeddah has become the cradle of a giant film project that will soon be transformed into one of the major international film festivals and thus enabling Saudis to have a vibrant entry to the professional film industry with confidence and competence.

The festival gears up to wear its debut garb in an elegant style by weaving threads of its story that will be narrated to the global film industry, with spelling out its main objectives of reinforcing the foundations of the Saudi and Arab film industry, creating an active film market that enhances the vitality of Saudi society, encouraging opportunities for cultural exchange between countries of the world, and promoting economic diversity in the Kingdom.

It will also set a leading platform for screening Saudi, Arab and international cinemas. The first edition of the festival, which was actually scheduled to be held in 2020 but was canceled following the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, had received great support from the Ministry of Culture.

The heart of the city of Jeddah, precisely in the middle of it in the Historical Area, on the Red Sea coast has been chosen as the venue of the international event and that put Saudi talents in film industry on top of the world along with other Arab creative works and modern cinematic patterns in the world cinema.

Birth pangs of a groundbreaking event

The first edition of the festival faced exceptional challenges after the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic that cast a shadow on the entire global activities, forcing the festival management to announce the postponement of the launch of its inaugural edition, which was scheduled to be held in the spring of March 2020 and that was strictly in line with the coronavirus preventive protocols.

It seemed that the labor pains would be severe under these emergency circumstances and that made it impossible to hold it on time. Hence, the festival organizers were forced to “change the scenario,” which was the slogan they had set as a caption for its first edition and to keep pace with the new “transformations” imposed by the pandemic on the global cinema scene.

It was inevitable that this difficult and exceptional labor pain would be followed by the birth of a new, more powerful and distinguished edition in light of the goals set to keep pace with the renewed Saudi Vision.

This subsequently led to fixing Dec. 6 as the date for launching the first edition of RedSeaIFF, which will run through until Dec. 15 on the Historical Area, which is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. A galaxy of talented filmmakers, directors, film stars and film industry professionals from all over the world will attend the ten-day celebration.

RedSeaIFF’s chairman of the committee Mohammed Al-Turki commented: “This is truly a landmark moment as we launch our first international film festival to celebrate original cinematic voices and showcase an extensive selection of films from around the world to local, regional and international audiences.

The festival will also serve as a launch pad for young Saudi and Arab talent, support the development of our flourishing industry, introduce international festival guests to our vibrant creative scene and bring together the global film industry to network, share knowledge and forge partnerships.

“We look forward to welcoming everyone to Jeddah for a packed program of screenings, events and much more.”

Lineup set with debut movie Cyrano and closing Bara El Manhag

Cyrano, a musical drama film by award-winning British Director Joe Wright, has been picked as the festival’s debut film. This is an emotional romantic drama written by Erica Schmidt, based on her 2018 musical drama of the same name.

The film, which has Oscar buzz, highlights human need for love and connection. This wonderful classic reinterprets with the starring of Peter Dinklage, the star of the four time Emmy Award-winning “Game of Thrones,” Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Bashir Salahuddin, and Ben Mendelsohn.

Closing the festival is the world premiere of Egyptian director Amr Salama’s upcoming movie Bara El Manhag, starring screen stars Maged El-Kadwani, Omar Chareef, Rubi, Asma Abul Yazid and Deena Maher.

RedSeaIFF program showcases 138 feature films and short films from 67 countries in 34 languages; representing diverse collection caters to all age groups, from both established and emerging talent.

The festival will host 25 world premieres, 48 Arab premieres and 17 GCC premieres, with a number of filmmakers and actors in attendance for many of the films. The festival will also witness the presence of many super stars of these films.

A promising cinematic generation

The festival is a real opportunity to discover the new generation of Saudi cinematic talent, as it screens 27 feature and short films, reflecting the diversity and vitality of Saudi society, in addition to presenting templates and stories that the international community may discover for the first time.

This opens a window on a new Saudi cinematic scene and local film works capable of attracting audiences and competitions globally.

Alongside the Red Sea Competition, Red Carpet Galas and Special Presentations, the Festival will host a range of cinema in the following sections: Festival Favorites, New Saudi/New Cinema, Red Sea Treasures, Red Sea Arab and International Spectacular, Red Sea Next Generation, Red Sea Immersive and Red Sea Episodic.

Pandya: RedSeaIFF puts KSA on global film industry map

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, RedSeaIFF Managing Director Shivani Pandya emphasized that the festival will put Saudi Arabia on the map of the global film industry.

“Film festival presents an added value to any country striving to pose itself on a regional cinema platform, and this is what the Kingdom is doing. It is an ideal opportunity to exchange ideas with international producers and filmmakers in one platform, and to see Saudis conversing with filmmakers from among themselves.”

Pandya underscored the importance of the Red Sea market as a gateway to the Saudi cinema market, apart from an initiative to support the film industry workers in Saudi Arabia, as well as a platform to create a strong network of knowledge, relationships and partnerships between the Kingdom and the world.