Red Sea Film Festival's grand, glitzy opening attracts global celebrities to Jeddah

The festival, which is taking place until December 10, opened at The Ritz-Carlton under the theme Film is Everything

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The inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival was a confident stride for Saudi Arabia towards establishing Jeddah as a global address for cinema. In its second year, the festival has returned with considerably more star power, an extensive international programme and a new venue.

The festival, which is taking place until December 10, opened at The Ritz-Carlton on Thursday.

Several Arab and international stars attended the red carpet event, including Oscar-nominated Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, US actress Sharon Stone, Indian star Priyanka Chopra, Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour, American actress Michelle Rodriguez, actor Andy Garcia, Lebanese-Tunisian actress Nadine Njeim, Lebanese actor George Khabbaz, Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, South Korean Squid Game actor Park Hae-soo and Indian actress Freida Pinto.

Also in attendance were all members of the Red Sea jury members, including Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone, Egyptian actress Nelly Karim, Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania, Georgian filmmaker Levan Koguashvili and Palestinian actor Ali Suleiman, as well as members of the Red Sea: Shorts jury, Lebanese filmmaker Joana Hadjithomas, Saudi director Shahad Ameen and Nigerian actor Ozzy Agu.

At the opening ceremony, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, Egyptian actress and singer Yousra and British director Guy Ritchie were awarded the Gold Yusr Honorary Award for their contribution to cinema.

The festival opened with the romantic comedy What's Love Got to Do with It?, directed by Kapur.

“The Red Sea International Film Festival is now more important than ever, a clear indicator of change and plays a crucial role in transforming and reshaping the future for our next generation of creatives,” Mohammed Al Turki, the festival’s chief executive, said at the opening.

“We have a unique opportunity to make new films accessible to wider audiences, showcase the work of exciting new voices and make a meaningful contribution to the Saudi culture and wider region. We are excited to welcome film lovers, storytellers, talent and industry professionals from around the world to Jeddah for our second edition, which I hope will exceed expectations.”

The programme features 131 films and shorts from 61 countries from both established and emerging talent. Nearly three dozen films will mark their global premiere at the festival. There will also be 17 Arab premieres and 47 Mena premieres, with a number of filmmakers and actors in attendance for many of the films.

The Red Sea: Competition features a line-up of 26 shorts and 15 features from across the Arab, African and Asian worlds, all of which have been produced in the past year. The films will be contending in the Red Sea Feature and Shorts Competition sections.

The festival’s industry market platform, The Red Sea Souk, will also be running between Saturday and Tuesday, offering curated events to foster co-production, international distribution and encourage new business opportunities.

Last year, the festival took place in Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad district. The area’s cobblestones paths, tall and slender palm trees, and old coral houses provided a picturesque backdrop to the festival. This year, the festival is taking place closer to the Red Sea.

While a lion’s share of screenings and functions are taking place at The Ritz-Carlton and at Vox Cinemas at Red Sea Mall, the festival also has a new outdoor venue at The Red Sea Corniche, where select films will be screened for free.

This section opened with Aditya Chopra’s 1995 romantic blockbuster Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, a beloved Bollywood classic that has influenced India’s pop culture for generations.

The festival will also feature a programme of conversations with luminaries including Labaki, Spike Lee, Ben Hania, Karim, Mo Amer, Ranbir Kapoor, Antonio Banderas, Jackie Chan and Ritchie. The filmmakers and actors will expand on their cinematic career and achievements, giving festival-goers the chance to hear from some of the best in the industry.

“We get to celebrate film, build bridges, expand horizons, discuss, argue and critique,” Jomana Rashid Al-Rashed, the festival’s chairwoman, said during the opening ceremony. “We will get to experience cultures from the Middle East to Asia and Africa and beyond. Films that depict extraordinary lives and document fascinating journeys of change and progress.

“More specifically, you will experience the changes [happening] in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” she said. “A country with a flourishing film industry that is taking huge steps with a young population that is creative, optimistic, confident and vocal. To make sure this continues, that film develops into a cultural centerpiece, we’re going to nurture and foster the next generation of Saudis both in front and behind the camera. [We will] develop creative industries, promote film culture and champion filmmakers from the Arab world, Africa and Asia. This is just the beginning.”

Scroll through the gallery below to see the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival last year

Updated: December 08, 2022, 5:46 PM
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