Female Arab directors Haifaa Al Mansour and Kaouther Ben Hania win Saudi film grants

The directors' features are among 36 works from the Middle East and Africa to receive Red Sea Fund grants

Director Kaouther Ben Hania, pictured at La Biennale di Venezia 2020, will receive a grant from the Red Sea Fund. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia
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Films by Kaouther Ben Hania and Haifaa Al Mansour are among the 36 projects from across the Arab world and Africa that will receive grants from the Red Sea International Film Festival.

Mime, a new feature fiction by Ben Hania, whose previous film The Man Who Sold His Skin was nominated for a 2021 Oscar, will be receiving the grant. Additionally, Miss Camel, a feature by Al Mansour that tells the story of a Saudi teenager who strives to escape an arranged marriage and attend an art school outside the country, will also be awarded.

Two of the films selected for the grant had previously been supported at the development stage by the Red Sea Fund, including Captain Mbaye, directed by Rwanda's Joel Karekezi, and Aicha, directed by Mehdi M Barsaoui from Tunisia.

Ameer Fakher Eldin’s Yunan was also selected for the grant. Eldin, who was born in Ukraine to Syrian parents, now lives in Hamburg. The film participated in the Red Sea International Film Festival Project Market, which took place on the sidelines of the festival. The aim of the event is to connect producers of new film projects with international financiers in the industry.

All That’s Left of You by Palestinian-American writer, director and actress Cherien Dabis, and All Before You by Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir were also selected.

The grant, organisers said, underpins the Red Sea Film Festival’s mission to advocate for female filmmakers from the region, whether established or emerging names. This also includes Saudi filmmaker Sara Mesfer, who will receive funding for her debut feature.

Scroll through the gallery below to see Yusr Awards 2022 winners

The fund is awarding 25 films in pre-production, including fiction, documentaries, animations, series, shorts and immersive projects. Grants are also being given to 11 films that are in post-production.

“We have been impressed by the quality of submissions received this year which subsequently made it a challenge to narrow the selection down to 25,” said Mohammed Al Turki, chief executive of the Red Sea International Film Festival Foundation.

"We are confident the Red Sea Funds will support the winners through the creative process to help share these important stories and showcase a raft of exciting new and established Saudi, Arab and African talent."

The 11 films that received post-production grants include Norah, a Saudi film shot in AlUla, directed by Tawfik Alzaidi and produced by Paul Miller; Blacklight, directed by Karim Bensalah and produced by Oualid Baha, which won the Final Cut Prize at Venice Film Festival; and Thiiird, directed by Lebanese filmmaker Karim Kassem.

“The 11 selected films show enormous potential as groundbreaking stories that will capture the imagination of global audiences and will benefit most from a final boost of funding to allow these films to reach their full potential,” Al Turki added.

Scroll through the gallery below to see red carpet photos from the Red Sea International Film Festival 2022

Updated: January 19, 2023, 10:36 AM