Nicolas Cage, In Flames and The Teacher among winners at Red Sea Film Festival Awards

There were several calls for peace in Palestine at the closing ceremony's Yusr Awards

Nicolas Cage receives an Honourary Award at the Red Sea International Film Festival closing ceremony. Getty Images
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The Red Sea International Film Festival has named the recipients of this year’s Yusr Awards, with The Teacher, Sunday, Dear Jassi and In Flames among the winners.

The ceremony, held at The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah, was as glitzy as the opener, with famous names attending, including Hollywood stars Halle Berry, Adrian Brody, Jason Statham, Henry Golding, Andrew Garfield, Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as Saudi actor Abdullah Al Sadhan, Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt and Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry, among others.

The event marked the end of the third iteration of the festival.

“At the beginning of the festival, we aimed to achieve a set of goals,” Jomana Al-Rashid, chairwoman of the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation, said. “In bridging, this festival has demonstrated that […] cultures do not clash but converge. With 125 films from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, United States, Rwanda, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, New Zealand, India, Thailand and many, many more. Together our emotions ran high and low, and with every tear shed and every burst of joy, a connection was formed.”

Actor Nicolas Cage was also at the ceremony and received an honorary prize for his cinematic contributions. The actor said he wanted to visit the region ever since he was a boy.

“We’re here to celebrate film, as we should,” he said. “Because no other art form can reach so many people around the world so quickly. Cinema is a mirror that reflects all of our stories to remind us of how human we all are.”

The Teacher by British-Palestinian director Farah Nabulsi was among the biggest winners, taking home two awards. The film was named winner of the Jury Award and its star, actor Saleh Bakri, who plays the role of a Palestinian teacher trying to balance his commitments to political resistance with being a role model for one of his pupils, was awarded the prize for best actor.

Receiving the prize on Bakri’s behalf, Nabulsi took the opportunity to speak about the continuing Israel-Gaza war. “[Bakri] is honest as a person and an actor,” she said. “His honesty is his superpower. It manifests in his performances. In the spirit of his honesty, as a Palestinian, I know if he was here before you, he won’t hesitate to say, ‘Stop the genocide’.”

The best actress award was given to Mouna Hawa for her performance in Inshallah A Boy. The film confronts inheritance culture in Jordan, where women are compelled to surrender property rights to their male relatives.

The Pakistani-Canadian film In Flames was awarded the Golden Yusr for Best Feature Film. The horror film, which marks Zarrar Kahn’s feature directorial debut, centres around a young woman haunted by visions after the death of the family’s patriarch, which leaves her and her mother in a dangerous social position.

In his acceptance speech, Kahn said the film was made on a skeletal budget, and encouraged emerging filmmakers to apply for grants and realise their visions with whatever funds they could muster.

The Silver Yusr for Best Feature Film was awarded to the Indian film Dear Jassi by Tarsem Singh. The drama is based on the real-life story of Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu, an Indo-Canadian beautician who was murdered at the age of 24 in India’s Punjab region on the orders of her mother and uncle, who wanted to punish her for her secret marriage.

“There’s a [phrase] used in the West right now, honour killing,” Kahn said in his acceptance speech, referring to the film’s plot. “Please change that word. There is nothing honourable about killing your daughter or your sister.”

Uzbekistani director Shokir Kholikov was named winner of the best director prize for his film Sunday. The film tells the story of an elderly couple who try to grapple with the changes their adult sons enforce on the household, disrupting their daily customs. Kholikov also called for peace in Palestine in his acceptance speech.

Baloji’s Omen, meanwhile, was given the prize for best cinematic contribution. The film tells the story of a man who returns to the Democratic Republic of Congo with his pregnant Belgian wife and once again becomes embroiled in a society of superstition and fear.

Karim Bensalah and Jamal Belmahi were awarded the prize for best screenplay for the French-Algerian film Six Feet Over. The film tells the story of a westernised son of an Algerian diplomat who must come to terms with his roots after getting a job in a Muslim funeral home in France.

Korean filmmaker Kim Chang-Hoon’s Hopeless was named winner of the Film AlUla Audience Award. The neo-noir thriller revolves around a teenage boy who yearns to escape his violence-riddled hometown but crosses paths with a leader of a local gang.

The feature Norah by Tawfik Alzaidi was awarded the Film AlUla Best Saudi Film Award. The movie is set in a remote Saudi village in the 90s.

Academy Award-nominated Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania took home the Asharq Award for Best Documentary for her film Four Daughters, which tells the story of a Tunisian woman whose eldest daughters become involved with Islamic extremists.

The Young Rising Star Award by Chopard was awarded to Saudi actress Nour AlKhadra, who starred in Hwjn, the opening film of the festival. Two short films were also awarded, including French-Lebanese director Dahlia Nemlich’s Somewhere in Between, which received the Golden Yusr for Best Short Film; and the US-Iranian film Suitcase by Saman Hosseinpuor and Ako Zandkarimi, which won the Silver Yusr for Best Short Film.

Updated: December 10, 2023, 8:48 AM