Saudi Arabia's first Red Sea Film Festival to open in November

It will be the kingdom's first international film festival following the lifting of the ban on cinemas

The first Red Sea International Film Festival will take place in Saudi Arabia in November. Courtesy Red Sea International Film Festival
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The inaugural edition of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival will take place in November.

The much anticipated event will be held in Jeddah's Old Town, and will be the kingdom's first international film festival.

Running over ten days, RedSeaFF will take place from November 11 to November 20.

The festival will highlight emerging talents from across Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. It comes after the opening of cinemas in the kingdom after a ban lasting nearly four decades was removed.

The festival had been scheduled to take place in March last year, but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new event will take place under the theme “Metamorphosis”.

(FILES) This file photo taken on October 20, 2017 shows Saudis attending the "Short Film Competition 2" festival at King Fahad Culture Center in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia on December 11, 2017 lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, part of a series of social reforms by the powerful crown prince that are shaking up the ultra-conservative kingdom. / AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE

“It reflects on the festival’s local context: the impact of cinema’s triumphant return to Saudi Arabia since 2019, as well as the blossoming local and regional film scenes, exploring how cinema culture can create an interface connecting a new, outward-looking Saudi and the world,” a statement from the festival read.

What to expect from the first RedSeaFF

Saudi's first film festival will take place in the cobbled streets of Al Balad, Jeddah's historic district.

Detailing changes in the local cinemascape, the festival will also focus on the changing role of women in cinema.

It will be headed up by managing director Shivani Pandya and director of Arab programmes & film classics Antoine Khalife, both formerly of the Dubai International Film Festival.

Film critic Kaleem Aftab has joined as director of international programming and Jumana Zahid leads the Red Sea Lodge, the Red Sea Film Foundation’s incubator for local filmmakers.

International guests such as Spike Lee had been announced to attend the original festival dates in 2020. It's unclear how many overseas stars will attend in 2021 as international travel remains largely restricted.

Saudi filmmaker, Mahmoud Sabbagh, stepped down from his post as director of the Red Sea International Film Festival in July last year. The festival issued a statement confirming he left to pursue work on his third feature film.