Saudi Arabia's Red Sea Film Festival to fund two feature-length local movies

The inaugural festival has announced the winners of its Dh3.67 million Tamheed Fund

Mohammed Alholayyil will premiere his film, 'Forty Years and a Night', at the Red Sea Film Festival. Instagram / Mohammed Alholayyil
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It will welcome works from around the region when it launches next year, but Saudi Arabia's first Red Sea International Film Festival will have a particular focus on nurturing local talent.

Ahead of the inaugural independent film festival, which will be held in Jeddah in March 2020, the organisation has announced two movies it will fund as part of its programme.

The festival's Tamheed Fund has bestowed two $500,000 (Dh1.8 million) grants on two Saudi Arabian filmmakers, selected from a pool of 24 submissions.

"The entrants tackled various themes, exploring cultural heritage in the kingdom, complicated family relationships, passion for art, as well as self-realisation," a statement from the festival revealed. "Several films focused on the changes taking place in contemporary Saudi society, exploring and documenting its transformation."

One winning recipient is director Faris Godus, who will create his film, The Book of the Sun, with his brother, producer Sohayb Godus.

The story is set in 2010 and follows Hussam, a teenager about to graduate high school, who decided to make his own film on no budget after being inspired by the rise of YouTube.

The brothers have previously made 2016 short film Depressing Scene together, and also took part in Saudi Ramadan TV series Another Planet.

The second prize has been awarded to Mohammed Alholayyil and his film Forty Years and a Night, produced by Abdulrahman Khawj.

The movie takes place during Eid Al Fitr, and follows a family who uncover deep secrets hidden from one another over the course of the celebration. "The revelations will poison relationships [and] threaten the stability of the family, transforming their memories forever," a statement from the film festival added.

The Tamheed Fund was created to support Saudi-led feature films, and was open to filmmakers from the kingdom. The two winning movies will premiere at the Red Sea International Film Festival, which will take place from Thursday, March 12 to Saturday, March 21.

The festival’s remit is to develop and promote the film industry in Saudi Arabia, discover up-and-coming talent from the region and support a new wave of cinema from around the world with a focus on the Global South, and the Arab world in particular.