RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s first major international film festival revealed its lineup on Monday in Jeddah.
The Red Sea Film Festival will run from March 12 to 21 and will screen 107 features and short films, including a lineup of 16 films in-competition, seven non-competition films, 11 Saudi features, and 13 short films for the shorts competition, 23 films for best of year category, and 17 experimental films for the Tajreeb category, which is based on local narratives of Saudis and non-Saudis living in the Kingdom.
It will be held in Jeddah’s Al-Balad district, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The first seven days will be dedicated to the festival, while the last two days will screen the winning titles across Al-Balad’s Buhairat Al-Arbaeen, a site that has been constructed specifically for the festival to include the 1,200-seat Coral Theater, four smaller theaters, a workshop space and a cinema.
The festival’s noncompetition category will feature films like “Malcolm X” by Spike Lee, who will be giving a master class.
The festival will also celebrate the work of great Arabic directors such as Khairy Beshara, Youssef Chahine and the late photographer and cinematographer Safouh Naamani, who was one of the pioneers of color photography in the Kingdom.
“We worked hard to ensure that the films being presented showcase Saudi Arabia's emerging film industry, and encourage a more open cultural exchange. This isn't just about exporting our stories; we are bringing different perspectives, new conversations into Saudi Arabia too,” Mahmoud Sabbagh, the festival director, said.
The festival will also feature an art exhibition with original doodles and artwork by director Federico Fellini, titled “When Fellini Dreamt of Picasso,” which was inspired by the Spanish artist.
Festival tickets go on sale on Feb. 23 at a price range lower than commercial cinemas.
“We want to engage with a large number of audiences and have it be accessible to all social classes,” Sabbagh said.
The opening night will be on a par with Cannes and Berlin, featuring a red carpet, gala and two screenings with the premiere of Saudi film “Shams Al-Maaref” (The Book of Sun), directed by Faris Godus.