JEDDAH: Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine’s masterpiece “Al-Ikhtiyar” (The Choice) will have its first big-screen showing in Saudi Arabia thanks to a restoration by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation.
The murder mystery will screen in the festival’s Retrospective and Classics section, marking the first major showing of the legendary director’s work in the Kingdom.
Co-scripted by author Naguib Mahfouz, the film explores Egypt’s social upheaval following the Six-Day War in 1967.
The film stars Souad Hosni, the “Cinderella of Egyptian cinema” and one of the most influential actresses in the Arab world, alongside Izzat Al-Alayli, Hoda Sultan and Mahmoud Al-Meliguy.
The restoration was the result of a collaboration between the festival and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
Three relatives of the director, Gaby, Ramzy and Marianne Khory, will attend the screening, which will be is a central pillar of the festival’s 15-item Retrospectives and Classics program and one of 10 films restored by the festival foundation.
Festival Director Mahmoud Sabbagh said: “It is hugely significant to screen Youssef Chahine’s film in Saudi Arabia, especially at such a historic moment. It is an honor to connect the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation with the heritage of the late master’s work, and to have the opportunity to restore this seminal work to its full glory, allowing a new generation to encounter one of the greatest films from the Arab canon.”
The Red Sea Film Festival will run from March 12 to 21, and will screen 107 features and short films.
Two rare films by late Saudi photographer Safouh Naamani have also been restored for screening. The works document the urban and social history of the Kingdom, focussing on Makkah and Jeddah. The restored version of “The Pilgrimage to Makkah” (1963) and a special short entitled “Jeddah Between 1954–1968,” which was developed from 16 mm film, create a panorama of the cities.
The foundation has also restored nine key works by Egyptian neorealist director Khairy Beshara for screening as part of a retrospective of the filmmaker’s work.
The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation is the first Saudi, independent, nonprofit organization with an official mandate to promote film culture. The foundation supports Saudi Arabia’s growing cinema and cultural scene by nurturing audience engagement, supporting filmmakers and strengthening the film industry.