16 films by Saudi filmmakers to be showcased at RSIFF

16 films by Saudi filmmakers to be showcased at RSIFF
A number of films by Saudi filmmakers will be showcased in the ‘New Cinema/ New Saudi’ section. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 October 2022

16 films by Saudi filmmakers to be showcased at RSIFF

16 films by Saudi filmmakers to be showcased at RSIFF

JEDDAH: The first slate of films to be screened at Saudi Arabia’s upcoming Red Sea International Film Festival has been unveiled, with organizers revealing the lineup for the coveted “New Cinema/ New Saudi” section.

With the festival set to build on the lauded success of its first edition in 2021, industry leaders from around the world are gearing up to attend the second iteration, which will run between Dec. 1-10, 2022.  

Program Manager at RSIFF Mohyee Qari said that the first edition was commended for the number of short films it showcased, as well as the wide variety of new filmmakers that took part.

“I am thrilled to announce the second edition’s lineup from Saudi filmmakers is once again a showcase of the country's talent who are taking creative risks and forging new pathways,” he said in a statement.

 “The film industry continues to accelerate at a considerable pace and the filmmakers in this section truly represent the future of filmmaking in the Kingdom,” he added.

Sixteen films will be screened in the section, including on-screen depictions of witch craft and explorations of broken love lives.

The winner of the RSIFF’s 48-hour Filmmaking Challenge, Tala Alharbi, is also a part of the lineup with her film “When Red Blooms.” Among the list of movies is also a documentary about the Gulf War, marking its 30-year anniversary. Titled “Memories from the North,” it is directed by Abdulmohsen Almutairi.

Apart from this lineup, more than 120 films from around the world will be showcased across ten days. The wider lineup at the festival is yet to be unveiled.

The “New Cinema/ New Saudi” section lineup includes:

“Last Chance to Fall in Love”

Directed by Faisal Buhishi, this is a touching story that follows an old man who finally gets the chance to reunite with his first love after 50 years.


 Directed by Ali Basaeed, “Casting” focuses on a man’s frustration caused by the interference of people in his personal life.

“Requiem for Silence”

Directed by filmmaker, producer and actor Majed Z. Samman, this film explores the struggle he has with the unwanted malicious entity who unexpectedly comes into his life, and the acceptance of their coexistence.


Directed by Mohammed Hammad, the audience will be transported down the rabbit hole where a gang of pre-teen kids are sent on a psychedelic mission to save humanity all while under the influence of a spell put forth by a coven of witches.

“Old Phone Number”

Director Ali Saeed introduces us to Hamed (Yacoub Al-Farhan) in the midst of a mid-life crisis which prompts him to repent by travelling to Makkah to seek forgiveness and change the course of his life. However, during the desert road trip, something happens that prevents him from completing his long spiritual journey and makes him return to meet someone who lives in his past.

“Forgive Me”

 Jubril Mohammad gives us the tale of a bride on the most special day of life who is left jilted by the groom on her wedding night. Taking all the wedding guests with her, she bravely tracks him down to seek the answers she deserves.


Directed by Khaled Zidan, this is a story of a security guard at a government hospital's parking lot, who lives quietly with his cousin Fahd. But things soon take a turn that shakes Othman out of his stupor and forces him to face reality.


Fahad Alotaibi’s “Forward” revolves around an underground hacker who gets a phone call from the future that warns him from something serious is coming.

“Tea Leaf”

Directed by Mohammed Baqer, this film is about regret and pain in the experience of separation. A husband drinks his tea and painfully reminisces over situations with his ex-wife and the love and struggles they were experiencing.

“A Swing”

Raneem Almohandis and Dana Almohandis follow Leen, a ten-year-old girl, who embarks on a trek through the woods to look for the mystery of the magical swing that her military father used to tell her stories about and promise to take her there one day.

“When Red Blooms”

Directed by Tala Alharbi and winner of the festivals 48-hour Filmmaking Challenge ventures into the mind of a girl who sets unrealistically high expectations for herself, leading to a string of self-destructiveness and morbid perfectionism.

“The Child in his Closet”

This offering is directed by Khaled Zidan and explores the theme of childhood memories, how we interpret our earliest experiences, and how they make us feel.


Directed by Salma Murad, the film tells the story of Osama, a young man in a quarrel between his emotions and memory as he tries to find a thread leading to answers.

“Memories from the North”

Abdulmohsen Almutairi’s documentary about the Gulf War follows a crew of filmmakers who witnessed the events as children set out on a journey across Saudi Arabia to capture stories of people who lived through the war.

“Lucky You're Mine”

Directed by Noura Abushosha, this is a modern Saudi marriage story. Ahmad and Salma are newlyweds, and days after the wedding, Salma has a bipolar manic episode following the sudden death of her mother. Ahmad is determined to stand by his wife, but the couple finds themselves at a crossroads and unable to talk.


Directed by Hussain Al-Mutlaq, this film follows Yehya who returns to his village to settle in after decided to drop out of college. But a visit from his father's old friend turns Yehya's life upside down which forces him leave the village.

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest
Updated 03 February 2023

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest

Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox talks witty memoir, role in HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Emirates Lit Fest
  • 60-year veteran honors parents’ struggle with autobiography
  • Considers himself ‘overrated’ like ‘overblown’ Johnny Depp

DUBAI: Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Cox certainly knows how to make some noise. The award-winning veteran, known for his portrayal as the angry Logan Roy in HBO’s “Succession,” has an extensive resume spanning six decades across theater, television and films.

Arab News met Cox at the Emirates Literature Festival to discuss his recently released autobiography. The memoir, “Putting the Rabbit in the Hat,” a candid yet highly emotional and hilarious book, journeys through his poverty-stricken childhood to his theater days and a formidable career in Hollywood where he acted in blockbusters including “Troy,” “The Bourne Identity” and “Braveheart.”

Born in 1946 in Dundee, Scotland, Cox lost his father to pancreatic cancer when he was only 8 and dealt with his mother’s struggles with mental health for years, ultimately being raised by his elder sisters. “Writing the memoir was a cathartic experience — I wanted to honor my parents. It was really about my mum and dad and what they went through during a particularly difficult time in the country,” Cox tells Arab News.

Cox was born in 1946 in Dundee, Scotland. (HBO/David Russell)

As a child, he found solace in film and television — often escaping to the cinema. “There were 21 cinemas in Dundee, and I was a regular at every single one,” he writes. Then, one afternoon, while watching Albert Finney in “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” he experienced a life-altering moment — if a working-class Englishman can make it in movies, so could he. “I just thought that was very liberating — I felt that Albert was a good muse for me,” says Cox.

As the book tells the tale of his rise to stardom, his shortcomings — professionally and personally — not to be missed are the witty jabs at industry A-listers, including Edward Norton, Steven Seagal and Johnny Depp. Although he turned down a role in “Pirates of the Caribbean” (with no regrets), he does comment on Depp’s acting.

“Personable though I’m sure he is, he is so overblown, so overrated. I mean, ‘Edward Scissorhands.’ Let’s face it, if you come on with hands like that and pale, scarred-face makeup, you don’t have to do anything. And he didn’t. And subsequently, he’s done even less.”

His book tells the tale of his rise to stardom. (HBO/Graeme Hunter)

Was he not worried that his no-holds-barred comments may burn bridges? He clears the air. “I happened to say that Johnny Depp was overrated, but I don't think that — I think we’re all overrated. With Johnny Depp, I think he’s a creature rather than an actor. Edward Scissorhands is an extraordinary creation, and there’s a place for it, but at the same time, I think he’s clearly talented and successful in his time. So I wasn’t dismissing him. I just felt that, like us all, he’s overrated. I’m part of that overrated,” explains Cox. His thoughts on Steven Seagal: ‘He’s as ludicrous in real life as he is on screen,” he writes.

His Logan Roy character sees him as the patriarch of the Roy family and a mean media magnate. Critics have often compared Roy’s character to Rupert Murdoch’s, but Cox believes that isn’t the case. “One of the things that I keep emphasizing about Logan is that he’s not like any of the people he’s compared to — he’s self-made and didn’t inherit anything.

“So his stakes are that much higher because he created it — he wants to know how his creation will be carried on. And he’s a misanthrope,” he says. Another complex part of his character includes his love/hate relationship with his children. “His Achilles heel — the thing that causes the most grief — is that he loves his children. If he didn’t love them, he’d be far better off — but he does,” elaborates Cox.

In 2020, Cox won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama for “Succession” — an award he respects but doesn’t necessarily take too seriously. “It’s the work — that’s the main thing. I’m not interested in awards — I’d rather have a job than an award.”

Lebanese actor Georges Khabbaz discusses his new hit show

Lebanese actor Georges Khabbaz discusses his new hit show
Updated 03 February 2023

Lebanese actor Georges Khabbaz discusses his new hit show

Lebanese actor Georges Khabbaz discusses his new hit show
  • Khabbaz spent decades building an international reputation, winning best actor at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2007 for his acclaimed film ‘Under the Bombs’
  • ‘You have to deal with a lot of baloney,’ says the acclaimed Lebanese actor, writer and director

DUBAI: If you want to understand what it means to be Lebanese, there may be no better prism to look through than the work of Georges Khabbaz. In the three decades Khabbaz has been active, he has been a pillar of Lebanon’s arts scene, the true king of the Lebanese stage. He has written, directed and starred in dozens of plays and television shows, chronicling nearly every aspect of life in the Levantine nation, all with an honesty and fearlessness that have led some to call him the country’s true face.  

Khabbaz has also spent decades building a reputation across the region and the world, winning best actor at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2007 for his acclaimed film “Under the Bombs” and working as a writer on Nadine Labaki’s Oscar-nominated 2018 film “Capernaum.” Now 46 and coming off the immense global success of last year’s Netflix film “Perfect Strangers,” in which he played Walid, Khabbaz is now writer and star of the hit MBC series “Brando El Sharq,” a show that is more than another feather in his cap — it’s the culmination of his career thus far.  

Khabbaz on set with his “Brando El Sharq” co star Amal Arafah. (Supplied)

“Quite simply, this series is an encapsulation of 30 years of my life,” Khabbaz tells Arab News. “I’ve taken a journey of decades, and put all that I’ve been through — the striving, the yearning, the success and the heartbreak — into 10 episodes, and kept the truth of it intact.” 

The series follows a filmmaker — a character representing Khabbaz at his lowest — who is desperate to get funding for his debut film and fulfill his dreams of becoming a renowned director. He’s a man in love with film history, dreaming of Charlie Chaplin and “Casablanca,” and while art is his escape from reality, it is but a fleeting one. His father’s health is deteriorating, and, desperate for money, he begins a pursuit of the biggest star in the country, the titular Brando of the East, to finally bring his plans to fruition. 

What makes this story distinctly Lebanese, in Khabbaz’s mind, is multifold. The country, a veritable mosaic of cultures and influences, is full of art-obsessed creatives, but lacks avenues for those creatives to thrive.  

Nadine Labaki and Georges Khabbaz on the set of “Perfect Strangers.” (Supplied)

“There are so many educational and cultural hardships, but we fight for our dreams and ambitions harder. We rely on our work, and we rely on each other, because we don’t have an environment that supports us,” says Khabbaz. “A lot of the system we live in works against us. It exists to snap our wings off so that we can’t achieve our dreams. There’s a lot of bullying that stops us from fighting for our passion, especially at the beginning of a career. Frankly, you have to deal with a lot of baloney.”  

Khabbaz, of course, feels he’s earned the right to make these sorts of grand proclamations about the state of his country.  

“From the beginning, I had to work hard to discover what audiences in Lebanon are truly feeling,” says Khabbaz. 

The magic of theater lies in its immediacy. People have to show up each night to buy tickets, and once they’re sitting there, performers can keenly feel their engagement from the stage. As Khabbaz wrote and performed plays, he worked to fine tune what it was that his audience really cared about, and to find common ground in their concerns, rather than just pander to them. 

“There is a big audience in front of you that needs to be satisfied, but it doesn’t work if you don’t stay honest with yourself and true to your work. They will never be satisfied, nor will you, if it doesn’t come from a place deep inside you,” says Khabbaz. “I couldn’t lose hold of myself and my own feelings to satisfy them. And that has not always been easy. In fact, over 30 years, that has been a constant struggle, one I’m always concerned about.” 

A still from “Brando El Sharq.” (Supplied)

Ultimately, that is what “Brando El Sharq” is really about, in Khabbaz’s eyes. While its style pulls from his artistic heroes — Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, and the Coen brothers — its true exploration is of a man in desperate pursuit of his dreams who’s in danger of losing his artistic heart in the process. 

“The idea evolved from the thought that, while looking for yourself, you shouldn’t lose yourself,” says Khabbaz. 

In telling this story, Khabbaz was careful not to limit the show to any one genre. Like life, it jumps genres depending on the day, flush with joy, sorrow and everything in between. 

“This series is tragedy, comedy, parody, satire, musical, romance and suspense. It’s theater and it’s cinema in one. This series is my scientific lab,” he says. 

There’s more than one reason for that panoply of storytelling style. Khabbaz is an actor first and foremost and, for actors, great parts are defined by their dimensions.  

“Any actor would love to play this role because it’s so diverse and inclusive of everything you learn about acting. A skilled actor loves to move from one emotion to another very quickly,” says Khabbaz.  

As “Brando El Sharq” concludes its first season, Khabbaz is hard at work on his next film, “Yunan,” the latest from Syrian filmmaker Ameer Fakher Eldin, the man behind 2021’s acclaimed film “The Stranger,” staring Ashraf Barhom. In “Yunan,” Khabbaz plays a depressed writer living in exile who learns to love life again after meeting an elderly woman on a remote island.  

For Khabbaz, the film is a testament to how far he’s come. Why? Because the elderly woman is played by the iconic German actress Hanna Schygulla, star of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “The Marriage of Maria Braun” (1979) and the defining star of the New German Cinema movement, now approaching her 80th birthday.  

“I still have so many dreams and goals in the world of cinema and theater, but this is one of them. The opportunity to collaborate with a genius is deeply humbling,’ says Khabbaz.   

Khabbaz is aware of the esteem he’s built in Lebanon and across the region, and as the positive reviews for his latest series roll in, he’s finally able to look back on his own journey with pride, and reflect on what all the praise represents.  

“I’m just like all the people in the audience. I’ve always chosen the subject of my work based on what I know people can connect to, what we have in common. I’m just like all these people that look up to me, and perhaps they look up to me because I’ve shown them that I’m like them for years through my work,” says Khabbaz. “I think they see me, someone who looks just like them, as an example of what they can accomplish.” 

Tripoli’s futuristic fair placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger 

Tripoli’s futuristic fair placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger 
Updated 03 February 2023

Tripoli’s futuristic fair placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger 

Tripoli’s futuristic fair placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger 

DUBAI: Designed in 1962 by the renowned late Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli, Lebanon is now on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, which was updated Jan. 25.  

The site — a symbol of mid-20th century modernization in the Lebanese architectural landscape and of the historical cross-cultural relations between Brazil and Lebanon — has been neglected and abandoned for decades.  

Lebanese architecture expert Dr. Wassim Naghi is hopeful that this will be a positive step for this significant site.  

Oscar Niemeyer in 1977. (AFP)

“Frankly speaking, with the ongoing situation in Lebanon (being) a long series of bad news and negative vibes since October 2019, I can tell you this is the best news I’ve heard in the recent tragic history of Lebanon,” he told Arab News.  

He explained that, through this listing, the site, which has lacked financial backing and proper maintenance for 60 years, has a good chance of attracting the donors and funds necessary to revive it.  

The huge fair, named after the former Lebanese prime minister Rachid Karami, was built from reinforced concrete and stands in a 70-hectare site. Its central building is a covered hall shaped like a boomerang. Its purpose was to host international exhibitions.  

Niemeyer, who famously gave Brasilia its bold buildings, showed Karami and the press a model of the site. “It was a total shock in the media,” said Naghi. “It was something very futuristic. They didn’t expect to see these volumes and an outstanding acrobatic structural system. . . It was the talk of the town — and the world, by the way.”   

The site faced several delays and was never actually used, mostly down to the outbreak of Lebanon’s civil war, during which the fair was occupied by Palestinian militias and the Syrian Army.   

The fair has, somehow, miraculously survived, but it remains in “critical condition,” stresses Naghi. Because it is also located near the seaside, humidity and salt have contributed to its degradation. There have also been some partial collapses in recent times.  

“We might witness a total collapse, and that would be a huge loss,” Naghi said. “Not just a loss for Tripoli and Lebanon, but for humanity.”   

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi
Updated 02 February 2023

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: British actor, writer, filmmaker and producer Andy Serkis – most known for his motion-capture performances in blockbuster films – has been confirmed as one of the celebrity guests at the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Abu Dhabi, running from March 3 – 5.  

The actor, who will be in attendance on March 4 and 5, has brought to life several iconic computer-generated characters, including Gollum in “Lord of the Rngs” franchise, Caesar the ape in the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy, Captain Haddock in “The Adventures of Tintin” and Supreme Leader Snoke in the “Star Wars” films.  

The actor also most recently portrayed Kino Loy in the Star Wars DIsney+ series “Andor,” streaming in the Middle East on OSN.


A post shared by Andrew Serkis (@andyserkis)

In an upcoming role, Serkis will play millionaire villain David Robey in “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” the movie sequel to the popular Idris Elba-led TV series, “Luther.”  

Speaking with Total Film, Serkis said of the role, “I don’t think I’ve come across anything quite as dark for a long time.”  

The script forced him to ask, “do I really actually at this point in the world and time and my life, want to go down this particular rabbit hole of something that’s so hard to fathom in humanity?” 

Meanwhile, at MEFCC, fans can also expect to meet “House of the Dragon” and “Doctor Who” star Matt Smith as well as “Star Wars” veteran Anthony Daniels, who played android C3PO in all 10 films.  

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 
Updated 02 February 2023

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 

CHENNAI: Short documentary “The Elephant Whisperers” is in the running for the Best Documentary Short Film at the upcoming Academy Awards and after watching the Indian Netflix offering, you may well find yourself wondering how Academy voters are going to resist the extremely moving documentary about two adorable baby elephants and their warm-hearted caretakers, Bomman and Bellie.  

They live in the lush and delightfully picturesque terrain of Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. With its myriad colors, varied vegetation and fantastic species – captured vividly by Karan Thapliyal and others — the film kept me absorbed for all of its 41 minutes.  

Helmed by Kartiki Gonsalves with narration penned by Priscilla Gonsalves, “The Elephant Whisperers” is crisp and refreshing. As one writer put it, it is this year’s “My Octopus Teacher” — the 2020 Oscar-winning documentary tracing the bond between a filmmaker and an octopus. 

The core story here is about two elephant calves, Raghu and Ammu, who are treated like their own children by the couple. 

When Raghu's mother is killed, forest officials hand the baby to Bomman and Bellie. There are some moving visuals of how the “parents” take care of the calf. There is more joy to come when another calf, Ammu, is also handed over the couple. The two babies hit it off, and it is lovely to watch them play and tussle with eachother. 

Scenes of Bomman giving the animals a bath and later playing football with them remain etched in my memory. The couple feed them just like they would their own children and the feeling of affection is captivating and wonderfully translated on screen. 

As the environment becomes a buzzword in the media, it is especially touching when Bomman says we live off the forest, but we should also protect it. And despite the fact that Bellie's husband was killed by a tiger, she gets over her fear of the forest and begins to mingle with it. Later, when Bomman and Bellie get married, it seems like they have forged a perfect union not just with each other, but also with the rich forest that they call their home.