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'Cyrano' to open Red Sea International Film Festival 25 world premieres to be screened
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 09 - 11 - 2021


Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — The Middle East premiere of British director Joe Wright's dazzling musical romantic drama "Cyrano" will open the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah.
The beautiful re-imagining of the timeless tale stars four-time Emmy-winning Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage, Hayley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Ben Mendelsohn.
Edouard Waintrop, the artistic director at the festival, made the announcement during a press conference in Jeddah on Tuesday along with the managing director of the festival Shivani Pandya, director of Arab Programing Antoine Khalifa, Director of International Programing Kaleem Aftab, Chairman of the festival committee Mohammed Al-Turki and director of marketing and communications Samaher Mously.
The festival will welcome filmmakers, talent, media, industry professionals, and film fans for a 10-day celebration of global cinema.
The festival unveiled a lineup featuring lots of fresh Arabic fare interspersed with high-profile international pictures such as, besides "Cyrano," Maggie Gyllenhaal's Elena Ferrante adaptation "The Lost Daughter," Ana Lily Amirpour's "Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon," and Oscar-nominated Japanese filmmaker Mamoru Hosoda's anime feature "Belle," which will open the fest's Next Generation section.
The inaugural edition will close with the world premiere of acclaimed Egyptian director Amr Salama's Bara El Manhag. The light-hearted drama features stellar performances from powerhouse talent including Maged El-Kidwani, Omar Chareef, Rubi and Deena Maher.
"To be able to start so strongly, with such a wide array of incredible storytelling from both the Arab world and further afield, is significant and speaks to the promising future of this festival, both this year and beyond," Waintrop said.
Mohammed Al-Turki, RedSeaIFF's chairman of the committee said: "This is truly a landmark moment as we launch our first international film festival to celebrate original cinematic voices and showcase an extensive selection of films from around the world to local, regional and international audiences."
The program will feature 138 feature films and shorts from 67 countries in 34 languages from both established and emerging talent and will host 25 world premieres, 48 Arab premieres and 17 GCC premieres, with a number of filmmakers and actors in attendance for many of the films.
The slate of new Saudi films will be shown alongside the best of new international cinema, featuring 27 new films from an exciting wave of Saudi filmmakers.
The lineup of features and shorts will open a window for international guests to explore all aspects of Saudi society, and in turn, provide a vital platform for Saudi filmmakers to present their work on the big screen to the global film industry and local audiences.
Alongside the Red Sea Competition, Red Carpet Galas and Special Presentations, the Festival will host a range of cinema in the following sections: Festival Favorites, New Saudi/New Cinema, Red Sea Treasures, Red Sea Arab and International Spectacular, Red Sea Next Generation, Red Sea Immersive and Red Sea Episodic.
The Arab and international competition will showcase the highest creative achievements from an array of filmmakers in its Red Sea Feature and Shorts Competition sections.
The lineup of 18 shorts and 16 features showcases the most compelling, unique and impressive work produced in the past year. Winners in each competition will be selected by esteemed juries and announced on Dec. 13.
The festival will be celebrating women and will honor two outstanding talents to salute their extraordinary contribution to cinema and continue the festival's mission to celebrate incredible women in film.
From Saudi Arabia, the festival will honor Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first female Saudi filmmaker, who has helped boost the women's empowerment movement across the region and is one of the most significant figures in the Saudi film industry.
Her feature debut, Wadjda, was the first film to ever be shot in the Kingdom and was nominated for numerous international awards, including a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language. She has since gone on to direct films and TV shows internationally and remains at the frontier of groundbreaking filmmaking.
The second honoree is Egyptian actress Laila Eloui, who has starred in more than 70 films. Her onscreen presence continues to captivate, entertain and inspire audiences and actors alike.
Eloui is undoubtedly one of the most talented and respected actresses in the Arab world, best known for her roles in I Love Cinema, Kalil Mina Al-Hob Kathir Mina Al-Unf and Girl's Love.
She has been the recipient of many Egyptian awards and international awards at festivals around the world. Red Sea Festival attendees will also be able to join an acting masterclass with Eloui, who will share her knowledge and stories from her fascinating career.
Actress, singer and megastar Yousra will also deliver a much-anticipated masterclass. The iconic Egyptian cinema legend is one of the most recognizable names in the entire region and considered one of the finest actors of her generation, having appeared in over 80 films and received more than 50 awards from national, regional and international film festivals for her work.
From European cinema, iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve, who is renowned for her extraordinary contributions to film, will join the festival celebrations.
There will also be three in-conversations that will give festival-goers insight into the careers and achievements of Haifaa Al-Mansour, Tunisian actress Hend Sabry and acclaimed Franco Argentinian director Gaspar Noé, and Lebanese directors and artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige.
The festival is also proud to honor Jack Lang, president of the Institut du Monde Arabe and former minister of culture and minister of education, in recognition of his incredible efforts to promote relations between Saudi Arabia and France and integral role in building a cultural bridge between the Arab world and France.
Festival-goers will have the opportunity to attend Red Carpet Galas and watch standout, compelling films from world-renowned directors and featuring stellar performances at the Red Sea's purpose-built, 900-seat Al Balad auditorium.
The festival will offer a wide variety of cultural events in addition to the main screening presentations, ranging from musical to community outdoor screening events.
The music events will consist of standalone acts including original Saudi rappers YR Music and a concert that will pay tribute to classic Egyptian cinema by Rima Khcheich and Band.
This is in addition to performances that complement the festival's selection of films, including five rappers from the film Casablanca Beats and traditional Moroccan Gnawa music to accompany the documentary Their Heads Are Green And Their Hands Are Blue, both from the Arab Spectacular.
The Red Sea Souk, the festival's industry market, will offer a packed program of curated events to foster co-production, international distribution, and new business opportunities. It will run from Dec. 8-11, alongside the film festival.
The Red Sea Souk will consist of the Project Market, which will see pitching and meetings for a selection of 23 films in development, and Works-in-Progress Screenings, a selection of rough-cut screenings made up of screenings of rough cuts of a selection of films in post-production.
All films in the Red Sea Souk will be deliberated on by two separate juries. The Project Market Jury will consist of Saudi poet and Festival director Ahmed Almulla, American producer Alix Madigan, and German producer Thanassis Karathanos, while Festival Director Alex Moussa Sawadogo, Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir, and French filmmaker Ladj Ly make up the Works-in-Progress Jury.
More than $800,000 will be awarded to the projects selected in the Red Sea Souk Awards.
Shivani Pandya, managing director of the RedSeaIFF, said: "The festival is not only a celebration of cinema but an important opportunity for the Saudi film industry as a whole."
"The festival offers not only an international stage to Saudi film professionals, but also demonstrates the abundance of talent and opportunities that Saudi Arabia can offer to the international film industry.
"The Red Sea Souk, in particular, will play such an important role in global exchange and partnerships between the international and Saudi film industries."
Immediately following the Souk on Dec. 12-13, the festival will hold Talent Days, a two-day initiative designed to support the development of the next generation of Saudi filmmakers.


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