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The Red Sea International Film Festival has unveiled its selection of 36 movies from Saudi Arabia, as well as its Arab Spectacular and Red Sea: Competition lineups for this year’s third edition.

“Collectively, these strands will showcase the rich and varied work by established and new filmmakers from the region, including documentaries and titles produced by the Red Sea Film Foundation,” organizers said on Monday.

The program will put a spotlight on films made in the Middle East and North Africa region, featuring 36 feature-length and short films from Saudi Arabia. “The lineup includes internationally recognized talent plus new voices; from Maïwenn’s historical romance Jeanne du Barry, starring Johnny Depp which opened at Cannes with support from the Red Sea International Film Financing arm, to Kaouther Ben Hania with Four Daughters, nominated as Tunisia’s submission for international feature at the forthcoming Academy Awards,” the festival said. “Further directors selected for Academy Award submission by their countries to feature at the RSIFF are Amjad Al Rasheed with gripping thriller Inshallah A Boy and Zarra Kahn with his horror debut In Flames, Amanda Nell Eu’s Tiger Stripes and Baloji’s Omen, highlights of the Red Sea: Competition.”

The festival, running Nov. 30-Dec. 9 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, also unveiled its theme for this year: “Your Story, Your Festival.” Organizers said their goal was to provide “a unique and powerful platform for celebrating film, connecting cultures and expanding horizons while welcoming stories from all walks of life.” They added: “It is a comprehensive cinematic platform that promotes diversity in all facets of filmmaking, elevating it beyond just a film screening event. These ideas of diversity, connection, and cultural exchange are manifested in this year’s theme.”

Overall, the Red Sea: Competition will screen 17 films, both narrative and documentary features, from Asia, Africa and the Arab world, with the international jury, headed up by Baz Luhrmann, picking the winners. Among other highlights, the competition will see Norah, the first production to be shot entirely in the AlUla region of Saudi Arabia by Tawfik Alzaidi,l world premiere. Other entries include Backstage, the feature debut by directorial duo Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane, that is a behind-the-scenes tale of a touring dance troupe; Farah Nabulsi’s debut The Teacher, shot in the West Bank, starring Imogen Poots; Six Feet Over from Karim Bensalah, which tells the story of the son of an Algerian diplomat who decides to work for Muslim undertakers; and Parviz Shahbazi’s Roxana from Iran that looks at a man who tries to better himself for love.

Meanwhile, the Arab Spectacular lineup will screen 11 titles, including Tamer Ruggli’s debut Back to Alexandria, starring Nadine Labaki and Fanny Ardant as a daughter and mother overcoming estrangement, music video director Yasir Alyasiri’s HWJN, starring Baraa Alem and Nour Alkhadra; Meshal Al Jaser’s humorous thriller NAGA, which follows a teenage girl left stranded in a desert racing against the clock to meet her curfew, pursued by a rabid camel; and the Godus Brothers’ Fever Dream, about a retired soccer star and his daughter searching for social media acclaim.

“Our theme this year of Your Stories, Your Festival, is borne out by the incredible selection of films from the region – which spans both masters as well as debut filmmakers who are testament to the wealth of talent on offer from this part of the world, which is so important to showcase in all its diversity,” said Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation, and Shivani Pandya Malhotra, managing director of the Red Sea International Film Festival. “We feel it is particularly timely to use the medium of film to look at what connects us and to give a platform to the voices and experiences of people in our region and beyond to foster insight, understanding and compassion.”

Kaleem Aftab, director of international programs, added: “The Red Sea: Competition highlights the complexities of the modern world, as societal norms change, which presents a challenge to families, patriarchy and peaceful co-existence. These films from Asia and Africa, including the Arab world, are a stark reminder of the many issues facing humanity today.”

And Antoine Khalife, director of Arab Programs and Film Classics, spoke of “the vibrancy of Arab cinema,” highlighting: “In addition to a program, which celebrates the richness of Arab, African and Asian filmmaking talent, we are proud to present projects from 31 female filmmakers overall, backing our commitment to women in cinema.”

Check out the lineups below.

Special Screenings

TO MY SON (World Premiere)
Dir Dhafer L’abidine
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates

A seemingly united family is thrown into a turmoil by the sudden return of their son who they haven’t seen for 12 years. This return will change the family’s destiny forever…

Dir Maïwenn
France, Saudi Arabia

Maïwenn’s ambitious drama, freely inspired by the life of Jeanne du Barry, King Louis XV’s last royal mistress.

Red Sea International Film Festival: Arab Spectacular

Dir Kaouther Ben Hania
France, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Tunisia

A family divided when two daughters join Daesh tries to understand what happened in this compelling mix of documentary and fiction.

Dir Abu Bakr Shawky
Saudi Arabia, Egypt

A camel jockey and his beloved animal go on the run through the Saudi desert in this gripping survival adventure.

Dir Jamal Kutbi
Saudi Arabia

In this film, we recount Khaled Al-Sheikh’s journey from being a student of political sciences in Kuwait, to a student at the Conservatory in Egypt, to his name shining as an artist and then fading again. We understand the reasons for this fading from Khaled’s point of view, and those of some other characters who accompanied him on his artistic journey.

FEVER DREAM (World Premiere)
Dir Faris Godus
Saudi Arabia

A notorious retired football player is forced to cooperate with his daughter, who hates him, to restore his glory through social media, a thorny adventure that the world is not prepared for.

THREE (World Premiere)
Dir Nayla Alkhaja
United Arab Emirates, Thailand

Maryam’s western doctor is aghast when she takes her disturbed son to a traditional healer for exorcism.

HWJN (World Premiere)
Dir Yasir Alyasiri
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates

A magical djinn finds himself fascinated by a human family who live in the same house, but can’t see him. Based on Ibraheem Abbas’s popular novel.

Dir Tamer Ruggli
France, Switzerland, Egypt

Nadine Labaki and the formidable Fanny Ardant are a dream team in this intimate story of an Egyptian woman trying to reconcile with her eccentric mother.

Dir Meshal Aljaser
Saudi Arabia

While discreetly sneaking out for a date, Sarah becomes stranded amidst Riyadh’s desert dunes. She finds herself escaping the vengeance of a rabid camel after accidentally causing harm to its newborn.

SHAMAREEKH (World Premiere)
Dir Amr Salama

An assassin goes on the run with the woman he is supposed to kill in this nail-biting thriller.

Dir Abdulghani Alsaigh
Saudi Arabia

Two brothers find an old door that opens a portal to the past, to a time when their father was still alive, In their attempt to make contact with their father, they get stuck in the past

A NOSE AND THREE EYES (World Premiere)
Dir Amir Ramses
Egypt, United Arab Emirates

A prominent bachelor plastic surgeon turns to a psychiatrist to get rid of a relationship that controls his being with a girl seventeen years younger than him. In his journey to understand the secret of his attachment to the girl, he unravels secrets within himself and mysteries he kept in the past.

I AM AL-ITTIHAD (World Premiere)
Dir Hamza Tarzan
Saudi Arabia

The film doesn’t only focus on sports events; it also weaves a narrative about the history of Hijaz (Jeddah), its people, their activities, and, most importantly, the history of sports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It delves into the achievements and developments during the prosperous Saudi era, the establishment and inception of the Al-Ittihad Club, and the idea and execution behind it. The narrative covers its inception, glory, achievements, and the challenges it encountered throughout its history and throughout an old man tells the story of the first Saudi soccer club to a young fan.

Red Sea International Film Festival: In Competition

Dir Amjad Al Rashid
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, Qatar

After the sudden death of her husband, Nawal must save her daughter and home, in a society where having a son is a game changer.

Dir Mohamed Ben Attia
Tunisia, France, Belgium, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar

Can Rafik really fly? He thinks so. His son wants to believe it – and this teasing, magical film may leave us wondering.

NORAH (World Premiere)
Dir Tawfik Alzaidi
Saudi Arabia

A young woman in a remote village embarks on a perilous journey after the arrival of the new teacher who also happens to be a painter.

Dir Halkawt Mustafa
Norway, Iraq

An Iraqi farmer must hide Saddam Hussein from family, friends and 150,000 American soldiers.

Dir Afef Ben Mahmoud, Khalil Benkirane
Morocco, Tunisia, Belgium, France, Qatar, Norway, Saudi Arabia

Art and life merge in a thrilling performance as tensions behind the scenes in an innovative dance troupe.

Dir Farah Naboulsi
United Kingdom, Palestine, Qatar
A Palestinian school teacher struggles to reconcile his risky commitment to political resistance with his emotional support for a student and the chance of a new romantic relationship with a volunteer worker.

DALMA (World Premiere)
Dir Humaid Alsuwaidi
United Arab Emirates

Dana becomes a local hate figure when she turns her father’s house on the quiet island of Dalma into a holiday rental.

Dir Ali Kalthami
Saudi Arabia

In the heart of Riyadh, Fahad Algadaani’s gripping journey from a struggling delivery man to the depths of a city’s underworld, as he battles to save his father amidst desperation and opportunity.

Dir Karim Bensalah
Algeria, France

A young Algerian student in France gains an understanding of his true identity when he takes a job at a Muslim funeral home.

Dir Tarsem Singh Dhandwar

From visionary director Tarsem Singh comes a modern-day Romeo and Juliet inspired by true events and told in a Punjabi folk style.

Dir Zarra Khan
Pakistan, Canada

Real horror doesn’t come from fantasy. For Maryam and her mother, trapped by patriarchal property laws, this madness is everyday life.

WAKHRI (ONE OF A KIND) (World Premiere)
Dir Iram Parveen Bilal
Pakistan, USA

A Pakistani widow becomes an overnight sensation when her unvarnished opinions leak on to social media.

Dir Shokir Kholikov

An elderly Uzbek couple are forced by their children to accept unwanted life changes in this poetic portrayal of a family divided by the times.

Dir Amanda Nell Eu
Malaysia, Taiwan R.O.C., Singapore, France, Germany, Netherlands, Indonesia, Qatar

Zaffan is becoming a woman – but is she really another kind of animal? One with teeth and claws?

Dir Parviz Shahbazi

Fred is part of a generation that can’t seem to leave home. When he meets bright, go-ahead Roxana, he thinks he has found a new lease of life – but how wrong can he be?

Dir Baloji
Belgium, Netherlands, Democratic Republic of the Congo

After spending years in Belgium, a young Congolese man returns to his birthplace of Kinshasa to confront the intricacies of his family and culture.

Dir Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

A struggle by Japanese villagers to protect their environment shows how seemingly quiet animals – even human ones – can turn savage.

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