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Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival has announced the bulk of its lineup from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), signaling that the event is forging ahead with its third edition despite the Israel-Hamas war that has caused cancellations of several movie celebrations across the Arab world.

The fest’s third edition, set to run Nov. 30-Dec. 9 in Jeddah, on the Red Sea’s eastern shore, will feature a slew of films from the MENA region and comprise 11 feature films from Saudi, underlining the local film industry’s growth.

There are two Saudi films in the 17-title competition dedicated to features from the Arab world as well as Africa and Asia. They are “Norah,” a drama by first-time helmer Tawfik Alzaidi set in 1990s Saudi Arabia, when conservatism was at its height, and Meshal Aljaser’s “Naga,” a satirical thriller set in the 1970s about a young Saudi woman who must overcome various obstacles to reach her home before the curfew set by her strict father. “Naga” world-premiered in Toronto.

They will be vying for the Red Sea Fest’s top prizes alongside “Backstage,” a first feature about a touring dance troupe by Moroccan directorial duo Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane; British-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi’s “The Teacher” (pictured), shot in the West Bank and starring Imogen Poots; Algerian director Karim Bensalah’s “Six Feet Over” about the son of an Algerian diplomat who decides to work for Muslim undertakers; and Iranian director Parviz Shahbazi’s “Roxana” about the romance between the film’s titular female artist and a young gambler, among other titles.

As previously announced, Baz Luhrmann will preside over the main jury. 

More to come

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