Saudi Arabia 'changing the script' with first-ever film festival

The festival, held from March 12-21 in Jeddah's old town, will feature a series of short films made by female Saudi filmmakers.
Friday 14/02/2020
The official poster for the Red Sea International Film Festival, featuring Saudi ballerina Samira Alkhamis.
The official poster for the Red Sea International Film Festival, featuring Saudi ballerina Samira Alkhamis.

LONDON - The official poster for the Red Sea International Film Festival, the first of its kind to be held in Saudi Arabia, was unveiled this week, projecting a new modern image for the kingdom as it builds up support for the arts. 

On February 10, event organisers released the official poster of the inaugural event, featuring a photograph by Syrian-born artist Osama Esid featuring Saudi ballerina Samira Alkhamis emerging from the sea. Conceptually, the poster is meant to project the wave of change in the region and the opportunities for a new generation of filmmakers in Saudi Arabia.

The Film Festival, which is themed “Changing the script,” will be held from March 12-21 in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jeddah’s old town and will focus on a series of short films by female Saudi filmmakers.

The short films are funded by the Red Sea International Film Festival and produced by the Jeddah-based production house Cinepoetics Pictures.They will make up a larger anthology film called "Untitled Omnibus Feature."

According to an official statement from event organisers, the Saudi directors involved in making the films for the anthology are Hind Alfahhad, Jowaher Alamri, Noor Alameer, Sara Mesfer and Fatima Al-Banawi. Award-winning Palestinian filmmaker Suha Arraf will supervise the film’s screenwriting.

The directors involved in the project were selected after a pitching process due to their proposals' engaging narratives, strong female leads and stories representing distinct voices found across the kingdom.

“It has been a unique experience participating in a film alongside fellow Saudi women directors, all telling stories around womanhood in distinctive ways," director hind Alfahhad said.

The festival will also honour global figures that have been catalysts for change and innovation in their countries’ film industries,  including, former French Culture Minister Jack Lang, Kim Dong-ho, founder of South Korea’s Busan Film Festival and Daniela Michel, founding director of the Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico.

"The honouring of these three legendary figures is at the heart of the Red Sea Film Festival's goals," festival director Mahmoud Sabbagh said.

“An appreciation of pioneers of the film industry, who contributed to unlocking artistic capabilities of their compatriots and developing cinematic masterpieces to be enjoyed for generations," Sabbagh added.