Saudi Arabia might have only lifted its cinema ban a little over a year ago, but the kingdom is already putting serious focus on its budding film industry. Plans for the first Saudi international film festival were announced a few months ago, and today, the Red Sea Film Festival is officially underway, with the inaugural edition set to take place from March 12 to 21, 2020 in none other than the historic district of Jeddah.
Spearheading the festival is Barakah Meets Barakah director Mahmoud Sabbagh. Sabbagh was named the festival’s director and CEO, working to bring together regional and international film communities to Saudi’s cultural capital.
Former Sundance Film Festival documentary programmer Hussain Currimbhoy has been named artistic director. Shivani Pandya Malhotra, who previously managed the now-defunct Dubai International Film Festival, has been appointed the festival’s managing director.
And in an effort to nurture the local scene, festival organisers announced the launch of an open call for submissions for its five-month long film script and feature lab, called the Red Sea Film Lodge, with a theme of “The New Arab Wave”. In partnership with TorinoFilmLab, 12 projects will be selected to participate in the program from Arab filmmakers, six of which will be reserved to Saudi.
Two $500,000 awards will be given to two winners, as well as funding to develop the projects.
Making it all happen is the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation, an independent non-profit organization led by Saudi minister of culture, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud.