Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) has unveiled the programme for its second edition (December 1-10), with Studiocanal and Working Title’s romantic comedy What’s Love Got To Do With It? playing as the opening night gala.
Directed by Shekhar Kapur and written by Jemima Khan, What’s Love Got To Do With It? stars Lily James and Shazad Latif in the story of two people from different cultures who fall in love. It launched at the Toronto International FIlm Festival in September.
RSIFF will close with the world premiere of Khaled Fahd’s Saudi feature Valley Road, about a man from a Saudi village who is believed to have a disability; and only his sister recognises his difference is what elevates him.
US filmmaker Oliver Stone will head the jury of the Red Sea feature competition in which 15 films from the Arab region, Asia and Africa are in the running for the Yusr Awards. Films include Lotfy Nathan’s Harka, which debuted in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year; and Syrian director Soudade Kaadan’s Nezouh, which launched in the Horizons Extra strand at Venice.
The section will also host three world premieres. Two are feature debuts from Saudi filmmakers - Mohamed Al Salman’s Raven Song, and Moe Alatawi’s Within Sand – while French-Moroccan filmmaker Omar Mouldouira’s A Summer In Boujad is also debuting. Five of the 17 directors across the 15 titles are women.
World premieres playing out of competition include Saudi anthology film Alkhallat+, based on the online series Alkhallate which received over 1.5bn views. Directed by Fahad Alammari, the film depicts four stories of social deception and trickery; it will play as a Gala screening in Jeddah.
It is one of seven Saudi features to have its world premiere at RSIFF, alongside Saudi-Kuwait co-production How I Got There, an action feature starring Yaqoob Abdullah, Hamad Al Omani, Ron Perlman and Jaaved Jaaferi directed by Zeyad Allhusaini.
The festival has set a series of in-conversation events with filmmakers including Gurinder Chadha, Fatih Akin, Kaouther Ben Hania, and Egyptian actors Mona Zaki and Hussein Fahmy.
RSIFF has programmed a selection of films from the recent festival circuit, including Ruben Ostlund’s Palme d’Or winner Triangle Of Sadness and fellow Cannes films Broker from Hirokazu Kore-eda and Decision To Leave from Park Chan-wook; plus Martin McDonagh’s Venice dark comedy The Banshees Of Inisherin, and Sam Mendes’ Telluride title Empire Of Light.
The festival set the programme for its Red Sea Souk market platform last week, including the Project Market of 23 films from Arab and African directors in development or production, and six Work-In-Progress screenings.
43 companies and representatives from 46 countries are confirmed to attend the Souk, including sales companies, film commissions, national cinema pavilions, post-production studios and financiers.
“The country is rapidly securing its position as a hub for film, culture, arts, and fashion as it becomes a world-class center for film production,” said Shivani Pandya Malhotra, managing director of RSIFF. “RSIFF is very much at the heart of this transformation providing a platform to showcase a new generation full of energy and creativity.”
Noting that several of the films in the Red Sea Competition received support from the festival’s Red Sea Fund, director of Arab programs and film classics for RSIFF Antoine Khalife said that the titles “span a variety of different genres and eras and are created by a wide range of incredibly talented filmmakers,” while director of international programming Kaleem Aftab added that the festival “received a high number of submissions so there were tough decisions to be made.”
The festival’s Yusr awards will be announced on December 8.
Before Now And Then (Nana) (Indonesia) dir. Kamila Andini
A Childless Village (Iran) dir. Reza Jami
Dirty Difficult Dangerous (Leb-Fr) dir. Wissam Charaf
Hanging Gardens (Pal-Can) dir. Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji
Harka (Tun-Fr-Bel-Ger-Lux) dir. Lotfy Nathan
Last Film Show (India-Fr) dir. Pan Nalin
Mountain Onion (Kaz) dir. Eldar Shibanov
Next Sohee (S Kor) dir. July Jung
Nezouh (Fr-UK-Syria) dir. Soudaade Kaadan
Our Lady Of The Chinese Shop (Ang) dir. Ery Claver
Raven Song (Saudi) dir. Mohamed Al Salman*
A Summer In Boujad (Mor) dir. Omar Mouldouira*
The Last Queen (Fr-Alg) dirs. Damien Ounouri, Adila Bendimerad
The Pit (Ken) dir. Angela Wanjiku
Within Sand (Saudi) dir. Moe Alatawi*
* - world premiere