×

First Saudi Film Fest Hires Former Sundance Programmer, Sets Dates

The Red Sea International Film Festival, which is Saudi Arabia’s first international film fest, has officially announced its team and set March 12-21, 2020, as the dates of its first edition. The event is to be held in the historic district of Jeddah, which is a Unesco World Heritage site.

As anticipated by Variety, former Dubai Film Festival exec Shivani Pandya has been named general manager of the ambitious event. Hussain Currimbhoy, who has previously served as a documentary programmer at the Sundance Film Festival, is joining as artistic director

Somewhat like Sundance, the Red Sea fest is positioning itself as a year-round film lab/incubator, which it is calling the Red Sea Lodge, to be operated in a partnership with Italy’s Torino Film Lab.

The Red Sea Lodge will select 12 Arabic projects, of which at least six will be directed by Saudi filmmakers. It will provide two of the selected projects with a $500,000 check and also give out other unspecified financial support. The filmmakers who make the cut in the lab’s so-called “New Arab Wave” program will participate in a five-month support workshop run by Arabic and international film industry experts.

Veteran Arab cinema programmer Antoine Khalife, who is also a Dubai fest veteran, has come on board as director of the Saudi fest’s Arab Program, while Saudi-based marketing exec  Samaher Mously has been appointed director of marketing and communications.

Popular on Variety

As previously announced, the festival’s president is young Saudi director Mahmoud Sabbagh, known for the groundbreaking comedies “Barakah Meets Barakah” and “Amra and the Second Marriage.”

Organizers said the fest’s mission is to launch “a dynamic platform for new films,” to “develop talent, build a local industry, promote Saudi films regionally and internationally,” and “create an active market and increase cultural exchange and understanding.”

There have been concerns that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the suspected involvement of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing would cast a cloud over Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to build a film industry, undermining the oil-rich kingdom’s ability to forge international ties.

While those doubts remain, the fest’s ability to bring on board Currimbhoy and the prestigious Torino Film Lab, which has a wide network of global contacts, signals that it has been able to at least partly overcome that negative factor.

The fest was originally announced in March, along with other arts initiatives, by Prince Badr Bin Abdullah Bin Farhan, who was appointed Saudi Arabia’s first culture minister last June. The prince, who is in his early 30s, is believed to be determined to lay the groundwork for an entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia.

More Film

  • Spirited Away

    Netflix to Carry Iconic Studio Ghibli Animated Films

    The iconic animated features of Japan’s Studio Ghibli will be available on Netflix from February. The move is a further change of position for the studio which has repeatedly resisted the idea that its beloved cartoons would be released on digital platforms. Netflix, sales agent Wild Bunch, and Studio Ghibli, which counts Hayao Miyazaki as [...]

  • Outstanding Performance by a Cast in

    SAG Awards 2020: 'Parasite' Makes History; 'The Crown,' 'Mrs. Maisel' Earn Top TV Honors

    Neon’s “Parasite” won best motion picture cast at the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, becoming the first foreign language film to pick up the top prize. Netflix’s “The Crown” was named best TV drama and Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” earned the prize for best TV comedy in a strong showing for streaming [...]

  • Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Lee Jeong-eun,

    SAG Awards 2020: The Biggest Snubs and Surprises

    The Screen Actors Guild Awards are always the first peer group ceremony of the new year, giving those who make films and television series the chance to celebrate each other. Going into the 26th annual ceremony, which took place Jan. 19, the nominees were a mix of industry veterans and beloved favorite and some newer-comers, [...]

  • HAF logo

    Hong Kong Project Market HAF Lines up Cream of Asia for 2020 Edition

    Lin Cheng-sheng (“Betlnut Beauty”), Giddens Ko (“You Are The Apple of My Eye”), Pang Ho-cheung (“Love in a Puff”) and Yeo Siew-hua (“A Land Imagined”) are among the big name Asian directors lining up to participate in the 18th edition of the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. The powerhouse project market will run for [...]

  • Jennifer Aniston

    SAG Awards: The Complete Winners List

    Korean thriller “Parasite” made history at the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, becoming the first foreign-language film to win best motion picture cast. In another streaming stride, Netflix’s “The Crown” nabbed best TV drama and Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” took home best TV comedy. In a repeat of the Golden Globes, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content