In its first announcement following cancellation of its inaugural edition due to coronavirus, Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival has recruited a high-profile jury that will award two production grants for Arab cinema projects each worth $500,000.

The jurors who will pick winners among 12 projects taking part in the inaugural Red Sea Lodge Residency are: Egyptian auteur Yousry Nasrallah (“After the Battle”); France-based producer Nadia Turincev (“Mimosas”); and German producer Meinholf Zurhorst, who is a commissioner for the German side of European specialty broadcaster Arte.

The Red Sea Lodge program to nurture new voices in Arab cinema – which is organized in tandem with Italy’s TorinoFilmLab – has selected 12 emerging Arab filmmakers, six of whom are from Saudi Arabia, and paired each one with an experienced mentor who will shepherd the development of each project.

The two Red Sea Lodge production grant winners among these will be announced on Sept. 25.

All 12 of the selected projects will take part in online meetings, starting on Oct. 19, that will prepare them to pitch their films to the the TorinoFilmLab’s digital meet in November.

TorinoFilmLab executive director Savina Neirotti in a statement said that the collaboration with the Red Sea Film Lodge has borne fruit despite the interruption caused by the coronavirus crisis. “The 12 projects have developed and evolved into fantastic projects, and we are sure a large number of them will end up as films, whether they are awarded the production grant or not,” she said.

The final phase of the Red Sea Lodge and the awarding of the production grants was due to take place at fest’s inaugural cancelled edition in March.

Since then, the festival’s president Mahmoud Sabbagh – who is the director of daring Saudi social comedies “Barakah Meets Barakah”  and “Amra and the Second Marriage” – resigned and returned to his work as a filmmaker.

No reason was given for the resignation of Sabbagh, who has not been replaced. What’s clear is the Red Sea Festival and its related activities are going forward.