The Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) will be returning for a second edition. After the success of the inaugural event, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, the 2022 rendering will be taking place from December 1 to 10. While this is at a slightly later date than the first festival, the venue, Jeddah’s historic old town of Al Balad, will remain the same.
For the first-ever international film festival, over 30,000 filmgoers headed to the UNESCO World Heritage site, along with 3,115 registered professionals, media and students. The landmark festival, a noticeable stride to present Saudi Arabia as an international name in cinema, presented 138 films and shorts, 27 of which were amazing new Saudi films. During the 10-day event, which included a competition, a total of 67 countries presented works in 34 languages. The screenings were presented in five purpose-built theatres in the cultural heart of the port city, as well as other venues. Additionally, the festival was an opportunity to showcase the latest leading virtual reality storytelling and art projects.
Outside of the festival programme, the event’s Red Sea Souk was also declared a great success. The four-day industry sidebar was chock-full of curated events to promote co-production, international distribution and new business opportunities. As well as guests being able to attend talks and panels, there was a bustling industry market, where exhibiting companies, including buyers, sales agents, film commissions, distributors and exhibitors, could showcase their offerings. Additionally, $700,000 was awarded in prize money to projects selected in the Red Sea Souk Awards.
Following the Souk, festival goers had the opportunity to go to Talent Days, a two-day initiative aimed at backing the young generation of Saudi filmmakers. The RSIFF also supports up-and-coming talent from Saudi Arabia and the Arab world throughout the year with initiatives like The Red Sea Lodge. Last year the Red Sea Fund announced a $14 million project, which has supported 97 projects from Africa and the Arab world so far.
Plus, of course, just like any international film festival, there was lots of glamour and pizazz thanks to an array of filmmakers and stars making red carpet appearances. The international and regional A-lisiters included Haifaa Al Mansour, Yousra, Laila Eloui, Catherine Deneuve, Clive Owen and Hilary Swank. Naomi Campbell, Dorra Zarrouk, Yasmine Sabri, Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Anthony Mackie, Vincent Cassel and Akshay Kumar also helped make it a memorable festival.
“We are grateful to the film and local community who put their trust in us, this was a huge undertaking and the team worked extremely hard to deliver a festival that I believe exceeded expectations,” Mohammed Al-Turki, Chairman of the Red Sea International Festival Committee, said.
“To bring people together through the universal language of film within the historic surroundings of Jeddah’s historic old town, to see emerging local filmmakers present their films alongside international counterparts to full cinemas was truly extraordinary. The future is bright for Saudi film, and I look forward to welcoming return and new guests from around the world for our second edition.”