Saudi Red Sea Fest Spins a Tale of Film Intrigue

The Red Sea International Film Festival has announced the lineup of films in its International Spectacular section.

The selection is a curated collection of some of the year’s most powerful stories from iconic, award-winning international filmmaking voices. All eight films in this section will be Arab premieres, showcasing the very best of international cinema to the Arab world.

Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of the festival, which will take place Dec. 6-15, said: “While the Red Sea Film International Festival is undoubtedly about showcasing Arab cinema to the world, it is as much about welcoming international cinema and international filmmakers to the Arab world. The stories told in these films, over half of which are from female filmmakers, portray a vibrant and diverse array of views, and we are thrilled to be able to showcase them all at the festival.”

Saleem Aftab, director of international programming for the festival, said: “The selection of films on display as part of the International Spectacular are some of the most dynamic and thought-provoking stories being told this year. Filmmakers from across the world are sharing their stories, some deeply personal, others surreal and fantastic, but with all having a profound impact on the audiences viewing them.”

Included in the showcase is “Ennio,” a documentary on one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, Ennio Morricone. Directed by Academy Award and BAFTA-winning writer, director, and actor Giuseppe Tornatore, the film will cover the unforgettable career of the musical maestro, who won two Academy Awards and composed over 500 movie soundtracks.

Tornatore interviews the legend himself, who had a long-established association with the director, having composed the music for 13 Tornatore feature films, including his Academy Award-winning “Cinema Paradiso.”

“Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon,” written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour, is a fantasy thriller, telling the story of a girl with unusual powers who escapes from a mental asylum and tries to make it on her own in New Orleans. Starring Jeon Jong-seo, Kate Hudson, Craig Robinson, and Ed Skrein, the film had its world premiere at this year’s Venice International Film Festival.

French-Algerian director Yamina Benguigui’s latest film “Sisters,” starring Isabelle Adjani, tells the story of three French-Algerian sisters: Zorah, Nohra, and Djamila. For 30 years, they have been living in the hope of finding their brother, Rheda, abducted by their father, and hidden in newly decolonized Algeria. When they learn that their father is dying, the three sisters decide to go to Algeria to seize their last opportunity to have him reveal where their brother is.

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut “The Lost Daughter” stars Academy Award-winner Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, and Jessie Buckley in the film adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel. The psychological drama tells the story of a woman on holiday, who meets another woman and her young family, prompting memories of her own early motherhood. The film had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, with Gyllenhaal winning the Golden Osella for Best Screenplay for her adaptation of the novel.

Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast” is an autobiographical poignant story of love, laughter and loss in one boy’s childhood, amid the music and social tumult of the late 1960s in Northern Ireland. The highly anticipated cinematic tribute to Branagh’s native city is beautifully shot in black-and-white and stars Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, and Ciarán Hinds. The film scooped the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Spanish comedy “The Good Boss” was written and directed by Fernando León de Aranoa. Standing on the industrial outskirts of a small provincial town, for decades Basculas Blanco, played by Javier Bardem, has been making industrial scales for major retail outlets for weighing vehicles and livestock. The good boss likes to tell his workers that Lady Justice holds Blanco’s scales in her hand. The film premiered at this year’s San Sebastian International Film Festival and has been chosen as the Spanish entry for Best International Feature Film at the upcoming 94th Academy Awards.

“You Resemble Me” is the directorial debut of Egyptian-American filmmaker and award-winning journalist Dina Amer. The film, co-written by Amer and Omar Mullick, tells a story of cultural and intergenerational trauma, taking on one of the darkest issues of our time and deconstructing it in an intimate story about family, love, sisterhood, and belonging. After two sisters on the outskirts of Paris are torn apart, the eldest, Hasna, struggles to find her identity, leading to a choice that shocks the world. The film had its world premiere in the Venice Days section of this year’s Venice International Film Festival.

Based on a true story, Bridgerton star Phoebe Dynevor plays Clarice Cliff, a remarkable figure who revolutionized the British pottery industry in the 1920s. Sky original film “The Colour Room,” directed by Claire McCarthy, is a fabulous period drama showing how Cliff battled against the odds in a world run by men to establish herself as a pioneering ceramic artist, impressing an eccentric factory owner (Matthew Goode) with her ingenuity. Director Claire McCarthy makes a brilliant mark by highlighting the battles women had to win to be heard in the workplace in a feel-good tale of talent, determination, and perseverance.

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