Oliver Stone will lead the jury of the first Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; additional masterclasses will be held with Spike Lee, William Friedkin, Abel Ferrara, Khairy Beshara, and Yousry Nasrallah.
Festival director Mahmoud Sabbagh said in a statement that the event will “push diversity, particularly in women’s position in public spaces, and for a more open society.”
According to Variety, the festival will include a special screening of Lee’s 1992 film Malcolm X, which includes scenes shot in Mecca, which is located in Saudi Arabia.
It will also offer cash prizes totaling $250,000, including a $100,000 prize with the Golden Yusr Trophy for Best Feature. The festival will take place March 12-21 in Al-Balad Historic Jeddah, Bait Qabil, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sabbagh said the Red Sea International Film Festival would both “showcase Saudi Arabia’s emerging film industry” and “encourage a more open cultural exchange.”
“We worked hard to ensure that the films being presented showcase Saudi Arabia’s emerging film industry, and encourage a more open cultural exchange. This isn’t just about exporting our stories; we are bringing different perspectives, new conversations into Saudi Arabia too,” Sabbagh said.
He also praised Stone.
“Oliver Stone is behind some of the all-time great pieces of cinema,” Sabbagh said. “Penning Scarface and Midnight Express, directing Platoon and Natural Born Killers, to name a few, he cherishes originality, craft and creativity, values at the heart of the Red Sea FF. For a new breed of filmmakers competing for the Yusr awards, his watchful eye and sense of authorship will be inspirational.”
The Red Sea Film Festival may fill a regional vacuum left by the absence of the Dubai Film Festival, which announced in 2018 that it would take a break and return in 2019. But it has not yet returned.