The Saudi feature, The Book of Sun (Shams Al-Maaref), will open the first ever Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) on March 12. The movie, helmed by Faris Godus, will be part of the Competition.
Interestingly, The Book of Sun explores the spirit of a generation whose lives were transformed by the internet. Set in 2010, a high school student, Husam, gets obsessed with video production, and this draws him away from human interaction and all things which normal teens indulge in. Along with two other video addicts, including his teacher, Husam sets out to make a horror film --- much to the angst of their families.
As we all know, internet has certainly become a huge distraction in people's lives, and it cuts across age and gender, disrupting social interaction. Sometimes, I wonder whether many of us would turn into zombies, unfeeling and uncaring.
The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation supported the movie, with a USD 500,000 production grant via the Tamheed Fund, a one-time award for emerging Saudi filmmakers.
Festival Director Mahmoud Sabbagh commented: “An insider’s look at the origins of new cinema in Saudi Arabia, ‘]Shams Al-Maaref is a fitting opening to the Kingdom’s first-ever international movie festival. Godus has created a testament to the passionate community of pioneering filmmakers, who have inspired and driven the Saudi cinema culture.”
Shivani Pandya, who headed the Dubai Film Festival, will be the managing director of the Red Sea Film Festival.
The Festival is a very important event in the region – given the fact that three major movie festivals there, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha, closed down in quick succession.
Admittedly, a new event in Egypt, El Gouna Film Festival, has just had its third edition last year, and under the stewardship of Intishal Al-Timimi (one time part of Abu Dhabi), the Festival is bound to grow. Also, the Festival at Cairo, which has been around for years, has a dashing new director, Mohammed Hefzy, and hopes are being raised there as well.
The Red Sea International Film Festival will run from March 12 to 21 in the old city of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast.
The first edition will bring the regional and international community together to experience the world’s best movies, educational workshops, master classes, immersive art experiences, experimental projects and other cinematic events.The festival’s ambitious mandate is to develop and promote the film industry in Saudi Arabia and become a vital event for discovering talent in the region, and to support a new wave of cinema from around the world with a focus on the “Global South.”
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is author, commentator and movie critic)
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