“This is not simply a festival, it’s much more than that,” said Jomana Al-Rashid, chairwoman of the Red Sea Foundation said as the second edition of the festival kicked off this week. “We are bringing new talent to the market, and we are also trying to be a platform that can bridge between international talent and international know how and the local region. This year we have nine Saudi films [playing in the festival], which we are exceptionally proud of but hopefully next year we will have much more.”
The newly-appointed exec came to Deadline’s Red Sea Studio with Red Sea International Film Festival CEO Mohammed Al-Turki to talk about plans for this year’s edition, lessons learned from last year’s freshman event what their goals and hopes for the second edition of the festival as well as what they learned from last year’s first event and stressed the importance of building a local and sustainable film industry around the festival.
“Yes, we are very much focused on empowerment, be it female empowerment or youth empowerment or just empowering talent overall,” said Al-Rashid. “It’s not just about on-screen talent but it’s also about empowering talent behind the screen.”
Both execs admitted there was a long way to go but that it was ultimately about “changing mindsets.”
Al-Turki recalled last year’s festival and seeing women in dresses on stage at a film event as being “a surreal moment” that he had not expect to see happening in his home country so soon after a 35-year-old religion-related ban on cinema had been lifted.
Al-Rashid added: The fact that both Mohammed and myself, both young Saudis are sitting her on the same couch, having this conversation with you is something that I thought wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago.”
Check out the video above.