JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has postponed the inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival due to coronavirus concerns.
Festival organisers announced the difficult decision “given the current global health emergency,” they said in an email to prospective guests which noted that their “primary consideration the safety and wellbeing of our guests, staff and audiences.”
“We are confident that, in due course, the festival will be rescheduled and that we will be able to achieve all that we have planned and worked towards over the past 12-months,” they added.
The ambitious event had recruited Oliver Stone to preside over the jury and Spike Lee to present a special screening of Malcolm X, a film on the African-American activist.
The event is Saudi’s first full-fledged film festival and market, with international ambitions after the country in late 2017 removed its ban on cinemas. It was scheduled to run March 12-21 in the historic district of Jeddah, a Unesco World Heritage site.
The event headed by Saudi director Mahmoud Sabbagh who made a splash with groundbreaking rom-com “Barakah Meets Barakah” and black comedy “Amra and the Second Marriage” had announced a lineup featuring a fresh mix of international films launching in the region as well as a robust representation of Arab titles.
The Red Sea festival is positioning itself as a year-round film lab and incubator that will operate under the banner of Red Sea Lodge, run in partnership with Italy’s Torino Film Lab. The festival aspires to become a driver for Saudi filmmaking and a major Middle East film industry hub.
“We remain optimistic, passionate, and committed to what this event means for Saudi Arabia, the Arab world, and the global film community and hope you can share in this outlook – despite the trying short-term situation,” the organisers underlined.
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