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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s support for the film industry continues with the Red Sea Fund’s announcement of its second-cycle winners, which will mean financial resources to bring their projects to fruition.

The fund, administered by the Red Sea Film Foundation, has allocated about $100,000 for 23 individual projects that will cover production, distribution and screening.

The aim is to provide a more diverse set of movies to global audiences and better serve both Saudi and Arab filmmakers.

“It means a great deal to us that the Red Sea Fund believes in this story enough to fund it. It’s both an honor and a responsibility,” Saudi filmmaker Talha B. told Arabian Weekly. He will be co-directing the winning project “Lithium” along with fellow creative Amro B.

The feature film tackles the subject of bipolar disorder and the silent suffering of individuals with mental health issues in the Arab region.

“It is a great responsibility to present this subject in a positive yet honest way, and we intend to do it the justice it deserves … It tackles a subject that we rarely admit we have in our society. We hope that more bold stories like this are told candidly because, like physical health, mental health too matters,” Talha said.

The film is currently in development and is set to premiere at the 2023/2024 Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah.

The rest of the 23 selections include shorts, documentaries, animated films and documentaries, with five submitted from Africa, 11 from the Arab region, and seven by Saudi directors.

The aim is to support young and ambitious filmmakers to carve a niche for themselves in the industry.

“It’s very fresh and exciting witnessing the great things Red Sea films are achieving and presenting to the filmmakers in Saudi Arabia and the world. The funded films speak a lot about the amount of understanding for both the creative process and the craftsmanship behind the walls of their visionary team and their out-of-the-box thinking,” Anas BaTahaf, the filmmaker and upcoming producer of the selected film “Hayat Yousef,” told Arabian Weekly.

BaTahaf is teaming up with long-time collaborator Sarah Taibah who will be joining as a screenwriter on the upcoming project that features meaningful character arcs, quirkiness, blended-genres, and “high voltage” absurdity, all packed within a contemporary dark romcom.

“Taibah’s knowledge and thorough understanding of romance — from her various art projects on studying love as a feeling and theme during a wide range of art residencies around the world — is another quality that grants her my full trust when it comes to telling this story,” BaTahaf said.

The aim to tell unconventional stories is the reason for the selection of “Red Eye,” set to be directed by filmmaker Mohammad Jastaniah.

“After so many trials, errors, and rejections it’s nice to see once again that persistence pays off, let alone being supported by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation — a place I call home. It feels special,” Jastaniah told Arabian Weekly.

The film is an “allegory” for the artist’s experience in Saudi, he said. “Red Eye” follows the story of a man navigating the stigma of being a rock star, fighting his own demons, and dealing with his relationship with his father.

“It speaks for those who stand out in the crowd, and there are so many of us out there, especially in these exciting times of change happening in the Kingdom. Pinch me because it feels like a dream,” Jastaniah said.

“I am very excited for our film and all the other films that won (backing) … Local filmmakers deserve all the praise and support,” said BaTahaf.

He said he was looking forward to his friends seeing the “great” films that were made.



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