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The Middle East takes the Croisette

This article is published in issue 21 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until 21 May 2024.

Behind the debut of Saudi cinema competing at Cannes 2024, with NorahThere is the Red Sea International Film Festival which, since 2019, takes place every December Jeddah. Not only a showcase for the country's filmmakers, but also an engine of creativity and a laboratory for new projects. With particular attention to women in industry. So it cannot be a coincidence that the film by the Saudi director Tawfik Alzaidicompeting in the section Un Certain Regardis a story about the power of art and female liberation.

Set in the 90s, at the height of the ban (which lasted until 2018) on cinema in Saudi Arabia, it has a teacher and a young woman as its protagonists. In a remote village – Norah it is also the first Saudi film to have been shot entirely in AlUla, the UNESCO heritage site in Saudi Arabia – the meeting between the two brings out the desire to paint again in him and in her the awareness of having to leave to express the own creativity.

The Jeddah festival, to which the Red Sea Film Foundation is linked, has set itself from the beginning the objective of supporting a new generation of filmmakers and of focusing on women, to bring their stories to screens around the world. It is doing so with a series of initiatives including Women in Cinema, evening events in collaboration with Vanity Fair Europe, which are held annually in Cannes, Venice and Jeddah. Meeting opportunities between emerging talents and international stars. To name some of the guests and winners of the Red Sea Honoree Award for lifetime achievement in past editions: Sharon Stone, Diane Kruger, directors Guy Ritchie and Baz Luhrmann, president of the festival jury last year.

But things happen even more behind the scenes. Thanks to the two pillars on which the Red Sea Film Foundation is based: the Red Sea Fund, which financially supports the projects, and the Red Sea Labs, which offers training to young talents. Between 2019 and 2023, 150 artists were supported, 250 projects financed, including 79 films directed by women (24 last year alone).

The historic debut of Norah adds to the successes achieved at the last edition of Cannes. With three films supported by Red Sea: Jeanne Du Barry directed and starring Maïwenn, with Johnny Depp, opening title of the festival, Goodbye Julia by Mohamed Kordofani, the first Sudanese film presented in the section Un Certain RegardAnd Four Daughters by Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania, nominated this year for the Oscars as best documentary and released in cinemas in Italy on 27 June.

The Middle East takes the Croisette

Source: Vanity Fair

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