Anticipation continues to build as the March 12 opening date of Saudi Arabia‘s first international film festival draws nearer, with exclusive red carpet premieres, expert-led masterclasses, and interactive filmmaking events lined up on the program. However, the latest announcement about the inaugural edition Red Sea International Film Festival may be one of the most exciting features yet. The late prolific Egyptian director Youssef Chahine’s masterpiece Al-Ikhtiyar will premiere on the big screen for the first time in the Kingdom as one of the 15 iconic films curated as part of the festival’s Retrospective and Classics section.
Restored in collaboration between the festival and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, Al-Ikhtiyar is one of the Arab world’s most renowned works of cinema co-scripted by Nobel Prize-winning writer Naguib Mahfouz. Following a mysterious murder in Egypt during the 1967 Six-Day War, the film explores the depths of the human psyche in light of turmoil. Starring the “Cinderella of Egyptian cinema” Souad Hosni as well as fellow influential actors Izzat Al-Alayli, Hoda Sultan, and Mahmoud Al-Meliguy, the film is credited for “shaping collective memory,” according to the festival’s website.
“It is hugely significant to screen Youssef Chahine’s film in Saudi Arabia, especially at such a historic moment,” commented festival director Mahmoud Sabbagh. “It is an honor to connect the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation with the heritage of the late master’s work, and to have the opportunity to restore this seminal work to its full glory, allowing a new generation to encounter one of the greatest films from the Arab canon.”
Family of the acclaimed filmmaker plan to attend the exclusive screening, including emerging director Marianne Khoury who recently released a documentary about her uncle through the lens of multi-generational female relatives. More than 100 other features and short films will also be shown throughout the 10-day long program in support of Saudi’s growing entertainment industry and promotion of Middle Eastern cinema on a global scale.
The Red Sea International Film Festival will run from March 12-21 in Jeddah.