An EU-backed European Film Festival is set to launch in Saudi Arabia this week, comprising 14 acclaimed features and a series of filmmaker events.
The festival has been organised by the Delegation of the European Union in the Saudi capital of Riyadh with support from media firm Arabia Pictures Group (APG). Taking place from June 15-22 in Riyadh, it is intended to promote European cinema and foster contacts between European and Saudi filmmakers.
Subjects covered in the programme of films include female empowerment, climate change and disability. Titles selected for the inaugural edition include Polish drama Never Gonna Snow Again, by Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert, which premiered in competition at Venice in 2020; and I Am Greta, Nathan Grossman’s documentary about climate activist Greta Thunberg, which at debuted at Venice that year.
Also in the line-up is Alex Camilleri’s Malta-set Luzzu, which won actor Jesmark Scicluna an acting award at Sundance 2021; and Jessica Hausner’s sci-fi drama Little Joe, which played in Competition at Cannes in 2019, where Emily Beecham won the best actress award.
In conversation events will be held with Cypriot director Marios Piperides, whose first feature Smuggling Hendrix is in the festival, and French filmmaker Gregory Magne, whose second feature Perfumes will also be screened during the week. A workshop will also be held by Giacomo Mazzeriol, an Italian novelist and writer of the Netflix series Baby.
Other events will include a presentation by Alberto Battocchi, part of environmental initiative Green Film, to put the spotlight on sustainable practices that could be used on upcoming film projects in Saudi Arabia; and a conversation with Berlin-based entertainment lawyer Matti Rockenbauch covering the legal aspects of filmmaking.
APG recently ventured into production and distribution, and CEO Roua Almadani said the event aimed to build “a bridge between Europe and the burgeoning local film industry.”
Chadi Zeneddine, who recently joined APG as director of projects development and international relations, said it intended for the festival to “generate a creative place where artists and industry professionals can meet and advance their projects”.
Key partners include Vox Cinema, Cineuropa, Goethe Institute, the Italian Embassy in KSA and Alliance Française.
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