Saudi Arabia’s new Red Sea International Film Festival, which will launch its inaugural edition in Jeddah on March 12-21, 2020, will mete out nearly $3m worth of cash prizes and investments, making it one of the most generous film festivals in the world.
The new event has revealed it will ward a total of $350,000 in cash prizes to winners of its international competition running across six categories.
The top prize, the Golden Yusr Trophy for best feature, will carry a $100,000 cash prize while the Silver Yusr for best director comes with a $50,000 award.
Silver Yusrs will also be awarded for best screenplay, best actor, best actress, and best cinematic contribution.
In addition, there will also be a Golden Yusr award for the best short film which will come with a $50,000 cash prize as well as a three-month creative residency in Jeddah to develop a new project.
There will also be an audience award carrying a cash prize of $50,000.
The festival said the new Yusr awards take their name from a type of black coral found off the Red Sea coast of Jeddah and that an international competition would soon be to design the look of the award.
In other new prizes, the festival is also launching the Bait Al Montage Fund, supporting up to six Arab films at the post-production stage with grants coming to $100,000 in total.
In addition to the festival prizes, the new event reiterated its commitment to supporting filmmaking in the region with the creation of the previously announced project development programme the Red Sea Lodge.
This initiative, which will host 12 director-producer teams, will award grants worth $500,000 to two of the participating projects following a pitching event.
The festival also highlighted the existence of its one-off Tamheed Fund, set up to help Saudi Arabia’s fledgling film scene.
Under the initiative, two local productions - The Book of Sun by Faris Godus and Forty Years and a Night by Mohammed Alholayyil – have been granted $500,000 each. The aim is that both productions will premiere at the inaugural edition of the festival in 2020.
The festival said it had also ploughed $400,000 into a special omnibus project, comprising six short films by Saudi filmmakers.
It explained this move demonstrated its “commitment to new voices in Saudi filmmaking, encouraging stories from and by the Kingdom’s women”.
The resulting short films will be shown as a collective at the first edition of the film festival.
The new event has been in the wake of the lifting of Saudi Arabia’s 30-year cinema ban at the end of 2017, is due to unfold in Jeddah from March 12 to 21, 2020.
It is headed by filmmaker Mahmoud Sabbagh (Barakah Meets Barakah) in the role of festival director and CEO, with Shivani Pandya Malhotrain, former Dubai International Film Festival chief, as the new managing director.