In Flames

Source: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for The Red Sea International Film Festival

In Flames cast Omar Javaid, Ramesha Nawal, Bakhtawar Mazhar and producer Shant Joshi with the Golden Yusr award

Zarrar Kahn’s Karachi-set thriller In Flames won the $100,000 Golden Yusr award for best feature film at the 2023 Red Sea International Film Festival, which announced its winners on Thursday evening (December 7).

A Canada-Pakistan co-production and Pakistan’s entry to the Oscars, In Flames is the story of a mother and daughter trying to survive after losing the family patriarch. It world premiered in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight.

Indian production Dear Jassi, directed by Tarsem Singh, won the $30,000 Silver Yusr. Based on the true story of an Indian couple who fell foul of the class system, the film world premiered in Toronto’s Platform section.

British-Palestinian director Farah Nabulsi received the jury prize for her Palestinian feature The Teacher, starring Saleh Bakri who also won best actor award for his role.

Nabulsi was emotional while receiving the two awards on stage, saying that in her moment of happiness of winning she couldn’t ignore what is happening to the Palestinian people in Gaza: ”We have shot this film in Palestine in very difficult circumstances, so not to address the current devastation would be no less than shameful for me. Saleh’s honesty is his superpower. It manifests in his performances and make them exceptional. In the spirit of his honesty, as a Palestinian, I know that if he was here, he wouldn’t hesitate to say, ’Stop Genocide in Gaza’”.

Uzbekistan’s Shokir Kholikov won the best director prize for family drama Sunday. Mouna Hawa won the best actress trophy for her performance in Jordan’s Oscar submission Inshallah A Boy.

Among other awards, Saudi actress Nour AlKhadra won the rising star prize, having starred in festival’s opening film HWJN by Yasir AlYasiri and the Matchmaker by Abdulmohsen Aldhabaan.

The Red Sea competition jury was headed by director Baz Luhrmann.

The awards ceremony took place at the Ritz Carlton theatre in Jeddah. Nicholas Cage received a Red Sea honouree award, joining the festival’s 2023 honouree line-up of Diane Kruger, Ranveer Singh, and Abdullah Al-Sadhan. Cage wore a red suit for the occasion. Kristoffer Borgli’s comedy horror Dream Scenario, starring Cage will screen as the final festival Gala on Saturday (December 9).

The audience for the closing ceremony consisted of an eclectic mix of regional talent and UK, US and Bollywood stars, including Cage, Jason Statham, Halle Berry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Adrien Brody, Dhafer L’Abidine, Henry Golding, Andrew Garfield, Yousra, Kaouther Ben Hania, Alia Bhatt, Mahira Khan, Saswan Badr and Baloji.

The festival said this year was its biggest yet in terms of attendance with almost 6,000 accredited guests and more than 40,000 tickets sold across all screenings and In Conversations.

The festival continues until Saturday, December 9.

Red Sea International Film Festival 2023 winners

Golden Yusr for best film
In Flames (Pak-Can) dir. Zarrar Khan

Silver Yusr for best film
Dear Jassi (India) dir. Tarsem Singh Dhandwar

Best director
Sunday (Uzb) dir. Shokir Kholikov

Jury prize
The Teacher (UK-Pal-Qatar) dir. Farah Nabulsi

Best screenplay
Karim Bensalah and Jamal Belmahi, Six Feet Over (Alg-Fr)

Best actress
Mouna Hawa, Inshallah A Boy

Best actor
Saleh Bakri, The Teacher

Best cinematic contribution
Baloji, Omen (Bel-Neth-DRC)

Best documentary / Asharq Documentary award
Four Daughters (Fr-Saudi-Ger-Tun) dir. Kaouther Ben Hania

Young Rising star award
Saudi actress Nour Alkhadra

Film AlUla Audience Award: Saudi film
Norah dir. Tawfik Alzaidi

Film AlUla Audience Award: non-Saudi film
Hopeless (S Kor) dir. Kim Chang-Hoon