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“Legendary filmmaker Oliver Stone has been chosen to lead the jury of the Red Sea: Features Competition jury,” organizers said. “The three-time Academy Award winner is behind some of the all-time masterpieces of cinema, including Scarface, The Doors, Wall Street, JFK, Midnight Express, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Nixon and Natural Born Killers.”
The festival also unveiled its opening film: What’s Love Got to Do With It?, directed by Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth, Bandit Queen), written by Jemima Khan and produced by StudioCanal and Working Title. The film stars Lily James, Shazad Latif, Shabana Azmi, Sajal Aly, Asim Chaudhry and Emma Thompson. “Sliding between London and Lahore, love and friendship, tradition and iconoclasm, What’s Love Got to Do With It? is a cross-cultural British romantic comedy that follows a filmmaker who decides to document her best friend’s journey toward an arranged marriage,” the fest said.
Meanwhile, its closing film will be the world premiere of Valley Road from Saudi writer and director Khaled Fahd and starring Hamad Farhan, Naif Khalaf and Aseel Omran. “An uplifting and enchanting feature that follows Ali, who is perceived by his family and the people of the beautiful Saudi Arabian mountain village where he lives, Alwadi, as having a disability,” according to a plot description. “Only his older sister Siham recognizes that his difference is part of him. The film beautifully explores human values and encounters that can forge a personality and invites us to take a better look at the fragile people around us.”
The Red Sea International Film Festival overall will screen 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries in 41 languages “from both established and emerging talent” and will host 34 world premieres, 17 Arab premieres and 47 Middle East and North Africa premieres, “with a number of filmmakers and actors in attendance for many of the films,” organizers said. More films are expected to be added in the coming weeks.
The festival world premieres will include Saudi director Fahad Alammari’s Alkhallat+, “an anthology film of social deception and trickery in four unlikely places,” and Lebanese director Lara Saba’s All Roads Lead to Rome, “a romantic comedy in the unlikely setting of a convent.”
Also set for Red Sea festival screenings are such favorites from earlier festivals as Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness, Broker, the South Korean drama directed and written by Hirokazu Kore-eda inspired by the country’s baby box phenomenon, Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin and Park Chan-Wook’s Decision to Leave, along with Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light.
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Samuel L. Jackson