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“NORAH”, A Saudi Film Backed by the Red Sea Fund, Achieves Official Selection at Cannes Film Festival

April 12, 2024

Achieving a new milestone, “Norah”, backed by the Red Sea Fund – one of the Red Sea Film Foundation Programs – and directed by Saudi filmmaker Tawfik Alzaidi, has been officially selected to participate in the Un Certain Regard section of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. This honor marks “Norah” as the first Saudi film to be recognized in such a capacity at Cannes, heralding a significant milestone on a global stage.

The feature film first premiered at the 3rd Red Sea International Film Festival and won the Film AlUla Award for best Saudi feature film. The film’s selection at Cannes highlights the artistic prowess of Alzaidi and showcases the vital role of the Red Sea Film Foundation in fostering exceptional cinematic talent from the region.

During the announcement of the 77th Cannes Film Festival line-up, Festival Director Thierry Frémaux specifically acknowledged the Red Sea International Film Festival for its transformative impact on the region’s cinematic landscape and how this comes as a testament for Saudi Arabia’s conviction for film and cinema.

Jomana R. Alrashid, the Chairwoman of the Red Sea Film Foundation, said: “’Norah’s’ trailblazing selection for the Cannes Film Festival is a recognition of the wealth of cinematic talent in Saudi, and the importance of our foundation in championing these creators. We were struck by the lyrical beauty of ‘Norah’ when we first encountered the project and have been proud to play a role in its journey to the screen, now culminating in this fantastic achievement.”

Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation said, “This is a milestone transformative moment to witness the work we are doing through The Red Sea Film Festival for Saudi cinema and the regional film community recognized in Thierry Frémaux’s words today. We are proud of Tawfik and celebrate his film being selected on behalf of all Saudi creatives – who can now see that their stories and their culture are included on a global stage.”

Set in Saudi Arabia in the 90s, “Norah” is a testimony to art as a liberation, centred on an illiterate young woman (newcomer Maria Bahrawiu) who seems to gain wings when a new teacher comes to her village and introduces her to painting, opening her confined life to a world of imaginative and expressive possibilities. Filmed against the dramatic desert backdrop of AlUla, “Norah” is a sensitive exploration of the relationship between creativity and what it means to be fully human. The film stars Yaqoub Alfarhan, Maria Bahrawi and Abdullah Alsadhan and is written, directed and produced by Alzaidi.

The Red Sea Film Foundation proudly supports groundbreaking projects like “Norah” through initiatives such as the Red Sea Fund, aiming to enrich the cultural landscape and increase the visibility of Saudi voices in the film industry.

Since its inception in 2021, the Red Sea Fund has supported over 250 films, including feature films, shorts, documentaries, series, and animated films, across four cycles covering all stages of film production, from development and production to post-production. Many films supported by the Fund have won several international awards over the years.