The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation (RSIFF) and Art Jameel, an organisation that supports artists and creative communities, announce a collaborative summer film programme that brings together international and Saudi documentary films to Hayy Cinema, Saudi Arabia’s first independent cinema and audio-visual centre in Jeddah. Red Sea Documentary Film Days (June 8-25, 2023) presents six acclaimed documentary films from France, Guinea, Syria, Iraq and Saudi, exploring migration, camaraderie and cinema archives.
Co-curated by RSIFF and Art Jameel, the selection showcases three international documentary films supported by The Red Sea Fund and three homegrown Saudi films. Together, the six films follow the documentarian’s camera, exploring the breadth of directorial modes that look at how theatre, cinema and television influence the auteur’s life and those around them.
“Documentaries are an integral and important part of film culture”, said Mohammed Al Turki, CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation, “It makes us reflect on what’s important as it also educates, raises awareness and changes opinions on many different issues. We are excited to showcase this medium as documentaries become more popular than ever, winning many of world cinema’s top festival prizes.”
Antonia Carver, Director of Art Jameel, added: “We are thrilled to bring Red Sea Documentary Film Days to Hayy Jameel and the wider Saudi public, extending Jeddah’s annual December “film festival spirit” throughout the year. Documentary films possess the power to unlock diverse perspectives, tell compelling stories, foster empathy and deepen our understanding. This is our third time collaborating with RSIFF on a stellar programme, underpinned by efforts to nurture an independent and homegrown film culture in Jeddah that fosters critical thinking, curiosity and creative expression and that opens up a world of cinema for all ages and backgrounds.”
‘Red Sea Documentary Film Days’ at Hayy Cinema includes:
Becoming Iphigenia (2022)
Director: Reem Alghazzi; Producer: Ramzy Haddad
A casting call brings together nine young Syrian women, aged between 20 and 27 years old, who have recently settled in Germany. They were chosen among several others to perform for the first time on stage, in a contemporary adaptation of the Greek tragedy Iphigenia, by Euripides, in the vein of what is known as “documentary theatre”.
The Cemetery of Cinema (2023)
Director: Thierno Soleymane Diallo; Producer: Maud Martin
In 1953, Mamadou Touré directed Mouramani, the first film made by a black African francophone which largely remains a mystery. Everyone has heard of it, but no one has seen it. No one knows where to find a copy if one even existed. A massive hit at the Berlin Film Festival, The Cemetery of Cinema is the search for that film.
My Lost Country (2022)
Director: Ishtar Yasin; Producer(s): Ishtar Yasin/ Meedo Ali/ Hala Lotfy
Iraqi theatre director Mohsen Sadoon Yasin has spent much of his life in involuntary exile. His daughter, Ishtar Yasin Gutiérrez, has constructed a loving film portrait of her father, and an elegy for a homeland to which they can never return. She tracks her father’s global travels using family photographs, theatre posters and newspaper clippings, as well as sound recordings and extracts from letters they sent to one another, with stamps from Costa Rica, Chile and Denmark.
Memories from the North (2022)
Country: Saudi Arabia
Director: Abdulmohsen Almutairi; Producer: Sultan Alayed
It’s been 30 years since the Gulf War of 1990-1991 and a crew of filmmakers who witnessed the events as children set out on a journey across Saudi Arabia to capture stories of people who lived through the war.
The King’s Poem (2022)
Country: Saudi Arabia
Director: Abdulwahab Bin Shaddad
The King’s Poem is a documentary produced by Thmanyah Company for Publishing and Distribution. It recounts the story of a young Saudi poet who receives the prestigious title The Prince of Poets (Amir Al-Shu’ara) and is nominated to recite a welcome poem before King Salman. However, one word would turn this festive evening into a nightmare. Haydar Al-Abdullah and his poem gained sudden fame on Twitter after that evening. For six years now, the poet’s timeline is still haunted with tweets and video clips ridiculing his choice of the word Suknana.
Yallah, Yallah, Beenah! (2022)
Country: Saudi Arabia
Director: Mohammed Hammad
A film junkie, whose house is a shrine to cinema, revels in describing his wares to a documentary film crew when presto, we find ourselves slipping through a wormhole. In a parallel universe, a gang of pre-teen kids are sent on a psychedelic mission to save humanity and escape the spell laid on them by a coven of witches.
To learn more about the programme and book tickets, visit hayycinema.org