Saudi Arabia Film Festival – Building Cultural Bridges
And India at the Red Sea Festival?
KA: With India being a major producer in the world, we had 62 entries for the festival, all of which were viewed. There were a lot of tough decisions to come up with the choice we made—Paka. And I know it’s from Bangladesh, but Rehana is in the final selection. Thus, out of 16 films, two come from the Indian subcontinent.
Then we also wanted to make sure there was an African film, so we put Saloum.
One of the great things we did was to include Iranian films in the festival selection. We have Take the road, in competition, as well as a number of [other] great Iranian films populate the program.
We wanted the festival favorites to be represented for the new type of cinephile that we hope to develop in Saudi Arabia; watch the kind of arthouse movies that never got a chance to play in Saudi Arabia. Not even on TV or on platforms. These are all new films that will push the boundaries and hopefully open up the market to a new kind of filmmaker, which would help independent filmmakers around the world.
So, would independent and young cinema be the driving force?
I wouldn’t necessarily say young when you’re looking to celebrate a whole range of everyone. Regardless of age and origin, it really was. Which films correspond to the idea of metamorphosis? There were a number of wonderful movies we watched from India—Dostojee, pebbles, fire in the mountains. There were some great movies but they didn’t quite fit the theme of the festival this year. And it is no small matter how good they did not compete.
The other Indian film is ‘Joi Baba Felunath’…
The English title is The elephant god… Obviously that year, with Ray’s centenary, we wanted to celebrate that. He is a very popular filmmaker in the West. And that is for many moviegoers the father of Indian cinema – independent Indian cinema, obviously not the most popular Indian cinema. And we wanted to bring that to the audience and say that there is a very rich tradition of Indian films. There are new archivists looking at old products and how they can preserve the memory of Indian cinema. And we really support this in our Treasures section. We are very interested in where to create a new archive, as it shouldn’t just be the old classics from Hollywood, Britain and France that are celebrated. We also have rich stories around the world.