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RED SEA 2023 Red Sea Souk / Awards

Rani Massalha’s The Return of the Prodigal Son takes home the top production award from the Red Sea Souk

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- A co-production involving Egypt, Tunisia and France, the film follows a Coptic Christian pig farmer and his struggles amidst the 2009 swine flu outbreak

Rani Massalha’s The Return of the Prodigal Son takes home the top production award from the Red Sea Souk
Director Rani Massalha (centre) clutching his award for The Return of the Prodigal Son

The Red Sea Souk, the production market of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival, gave out a total of 26 prizes with a cash value of $880,000 at its awards ceremony on Tuesday. With the festival and its accompanying market only three editions old, its desire to enhance both the Saudi industry and that of the wider region is surely making itself known. The country lifted its 35-year ban on cinemas in 2018, in conjunction with further social modernisation, and its vast investment in culture and sport – with attendant international ramifications – can’t be ignored.

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The top prize of $100,000 – a greater sum than is usually given out at these events – was awarded to Rani Massalha for his film The Return of the Prodigal Son. Co-produced by Egypt (the director’s nationality), Tunisia and France, its intriguing premise follows Salem, a Coptic Christian pig farmer, whose livelihood is threatened when the pre-Arab Spring Mubarak government passes a law to slaughter all pigs following the 2009 swine flu outbreak. The filmmaker also produced the successful recent titles Sibel [+see also:
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and Gaza Mon Amour [+see also:
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, and made his own directorial debut with Giraffada [+see also:
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in 2013.

Massalha explained his vision further in a statement: “The pigs of Egypt were ‘sacrificed’ under political pressure and the hysterical media coverage organised by the Muslim Brotherhood, crystallising the structural violence of Egyptian social relations. I intend to make an intimate thriller, from Salem’s unique perspective, following his obsessive need to make the right choices and regain his individuality.”

Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation, commented, “The winners of this year’s Red Sea Souk awards are the cinematic voices of tomorrow, and we are thrilled to play a part in the development of their talent and storytelling, which will undoubtedly yield success and international recognition.”

Other noteworthy awardees include Danielle Arbid’s Love Conquers All, with Succession actress Hiam Abbass, in which she plays a widow who falls in love with a far younger illegal immigrant, and When I Close My Eyes, I See Your Eyes from Sameh Alaa, whose short I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face was the first by an Egyptian to win the short-film Palme d’Or at Cannes. The Project Market jury itself was made up of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić, and producers Jean Bréhat, Lamia Chraibi and Oumar Sall.

The complete set of awards, granted across all sections, is as follows:

Project Market Awards
The Return of the Prodigal Son - Rani Massalha (Egypt/Tunisia/France)
When I Close My Eyes, I See Your Eyes - Sameh Alaa (Egypt)
Love Conquers All - Danielle Arbid (Lebanon/France)

Lodge Awards
By Hasnaa’s Side - Ghaidaa Abuazzah (Saudi Arabia)
Fantastic Tale - Vincho Nchogu (Nigeria)
Black Snake - Nashe Nyamubaya (Zimbabwe)
My Father Killed Bourghiba - Fatma Riahi (Tunisia/Qatar)

Work-in-progress Awards
Yunan - Ameer Fakher Eldin (Palestine/Germany/Canada/Italy/Jordan)
My Semba - Hugo Salvaterra (Angola)

MBC Academy/Shahid Awards
In the Beginning, It Is the End - Ghadeer Binabbas (Saudi Arabia)
By Hasnaa’s Side - Ghaidaa Abuazzah
Madness and Honey Days - Ahmed Yassin Al-Daradji (Iraq/Canada)

Ithra Award
The Night Whisperer - Lina Mahmoud (Saudi Arabia)

CineWaves Distribution Award
Mecca, Berlin - Mujtaba Saeed (Saudi Arabia/UAE/Germany)

Arab Radio and Television Network Awards
Love Conquers All - Danielle Arbid
The Night Whisperer - Lina Mahmoud

Titrafilm Award
Animale - Emma Benestan (Algeria/France/Belgium)

Shift Studios Awards
Rising up at Night [+see also:
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- Nelson Makengo (DR Congo/Belgium/Germany/Burkina Faso)
My Semba - Hugo Salvaterra
Men in the Sun - Mahdi Fleifel (Palestine/UK/Greece/Netherlands/France/Germany)

Oticons Award
Men in the Sun - Mahdi Fleifel

MAD Solutions Award
Nostalgia: A Life in First Chapters - Ameer Fakher Eldin (Syria/Germany/Italy)

Arab Cinema Center Awards (granting places in IFFR’s Producers Lab)
By Hasnaa’s Side - Ghaidaa Abuazzah
The Girl and the Missing Bed - Samer Battikhi (Jordan/Lebanon)

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