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RED SEA 2023 Awards

In Flames and The Teacher are the victors at a political Red Sea Film Festival awards ceremony

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- Other winners with European involvement included Omen by Baloji, Inshallah a Boy by Amjad Al Rasheed and Four Daughters by Kaouther Ben Hania

In Flames and The Teacher are the victors at a political Red Sea Film Festival awards ceremony
The Teacher director Farah Nabulsi collecting her award

Unapologetic politics, regional pride and some welcome Cage rage – the third Red Sea International Film Festival’s closing ceremony exemplified the particular flavour that the late-year event has become known for. The competition jury – headed up by Baz Luhrmann – awarded work that had a topical, political impetus, with British-Palestinian director Farah Nabulsi’s The Teacher [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
being singled out for two gongs (not to mention Palestinian actress Mouna Hawa’s win for Inshallah a Boy [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
) and Tarsem Singh’s Dear Jassi, a searing indictment of the Indian caste system, also a notable victor.

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As Nabulsi spoke when accepting an award for her leading man, Saleh Bakri, perhaps the most iconic Arab actor of his generation, she celebrated his “honesty” as his key gift, and followed that by expressing solidarity with Palestine and pleading to “end the genocide” – this received a warmer and more impassioned response from the Ritz-Carlton Theatre audience than that given to any prizewinner or onstage guest. One of the latter was one Nicolas Cage, wearing an all-red suit that only he could pull off, as he regaled the crowd with an anecdote about participating in a seminar with Jean-Luc Godard in San Francisco; earlier in the evening, Jason Statham, Andrew Garfield and Adrien Brody took selfie- and security guard-strewn walks through the opening reception.

Following its premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight, In Flames, the debut feature by young Pakistani-Canadian director Zarrar Kahn, hasn’t been so well-exposed elsewhere on the festival circuit, so its win here will undoubtedly be a great boost. Following the fortunes of a Karachi family in the aftermath of the grandfather’s death, which initiates a struggle for property rights owing to the country’s patriarchal inheritance laws, the youngest daughter Mariam begins experiencing nightmares that bleed into reality. On stage, Kahn hailed the film as costing “only $300,000, less than a single grant given by the Souk” – not accurate, but we see his line of thought.

The jury – composed of the aforementioned Elvis and Moulin Rouge! glam-auteur, plus actors Joel Kinnaman, Paz Vega, Freida Pinto and Amina Khalil – deigned not to highlight any Saudi filmmakers in their choices, with the Toronto-premiered Mandoob and the Red Sea world premiere Norah seeing critical acclaim, although the latter did pick up the Film Alula Best Saudi Film Award. Addressing the crowd, Luhrmann reiterated his feelings on the country’s cultural profile and development, highlighting the “young people who will embrace their future on their terms”; indeed, we wonder how the country will continue to be seen by international observers as it moves along its Saudi Vision 2030 roadmap.

All of the night’s award winners are as follows:

Golden Yusr for Best Feature Film
In Flames - Zarrar Kahn (Pakistan/Canada)

Silver Yusr for Best Feature Film
Dear Jassi - Tarsem Singh (India/Canada/USA)

Jury Award
The Teacher [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
- Farah Nabulsi (UK/Qatar/Palestine)

Best Director
Shokir Kholikov - Sunday (Uzbekistan)

Silver Yusr for Best Cinematic Contribution
Omen [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Baloji
film profile
]
- Baloji (Belgium/DR Congo/Netherlands/France/German/South Africa)

Best Screenplay
Karim Bensalah, Jamal Belmahi - Six Feet Over (Algeria/France)

Best Actress
Mouna Hawa - Inshallah a Boy [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(Jordan/Saudi Arabia/Qatar/France)

Best Actor
Saleh Bakri - The Teacher

Silver Yusr Short Film Award
Suitcase - Saman Hosseinpuor, Ako Zandkarimi (Iran)
Somewhere in Between - Dahlia Nemlich (France/Egypt/Lebanon)

Film Alula Audience Award
Hopeless - Kim Chang-Hoon (South Korea)

Film Alula Best Saudi Film Award
Norah - Tawfik Alzaidi (Saudi Arabia)

Asharq Documentary Award
Four Daughters [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Kaouther Ben Hania
film profile
]
- Kaouther Ben Hania (France/Tunisia/Germany/Saudi Arabia)

Young Rising Star Award by Chopard
Nour Alkhadra

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