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Red Sea International Film Festival

The second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival (RedSeaIFF) will run in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from December 1-10, 2022.
The inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival took place from December 6 -15, 2021 with live dailies on

The Red Sea International Film Festival brings the best in Arab and World Cinema to Jeddah Old Town. The Festival showcases exciting new films on the Saudi big-screen, alongside retrospective programs celebrating the masters of cinema, the latest Saudi films, and feature and short film competitions. There are also industry events and workshops nurturing the next generation of talent.

In ‘Celebration of Women in Cinema’, the Red Sea International Film Festival (RedSeaIFF), hosted a gala event this evening at the 75th Cannes International Film Festival on the grounds of the magnificent Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cap d’Antibes.


BECOMING - interviews with 4 bad-ass Lady filmmakers: Hind Alfahhad, Jowaher Alamri, Sara Mesfer et Fatima Al-Banawi



Interview with Directors: Hind Alfahhad, Jowaher Alamri, Sara Mesfer et Fatima Al-Banawi

Jawaher Alamri, Emmanuel Itier, Hind Alfahhad

Interview by Emmanuel Itier for

If there was one movie not to miss at The Red Sea International Film Festival of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia It is: ‘Becoming’ ( ). Not only this is the first Saudi movie combining the enlightening visions of five brilliant female directors but it is a film that pushes the limit to subject matters that were taboo or even forbidden in the land of Arabia. We were honored to share a moment with four of these exceptional souls while being the guest of the festival. Fasten your mind-belt and jump on our thinking flying carpet…


Q: You movie ‘Becoming’ is the beginning of the change we want to see in the region?


Sara Mesfer: Yes, and I think this moment is not only important but all the moments that are coming after. We need to have more and more women getting involved with film and expressing their voice. It’s a collective effort and I feel we are on the right path. The proof things are changing is the subject of my short within this collective movie, ‘Becoming’. My subject is abortion attempted by a 40 year old woman. And, of course this is a delicate subject since it’s not allowed in Saudi Arabia but I was not censored and this is the proof that a new sense of freedom of speech is here and it’s here to stay. It’s important to talk about subjects that are important for women. It’s crucial to speak about women’s body and her needs because this is something that has never been accepted until now. The choice of a woman having a baby today is not a reality but I hope mentalities will change. Maybe my film can help the conversation move in the right direction.




Jowaher: I agree the time is now and it has improved greatly in recent times. Imagine we didn’t have any movie theatres just 3 years ago! The change is happening right now. Our stories are very truthful to the situation. Even so some of our stories are controversial they are the reality of the people. In my case I’m talking about a girl who is having her puberty. Usually this is a delicate subject to approach but not anymore.



Hind: I’m a filmmaker, a woman filmmaker, in Saudi Arabia since 2012. So the change has been gradual. What is different right now, like my colleagues said, is that we can screen our films in cinemas and this is a huge progress. Our voices were heard around the world but now we can bring our message and our voice at home. It’s important to share with our people here in Saudi Arabia. What is important to me is not to be controversial for the sake of being controversial but to tell a story that touches me and touches people around me. My film is about Alzheimer and this is also a delicate subject. It’s a beautiful human struggle this illness and this was important for me to tackle with this important matter.



Fatima: Yes, things have greatly changed in Saudi Arabia. I think the title of our film is so appropriate. Because in Arabic the title of ‘Becoming’ is ‘Bolour’ which means “puberty” and it is indeed the notion of “becoming”. It’s all about becoming something, reaching for something, to manifest. So, the title is an invitation for women empowerment but also, it’s about all of us who want to become somebody and achieve something with our lives. It’s highly inspiring and motivating.



Q: Do you think you can truly put everything on the screen right now, even two people kissing?


Sara Mesfer: A kiss, I don’t know but nobody has attempted to film it yet. Maybe the censor bureau would be ok with it. We have to try and see what happens.





Q: Was it an easy process to become a film director?


Sara Mesfer: No, it was very difficult and besides we didn’t even have movie theatres when I grew up and when I decided to become a director. It wasn’t an easy path making a career of this passion. Even with your family it’s not a simple process because the change is slow and gradual. My mother was very supportive even so she is very religious and she has always supported my choices. Even with my dad there was always a discussion. It took a lot of patience from both side to get to this point of peace of mind.

Jowaher: It wasn’t simple but since I’m a little girl I have been fascinated by film, especially Egyptian films as I’m half Egyptian. It was a struggle and it took many years to get to this point but it shows that with hard work you get to where you want to land.



Q: Do you see real changes and beyond the acceptance matters, is there real respect for women? Also, why did the change happen now?


Jowaher: Absolutely, it is changing, and I feel respect is all around us as women. I think the change is happening, finally, now because it helps the economy. We cannot continue to live by and with ourselves. We need to build bridges of communication and collaboration with the rest of the world. Oil was the old currency of our country but now, little by little, it will be tourism and services…and of course: movies.

Hind: Yes, the respect is here. It took some time but now women are fairly and equally accepted in society. Look at me I found respect as a director since 2012. It’s very impressive. And it’s amazing that we can inspire other girls, other women to follow in our steps. It’s all about being strong and keeping the focus.

Fatima: Indeed, we are being respected. Look at me, I’m driving now, and I love it. And I don’t encounter anyone making remarks about my driving. I learned to drive in Jeddah even, so I lived in the US for many years while studying abroad. And I learned the driving by the book, not like most men of Saudi who learned from their dad or brothers. The proof we keep getting respect is the continuation of my work as a director and as an actress. I’m not sure why the change is happening now but what I care about is that it’s happening. I just want to enjoy the moment.

Next, I’m directing a movie about a father and his daughter: ‘Basma’. This is the name of the girl, but it also means “smile” in Arabic. It’s a very emotional film with a beautiful ark for my character. It’s a movie about change. You can’t stop the change to happen. Change is “becoming”, indeed.

Fatima al-banawi  / Sara Mester

About Red Sea International Film Festival