Edouard Waintrop of the Red Sea Film Festival will not return

As the Red Sea Film Festival, Saudi Arabia’s premier international film event, kicks off, it has become clear that the artistic director of the first milestone edition of the festival will not be in charge of programming the second.

Edouard Waintrop, former head of the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, was clearly absent on Monday during the opening gala of the Vox Cinemas multiplex in the historic Al Balad district in Jeddah.

Instead of being on the starry red carpet, Waintrop was at home in Spain suffering from exhaustion, he said, awaiting the results of several medical exams after testing negative for COVID-19. And he won’t be coming back to Jeddah, at least not as a party leader.

“For me it was always meant to be a one-shot,” Waintrop said. Variety, adding: “I never even had a one-year contract; they were always renewable contracts for a few months.

Waintrop was appointed artistic director of the Red Sea fest in June, having previously served as an advisor to this ambitious event. The festival is part of an ongoing concerted effort to help spur Saudi Arabia’s current rise in all aspects of film industry activity following the lifting of its 35-year religious ban on the cinema in 2017.

“The idea has always been to successfully deliver the inaugural edition and push the boundaries of Arab cinema; show the world that the region has changed over the past three years, ”said Waintrop.

“The festival is meant to attract a new generation of people aged 19 to 40 who are educated and more progressive, and they benefit from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to modernize the region,” Waintrop added, citing the women driving rights, the opening of cinemas and the upcoming launch of an arthouse chain of cinemas.

“We have the best selection of Arab films we could have hoped for, with films addressing contemporary issues like the role of women and male violence,” he continued. “The big battle we fought during the selection process was to free ourselves from censorship and we succeeded.”

This battle, as well as the assembly of a program comprising 138 films from 67 countries, was apparently a gargantuan task and also very exhausting. The first edition of the Red Sea Fest runs until December 15.


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