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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s support for the film industry continues with the Red Sea Fund announcing its graduate laureates, which will mean financial resources to carry out their projects.

The fund, administered by the Red Sea Film Foundation, has allocated approximately $100,000 to 23 individual projects which will cover production, distribution and screening.

The goal is to provide a more diverse set of films to global audiences and better serve Saudi and Arab filmmakers.

“It means a lot to us that the Red Sea Fund believes in this story enough to fund it. It is both an honor and a responsibility,” Saudi filmmaker Talha B. told Arab News. He will co-direct the winning project “Lithium” with fellow creative Amro B.

The feature film tackles the subject of bipolar disorder and the silent suffering of people with mental health issues in the Arab region.

“It is a great responsibility to present this subject in a positive yet honest way, and we intend to give it the justice it deserves… It touches on a subject that we rarely admit to having in our society. We hope bolder stories like this will be told candidly because, like physical health, mental health matters too,” Talha said.

The film is currently in development and is set to premiere at the 2023/2024 Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah.

The rest of the 23 selections include shorts, documentaries, animated films and documentaries, with five submitted from Africa, 11 from the Arab region and seven from Saudi directors.

The goal is to help young and ambitious filmmakers carve out a place for themselves in the industry.

“It’s very fresh and exciting to see the great things that Red Sea Films are doing and showcasing to filmmakers in Saudi Arabia and around the world. The films funded say a lot about the understanding of the creative process and the knowledge -do behind the walls of their visionary team and original thinking,” Anas BaTahaf, the filmmaker and future producer of the selected film “Hayat Yousef,” told Arab News.

BaTahaf is teaming up with longtime collaborator Sarah Taibah who will join as screenwriter on the upcoming project which features meaningful character arcs, quirks, mixed genres and “high tension” absurdity, all wrapped up in a comedy contemporary dark romantic.

“Taibah’s knowledge and in-depth understanding of romance – from his various art projects on the study of love as a feeling and a theme during a wide range of artistic residencies around the world – is another quality that gives him my full trust when it comes to telling this story,” said BaTahaf.

The goal of telling unconventional stories is the reason for the selection of “Red Eye”, which will be directed by filmmaker Mohammad Jastaniah.

“After so much trial and error and rejection, it’s good to see perseverance once again paying off, not to mention being supported by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation – a place I call my house. It’s special,” Jastaniah told Arab News.

The film is an “allegory” of the artist’s experience in Arabia, he said. “Red Eye” follows the story of a man navigating the stigma of being a rock star, battling his own demons and dealing with his relationship with his father.

“It speaks for those who stand out in the crowd, and there are so many of us, especially in these exciting times of change happening in the Kingdom. Pinch me because it feels like a dream,” Jastaniah said.

“I’m very excited for our film and all the other films that have won (support)….The local filmmakers deserve all the praise and support,” BaTahaf said.

He said he looked forward to his friends seeing the “great” movies that were made.