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What to expect from the first Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah

Conceived in 2019, Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival begins Monday with a host of Arab and international stars expected to descend on the city.

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Known for its artistic bent in a Kingdom that has made strides to promote creative industries in recent years, Jeddah has long been the focal point of the Saudi film scene.

The festival, which runs until December 16, will be held in the city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Red Sea International Film Festival was due to hold its inaugural event in March of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic halted events worldwide.

Cinema was officially banned in Saudi Arabia until reforms ushered in by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman lifted restrictions with a screening of Marvel’s Black Panther in April 2018.

In November, the Saudi Film Commission announced a strategy designed to grow the film industry’s revenue to $500 million.

Local and international star power

The festival will exhibit some of Saudi Arabia’s finest filmmaking talent alongside international big-hitters.

Romantic musical Cyrano — directed by Joe Wright and starring Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame — will open the festival.

The Maggie Gyllenhaal-directed The Lost Daughter will also be screened.

It follows the story of an English professor who strikes up an uneasy friendship while on holiday in Greece.

The film stars Dakota Johnson, Olivia Coleman, and Jessie Buckley.

A total of 27 Saudi films will also be shown at the nine-day festival.

Five Saudi directors collaborated to put together Becoming, a film that takes a deep look at contemporary life in the Kingdom through five different storylines.

These include a 40-year-old hairdresser’s struggles with contemplating an abortion, a bride who disappears on the night of her wedding, and an infertility healer whose life intersects with a young pharmacist trying to get pregnant.

Becoming was directed jointly by Sara Mesfer, Jawaher Alamri, Noor Alameer, Hind Alfahhad, and Fatima al-Banawi.

Fay’s Palette, directed by Jeddah-based Anas Batahaf, follows the eponymous protagonist who lives a secluded life, expressing her inner world through painting.

Junoon is a horror film directed by Riyadh’s Maan bin Abdulrahman. It tells the story of Khalid, a wannabe vlogger who travels to Southern California to document paranormal happenings.

Lebanese director Omar Naim’s Route Ten will premiere at the festival.

The plot centers on siblings Maryam and Nasser who are planning to travel from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi to attend their father’s wedding until their flight is canceled.

Forced to make the journey by car instead, the two spend the time confronting a frayed relationship strained by their mother’s death and overbearing father – all the while facing unexpected perils of the desert road.

Awards show

Several awards with prizes of up to $100,000 can be won by filmmakers at the festival.

Both feature-length and short films will be judged. There are categories designed to foster emerging Saudi talent, as well as international directors.

The New Saudi category is open to new and established directors who have produced films in which the lead creatives are from the Kingdom. The films must be produced or shot in Saudi Arabia.

The Tajreeb category focuses on Saudi films that are more experimental in nature.

Organizers selected judges from within the film community who have not taken part in the production of any film entered in the competition.

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Dubai announces new timings for paid parking, metro, buses during Ramadan 2023

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced new timings for paid parking zones and public transportation during Ramadan on Tuesday.
The revised timings for the Islamic holy month will go into effect from Thursday, officially the first day of Ramadan.

Paid Parking

The paid parking zones across the city will be split into two payable time slots. The first shift will start at 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., and the second paid shift will begin at 8:00 p.m. until midnight from Monday to Saturday.
The Tecom zone F was not included in the revision so paid parking is still enforced from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Parking in paid zones will remain free on Sundays and multi-story car parks are 24-hour paid parking zones.

Public Transportation

The Dubai metro will run from 5:00 a.m. to midnight, from Monday to Thursday and on Saturday.
On Friday, both the red and green lines will operate from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. the following day.
On Sunday, both lines will run from 8:00 a.m. to midnight.
The Dubai tram will run from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. the following day, from Monday to Saturday.
On Sunday, the light rail system will operate from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. the following day.
All current intercity bus routes operating from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Sharjah, Ajman, and Fujairah will run from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. the following day.
The metro feeder bus service within Dubai will coincide with the first and last metro timing.
Vehicle testing centers, including Tasjeel and Shamil will be closed on Sundays during the holy month.
A detailed list of revised timings for other means of public transportation including the water bus, Abra, and Dubai Ferry, and other RTA services are available online.

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Russia’s Black Sea Fleet thwarts drone attack on Crimea’s Sevastopol

The Russian navy “repelled” a drone attack on the port of Sevastopol in Moscow-annexed Crimea early on Wednesday, the Kremlin-backed governor of the city said.
The peninsula, seized by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, is home to Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet and has been hit by a series of drone attacks since the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine.
The attack came just four days after President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Sevastopol.
For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.
“In total, three objects have been destroyed,” the Russian-installed governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said on Telegram.
He said military personnel had shot at the drones with “small arms” and that “air defense was also working.”
Razvozhayev added there were no casualties and claimed no ships had been damaged, but said that the explosions blew out windows in nearby buildings.
These included the Moscow House cultural center, a well-known building that is beyond the port.
But Razvozhayev downplayed the attack, saying the navy “confidently and calmly” repelled it. He urged calm saying the “situation was under control.”
In a later post, he dismissed reports that people were leaving Crimea, saying it was a “lie” spread by Kyiv.
“Information is spreading about evacuations from the peninsula by ferry crossings and other such nonsense,” he said.
A day earlier Kyiv said Russian missiles were destroyed in a blast in Crimea, but denied responsibility for the incident.
In October, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was hit by a major drone attack that the Kremlin blamed on Ukraine.
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Taliban acting finance minister becomes central bank governor

The Taliban administration’s former acting finance minister, Mullah Hidayatullah Badri, has been appointed as governor of Afghanistan’s central bank, a finance ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

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Badri, who acted as the Taliban’s finance minister and oversaw budgets after they regained power in 2021, had already taken up his new role, finance ministry spokesman Ahmad Wali Haqmal told Reuters.

The reason for the appointment and who would replace Badri at the finance ministry were not immediately clear. His predecessor as central bank governor was Haji Mohammad Idris.

Badri was head of the economic commission of the Taliban government, as they conducted a 20-year insurgency against the former Western-backed government of Afghanistan, according to Taliban officials. In that time, he ran most of the Taliban’s fundraising, they say.

Afghanistan’s central bank appointments have been closely watched by Washington, which froze billions of the bank’s reserves held in the US and later transferred half of the money to a trust fund in Switzerland overseen by US, Swiss and Afghan trustees.

One of several proposed US conditions on considering letting the central bank access to the funds has been replacement of senior Taliban members at the institution with experienced professionals. The aim would be to build confidence in the central bank being insulated from political interference.

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