The Seven Saudi Films You Don’t Wanna Miss in this Year’s Edition of RSIFF

Five years ago, no one would have thought that Saudi Arabia would open its doors to progress this much in such a little amount of time. When the cinema ban was lifted in 2017, the filmmaking industry exploded in Saudi Arabia, and now the Gulf nation is on the verge of establishing itself as one of the major go-to cinematic hubs of the region.

Courtesy of GQ Middle East

In the two years that it has been running, the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) has become an international event, championing culture, embracing the arts, and opening doors for young, talents to prove to the world that Saudi could indeed become the region’s production powerhouse.

This year’s edition has only confirmed what has been on the mind of many of the movers and shakers of the filmmaking industry, with films that dared into the unknown, exploring new frontiers, and on the journey, teaching us a little about Saudi Arabia and its capable people. So without further ado, here are the Saudi films that have lifted quite the international mark in this year’s edition of RSFF.

Valley Road

Valley Road, Courtesy of Deadline

Khaled Fahd’s debut feature, “Valley Road,” is an epic that follows Ali, a boy suffering from selective mutism, as he treads through a wondrous valley to reach a doctor in the neighboring village. An unexpected journey awaits Ali, as he finds himself lost in the middle of nowhere,

The film features singer and influencer Aseel Omran, TV personality Mohammed El Shehri, actor Naif Khalaf Althaqeel, and 10-year-old Hamad Farhan. “Valley Road is the first Arab production to secure a G-rating, and it was selected to be the closing film of this year’s edition of RSFF.


The cast of “Al-Khallat+”, Courtesy of Ahram Online

After becoming a YouTube staple for Gulf and Arab Youth,  achieving more than 1.5 billion views in the process, “Al-Khalat +” is ready to become more than a series of well-prepared, spot-on sketches and evolve into a concept of its own. The film is directed by Fahd Al-Ammari.

The Saudi Netflix feature tells the stories of four social misfortunes: thieves infiltrate a marriage to rescue their partner in crime, a cook puts the reputation of her restaurant at risk to stop her parents’ divorce, a man returns to the mortuary to bury the secret of a deceased friend, and a mother who searches for her lost son in a nightclub.

Raven Song

Scene from “Raven Song,” Courtesy of Red Sea International Film Festival.

Saudi Arabia’s 2023 Oscar entry “Raven Song” is about Nasser, a seemingly ordinary character, who is diagnosed with brain cancer early on in the film. Nasser’s life turns upside down when he meets an enigmatic young woman, who he falls in love with. He fights against time to try and sway her only to find himself in the midst of a cultural war between traditional and progressive poets.

Mohamed Al Salman’s debut feature explores the intellectual battles of poets of the early 2000s with his satiric treatment of “Raven Song”

Al Salman is a Saudi film director who grew up in the city of Al Hasa, Saudi Arabia. In 2014, he got into cinema and began creating short films. Two of which are on Netflix, “27th of Shaban” and “Curtain,” as part of the Six Windows in the Desert film collection.

How I Got There

“How I Got There,” Courtesy of IMDB.

Ziyad Al Husseini’s Saudi-Kuwaiti joint production “How I Got There” is about two childhood friends who stumble on a cache of weapons, and decide to double down on what seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. Their get-rich-quick strategy reaches a halt, when they find themselves face-to-face with the underground world of gun-dealing, mercenaries, and local gangs.

Between the Sands

“Between the Sands,” Courtesy of NEOM.

“Between the Sands” by Saudi filmmaker Mohammed Al-Atawi, follows Sanam, a tobacco trader on his journey between the sands of the Arabian desert. Anxious to be with his wife when she gives birth to their firstborn child, he decides to deviate from the caravan as a shortcut to his village. Sanam is then ambushed by a group of thieves. After they rob him of his supplies, he is adamant to survive. His path crosses with that of a majestic wolf. The two find solace in one another. Later on, his tribe denounces this friendship, leading to a dispute that only widens the rift between him and his society.

The film explores the struggles of rebellion and submission, in a story based on real events and filmed in the city of NEOM for the first time.

“Between the Sands” writer and director, Mohamed Alatawi is a Saudi filmmaker, who grew up during a time when filmmaking was banned. But as he found his passion in cinema, he decided to pursue a film career in London.


“Slave,” Courtesy of Heya Magazine.

“Slave,” tells the story of Sakkir and his wife, Latifa, who find themselves the target of backlash, as a wave of societal anger grows relentless because of a movie that goes against their expectations. Instead of going against the ideologies of society, Sakkir goes back in time by using magical marbles. He then enters an endless loop of trying to please society.

The film stars Mohammed Ali, Khairiah Abulaban, and Ziyad Alamri.


“Sattar,” Courtesy of YouTube.

“Satar,” directed by Abdullah Al-Arak, revolves around the story of Saad, who is training to become a professional wrestler, and soon after when a well-established wrestling organization offers him an opportunity to turn his dream into a reality. Saad auditions in Riyadh, and when he fails the test, the agent, Ali Hogan, offers him another chance, through which they try to use the Riyadh circuits as a platform to reach the world.

Abdullah Al-Arak is one of Saudi’s most creative directors, producing works such as the Darwishat series, the Urim series, the first season of Net Florx, and a second one, which will air in 2023, as well as the series “Once Upon a Time.”



Mohammed Kotb
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