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Grants Awarded to Berlinale Award Winner Mohamed Ben Attia’s Behind the Mountains, Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane’s Backstage, Three Additional Titles through Final Cut Programme


Red Sea Fund is supporting Berlinale Silver Bear award winner Mohamed Ben Attia’s Behind the Mountains which is set to premiere at the 80th Venice International Film Festival, Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane’s Backstage which premieres as part of the Giornate degli Autori, as well as three titles through the Final Cut programme, a Venice Production Bridge initiative. 

Tunisian auteur Mohamed Ben Attia’s Behind the Mountains follows the story of Rafik, who, after spending four years in jail, plans to take his son behind the mountains to show him an amazing discovery. Majd Mastoura stars in the lead role, having also worked with Ben Attia on his breakout drama, Hedi, for which he won the Silver Bear Award at Berlinale for Best Actor. The Red Sea Fund supported Behind the Mountains during both the production and post-production phases, awarding it two rounds of funding across 2021 and 2022.

The Moroccan film Backstage, directed by Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane, is a mesmerizing dancing road movie that showcases the remarkable choreography of Belgian-Moroccan artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. The directors skillfully delve into the lives of a dance troupe, exposing the intricate internal dynamics that involve petty conflicts, score-settling, as well as the revelation of hidden secrets and personal confessions. The project was supported by Red Sea Fund in its fourth Post-Production Cycle 2022.

The projects supported through the Final Cut programme by Red Sea Fund are as follows:

She Was Not Alone dir. Hussein Al-Asadi

(Iraq, Saudi Arabia, USA)

GENRE: Documentary


A poetic meditation on the life of Fatima, a nomadic woman who lives alone in Iraq’s wetlands with her animals. As ecological collapse forces migration to the city, our collective fates become intertwined with hers: will she stay or be dispossessed of everything she knows and loves?


Zion Music dir. Rama Thiaw

(Senegal, France, Ivory Coast, Germany)

GENRE: Documentary


Zion Music is a musical, political, and spiritual odyssey in the heart of the African continent.

It goes back to the 1970s and travels through the political history of Africa through musicians, songs, and hidden meanings in the songs.


Allah Is Not Obliged Allah N’est Pas Obligé dir. Zaven Najjar

(France, Luxembourg, Canada, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, USA)

GENRE: Animation


When ten-year-old Birahima’s mother dies, he leaves his native village in Guinea to search for his aunt Mahan with the sorcerer and cook Yacouba. When they cross the border into Liberia, they are seized by rebels and forced into military service and Birahima becomes a child-soldier.


Since 2019, the Red Sea Film Fund has supported the development, production, and post-production of 170 films from the Arab world and Africa. 


Mohammed Al Turki; CEO of the Red Sea IFF, said: “The projects we have the honour of backing at Venice Film Festival come from incredible filmmakers and perfectly illustrate the aims of the Red Sea Film Foundation to elevate the work of Arabic and African talent across a spectrum of genres. We have championed Mohamed’s latest project, Behind the Mountains, throughout its lifecycle, and it’s a true testament to the work of the foundation that he is able to bring it to audiences at this year’s Venice Film Festival. We’ve also supported Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane’s lyrical exploration of dance and dancers Backstage which we are delighted to see premiering in Giornate degli Autori. We’re excited to be backing three Final Cut projects and to be part of this vital strand in Venice once again.”


Final Cut in Venice is the industry program that has been providing concrete support since 2013 in the completion of films from all African countries and from five countries of the Middle East: Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. Final Cut in Venice is one of the projects launched by the Venice Production Bridge of the 80th Venice International Film Festival (August 30th – September 9th, 2023), directed by Alberto Barbera and organised by La Biennale di Venezia. The program offers the opportunity to present films still in production phase to international film professionals, in order to facilitate post-production and film market access.


The program consists of three days of activities (September 3rd to 5th 2023) on the Venice Lido during the 80th Venice Film Festival, in which the working copies of the seven selected films are introduced to producers, buyers, distributors, post-production companies and film festival programmers. Red Sea International Film Festival, through the Red Sea Fund, is a contributing partner in the initiative.



The third edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival will run in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from November 30th – December 9th 2023. 


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