Pakistani-Canadian Horror Film ‘In Flames’ Wins Top Prize at Red Sea Film Festival Amid Calls for Peace in Palestine

At the closing ceremony of the 3rd edition of the Red Sea Film Festival Thursday, which took place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in front of an audience that included Hollywood stars Nicolas Cage, Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Jason Statham and Adrien Brody, the Golden Yusr for best film and a $100,000 cash prize went to Pakistani-Canadian horror film “In Flames,” directed by Zarrar Kahn.

The director said that the indie movie was shot for “just $300,000 — the size of a Red Sea Fund production grant.” He urged “everyone who gets a grant to go make a movie, because this was made for nothing.”

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The Silver Yusr prize for best feature film went to Tarsem Singh for “Dear Jassi.” The film, an India/Canada/U.S. co-production, is based on the true story of a Canadian Punjabi woman who ran afoul of her family’s expectations when she chose to marry a working-class man for love and was subsequently murdered.

In comments directed at the international press, Singh pleaded with the media to drop the use of the term “honor killing.” “There is nothing honorable about killing your daughter or sister if they marry outside [of your class],” he said.

There were passionate calls for peace in Palestine throughout the ceremony.

Farah Nabulsi, a British-Palestinian filmmaker and human rights activist, who picked up the Jury Award for her film, “The Teacher” — which she shot in Palestine a few years ago “under very different circumstances” — raised issues that resonate today, at a time of conflict.

“To not address the current devastation [in Gaza] would be no less than shameful for me,” she said to loud cheers and applause from the audience.

“The words that come to mind — from the late, long deceased British philosopher, Bertrand Russell — who said this in the 1970s, and he was referring to Palestine, are ‘how much longer is the world going to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty?’”

Her film — which jury chairman, Australian director Baz Luhrmann had said had been chosen for the award as it deserved a “light shone on it” — also earlier picked up the award for Best Actor for Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri.

There was a special award for Cage, who remarked that ever since he had read Edmond Rostand’s story of Cyrano de Bergerac as a child — where the large-nosed character remarks that his nose bleeds run like “a red sea” — he had wanted to visit this part of the world.

Other awards included:

Best director — Shokir Kholikov for “Sunday”

Best actress — Mouna Hawa for “Inshallah a Boy”

Best feature screenplay — Karim Bensalah and Jamal Belmahi for “Six Feet Over”

Best cinematic contribution — “Omen,” directed by Baloji

Best short film — “Suitcase” by Saman Hosseinpuor and Ako Zanhkarim

Short jury prize — “Somewhere in Between” by Dahlia Nemlich

Audience awards for best Saudi film — “Norah,” by Tawfik Alzaidi,

Best international film — “Hopeless” by Kim Chang-Hoon.

Best documentary — Kauother Ben Hania for “Four Daughters”

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