Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival Postponed & Doha’s Qumra Canceled Over Coronavirus Concerns – Update

Qumra Doha Film Institute

UPDATED with Red Sea announcement: The inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia, which was due to run March 12-21, has been postponed due to coronavirus concerns.

The decision follows the news earlier Tuesday that the Qumra mentoring event in Doha, also this month, has cancelled its 2020 edition.

Red Sea organizers posted the following statement on the event’s social media channels:

“Following the precautionary measures taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and with our primary consideration being the safety and wellbeing of our guests, staff and audiences, the Red Sea International Film Festival is postponing its inaugural edition.

“To all cineastes, it’s with feelings of deep sadness that we have had to take this tough decision. The spread of coronavirus is a battle we all must face around the globe, and it’s with no hesitation that we are respecting all the measures needed to meet the current health emergency.

“We are enormously grateful for your support and understanding. Rest assured, the festival will take place at a later date, as we remain committed to all filmmakers, producers, partners and audiences. We will announce the new dates for the 2020 edition as soon as feasible, and shall ensure to keep you informed about any new developments.”

Saudi Arabia had confirmed its first case of the virus in the past 24 hours and has imposed travel restrictions to the country.

Oliver Stone was set to head the International Competition jury at the festival, which was to take place in Jeddah. A total of 107 features and shorts were programmed including competition titles like Kitty Green’s Weinstein-inspired The Assistant, Derek Tsang’s Chinese hit Better Days and Haifaa Al-Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate.

PREVIOUSLY, 7:31 AM: The Doha Film Institute has canceled the 2020 edition of Qumra due to fears over the spread of coronavirus. Claire Denis and James Gray had been set to attend the event, which invites international directors to speak to Arab filmmakers and was due to run March 20-25.

In a statement today, organizers said, “Due to the current global alert regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, the decision comes as part of the Institute’s contribution to manage and reduce the risk of further spread of the virus.”

“This was a very difficult decision, and although Qumra is an important event for our community and industry delegates, their safety and wellbeing remains our first priority. In order to reduce the risks to our guests in light of increasing global concerns over COVID-19, we are taking precautionary measures to proactively manage potential risks,” it added.

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