It is a new step in the social and cultural normalization of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom, long famous for its ultrapuritanism, where the cinemas were closed for thirty years, has an event to the glory of the seventh art. The first edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival, originally scheduled for March 2020, but canceled due to coronavirus, opened on Monday, December 6, in the old town of Jeddah, the major port of the western saudi.
In the great tradition of the genre, the event began with a parade of stars on the red carpet, including stars of Arab showbiz and several Western headliners, such as Hollywood actors Clive Owen and Hilary Swank or the French Vincent Cassel and Catherine Deneuve. If the latter had opted for a relatively sober outfit, a long black dress, the color of the abaya worn by the women of the kingdom, some of the guests wore slit dresses and necklines, settings very far from the Saudi sartorial “modesty”.
Cascade of spectacular events
The festival, sponsored by the kingdom’s major public groups like the Saudia airline and the MBC audiovisual empire, is part of the cascade of big-show events now being staged across the country. The day before the opening, Jeddah hosted the first F1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabian history, as well as a concert by Justin Bieber and David Guetta.
Behind this bubbling of initiatives, there is the inevitable Mohammed Ben Salman, known as “MBS”, the crown prince who, when he does not repress the opposition, is active to develop in his country a leisure industry and tourism. A sign of the importance of the festival, its logistics have been entrusted to the Moroccan communicator Richard Attias, big boss of events in the Gulf, already at the helm of the Future Investment Initiative, the “Davos of the desert”, where “MBS” parade every year, in the company of a host of VIPs from the world of finance.
“It’s an iconic moment. This will serve as a launching pad for young Saudi and Arab talent. »Mohammed Al-Turki, president of the festival
The programming is provided by Edouard Waintrop, former general delegate of the Directors’ Fortnight, one of the parallel selections of the Cannes Film Festival, and former daily critic. Release. It was he who concocted the eclectic menu of the event, spread over nine days. One hundred and thirty-five films, coming from sixty different countries, divided into eleven sections, blockbusters and intimate works, great classics, nuggets and experimental films. With, of course, a spotlight on Saudi creation, in full swing since “MBS” re-authorized public screenings in 2018.
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Saudi Arabia makes its cinema in Jeddah