Johnny Depp, Sharon Stone Grace Star Studded Red Sea Film Festival
The Red Sea Film Festival is star studded with renowned actors like Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Michelle Williams, and Sharon Stone, among others walking Saudi Arabia’s red carpet.
The third edition of the festival with the theme “Your story, your festival” kicked off with an Arabic-language film, the world premiere of Yasir Al-Yasiri’s HWJN. The opening ceremony was held in Jeddah’s Ritz Carlton hotel.
Jomana Al Rashid, chairman of the Red Sea Festival’s foundation, said they are privileged to be in the presence of remarkable talent not only from Saudi Arabia but from Africa, Asia and around the world. She highlighted that the fund, since its launch in 2021, has supported over 250 films and supported eight films at this year’s Cannes official selection.
Red Sea Film Festival – Saudi Film Industry
Mohamed Al Turki, Red Sea CEO, said the Saudi film industry is becoming a recognizable force, with the largest box office in the Middle East. He noted that it is evident that they are at the center of a cultural movement.
The festival’s opening an Arabic-language film highlights the growing strength of the film and TV business in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom lifted its 35-year cinema ban six years ago as part of its 2030 strategy to help the economy move away from oil.
Baz Luhrmann, film director, said for 30-years there was no cinema. “Then, all of sudden, movies are being seen. I got to know the studios but what I was really struck by was the young, emerging filmmakers and how hungry they are to tell their story. That’s why I am here. At a time when politics fails us, storytellers have to be heard and that’s what we’re here to support.”
Red Sea Film Festival Recognizes Actors
Nadine Nassib Njeim, Lebanese actress, said the festival marks a turning point for every ambitious Saudi filmmaker, providing excellent support for young talents to showcase their work at international festivals. Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh was awarded a special honor, handed by the much acclaimed Sharon Stone. “Thank you most of all to my beautiful fans, your love and support have been my driving force, you inspire me to push my limits and strive for greatness to find the moment of the truth that is invaluable.”
Tarak Ben Ammar, who stars in The Equalizer 3, said Saudi was the place to be for film and TV territory in the region. “I cannot not be here. When you see that my latest movie Equalizer with Denzel grossed six million $6.5 million here and only $2.7 million in Spain or Italy, that shows you this market has potential.”
The top French-Tunisian actor said that in the past Arab filmmakers had to go to festivals to make co-productions. “I wouldn’t say to beg but to solicit financing. In Saudi Arabia, they have 38 million people, 70 percent under the age of 30. This is the place where Arab filmmakers, Saudis of course, and others can express themselves.”