One of the most influential guys in film was with Naomi Campbell at the Cannes Film Festival this week, yet he represents a nation where movies were outlawed until five years ago.
The Red Sea Film Foundation is headed by Saudi Arabia’s 36-year-old Mohammed Al Turki, whose name is prominently shown on movie posters and credits at the French Riviera’s largest film festival.
The organization, which was established two years ago, hosts its own yearly festival and has already supported 168 films, including eight that are part of this year’s Cannes official selection.
Among them was festival opener “Jeanne du Barry” about a French prostitute falling in love with King Louis XV, played by Johnny Depp.
Others seemed equally at odds with traditional Saudi values — female-focused films such as “Four Daughters” about the religious radicalisation of Tunisian girls, or “Goodbye Julia” about a Sudanese woman and her overbearing conservative husband.
“We have learned to respect other cultures,” Emad Iskandar, director of the Red Sea Film Foundation, told AFP.
The French director of “Jeanne du Barry,” Maiwenn, qualified since her father is Algerian, according to him, albeit the exact criteria is unclear. He said that the organization focused on Arab and African filmmakers.
“As long as we have the resources, we want to serve the region, but also take the opportunity to learn more,” Iskandar added.
Al Turki’s foundation also sponsored a gala for women, attended by Catherine Deneuve, Katie Holmes and supermodel Campbell.
“MO!! Proud of all your doing @redseafilm creating history of many 1st’s and Changing the narrative,” Campbell wrote of Al Turki on her Instagram.