Glamor and glitter. The Red Sea International Film Festival intends to draw inspiration from the French model to register this new cinematographic event on a global scale.
From our special correspondent in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)
Catherine Deneuve, Jack Lang, Cyrano de Bergerac, the Comte de Guiche … He floated like an air of France, Monday, December 6, during the opening ceremony of the first edition of the International Red Sea Film Festival ( RSIFF) organized in Jeddah, more than 4,400 kilometers from Paris.
A tad less numerous than the delegation of American actors, the French guests – among whom were Vincent Cassel, Thierry Frémaux and Cécilia Attias – formed the second largest contingent of Western personalities at the inaugural evening of the RSIFF. A consecration of glitter that crowns a strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and France, just days after the meeting in Jeddah, of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman with Emmanuel Macron.
Located on the edge of the old town of Jeddah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the opening ceremony of the RSIFF has, at times, taken on the air of the Cannes Film Festival. The sweltering heat of the Red Sea on top of that. Among the four personalities honored by the organizers of the meeting, Jack Lang and Catherine Deneuve respectively aroused thunderous applause. The actress’ brief speech followed a long video sequence retracing her career and resounding in the keffiyeh-clad enclosure of the Vox multiplex, inaugurated last year, the airs of love cake by Donkey Skin and those of Young ladies of Rochefort. Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute, for his part underlined the impetus given to the cultural opening of the country by Prince Badr, Saudi Minister of Culture. “It’s a historic moment, praised the former traveling companion of François Mitterrand. You are leading a cultural revolution within these walls. Long live the Red Sea Film Festival, which promises to become one of the biggest film festivals in the world! ”
“Saudi youth desperately need this”
“France was well represented this evening!”, rejoiced for Le Figaro, at the end of the opening night, the French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ludovic Pouille. “We have huge ambitions with Saudi Arabia. We have been working for twenty years on archeology and heritage in general. From now on, we are cooperating in the field of cinema, in particular thanks to Fémis, which participates in the training of the Saudi filmmakers of tomorrow ”. A close relationship all the more facilitated by the relaxation, in recent years, of the strict rigor which then prevailed in the country. “Three years ago, there was no cinema; dancing and music were forbidden. Today Justin Bieber and David Guetta come to give a concert on the sidelines of a Formula 1 race, observed Ludovic Pouille. Finally, here at the festival, no dress code has been imposed. Saudi youth desperately need this. ”
Far from the austere image that the kingdom sometimes returns, the parade of stars along the festival’s red carpet gave pride of place, as is customary on these occasions, to a succession of extravagant costumes, languid poses and bouncy necklines. Only a few very rare people wearing the full veil were seen there during the evening. Symbol of a beginning of opening, the jury of the festival competition, chaired by the Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, is also made up of a majority of women; while no censorship will be imposed on all of the more than 100 films scheduled until the festival closes on December 15.
So it was with the few fiery kisses exchanged on the screen of Cyrano, the musical by Joe Wright screened at the opening of the Red Sea Film Festival. The feature film brought together Peter Dinklage (Cyrano), Haley Bennett (Roxanne) and Ben Mendelsohn (De Guiche) in the free adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s theatrical work. Tragic story of words and heartache reminiscent, in broad outline, of the popular Arab tale of Majnoun and Leila, the film failed to retain the vast majority of the audience. The Vox room in Jeddah thus appeared quite empty at the end of the two-hour screening. Outside, however, a large crowd was present to attend the great concert of Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean. The sign, perhaps, of a need for life, dance and movement.