Cannes Film Festival: Saudi Arabia’s pavilion pulls out all stops

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CANNES: The Saudi Pavilion at the 75th Cannes Film Festival has become a hub for fruitful international partnerships in film production while providing an immersive cultural journey through its many hosted masterclasses, meet and greets, and networking events.

“We are thrilled to return to the Cannes Film Festival to connect with the international film industry to build awareness around what is happening in our flourishing creative sector and to showcase the country as a truly unique and exciting film destination,” Abdullah Al-Eyaf, chief executive officer of the Saudi Film Commission said.

Located at the edge of the International Village in Cannes, the Saudi Pavilion is one of the largest pavilions this year.

An extension of the rich heritage of the Kingdom, it provides a step into the cultural identity of the country.

L to R: Abdullah Al Eyaf, CEO of the Saudi Film Commission, Saudi Producer, Aymen Khoja. (RUPTURE)

Between each historical landmark in AlUla, the hidden alleyways of Al-Balad in Jeddah, to the bright and flourishing roses of Taif, Saudi Arabia has 13 provinces with unique landscapes, cultures, and terrains that completely set it apart from the region bordering it.

These diverse locations have quickly sparked conversations among film and production enthusiasts in the first three days of the festival in the French resort.

The Kingdom’s pavilion not only aims to enrich the festival with the Saudi culture but create a link for future collaborations within the Kingdom’s growing film market.

“This is an exciting time for Saudi Arabia, and Cannes provides a crucial opportunity for us to maximize opportunities as we drive the rapid growth of the industry,” Al-Eyaf added.

From the first steps into the pavilion, visitors are embraced by the Saudi culture and warm hospitality through a cup of Saudi coffee. The Kingdom marked the year 2022 as the Year of Saudi Coffee, in celebration of the deeply rooted cultural identity of the Kingdom.

Along with a beautiful view overlooking the French Riviera, the Saudi Pavilion has three private meeting spaces for producers, investors, and filmmakers to meet and discuss new collaborations.

The pavilion kicked off the festival celebrations with meet-and-greet events, mocktail happy hours, and masterclasses for all visitors to take part in.

On Wednesday, the pavilion hosted a media masterclass with Emma Pritchard, a BBC News journalist, to discuss the arts and media coverage of the Cannes Film Festival.

Pritchard was previously invited by the Saudi Film Commission to host a masterclass for Saudi movie directors through navigating the media and press.

“They asked me back just to do another masterclass this year in Cannes and just to talk about navigating the Cannes Film Festival which I was really happy to do,” Pritchard told Arab News.

The seasoned journalist has covered the festival for around two decades and was happy to share her insights in the Saudi Pavilion-hosted masterclass.

“It was really nice, it was informal people, just really eager I think as well, all pleasant and friendly,” she said.

“It was really interesting because I was talking to journalists about the side of covering the Cannes Film Festival which is such a huge film festival to navigate and I’m coming up to 20 years of covering the film festival,” she added.

Later that evening, the pavilion also hosted a Meet the Saudi Film Industry mocktail event to welcome some of the Kingdom’s producers and filmmakers.

On Thursday morning the pavilion continued the festivities with a panel conversation with Saudi talents that was followed by an industry lunch hosted by the Saudi Film Commission.

During the lunch, many regional and international filmmakers attended to gain better insights into the Kingdom as a global location for filmmaking and the film industry.

The Saudi Pavilion started the weekend celebrations with another industry lunch hosted by the Red Sea Film Festival at Carlton Beach and an evening networking cocktail event hosted by NEOM.

Along with the lunches and networking events, many Saudi actors popped by throughout the days of the pavilion to meet and discuss collaborations with some of the major international entities in the film industry.

Names included Yasir Al-Saggaf and Fatima Albanawi who both recently appeared in the Saudi-produced film “Champions.”

Albawani said: “Being here in the Saudi Pavilion, it is one hub that connects everyone and joins everyone and it’s nice to have these chats and open opportunities for future projects.

“I do have a feature film that is in pre-production and it’s very important for me to look for counterparts and co-productions in Europe,” she added.

The Saudi Film Commission partnered with 11 other Saudi entities including Film AlUla, Ithra by Aramco, NEOM, the Red Sea International Film Festival, and many more dealing with production, distribution, content creation, and talent development in the pavilion.