AFP: Accompanying Naomi Campbell on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival last week was one of cinema’s most powerful men — and he represents a country where cinemas were banned until five years ago. Mohammed Al Turki, 36, heads Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation, his name splashed all over posters and movie credits at the world’s biggest cinema gathering on the French Riviera. The foundation, formed two years ago, holds its own annual festival and has already financed 168 movies, including eight in the official selection at Cannes this year.
Among them was the 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, said.
He said the foundation focuses on Arab and African filmmakers, though the precise definition seems flexible: the French director of “Jeanne du Barry”, Maiwenn, qualified thanks to her Algerian father.
Nayeemul Islam khan
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