British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi film industry

RIYADH: British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, most famous for his hit gangster films, the “Sherlock Holmes” franchise and his live-action “Aladdin” adaptation, said that Saudi Arabia is ripe for building a successful film industry, at the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

The director was speaking to Arab News on day two of the film festival in Jeddah.

Guy Ritchie at the photocall at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Friday. (Getty Images)

“What’s interesting about (Saudi Arabia) is that there’s such an explosion of enthusiasm. It’s young and it’s creative. And there’s a high desire to express creativity. That makes it very interesting. So it’s trying to couple the inexperience with the enthusiasm, because you have the enthusiasm and the means. And now you’ve just got to develop some form of experience and sub-structure,” said Ritchie about the developing and nascent film industry in Saudi Arabia.

“I don’t like making movies in the UK anyway. So I’d rather make movies outside of the UK. We worked in Jordan for ‘Aladdin.’ And that worked very well for us. We were in Spain for the last film and in Turkey for the film before that. There’s no need to get out of the UK but I’d much rather work in in new and exciting environments. And for that really you just need a sub-structure in order to facilitate the ability of making movies. And I’m sure that will happen,” added the filmmaker, who is attending the film festival along with his actress-wife Jacqui Ainsley.

Ritchie with his wife Jacqui Ainsley at the opening gala of the Red Sea International Film Festival on Thursday. (Getty Images)

In a separate ‘In Conversation’ segment on Friday, Ritchie address this topic again and said, “I think I’m very interested in this part of the world. And I think creativity should find its way into this part of the world. That’s why I’m here. Really, what we’re after is a fusion and the integration of cultural collaboration.”

Ritchie went on to explain that for a healthy film industry to be built, incentives and subsidies for film productions are the way to go. “I can’t shoot in the UK anymore because it’s too busy to shoot there. That’s how busy it is. And they’ve been able to do that because of incentives. So once you have incentives, then the other thing you need is to make a few movies here in Saudi Arabia. So other filmmakers look at the filmmakers that have gone before and then they just trust that,” said Ritchie. 

Ritchie first made headlines and found international acclaim with the 1998 British black comedy crime film “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” which he wrote and directed. In an In Conversation panel at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Friday, Ritchie talked about how the film almost didn’t get made. 

“This was the hardest film. I mean, it’s not coal mining. So you’ve got relativize it within the world of how hard it is to scratch a living. But the film fell down a 1000 times before it was resurrected. And even when it came to a redistribution, you know, it was out and in and then it was out. And then it came down to, suddenly, there was one particular guy called Chris Evans, in the UK, who saw it and he loved it. And at the time, his show was the most watched show in the UK. And he pulled me on for the next week. That’s really what made it a hit. He made a fuss about it, then everyone else would come,” said Ritchie.