Cinematic history in the making as Red Sea International Film Festival rolls out the red carpet  

JEDDAH: Hollywood, Bollywood and Arab stars hit the red carpet at the opening ceremony of the Red Sea International Film Festival on Thursday, kicking off 10 days of glitz and glamor. 

US actress Sharon Stone, British director Guy Ritchie, US icon Oliver Stone, Lebanese director Nadine Labaki and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan all appeared at the event, as did Egyptian icon Yousra, Indian composer A.R. Rahman and Bollywood star Kajol.

They were joined on the red carpet by actress Priyanka Chopra, Egyptian Montenegrin actress Tara Emad, Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani and Egyptian star Salma Abu-Deif, as well as Lebanese celebrity designer Zuhair Murad and Lebanese singer Maya Diab.


Shah Rukh Khan was on hand to receive an honorary award for his contributions to the film industry.


Shah Rukh Khan. (Arab News)

This year, the festival is being held in The Ritz-Carlton hotel overlooking the picturesque Jeddah Waterfront. Filmmakers, actors, directors, and the cohort of professionals who keep the wheels of the cinematic industry turning all came together for a sparkling night.  

Mohamed Diab, an Egyptian screenwriter and the director behind Marvel’s “Moon Knight,” spoke to Arab News on the red carpet about the importance of the festival.

“This is a light at the end of the tunnel for a lot of people. I think for young film makers having something outside the commercial aspect of film making (is important). If you are Saudi or Egyptian and you do something commercial you can make it but if there is something international or a passion project that you believe in that is not something you can get funding (for) easily, I think there is opportunity for you here.”

He also spoke about 2022’s “Moon Knight,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Arab story.

“I saw how it inspired the Arab youth so I want to repeat that again. I am opening so many doors and I am very happy about that,” he said.

Saudi Director and actor Ibrahim Al Hajjaj, who has two films screening at the festival this year, said: “I’m really happy to be here, super excited that I have two movies in this edition. I am excited and I hope people do like the film,” he said of “Sattar” and “Khallat Plus.”

For her part, Indian actress Shabana Azmi shared her excitement about the festival’s opening film, “What Has Love Got To Do With It?”

 “It’s a huge honor and I am very excited, and I had never known or dreamt that such a day would arrive and that’s why it is very exciting and I do hope people love the film as much as we were excited making it.”

“We have very great actors and directors and that is why I hope tomorrow’s cinema will be all encompassing, all embracing, all inclusive, we no longer can live in the divide between the West and the East. We need to become a global village and art is the way you can do it,” she added.

This year’s theme is “Film Is Everything,” which celebrates movies not just as means of entertainment but as a tool that brings cultures together, allows young creatives to express themselves, and gives people the opportunity to grow. 

The festival is divided into 11 sections designed to showcase Arab and international cinema, as well as television and VR. The sections include Competition, Shorts Competition, New Saudi, International Spectacular, Arab Spectacular, Festival Favorites, Virtual Reality, Treasures, Families and Children, New Vision, and Series.  

The festival is set to showcase 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries, in 41 languages, made by established and emerging talents. Seven feature films and 24 shorts from Saudi Arabia will also be shown.