The 10-day event kicked off in the city of Jeddah on Thursday (30 November), bringing leading figures from cinema together for its third annual celebration. Attendees will have the opportunity to experience and preview “the best in Arab and world cinema, television, and VR” across 11 categories, before the jury decides on the winning projects.
Saudi fantasy film HJWN was one of the first films screened and attracted several A-listers to its red carpet launch.
Sharon Stone wore a fuchsia draped gown by Tony Ward, while wearing her bob-length blonde hair slicked back.
Also making an appearance at the launch was Johnny Depp, who has maintained a lower profile in recent years following his legal battle with former wife Amber Heard. Maiwenn, the director and co-star of Depp’s most recent project, Jeanne du Barry, was also photographed on the red carpet.
Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto wore a black couture Rami Kadi gown, styled with jewellery by Chopard.
The Fabelmans star Michelle Williams, Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara, supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio and Troy actor Diane Kruger were also among high-profile guests at the opening ceremony.
German actor Kruger is one of three honourees at this year’s event, along with Bollywood star Ranveer Singh and Saudi actor Abdullah Al-Sadhan, known for two decades of performing in the satirical comedy series Tash ma Tash.
In a statement ahead of the festival launch, Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of the Red Sea IFF, said: “We are thrilled to be recognising each of their varied and deep contributions to cinema and to have them with us for our third edition.”
Elvis director Baz Luhrmann, the festival’s jury president, gave a speech in which he noted his anticipation to “see the remarkable voices and storytelling of the region”.
“When I was asked to come and do this about six months ago, I had a very quiet trip here to Jeddah and to so many other beautiful places in this country,” he said, according to Variety.
“What I learned, and what was amazing to me, is that in just five years [since Saudi’s religion-related ban on movies was lifted] such a vibrant and exciting film culture is with us. What was really exciting was to meet with the young filmmakers and see their aspirations and their desire to be heard,” Luhrmann added.