• | 2:00 pm

Star-studded Red Sea film fest opens with slew of awards and world premiere of ‘HWJN’

The international festival is taking place until December 9.

Star-studded Red Sea film fest opens with slew of awards and world premiere of ‘HWJN’
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Now accepting applications for Fast Company Middle East’s Best Workplaces For Women 2023. Click here to register.

The opening night of the third edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival was filled with star power, with Johnny Depp and Will Smith among the stars attending.

The film fest opened with the premiere of HWJN, based on the best-selling Saudi fantasy novel by Ibraheem Abbas. A synopsis on the festival’s website explains that the film “is set in a world where djinn have crossed a traditional barrier and are living invisibly among humans” and takes viewers “into a kingdom of the imagination where anything seems possible.”

Stars also spotted in attendance included Sharon Stone, Diane Kruger, Abdullah Al-Sadhan, Ranveer Singh, Sofia Vergara, Amina Khalil, Freida Pinto, Paz Vega, Ed Westwick, Amy Jackson, Lebanese actor Nadine Nassib Njeim and other top Arab stars.

Honorees of the night included veteran Saudi writer and actor Abdullah Al-Sadhan, popular for comedy show Tash ma Tash; Kruger, who received a lifetime achievement award from director Fatih Akin; and Singh, who was handed his prize by Stone.

Depp is at the film fest with Maïwenn’s Cannes-opener Jeanne du Barry, funded by the Red Sea Film Foundation. The actor is scheduled to deliver an onstage conversation in the coming days. 

Under the theme of Your Story, Your Festival, the event kicked off at the auditorium of Jeddah’s Ritz Carlton Hotel.  

In her opening remarks, Jomana Al Rashid, chairman of the Red Sea Film Festival’s foundation, said since the film festival was launched in 2021, the fund has supported over 250 films and has backed eight films in this year’s Cannes Film Festival selection. 

She pointed out Saudi’s theatrical box office has doubled since the pandemic, reaching the expected billion-dollar mark by 2030.

“The Saudi film industry is becoming a recognizable force, with the largest box office in the Middle East. It is evident that we are at the center of a cultural movement,” said Red Sea CEO Mohamed Al Turki.

There are eight Saudi films across the fest’s official selection, two of which are in the 17-title competition.

The festival’s website states that the multi-day event is “for film lovers, filmmakers, and the global film industry.”

More Top Stories: