Cultural board celebrates Saudi Arabia’s talents at Cannes festival

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Photo showing Saudi Film Council wing at Cannes film festival, a participant offers Arabic coffee a traditional drink in the Kingdom. (AN Photo/Ammar Abd Rabbo)
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The Saudi Film Council is promoting the country as a filming destination. (AN Photo/Ammar Abd Rabbo)
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The pavilion is located in Village Pantiero #207 on the Croisette. (AN Photo/Ammar Abd Rabbo)
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A look inside the Saudi Film Council’s first pavilion at Cannes. (AN Photo/Ammar Abd Rabbo)
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Guests are welcomed the traditional way at the Saudi Film Council pavilion in Cannes. (AN Photo/Ammar Abd Rabbo)
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A reporter talks to Ali Alkalthami, director of the short film Wasati, which is one of nine films by Saudi directors screening in the Cannes Short Film Corner May 14-15. (AN Photo/Ammar Abd Rabbo)
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Faisal Baltyour, CEO of the Saudi Film Council, in Cannes. (AN Photo/Ammar Abd Rabbo)
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The Saudi pavilion is part of the Marché du Film, the festival’s industry market. (AN Photo/Ammar Abd Rabbo)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Cultural board celebrates Saudi Arabia’s talents at Cannes festival

  • Nine short films by young Saudi directors will screen as part of the Short Film Corner on May 14 and 15
  • The pavilion will host a media breakfast on Friday and an industry lunch on Sunday

CANNES: Gahwa took the place of café au lait on the Croisette yesterday as the Saudi Film Council began welcoming guests to its pavilion at the 71st Cannes Film Festival.

More than 40 delegates from Saudi Arabia, including the council’s CEO Faisal Baltyuor, are in France this week to showcase the Kingdom’s movie industry at the Marché du Film, the festival’s industry market. It is the first time the country has participated in Cannes, one of the world’s most prestigious festivals. 

“The Kingdom has looked forward to its debut presence here, celebrating and supporting the diversity of talent and opportunities within the Saudi film industry,” said Ahmad Al-Maziad, CEO of the General Culture Authority, which oversees the Saudi Film Council.

The delegation has organized a series of panels that will begin in the pavilion on Thursday and run until Tuesday. Topics range from “Saudi Arabia: The Next Frontier of Filming Locations” to “Groundbreaking Women in Film in Saudi Arabia and the MENA Region.”

Nine short films by young Saudi directors will screen as part of the Short Film Corner on May 14 and 15, including “Is Sumiyati Going to Hell?” by Meshal Aljaser, about a maid working for racist employers, and “Alkaif” by Seba Alluqmani, about the country’s coffee tradition. 

“With a rich tradition of storytelling, Saudi Arabia is embarking on the development of a sustainable and dynamic industry that supports and encourages our local talent,” Al-Maziad said.

On top of a daily majlis, the pavilion will host a media breakfast on Friday and an industry lunch on Sunday. 

The Saudi Film Council was launched in March by the General Culture Authority as part of Vision 2030’s goal to diversify the economy through industries such as tourism and culture. The invite-only festival runs until May 19.

The nine Saudi short films screening:

- Don’t Go Too Far by Maram Taibah

- The Scapegoat by Talha B

- Wasati by Ali Alkalthami

- Al-Qatt by Faisal Alotaibi

- Coexistence by Musab Alamri

- Film School Musical by Maan B and Talha B

- The Darkness Is a Color by Mutjaba Saeed

- Alkaif by Seba Alluqmani

- Is Sumiyati Going to Hell? by Meshal Aljaser


Stolen Picasso unearthed by ‘Indiana Jones of art’

Updated 26 March 2019
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Stolen Picasso unearthed by ‘Indiana Jones of art’

  • The 1938 masterpiece entitled ‘Portrait of Dora Maar’, also known as ‘Buste de Femme (Dora Maar)’, was handed to an insurance company earlier this month
  • Arthur Brand won world fame in 2015 after finding ‘Hitler’s Horses’

THE HAGUE: A Dutch art detective dubbed the “Indiana Jones of the Art World” has struck again, finding a Picasso painting worth €25 million stolen from a Saudi sheikh’s yacht on the French Riviera in 1999.
Arthur Brand said he had handed back the 1938 masterpiece entitled “Portrait of Dora Maar,” also known as “Buste de Femme (Dora Maar)” to an insurance company earlier this month.
The discovery of the rare portrait of Maar, one of Pablo Picasso’s most influential mistresses, is the culmination of a four-year investigation into the burglary on the luxury yacht Coral Island, as she lay anchored in Antibes.
Two decades after its theft and with no clues to its whereabouts, the French police were stumped — and the portrait, which once hung in the Spanish master’s home until his death in 1973, was feared lost forever.
But after a four-year trail which led through the Dutch criminal underworld, two intermediaries turned up on Brand’s Amsterdam doorstep 10 days ago with the missing picture.
“They had the Picasso, now valued at €25 million wrapped in a sheet and black rubbish bags with them,” Brand said.
It was yet another success for Brand, who hit the headlines last year for returning a stolen 1,600-year-old mosaic to Cyprus.
He won world fame in 2015 after finding “Hitler’s Horses,” two bronze statues made by Nazi sculptor Joseph Thorak — a discovery about which he had a book out earlier this month.
The theft of the Picasso, valued at around seven million dollars at the time, baffled French police, sent the super-rich scurrying to update boat security and prompted the offer of a big reward.
In 2015, Brand first got wind that a “Picasso stolen from a ship” was doing the rounds in the Netherlands, although “at that stage I didn’t know which one exactly.”
It turned out that the painting had entered the criminal circuit, where it circled for many years “often being used as collateral, popping up in a drug deal here, four years later in an arms deal there,” said.
It took several years and a few dead ends before pinning down that it was actually the Picasso stolen from a Saudi billionaire’s yacht as the mega-cruiser was being refurbished, Brand said.
Brand put out word on the street that he was looking for “Buste de Femme (Dora Maar)” and in early March he struck gold.
“Two representatives of a Dutch businessman contacted me, saying their client had the painting. He was at his wits’ end,” said Brand.
“He thought the Picasso was part of a legitimate deal. It turns out the deal was legitimate — the method of payment was not,” Brand laughed.
Brand called the Dutch and French police — who had since closed the case — and who said they would not prosecute the current owner.
“Since the original theft, the painting must have changed hands at least 10 times,” said Brand.
Brand said he had to act quickly, otherwise the painting may have disappeared back into the underworld.
“I told the intermediaries, it’s now or never, because the painting is probably in a very bad state... We have to act as soon as we can.”
Then, just over a week ago, Brand’s doorbell rang at his modest apartment in Amsterdam, and the intermediaries were there with the painting.
After unwrapping it, “I hung the Picasso on my wall for a night, thereby making my apartment one of the most expensive in Amsterdam for a day,” Brand laughed.
The following day, a Picasso expert from New York’s Pace Gallery flew in to verify its authenticity at a high-security warehouse in Amsterdam.
Also present was retired British detective Dick Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard’s art and antiquities squad, representing an unnamed insurance company.
“There is no doubt that this is the stolen Picasso,” Ellis, who now runs a London-based art risk consultancy business, said.
Ellis is famous for recovering many stolen artworks including Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” lifted from the National Gallery of Norway in 1994.
“It’s not only the public interest to recover stolen works of art,” he said. “You are also reducing the amount of collateral that is circling the black market and funds criminality.”
“Buste de Femme” is back in possession of the insurance company, which now had to decide the next steps, Brand and Ellis said.