Red Sea Film Festival’s Mohammed Al-Turki talks future of Saudi films at Cannes

Mohammed Al-Turki was appointed Chairman of the Festival Committee for the upcoming Red Sea International Film Festival. (File/ Getty Images)
Mohammed Al-Turki was appointed Chairman of the Festival Committee for the upcoming Red Sea International Film Festival. (File/ Getty Images)
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Updated 11 July 2021

Red Sea Film Festival’s Mohammed Al-Turki talks future of Saudi films at Cannes

Mohammed Al-Turki was appointed Chairman of the Festival Committee for the upcoming Red Sea International Film Festival. (File/ Getty Images)

CANNES: Saudi game-changer Mohammed Al-Turki is one of the most well-known producers in the region, having made a name for himself in the glitzy world of Hollywood. On the occasion of the Cannes Film Festival, the Saudi producer was appointed Chairman of the Festival Committee for the upcoming Red Sea International Film Festival which will be held in December in Jeddah. This is a new challenge for the 35-year-old producer, but above all, an umpteenth recognition of his work. The much sought-after producer at the Cannes Film Festival caused quite a stir upon his arrival at the Saudi pavilion and Arab News caught up with him for an exclusive interview.

After these difficult months for the culture sector in the world, due to the pandemic, how does it feel to be here at the Cannes Film Festival?

As you know, it’s one of my favorite festivals, which I have been attending for about 10-11 years. I am here today to represent my country, Saudi Arabia. On the opening night, when I visited the Palais des Festivals, I was introduced as Chairman of the Red Sea Festival committee. It was a moment of immense pride for me. It was great to be at the Palais, with the full support of my country, despite everything that is happening in Saudi Arabia. Vision 2030 is bringing about wonderful cultural shifts. It was also a great moment for the world of cinema, to be at the Palais in the presence of the jury – whose members are a source of Arab pride – with Spike Lee, the Jury President, Tahar Rahim and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Can we hope to see a Saudi film selected in Cannes’ official competition one day, or even get the Palme d’Or?

Yes, I am convinced of that! We have talented and wonderful young Saudis, and the creative scene in Saudi Arabia is vibrant, authentic and ambitious. We have some Saudi talents arriving this week. Saudi Arabia has already won several awards, notably with Haifaa Al-Mansour at the Venice Film Festival. Haifaa was the first Saudi woman to become a jury member at Cannes. The Lebanese director Nadine Labaki was President of the Jury for “Un certain regard” selection in 2019. We can be proud of many Arabs, but we are still a new industry, and we will continue to evolve. I can refer to examples, such as the Tunisian writer-director, Kaouther ben Hania, with her feature film “The Man Who Sold His Skin” (2020). It’s an incredible movie. Other films are great as well, and this is only the beginning. You will be able to witness the next pivotal steps first hand.

The film industry in Saudi Arabia is indeed going through a moment of a real dynamism. Do you think that over the next few years, Saudi cinema will live its golden age?

Of course, it will live its golden age. Thanks to the support of Saudi Arabia and the MENA region, I think we will see a lot of admissions to the Academy and to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. I hope that we will win important awards at the international level and succeed in going global.

You are Chairman of the Festival Committee for the upcoming Red Sea Film Festival which is expected to be held next December in Jeddah. How can this event give a new boost to the Kingdom’s flourishing industry?

This dynamism will of course vitalize the flourishing industry by supporting all the local youth. Thanks to this platform, we will be able to travel across the world and allow cinema lovers to discover all of our stories, because as you well know, cinema is a universal form of art, which will allow us to forge deeper connections. It is wonderful that this is happening in the historical city which is located in the magnificent UNESCO heritage site. People will travel to Saudi Arabia and will be able to appreciate the jewels and hidden gems of the Kingdom.

You have worked with big names in cinema, and so far, you’ve mostly addressed a Western audience. Today, would you like to focus on projects that will reach the Eastern public more, and most specifically the Saudi one?

I want to focus on different projects because, personally, I am a filmmaker who enjoys sharing human stories. All of my films deal with important social issues. “Arbitrage,” with Richard Gere, was about the financial crisis; in “At Any Price,” with Zac Effron, it was about the agricultural crisis; then my most recent film, “Crisis,”with Garry Oldman, focused on the opioid crisis, which is now the second leading cause of death in America, after COVID-19.

AlUla is in the spotlight, and many directors around the world do not hide their interest in exploiting this cultural gem. How do you explain such an interest in certain sites in Saudi Arabia?

Together with the Red Sea Festival, the Foundation and the Saudi Film Commission, we are working on a wonderful tax incentive program to get all of these filmmakers to shoot in the Kingdom, and to showcase wonderful places like the AlUla site. A few Hollywood movies have been shot in the Kingdom. The Russo brothers filmed a few scenes of the movie “Cherry” in Saudi Arabia, and it’s a big Apple+ hit. We are currently shooting a movie called “Kandahar” with Gerard Butler in Saudi Arabia, and there are more movies planned, so this is just the beginning of more amazing things to come.

Is it difficult to find experienced actors and talents in Saudi Arabia?

Whether in Saudi Arabia or in the United States, finding the right cast is always a challenge, and I’m sure we’ll have some great talents to show off, because even before movie theaters opened in the country, I was well backed-up in Saudi Arabia; the country was already a breeding ground for creators. Haifaa Al-Mansour presented “Wadjda” all over the world, while there were no movie theaters in Saudi. So, the creative scene has always been unique; it has always been there, and now with the strong support it has behind it, you will be able to witness all of these cultural shifts, and yes, you will see incredible Saudi talents everywhere.


Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day
Updated 22 September 2021

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

RIYADH: A host of restaurants in Riyadh are celebrating Saudi Arabia’s National Day in style with special menus and entertainment.

The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh

The hotel is offering its usual festivities with a twist, inviting a Saudi celebrity chef to cook for guests in Al-Orjouan restaurant. Social media-famous chef Abdulelah AlRabiah is set to host a cooking station while guests will be serenaded by live Saudi music.

Lunch will be held from 12:30pm - 5pm, priced at $120 (450 SAR)

The dinner buffet runs from 6:30pm-12am, priced at (450 SAR) $120 for adults and $60 (224 SAR) for children.

Four food trucks will be stationed outside serving coffee, ice cream and burgers along with face painting and gifts for children.

Yauatcha Riyadh

The dim sum restaurant and tea house is offering a special set menu inspired by the Kingdom’s national colors until Oct. 2.

The $66 (250 SAR) per person menu features chicken spinach soup, a section of dim sum, and main dishes consisting of chicken, seabass, and pak choi, as well as dessert.

La Brasserie

Riyadh’s La Brasserie is offering their traditional international brunch and dinner buffets with additional Saudi dishes to celebrate National Day.

The brunch buffet will run from 12:30pm-3:30pm and is priced at $101 (379 SAR).

The dinner buffet will be held from 7:00pm-11:00pm and is priced at $73 (275 SAR), excluding drinks.

Al-Bustan Restaurant

Al-Bustan restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh is offering a dinner buffet that includes a clutch of international favorites, including grilled lamb with traditional Saudi spices.

Running from 7:00pm-12:00am on Thursday, a local performer will entertain guests to celebrate the occasion and dinner priced at $89 (335 SAR) per person.  

Four Seasons

Elements restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh is offering an international buffet with a focus on regional favorites, including lamb kabsa rice, mandi varieties, mixed grills, cold mezze and, of course, Um Ali.

Live music will be played during the Thursday night dinner buffet between 7:00pm-12:00am.  

The dinner buffet is priced at $83 (311 SAR), excluding beverages.  

La, Gais

The Instagram-perfect, newly opened breakfast and specialty coffee spot will offer a selection of Saudi-themed breakfast and brunch items, along with live music.

Perfect for family brunch, the restaurant will be open from 4:30am-7:00pm during the National Day weekend.

Each menu item is priced separately, including tax.


Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week

Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week
Updated 22 September 2021

Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week

Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week

DUBAI: Dubai-based label Mrs. Keepa is set to present its Spring/Summer 2022 womenswear collection on the sidelines of Paris Fashion Week, as part of France’s Féderation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s “Welcome to Paris” initiative with the Arab Fashion Council.

The show is slated for Sept. 28 at Paris’s Palais De Tokyo and the label will also take part in Paris Fashion Week’s trade show partner event, TRANOI, which will take place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 at the same location.

Mrs. Keepa is known for its strong silhouettes and bold colors, as seen in this look from the label's 2019 show in Dubai. (Getty Images)

Helmed by half-Egyptian half-French designer Mariam Yeya, the label is inspired by a patchwork of evolving identities and her own dual heritage, which she explores through fashion.  

Launched in 2016, the label is a regular on the Fashion Forward Dubai circuit — an annual showcase of regional talent — and is known for its celebration of the female form, with a focus on defining silhouettes, voluminous details, striking patterns and kaleidoscopic colors. 

The label is helmed by Egyptian-French designer Mariam Yeya. (Getty Images)

For the Spring/Summer 2022 collection, titled “Harmonious Chaos,” the designer plays with organic shapes and opulent colors. Think cut outs and strappy maxi skirts, wide-leg camouflage cargo pants and larger-than-life sleeves.

 The collection will also feature pieces that traverse the boundary between recognizable separates — kimonos that work as skirts, dresses that can be worn as shirts and scarves that can be styled as waist-synching belts.

The show is slated for Sept. 28 at Paris’s Palais De Tokyo. Pictured is a 2019 show by the label. (Getty Images)

It is not the first time Arab designers have found a platform at Paris Fashion Week. To ensure that regional designers get the recognition they deserve, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode first teamed up with the Arab Fashion Council in September 2020 to host an exclusive showroom and presentation on the official Paris Fashion Week calendar that shines a light on Middle Eastern designers.

“The project is in line with the Arab Fashion Council’s vision to build an Arab economy based on creativity and to promote the Arab talents on a global scale,” said Mohammed Aqra, chief strategy officer of The Arab Fashion Council, in a statement at the time. “This is the first strategic alliance project with our French counterparts,” he added.


Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 

Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 
Updated 22 September 2021

Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 

Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 

DUBAI: In celebration of Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) launched a collection of Saudi cultural and heritage programs and activities to highlight the Kingdom’s diversity.

Under the slogan of “Melodies of the Homeland,” the celebratory activities will start on Sept. 22 and will run until Sept. 25. 

The National Day activities aim to present a collection of interactive cultural activities, music and art performances, traditional local crafts, various workshops, knowledge-based games for all age groups and more.   

The activities will include the Coffee Tales exhibition, which will shed light on the practice of farming coffee and the traditions associated with it, particularly in the Jazan region, as well as Saudi Aramco’s efforts to preserve it.

Another exhibition, called Tafaseel, will take its visitors on a cultural journey to embody the unity of the people and their interdependence from north to south and east to west. 

This colorful space will express the diversity of fashion as part of the cultural heritage across the local regions and tell stories about the civilizations that inhabited them.

Arab music sensation Ahmed Alshaiba will perform on Ithra’s stage and is expected to play his unique music that combines Eastern and Western genres.


Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 

Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 
Updated 21 September 2021

Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 

Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 

DUBAI: Emirati visual artist Aisha Juma is showcasing her work at an exhibition titled “Beyond Belief” in Berlin, Germany. 

Supported by Abu Dhabi Festival (ADF), Juma is taking part in the exhibition that brings together a variety of artworks from more than 35 artists. 

Aisha Juma is an Emirati visual artist. (aishajuma.com)

Open until Nov. 21, “Beyond Belief” explores the rise of modern-day spirituality, its origins, diverse manifestations and unique contemporary attributes. 

Juma, on her Instagram account, shared images of her drawings that are “inspired by the concept of art and spirituality.

“So happy to be part of this fundamental creative conversation,” she wrote. 

The inauguration of the event was attended by Hafsa Al-Ulama, the UAE ambassador to Germany. 

In her speech at the event, Al-Ulama praised the strong cultural ties between the UAE and Germany, and commended ADF’s commitment to participating in art exhibitions and festivals in Germany. 

She added that the festival’s sponsorship of “Beyond Belief” reflects Abu Dhabi’s role in promoting art worldwide. 


Bahraini label Noon by Noor lights up London Fashion Week

Designers Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa presented a collection titled ‘Light.’ (Supplied)
Designers Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa presented a collection titled ‘Light.’ (Supplied)
Updated 21 September 2021

Bahraini label Noon by Noor lights up London Fashion Week

Designers Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa presented a collection titled ‘Light.’ (Supplied)

DUBAI: Bahraini label Noon by Noor showed off its Spring 2022 collection at London Fashion Week this weekend, debuting a line of lighter-than-air separates and dainty dresses.

Designers Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa presented a collection titled “Light” at East London’s Rochelle School, which specializes in art and architecture.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Noon By Noor (@noonbynoor)

The label, which is a regular on the New York Fashion Week circuit, drew crowds to its London showcase, with a host of industry insiders and influencers taking to social media to show off the new collection.

The brand, which was established in 2008, showed off a floral-tinged offering. (Supplied)

The brand, which was established in 2008, showed off a floral-tinged offering, with sprigs of color, as well as white-on-white looks complete with traditional mirror work embroidery.

“We selected our fabrics, mixing different scales of checks from ginghams to madras, alongside bold stripes in lime-ivory, pink-ivory and grey-ivory,” designer Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa said in a released statement.

“A photograph of Bahraini pearl divers in their sarongs gently gathered and tied at the waist, mixed with dreams of summer sunshine, holiday memories and flowers was the start of our spring collection development,” she added.

Her cousin and co-designer Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa shed further light on the materials chosen for the collection.

“Beautiful poplins, jersey, washed cottons, coated linens, silk voiles, organza, tulle and canvas all reflect the idea of light. Sometimes two or three of these fabrics are combined into one garment,” she said.