JEDDAH: The enthusiasm of Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute in Paris, is contagious as he shares his thoughts about the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival with Arab News en Francais.
Lang, who also served as minister of culture in his native France in the 1980s and 90s, said that even two years ago he could not have imagined an international film event such as this taking place in Jeddah.
“It was an absurd idea,” he said and yet now “a real cultural revolution is underway in Saudi Arabia” under the direction of the country’s leaders. “It is extraordinary,” he added. In particular, he praised the role Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan has played.
Since cinemas reopened almost three years ago there has been a major cultural renaissance in the Kingdom on all levels, Lang said. He praised the great developments in arts and culture, particularly in film through the launch of the Red Sea Film Festival, which began on Dec. 6 and continues until Dec. 15. Lang said it is an event designed “for Arab cinema” and for international filmmakers to make a breakthrough.
It is also a sign of the winds of change that have been blowing though Saudi Arabia in the past few years, and this is something that is not lost on Lang.
The authorities in the Kingdom understand that “culture, education, knowledge and science” represent the future, he said, and “a source of happiness as well as human and economic development for citizens.”
Support for culture and the arts, in their various forms, has been a significant driver of the longstanding relationship between France and Saudi Arabia. Lang said he is a member of the consultative council to the Royal Commission for AlUla, and that he appreciates the efforts Saudi authorities are making to preserve, renovate and develop this important historical and cultural site not only for Kingdom but for the entire world.
“France is very present (in projects in AlUla) and I, myself, am participating in the development of the splendid site” by helping to organize an exhibition on AlUla, he said. “We plan on making the exhibition international” by taking it to Russia, the US and other countries.
“Here in the Kingdom there is ambition, a vision,” Lang added, as he thanked and congratulated the Saudi authorities for all they have done to develop arts and culture.
“There is a freedom to meet one another and to share” in the Saudi Arabia of today, he said. “I am not saying everything is perfect but I have confidence in humanity and in the ability to invent a new society in Jeddah.”