Egyptian-Russian actress Nelly Karim on the challenge of finding a good script, her many passions

Egyptian-Russian actress Nelly Karim on the challenge of finding a good script, her many passions
Nelly Karim stars in “Voy! Voy! Voy!” (Supplied)
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Updated 15 September 2023
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Egyptian-Russian actress Nelly Karim on the challenge of finding a good script, her many passions

Egyptian-Russian actress Nelly Karim on the challenge of finding a good script, her many passions
  • ‘Every day I want to create something new,’ says Nelly Karim

DUBAI: In the world of Arab cinema, there is perhaps no living actress more beloved than Nelly Karim. In more than two decades in front of the camera, the star — born in Alexandria to an Egyptian father and Soviet Russian mother — has cemented herself as an icon in both style and substance. Moving effortlessly from the biggest Ramadan hits to prestige art house films, Karim imbues each role with authenticity regardless of genre, as only the best can do.  

It can be lonely at the top, however. At 48 years old, Karim is at the height of her powers as both an artist and as a fashion and pop-culture titan. As much as she enjoys film and television, the challenge has become finding material that is worthy of the dedication she will undoubtedly give it. So when something truly great comes along, she will drop everything to be a part of it. That is precisely what she did for “Voy! Voy! Voy!” — the debut feature of director Omar Hilal. 




Karim in Mohamed Diab’s 2016 film “Clash” via IMDB. (Supplied)

“It’s next to impossible to find a good script — believe me, I read them constantly,” Karim tells Arab News. “Everything is repetitive. Same subjects, nothing new. It’s an epidemic. But in this script, everything felt different. It featured characters I’d never met before, situations that felt totally fresh.” 

The film — the first co-production between Vox Cinemas, Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Film Clinic from super producer Moh Hefzy — is exactly as she describes. Announced in a huge press conference at last year’s Red Sea Film Festival (the year Karim served on the fest’s main jury), it’s an irreverent comedy that’s hard to categorize. Actor Mohammed Farrag channels both Roberto Benigni and John Turturro as a man so desperate to get to Europe that he joins a blind football team just as they set off to the World Cup, despite having no disability of his own. Karim plays the journalist who interviews him, deceived by his charm.  




Karim as a child - her first love was ballet. (Supplied)

“My role is small and I’m entirely surrounded by men, but I never mind the circumstances if the project is good enough. I’ve done this before — in Mohamed Diab’s film “Clash,” I was the only woman in a police truck of 23 men, all stuck in one location for the whole film. I want those kinds of challenges. It’s unique films like this that you end up watching four or five times,” she explains.  

A point of pride for Karim is how many directors she’s worked with just as they began their ascent. Long before Diab was opening the Cannes Film Festival with “Clash” and directing Marvel’s “Moon Knight,” Karim reminds us that she starred in his first film “678,” just as she starred in the first films of celebrated filmmakers Amir Ramses from Egypt and Lebanon’s Othman Abo Labn.  

“Of course, it’s great to work with big directors,” says Karim, who started her career in one of legendary director Yousef Chahine’s final films, “Alexandria... New York.” “But every great career has a beginning, and I love to work with people who are just beginning to tap into their passion.” 




Karim as a ballet dancer in 2004’s “Enta Omry,” for which she won Best Actress at the Cairo International Film Festival. (Supplied)

In many ways, Karim, who rarely grants long interviews, is still only scratching the surface of her own passions. Time and again, in our hours-long conversation, I’m reminded of director David Lynch. Like Lynch, Karim is virtually egoless and matter-of-fact in her speech, talking only of the toil that goes into making art and the pursuit of greatness that drives her. And, like Lynch, it doesn’t seem to matter what the medium is, she will follow the impulse to create wherever it leads.  

“I don’t see myself as just an actor. I love handicrafts, for one; I’m always doing jewelry designs, making my own clothes, drawing on shelves. I love photography. I love music. I love flowers, the countryside, animals… I just love beauty, and every day I want to create something new. One day it may be a movie, another day some furniture, then a bit of crochet or planting a nice tree. Everything is art when it comes from love, and it’s all a blessing to me,” she says.  

Famously, and fittingly, Karim didn’t begin her career in the spotlight as an actress. From her childhood until her big break — dancing on “Fawazeer Ramadan” — she was a ballerina. She danced in Alexandria and then in the former Soviet Union, where she lived for a time as a child, and was moved enough by the work of famed Russian choreographer Boris Eifman at the tender age of five to decide there and then that her life would be spent on the stage.  




Karim and Mohammed Farrag in “Voy! Voy! Voy!.” (Supplied)

“It was a modern dance performance in the Odessa Opera House, I remember it exactly. It was something euphoric for me,” she adds.  

It was through ballet that she acquired her renowned work ethic. “You will never find me late to anything, you will never find me not answering. Respect for the people around you, respect for their time, is the most important thing in any character,” she says. But it was through her mother that she found her humility.  

“From when I was four, she was always making beautiful ballet dresses for me. We couldn’t buy them, so she was always doing it herself,” Karim remembers. “I think this is why I love doing things with my hands so much. My mother taught me to do things for myself.” 

Perhaps that’s why, she reveals, the next phase of her career will come more directly from her own hands. Karim is working on several scripts with collaborators, some she hopes to direct herself. But this is not to shrewdly provide herself with more material as an actor. Rather, she is simply pursuing yet another newfound passion, struck with the excitement of new stories never told, this time coming to her from within.   

“I just met with someone about a movie I plan to direct actually, and they listened very carefully. They waited for me to describe myself in the lead role, as they wanted to visualize it. I said to them, ‘Actually, it’s about a horse. Visualize that, instead,’” she says with a laugh.  

For Karim, creation is its own reward. When I ask how she measures success, she doesn’t mention her global brand ambassadorships, major awards or her box-office and viewership records. Rather, it’s the moments when she’s on holiday in a place like New York, and someone comes up to her to tell her how much her work meant to them. 

“Moments like that leave me speechless. I get so emotional. I’ve traveled across the world, and here is someone in front of me who appreciates the work I’ve done, and all they want from me is a hug, and all they want to give is a thank you,” she says.  

Recognition like that means the world to her, but it’s not her goal. Even as she inspires a new generation of talent from across the region and the world, when we ask about legacy, she dismisses it quickly. Karim just wants to bring a bit more beauty into the world, and it’s up to the rest of us how we want to appreciate it.  

“I don’t think remarkable people, in the days they were working and creating, were thinking about how to be remarkable. They were just working and loving and creating, then the years decide,” she says. “I don’t care about being called great. I just try to do things with love and respect and care. That’s it for me. That’s everything.” 


Imaan Hammam shines at Milan Fashion Week  

Imaan Hammam shines at Milan Fashion Week  
Updated 9 sec ago
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Imaan Hammam shines at Milan Fashion Week  

Imaan Hammam shines at Milan Fashion Week  

DUBAI: Dutch Moroccan Egyptian model Imaan Hammam continued to set the catwalks of Milan alight as she walked for Italian luxury houses Bottega Veneta and Dolce & Gabbana over the weekend at the now-concluded Milan Fashion Week.  

The Bottega Veneta show, set in a warehouse on the outskirts of Milan, saw the models walk across a floor painted like an abstract map of the world, adorned with fish and bird motifs. “The idea was the back of the Corn Flakes packets in the ’90s when you’d have those maps of how you’d travel, even at home, eating Corn Flakes,” creative director Matthieu Blazy told British Vogue in an interview after the show.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

“I thought it was a beautiful idea to have a set where the models would literally travel around a world.”   

For a collection that emphasized the dreamy nature of globetrotting, Blazy drew inspiration from the dress codes of countries from various continents. “South America, South-East Asia, Russia, France, Sicily,” he said. “I mean, it was a world of possibilities. We looked at the cultures and the way people dress, and tried to blend it all together to create a kind of… not a new world, but a new proposal for what could be a different inspiration for the world.”  

Model Hammam walked the runway in a relaxed denim fit with a chunky overcoat and a large intreccatio bag slung over a shoulder.   

Blazy also wrote in show notes that the collection embodies "the personal pleasure of dressing up, of being whoever and whatever you would like to be, of traveling in the imagination as much as in the world through clothing.”  

Hammam walks for Dolce & Gabbana at Milan Fashion Week on Sep. 23, 2023. (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s latest collection explored to the tiniest detail the beauty and artisanal qualities of corsetry.  

Celebrity model Ashley Graham wowed in a sheer halter slip and Naomi Campbell commanded the runway in a sheer three-quarter slip.  

Hammam also turned heads in a delicate leopard print dress paired with thigh high boots.   

“Domenico and Stefano have been inspired by black & white photos and portraits of the past; hence black and white are the dominant colors of the season,” read the show notes.  

“This new line is another chapter of Dolce & Gabbana’s project bring forward the DNA of the brand which is based on Italian femininity that Domenico and Stefano want everybody all around the world to know. It’s all a matter of style not just fashion.”  


Review: ‘A Million Miles Away’ is a warm, fuzzy biopic

Review: ‘A Million Miles Away’ is a warm, fuzzy biopic
Updated 24 September 2023
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Review: ‘A Million Miles Away’ is a warm, fuzzy biopic

Review: ‘A Million Miles Away’ is a warm, fuzzy biopic
  • The story of real-life astronaut Jose Hernandez makes for a charming movie

LONDON: Every now and then, a heartwarming biopic comes along to remind us that movies, when they’re at their best, can simply make us feel good. And so it is with Prime Video’s “A Million Miles Away,” the thoroughly pleasant and lovely story of Jose Hernandez, the first Mexican-American astronaut. Adapted from his memoir, “Reaching for the Stars,” the movie features Michael Pena as Hernandez and Rosa Salazar as his wife Adela. Director Alejandra Marquez Abella takes us deep into Hernandez’s childhood, charting his early life as a migrant farm worker whose parents sacrificed everything to stay in California, choosing to give their children a settled life — and education — instead of following the nomadic patterns of Mexican harvest workers in 1970s US.

Hernandez graduates from university, gets a job as an engineer, meets the love of his life, and starts a family. But Adela sees his burning childhood desire to explore space going unrealized and encourages her husband to apply to NASA, trading their family’s stability for his chance to join the space program.

“A Million Miles Away” has a pretty standard message at its heart — try hard, be persistent, support those you love, be prepared to try even harder — but manages to avoid crossing into schmaltzy Hallmark-esque cliche thanks to compelling performances from its two charismatic leads. Pena and Salazar are utterly convincing as a pair of soulmates for whom the dreams of one are the dreams of both. Sure, the story beats are predictable, and the jeopardy feels a little contrived (wouldn’t be much of a movie if he never makes it), but there’s a real heartfelt backbone to “A Million Miles Away” — not to mention some steel, too, with issues of workplace racism and familial sacrifice all touched upon to varying degrees.

But it’s a nice, warm, fuzzy movie that gives you something — and someone — to root for. And sometimes, that’s all an audience needs.


Saudi brand AGMARAT showcases floral designs in Milan 

Saudi brand AGMARAT showcases floral designs in Milan 
Alfehaid’s collection is a celebration of the camellia flower, a symbol of purity. (Supplied)
Updated 24 September 2023
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Saudi brand AGMARAT showcases floral designs in Milan 

Saudi brand AGMARAT showcases floral designs in Milan 

DUBAI: Saudi designer Rana Alfehaid, founder of AGMARAT, is presenting her latest collection in Milan on the sidelines of the city’s renowned fashion week. 

Along with 39 other designers from the Kingdom, Alfehaid is showcasing her designs as part of the Saudi 100 Brands initiative during White Milano, the international apparel and accessories trade show which takes place alongside Milan Fashion Week. 

“Presenting my designs in Milan as part of White Milano is a dream come true,” Alfehaid told Arab News. “It’s an incredible feeling to be on such a prestigious international stage, showcasing Saudi fashion to the world.” 

AGMARAT is presenting her latest collection in Milan. (Supplied)

Alfehaid’s collection is a celebration of the camellia flower, a symbol of purity.

“Each piece in the collection draws inspiration from the camellia’s delicate petals, incorporating intricate floral motifs and soft, flowing fabrics,” she said. “I’m most excited to showcase the harmonious blend of tradition and modernity in this collection, as well as the unique color palette inspired by the camellia, which reflects the beauty and elegance of our culture.

“Being part of Saudi 100 Brands and representing Saudi culture abroad fills me with immense pride,” she continued. “It’s a responsibility I take seriously, and it’s an honor to be an ambassador for our culture through fashion.” 

Alfehaid has previously presented her designs at a show organized by the Saudi Fashion Commission in New York. (Supplied)

Alfehaid said that she hopes the show in Milan will not only gain her brand recognition on the global fashion scene, but will also inspire other Saudi designers to pursue their dreams and showcase the Kingdom’s culture.

Alfehaid has previously presented her designs at a show organized by the Saudi Fashion Commission in New York, in honor of Princess Rima bint Bandar Al-Saud. 

“The designs were inspired by authentic Saudi heritage (and reflected) the beauty and originality of Saudi art,” she said.

AGMARAT is expected to participate in Paris Fashion Week 2023, which begins Sept. 25. (Supplied)

“The fashion scene in Saudi Arabia has evolved tremendously,” Alfehaid added. “There’s a growing appreciation for local talent, and it’s encouraging to witness the flourishing creativity in our country.” 

The designer is currently working on expanding her brand internationally. “I’m collaborating with international artists and designers to create unique collections that bridge cultures and tell compelling stories through fashion,” she said. 

AGMARAT is expected to participate in Paris Fashion Week 2023, which begins Sept. 25.


Managing director of Van Cleef & Arpels in Saudi Arabia on how the Kingdom is an essential market to the house 

Managing director of Van Cleef & Arpels in Saudi Arabia on how the Kingdom is an essential market to the house 
Updated 23 September 2023
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Managing director of Van Cleef & Arpels in Saudi Arabia on how the Kingdom is an essential market to the house 

Managing director of Van Cleef & Arpels in Saudi Arabia on how the Kingdom is an essential market to the house 

DUBAI: Van Cleef & Arpels has always had a deep-rooted connection with Saudi Arabia. Earlier this year, the Kingdom hosted an important exhibit titled “Van Cleef & Arpels: Time, Nature, Love,” further amplifying its relationship with the Kingdom. The exhibition featured select pieces from 1940 to the 1990s loaned to the house by esteemed Saudi clients. For Saudi National Day, Arab News speaks to Karim Elayan, managing director of VCA in Saudi Arabia, to discuss how the Kingdom is an essential market for the jewelry house and its growth over the years. 

Elayan, who joined VCA in 2018, said that his journey with the house has been extremely rewarding and a catalyst for his personal and professional growth. On the house’s historical ties with the Kingdom, he said it is through the loyalty of Saudi clients who have been patrons and proud collectors of VCA’s creations that the relationship has been able to flourish.

Van Cleef & Arpels. (Supplied)

“Today, our continued presence and significant investments in the Saudi Arabian market emphasize our commitment to strengthen these ties further. We are determined to play a pivotal role aligned with the country’s Vision 2030 in contributing to advancing the Saudi market that holds a special place in our hearts,” he said. 

The last few years have seen an increased brand presence in the country, which included expanding to the Eastern Province by opening a new boutique in Alkhobar.

Elayan joined VCA in 2018. (Supplied)

“In 2019, we took a significant step toward strengthening our presence in Saudi Arabia by bringing the maison closer to our valued clientele. This strategic move involved the internalization of our operations, allowing us to establish direct boutiques within the country,” Elayan said.

The house is also committed to regularly engaging with the local community. Elayan explained that initiatives like the Alhambra Suite activation, the HJ signature event, and the takeover of the historic Sharbatly House in Al-Balad during Ramadan were instrumental in elevating awareness of the maison among a discerning audience.

The Kingdom hosted an important exhibit titled “Van Cleef & Arpels: Time, Nature, Love.” (Supplied)

“Additionally, we dedicated ourselves to enhancing our art and culture partnerships and initiatives throughout Saudi Arabia, further solidifying our presence as a cultural contributor in this vibrant region,” he said.

On this National Day, Elayan looks back with gratitude to the three decades he spent in the Kingdom. Having witnessed first-hand the country’s evolution, he feels deeply honored and a sense of responsibility as a resident of Saudi Arabia to support and promote these changes.

“There is no turning back. I am confident that under its leadership, Saudi Arabia will continue to forge ahead, pushing the boundaries with ambitious projects and making significant contributions to humanity for future generations.”


‘Warm and welcoming’: Global celebrities rave about Saudi Arabia’s food, culture

‘Warm and welcoming’: Global celebrities rave about Saudi Arabia’s food, culture
Updated 23 September 2023
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‘Warm and welcoming’: Global celebrities rave about Saudi Arabia’s food, culture

‘Warm and welcoming’: Global celebrities rave about Saudi Arabia’s food, culture
  • Superstars from film, fashion, music, sports been part of influx into Kingdom
  • Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning cultural initiatives are attracting worldwide interest

DUBAI: Over the years, Saudi Arabia has opened its doors to celebrities and stars from across the world as the Kingdom made its presence known in the global entertainment space. Here are 10 superstars who have visited Riyadh and were left in awe of the Saudi capital.

Sofia Vergara

The US-Colombian actress, most famous for her role in “Modern Family,” is no stranger to Saudi Arabia and also brought her trademark glamor to a promotional video for the VIA Riyadh luxury destination in the Saudi capital earlier this year.

She also dazzled on the red carpet of the 2023 Joy Awards in Riyadh in January. “I would like to dedicate the award to all the amazing women in the Kingdom and to all the women in the Middle East who are building a better future for all the women. Your dreams can come true, and they will if you use the two most important things: your mind and your culture,” Vergara said after accepting the Personality of the Year Award.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by VIA Riyadh | (@viariyadh)

Lionel Messi

While there has been an influx of international football stars joining the Saudi Pro League this year, the Argentine sensation — who plays for Inter Miami — visited Riyadh this summer, along with his wife and kids, for a sightseeing trip.

“The best thing about holidays is spending quality time with our loved ones,” he wrote to his 480 million followers on Instagram. “Flashback to my visit to Riyadh, playing local games and making crafts with the warmest Saudi people.”

“If you are still planning your holidays, head to the cool mountains of (Asir) and chill at 17°C degrees,” he advised his fans.

The pictures feature the footballer playing with his sons and wife Antonella Roccuzzo.

He also shared an image of the picturesque mountains of Asir.

Messi visited the Kingdom in May and went to At-Turaif, the 300-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site in Diriyah, and also explored some of Riyadh’s more contemporary attractions.

He also went on a guided tour in Diriyah and dined out at Al-Bujairi Terrace.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Leo Messi (@leomessi)

Jason Momoa

Back in 2017, “Game of Thrones” and “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa visited Saudi Arabia as part of the pop-culture convention Comic Con Arabia.

“The food in Saudi Arabia is good. I missed Thanksgiving at home, so this was a true substitute,” he told Arab News.

Mada Abdelhamid, WWE star and Momoa’s trainer, posted a photo of himself and Momoa on Instagram, posing in front of a huge plate of traditional Saudi delicacies kabsa and mansaf.

“The before and after. Now this is what I call a FEAST!!!!! Eating like kings over here in Saudi Arabia. We literally couldn’t move afterwards ... but we couldn’t stop eating either. Very fitting that we were over here during Thanksgiving. Our stomachs felt right at home #FeastForABeast,” Abdelhamid wrote.

Momoa also took to social media to write about his experience visiting Riyadh’s iconic Najd Village: “Mahalo Saudi Arabia you treated me like royalty. Aloha to the fans and new friends. I had so many amazing experiences. I’ll be back very soon. Mahalo omar for fattening me up, the food here is amazing @najdvillagesa aloha j,” he wrote, using the Hawaiian words for thanks (mahalo) and love (aloha).

The actor also visited Al-Thumamah National Park during the same visit.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by (@realdealmada)

Steve Aoki

US-Japanese DJ Steven Hiroyuki Aoki surprised fans at the MDLBEAST music festival in Riyadh in 2019 with a special remix of tunes by Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu.

“I love collaborating across cultures, it’s my favorite thing in the world,” Aoki told Arab News at the time.

Aoki, who also performed earlier that year at Jeddah World Fest, said he “loves” the people of Saudi Arabia and that he did not realize he had a huge fan base in the Kingdom.

“It is surprising and incredible … to see so many fans in Saudi Arabia … everyone is so loving and so kind. They are just beautiful people,” he said, adding that he was keen to return to the country for future performances.

“The people want it. You feel the energy in the crowd, they want this kind of music here,” he said.

Aoki also recently performed in Riyadh for a Gamers8 concert and gushed about his experience afterwards. “I love the Saudi crowd. I’ve been playing here since 2019… I did Jeddah, I did MDLBEAST three times. And the Saudi crowd, they’re full of life. They’re an explosion of energy and passion and excitement. And this is what an artist dreams to have... For fans to really express themselves,” he said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Steve Aoki (@steveaoki)

DJ Khaled

Renowned artist and producer DJ Khaled made a surprise appearance at XP Music Futures in Riyadh in December 2022, ahead of his headlining performance at the region’s largest music festival, MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM.

Coming to the region for the first time, his experience of the culture and people was unlike any other, he said. The quality of life and overarching excitement appealed to the artist. “When we were driving over here and I was looking around, I put my head out the window and somebody screamed ‘Khaled!’ and I appreciate the love, and I said ‘Joe, man, people here are just happy,’” he told Arab News.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)

Katie Holmes

The popular US actress visited the Kingdom on a trip with British actor Idris Elba and retired French footballer Thierry Henry in 2018.

Holmes took to social media to share several snaps from her trip to Riyadh, waxing lyrical about the architecture in a caption for one photograph, and revealing, for another image, that she was “so grateful for this amazing and inspiring time.” During her visit, Holmes also had lunch with Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, along with Elba and Henry.

She also opened up about her trip, saying the country was “so beautiful.” “It was a long trip, but I really enjoyed it. I love the women that I met.” 

“It was really inspiring to see these women enjoying the new freedoms they now have and there is a sense of creativity that is happening,” she added.

John Travolta

US actor John Travolta, best known for his starring roles in “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease,” made his first-ever appearance in Saudi Arabia in 2017 to discuss his career, during a two-day gala event.

Travolta answered questions from fans in the Saudi capital. “I have been completely touched by the warmth and embracing nature of everyone since I’ve arrived,” said the actor at the event titled, “A Night with Travolta,” organized by the Saudi Entertainment Authority.

Jackie Chan

The celebrated actor and martial artist Jackie Chan was in Riyadh in 2019 to accept a Joy Excellence award, and said that he was looking forward to filming movies in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s my first time in Saudi, and I know it’s a big country. After only a few hours (travelling) here and looking at locations I know there’s a good place for car chasing, explosions, action; so, next time, I hope to come back with my crew,” Chan said.

The movie legend — who also visited Jeddah for the Red Sea International Film Festival in 2022 — thanked Saudi Arabia for inviting him to the country, and expressed hopes the Kingdom would become a leading center of regional film and television production.

 

Shah Rukh Khan

The Bollywood superstar — who most recently shot his upcoming film “Dunki” in Saudi Arabia — visited the Kingdom for the first time in 2019 to accept a Joy Excellence award.

“We have been talking about the hospitality, the warmth, the goodness and the love that has been showered upon us … and for most of us, it’s our first trip to the Kingdom of Saudi,” Khan said at the event.

“Inshallah, we all wait with bated breath because cinema has opened up here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. You have so many new stories to tell, and we as the world look forward to being of help in any which way we can be of help.”

Idris Elba

The British actor — known for his roles in “Luther” and “The Wire” — first visited Saudi Arabia in 2018 to speak at the launch of the $35 billion “Quality of Life” program of cultural, sports and entertainment initiatives.

“Saudi Arabia gave me an opportunity to make my film here. It made sense on an economical model,” Elba said at the event. “I would definitely be here — why not?”

“Saudi Arabia has an awesome opportunity to spread its culture through filmmaking,” he added.

The actor also reflected on his time in Saudi Arabia later in a podcast.

“I found Saudi was warm and welcoming to me, in a surprising way, if I’m honest,” the actor said during the inaugural episode of a talk show produced by the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra.

He went on to explain that it was, “surprising because I wasn’t sure if my work had ever resonated in Saudi.”

Naomi Campbell

British supermodel Naomi Campbell visited Saudi Arabia in 2019, appearing at several events including the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah and a panel discussion titled “Diversity and Inclusion in the Fashion Industry” in Riyadh. 

“I had to actually pinch myself and say I am in Saudi Arabia at the Red Sea Film Festival, the first one ever, this historical event,” said Campbell at the time.

“It’s really about the change that’s happening around the world. I have been doing this for 35 years and I am really honored and happy to be here, still, in the business … and to see the change.”

During the fashion panel in Riyadh, the model discussed her love of humanitarian work, which began in 1993 in Africa with Nelson Mandela, and the resulting cultural influences she has experienced.

“There is a bridge between Saudi Arabia and Africa,” she said. “There are so many similarities and I really believe that Africa can teach the Middle East (about) textile and the Middle East can teach artisan work to Africa.”