CANNES: The Saudi pavilion at the 75th Cannes Film Festival has become a hub for successful international partnerships in film production while offering an immersive cultural journey through its many masterclasses, meetings and networking events.
“We are delighted to return to the Cannes Film Festival to connect with the international film industry to raise awareness of what is happening in our thriving creative sector and to showcase the country as a truly unique and exciting film destination,” Abdullah Al- Eyaf, said the director general of the Saudi Film Commission.
Located on the edge of the Cannes International Village, the Saudi Pavilion is one of this year’s largest pavilions.
An extension of the rich heritage of the Kingdom, it constitutes a stage in the cultural identity of the country.
Between each historical monument of AlUla, the hidden alleys of Al-Balad in Jeddah, and the bright and blooming roses of Taif, Saudi Arabia has 13 provinces with unique landscapes, cultures and terrains that completely set it apart from the region that borders it.
These diverse venues quickly sparked conversations among film and production enthusiasts during the first three days of the festival in the French seaside resort.
The Kingdom pavilion aims not only to enrich the festival with Saudi culture, but also to create a link for future collaborations within the Kingdom’s growing film market.
“These are exciting times for Saudi Arabia, and Cannes presents us with a crucial opportunity to maximize opportunities as we drive the industry’s rapid growth,” Al-Eyaf added.
From the first step into the pavilion, visitors are embraced by Saudi culture and warm hospitality through a cup of Saudi coffee. The Kingdom has marked 2022 as the Year of Saudi Coffee, to celebrate the Kingdom’s deep-rooted cultural identity.
Besides a magnificent view of the French Riviera, the Saudi pavilion has three private meeting spaces for producers, investors and filmmakers to meet and discuss new collaborations.
The pavilion kicked off the festival celebrations with meet-and-greet events, non-alcoholic happy hours and masterclasses that all visitors can attend.
On Wednesday, the pavilion hosted a media masterclass with BBC News reporter Emma Pritchard to discuss the arts and media coverage of the Cannes Film Festival.
Pritchard has previously been invited by the Saudi Film Commission to host a masterclass for Saudi filmmakers by navigating the media and press.
“They asked me to come back just to do another masterclass this year in Cannes and just to talk about navigating the Cannes Film Festival, which I was really happy to do,” Pritchard told Arab News.
The veteran journalist has covered the festival for around two decades and was happy to share her insights during the masterclass hosted by the Saudi Pavilion.
“It was really nice, it was informal people, just really enthusiastic, I think too, all nice and friendly,” she said.
“It was really interesting because I was talking to reporters about the aspect of covering the Cannes Film Festival, which is such a huge film festival to navigate and I get to 20 years of film festival coverage,” said she added.
Later in the evening, the pavilion also hosted a non-alcoholic Meet the Saudi Film Industry event to welcome some of the Kingdom’s producers and filmmakers.
On Thursday morning, the pavilion continued the festivities with a panel discussion with Saudi talent which was followed by an industry luncheon hosted by the Saudi Film Commission.
During the lunch, many regional and international filmmakers were present to better understand the Kingdom as a global location for cinema and the film industry.
The Saudi Pavilion kicked off the weekend celebrations with another industry luncheon hosted by the Red Sea Film Festival at Carlton Beach and an evening networking cocktail hosted by NEOM.
Alongside the lunches and networking events, many Saudi actors dropped by throughout the pavilion days to meet and discuss collaborations with some of the leading international entities in the film industry.
The names included Yasir Al-Saggaf and Fatima Albanawi who both recently appeared in the Saudi-produced film ‘Champions’.
Albawani said: “Being here in the Saudi pavilion is a hub that connects everyone and reaches everyone and it’s nice to have these discussions and open up opportunities for future projects.
“I have a feature film which is in pre-production and it is very important for me to seek counterparts and co-productions in Europe,” she added.
The Saudi Film Commission has partnered with 11 other Saudi entities, including Film AlUla, Ithra by Aramco, NEOM, the Red Sea International Film Festival and many others dealing with production, distribution, content creation and talent development in the pavilion.