Saudis prepare for first film festival :

JEDDAH : Less than four years after lifting a ban on cinemas, Saudi Arabia rolled out the red carpet on Monday in Jeddah for celebrities descending on the kingdom's first major film festival.

Saudi, Arab and foreign actors and actresses walked the red carpet in evening wear - a far cry from the traditional black abaya that until recently was the officially mandated dress code for women.

''It's a historical day in the kingdom,'' the festival's director Mohammed AI Turki told AFP.

Movie houses were banned for decades until April 2018, but over the next 10 days, actors and directors will showcase their features at Jeddah's Red Sea International Film Festival.

The festival starts a day after Jeddah hosted its first Formula One Grand Prix, also an attempt to portray Saudi Arabia in a different light.

It will showcase 138 long and short films from 67 countries in more than 30 languages.

Among them are Jordan's critically acclaimed. ''The Alleys'' directed by Bassel Ghandour, and non-Arabic films including Joe Wright's ''Cyrano'' and ''83''., the story of India's 1983 cricket World Cup victory.

The festival is also expected to honour Haifaa aI Mansour, the first female Saudi director, who shot ''Wadjda''. in 2012, winning her a number of international awards.

''This is a turning point, but we still aspire for more,'' Saudi actress EIham Ali told AFP as she walked the carpet in a red dress.

'' The thought of organising a film festival in Saudi Arabia was unimaginable just five years ago,'' said Egyptian art critic Mohammed Abdel Rahman.

The festival also has an eye on a burgeoning market for shooting and consuming films in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's annual box office could reach $950 million by 2030, according to a report by multinational accountancy firm PwC. [AFP]


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