Some of the most powerful figures in Saudi film gathered at the Ritz Carlton in Jeddah for a cocktail party hosted by Film AlUla and Stampede Ventures in partnership with Variety last night. Figures such as Saudi producer and film industry pioneer Faisal Baltyuor and Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy were spotted along with Zeinab Abu Alsamh, general manager of MBC Studios Saudi Arabia.
Stampede Ventures head Greg Silverman was celebrating the $350 million three-year deal just signed with Film AlUla, which will bring 10 projects to the region. He told Variety: "As somebody who loves film, coming here and seeing films celebrated this way is excellent. We've been looking for a home for our slate of films and we're so excited to have the possibility of working with AlUla. They have state-of-the-art studios and, for our talent, it's an incredible place for them to be when they're not on set. Also, as a film industry, we should be grateful that we have 35 million new film consumers who were not in our market five years ago. We should embrace them and deliver for them."
Phillip Jones, chief tourism officer at the Royal Commission for AlUla, said: "AlUla is really unknown globally and people who arrive are blown away when they arrive. It's mystical. It's magical. The setting is stunning. Not to mention we have 7,000 years of continuous civilization that has left its mark all across the destination. It's interesting culturally, historically and artistically and our job is to put all that together and make it interesting for filmmakers."
The Red Sea Film Festival is now a vital date for all industry figures in the region, Film AlUla executive director Charlene Deleon-Jones said: "It's a very concentrated way to see everyone. It's like New Year for us. It's a great way of being on top of what's happening across the region. We're building the environment for films to work. People can send you an email but here we get to look people in the eye and see the passion."
Providing the glamour were Egyptian singer Yousra and Saudi actor Sumaya Rida, sporting a stunning lime green dress, who came straight from a Gala screening of "To My Son."
"I love the vibe and it's improving every year," Rida said.
Gaspar Noé was also present and although with no film to promote, the "Irreversible" and "Enter the Void" director told Variety about a possible activity he was keen to try of being lowered in a cage into shark-infested waters.
Also present were the Saudi Film Commission's Abduljalil Al-Nasser, Amr Mansi, CEO of Egypt's El Gouna Film Festival, and French producer Daniel Ziskind.