The Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia and Vanity Fair recently organized a post-gala event at the Cannes Film Festival. The event was specifically dedicated to celebrating the talent and stories of women from the region.
Prominent figures like Leonardo DiCaprio, Katie Holmes, Maiwenn, The Weeknd, Gaspar Noe, Storm Reid, Tobey Maguire, Gurinder Chadha, Fan Bingbing, Freida Pinto, Simone Marchetti, Eva Herzigova, Naomi Campbell, and many others graced the star-studded occasion.
The prestigious event took place at the renowned Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cap d’Antibes, where six remarkable stars from the region were recognized: Mila Al-Zahrani and Fatima Al-Banawi from Saudi Arabia, Razane Jammal from Lebanon, Sarah Ali Khan from India, Tara Emad, an Egyptian-Montenegrin actress and model, and Jade Osiberu, a Nigerian filmmaker.
In an interview with Arab News, Tara Emad expressed her pride, stating, “I am immensely proud of myself and all the women honored here. I take pride in our industry, Egypt, and the Arab world as a whole. It’s an honor for me to represent Egypt and the Arab world in this capacity.”
She expressed her joy, saying, “I am delighted to witness the representation that I always longed to see during my younger years. My hope is that the six of us can serve as that representation for all the girls and women in the Arab region who aspire to see themselves shining in any career they choose.”
Khan considered it a “privilege” to be part of the event and shared, “If I were to describe myself in three words, it would be: Indian, woman, and actor. Today, I am here to celebrate all three.”
For Al-Banawi, such moments are no longer unexpected or surprising.
“I have reached a point where I am no longer surprised because Saudi Arabia is determined to demonstrate that we are crafting inspiring, magical stories that drive change and development,” she expressed. “I am incredibly delighted that we are here at the Cannes Film Festival, celebrating one another and reveling in this moment together.”
Al-Banawi further commented, “It feels like the narrative that was always projected onto us was very specific, and women were not included in it. It seemed to be written by others. However, today, we are honoring women who are authoring, creating, challenging, and celebrating themselves as well as their fellow women.”
She emphasized the courage required to share one’s story, especially when surrounded by narratives that shape you within a particular discourse or framework. Al-Banawi added, “It takes even more courage to break free, to explore new possibilities, and to seize new opportunities. I always remind myself to embrace taking up space, expressing my opinions, and addressing anything that I believe needs improvement or change.”
Jammal shared that she never distinguished between genders, considering there to be no inherent difference between being a man or a woman. She reflected on her upbringing, raised by a supportive father who instilled in her the belief that she was equal to her brother. As a result, she never perceived being a woman as a hurdle, but rather as a source of strength.
However, upon entering the workforce, Jammal became aware of the challenges that women encounter.
She expressed her ongoing learning process as she becomes more exposed to a broader audience, noting that their reactions provide valuable insights into their perspectives. As a woman, she finds great joy in representing someone who pursued her dreams, who is self-made and independent. She strives to give her best and feels fortunate that her best efforts are yielding positive results.
Sara Sampaio, a Portuguese model who also attended the event, described her participation in the women’s stories gala as a deeply meaningful experience. She emphasized the significance of having stories told from women’s perspectives, highlighting the importance of amplifying their voices. Sampaio expressed admiration for women and their incredible qualities, acknowledging that for a long time, their stories were not portrayed from their own point of view.
Mohammed Al-Turki, the CEO of the Red Sea Film Festival, expressed his delight in celebrating women and the opportunity to share stories from the region. He conveyed a sense of pride in highlighting six remarkable females from the region: Mila Zahran and Fatima Al-Banawi from Saudi Arabia, Tara Emad from Egypt, Razane Jammal from Lebanon, Jade from Nigeria, and Sara Ali Khan from India.
Al-Turki emphasized the significance of the diverse mix of talents being showcased to the world. He described the experience of being in a room with influential figures such as Katie Holmes as an incredible and significant moment for the festival.
Reflecting on the achievement, he expressed his belief that the dream has become a reality. He never anticipated that a Saudi co-production, helmed by a female director of Algerian descent, would open the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. This accomplishment serves as a clear indication of progress and potential. He expressed excitement for what lies ahead, noting that if this is just the result of three years of the Red Sea Film Festival, there are bound to be incredible advancements in the future.
This year, the Cannes Film Festival commenced with the screening of “Jeanne du Barry,” featuring Johnny Depp. The film was supported by the Red Sea International Film Festival.