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French veteran actress Catherine Deneuve is in the spotlight at the opening of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah

JEDDAH: The star-studded red carpet on the opening night of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah featured a who’s who of local and international talent.

Among those honored during the opening ceremony on Monday for their contributions to cinema were three women: Veteran French actress Catherine Deneuve, Saudi film director Haifaa Al-Mansour, and Egyptian actress Laila Eloui.
“I am very happy and proud to be here this evening, to have been invited to the first edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival,” said 78-year-old Deneuve upon receiving her award. The multi-award-winning actor made her film debut in 1957 with a small role in Andre Hunebelle’s “Les Collegiennes” and found international acclaim in the decades that followed with starring roles in films such as “Repulsion,” “Belle de Jour,” “8 Women,” “Dancer in the Dark” and “Indochine.”

“It is always an honor to have your work recognized by the film industry,” she added. “I am particularly grateful for this honor and the opportunity to be part of this larger celebration of the contribution of women to cinema.

“I hope my work can help inspire young women to chart their own careers in this industry and I hope this recognition of the contribution of women in cinema in general will continue to underline the importance of having a strong female presence both in front of and behind the camera.”

The festival is celebrating in particular the role women in the film industry, and awards were also presented to two exceptional regional talents for their extraordinary contributions to cinema. Al-Mansour, the first Saudi female director, won a number of international awards for her feature debut, “Wadjda,” in 2012, while 59-year-old Egyptian actor Eloui has appeared in more than 70 films.

Also honored during the opening ceremony was Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute and long-time supporter of the arts and culture.
“I am personally impressed by this beautiful young Saudi cinema and its inspiring directors,” Lang, a former minister of culture in France, told the festival audience, adding: “Long live the Red Sea International Film Festival, which will become one of the best film festivals in the world.

“Dear Saudi friends, we admire your work, we admire your commitment to culture and art. We love you.”
In a recent interview with Arab News en Francais, Lang, a major supporter of cultural exchange through the arts it all its forms, said: “People around the world have absolutely no idea how far a real cultural revolution is taking place in Saudi Arabia in all fields, such as art, cinema, theater, literature, painting, sculpture, music.”

He also expressed his “immense admiration” for the work being done in the Kingdom by Saudi authorities in general and Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan in particular.
The Red Sea International Film Festival continues until Dec. 15. It will screen 138 films from 67 countries in 34 languages.

Hayy Jameel’s opening event explores food politics in Saudi

JEDDAH: The inaugural exhibition at the new Hayy Jameel multidisciplinary arts complex in Jeddah explores how the food we eat is connected to ecology, personal and collective memory and a certain time and place.
The show — Staple: What’s on Your Plate? — presents works by artists not just from the Kingdom, but also from DRC, Germany, Thailand, India, Spain, Lebanon, the Russian Federation, UAE and Bangladesh, reflecting Jeddah’s diverse demographic.
“Staple is an international exhibition that represents Jeddah’s history,” said Rahul Gudipudi, Exhibitions Curator at Art Jameel, which set up the center. “Jeddah is a port city that through centuries of trade, cultural exchange and pilgrimage has a truly diverse community. In many ways this exhibition reflects this dialogue with the world that Jeddah has had for centuries.”
“We staged the show in collaboration with the Delfina Foundation and it asks very simple yet urgent questions such as how the choices we make with our food impact the world and our societies,” Gudipudi told Arab News.

On the second floor, the gentle sounds of an Indian woman singing can be heard from a life-size corrugated iron structure, the work of Indian artist Sancintya Mohini Simpson. titled “Jahajin,” it recalls the houses occupied by indentured female laborers taken from India to Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa) in the early 20th century to work on sugar plantations. As guests enter the structure they can smell the alluring concoction of spices, cardamon and earth while listening to the woman’s captivating voice singing the Bhojpuri folk song of Simpson’s mother. Inside is a film showcasing the seemingly endless fields of plantations.
Simpson uses her work to reflect on the experience of her maternal ancestors and the stories she found through archival research on female plantation workers.

As Simpson’s work demonstrates, gender issues permeate all aspects of agriculture. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, women constitute 47 percent of those engaged in agriculture.
“Africa Empty Europe Full Up” (2021) is a group of heads and one full body figure that at first glance look as though they are bronze. On closer examination we see they have been made from chocolate.
The sculptures are the work of Cercle d’art des travailleurs de plantation Congolaise, an arts collective based in Lusanga, DRC, composed of former palm oil and plantation workers. Since they are unable to afford to live off the wages they receive from their work, they use material sourced from cacao to create their artworks. The works they create are made in a collaborative setting and the materials used to recall and overwrite the exploitative economics of global trade.

CATPC presents a new model. While in the West we see how plantation labor has historically funded the art world via donations, here art is funding a new form of post-plantation trade whereby the group reinvests the profits from sales of their artworks into self-owned agricultural production in the DRC.
Works such as these prompt a reflection on the centuries of global trade and colonialism that have led to the world’s current predicament.
On the ground floor of the center more colorful works come into view, the most prominent being an installation by Saudi design studios Bricklab and Misht Studio called “Absent Dinner” (2021). The large-scale mixed media installation incorporates 100 percent cotton muslin hanging from the ceiling colored with dyes made from turmeric, Galangal, nutmeg and fennel seeds. Brightly colored casts of a cooked Jawi meal from South and West Asia stand on a series of white winding pedestals.
A simple meal, the Akil Jawi, stands as a testament to the once seamless integration into the Hejazi community. Today, the artists say, the diversity of Hejazi society is increasingly marginalized due to globalization. That diversity dates back hundreds of years as workers from Africa, Java, Central and South Asia settled in city centers in the Hejaz for trade, education and religion, and their cultural influences can still be found in these areas today.

Nearby are multimedia works by Saudi artist Mohammed Alfraji. His Jasb ‘Al’aesh (2021) features projections on found pieces of tree trunks. Alfraji explores the food practices of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahsa region in the eastern province, which is known for its agricultural abundance. His poetic video installation presents the region’s various food practices, from cooking, planting and planting to agricultural policies, as well as food’s connection to family heritage.