Red Sea: Oliver Stone supports the “zero censorship” film festival in Saudi Arabia

Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone spoke out in favor of Saudi Arabia at the opening of the Red Sea International Film Festival on Thursday (December 1), saying the nation is “misunderstood in today’s world”.

Stone, who is attending the second edition of the event as chair of the international jury, said at the ceremony: “You see the changes that are coming here, the reforms. I think people who judge too harshly should visit this place and see for themselves.”

The festival, which runs until December 10 in Jeddah, coincides with the fifth anniversary of Saudi Arabia lifting its 35-year ban on cinemas.

Festival CEO Mohammed al-Turki and US director Oliver Stone

(Red Sea Film Festival/AFP via Ge)

The event’s executive director, Mohammed Al Turki, has promised a “zero censorship” LGBTQ+-themed festival, despite taking place in a country where homosexuality is illegal.

Mr Al Turki told film industry news website Deadline Hollywood: “The festival operates a zero-censorship policy. I don’t think you can have an international film festival when there is censorship – it doesn’t go hand in hand.”

The love drama by Shekhar Kapur what does love have to do with it opened the festival. The film raises questions about religion and arranged marriages and has been described as a “daring” choice given its predominantly devout Muslim audience.

Another film that will be shown The blue caftantells the story of a secretly gay Moroccan tailor who is forced to face his sexuality when a male apprentice works with him.

Kaleem Aftab, director of international programming at the festival, told Screen Daily that he had the freedom to choose the films he wanted based on their artistic merit.

When asked if it was important that they showed a gay love story, he replied: “They say there is a heterogeneous Saudi person. It is a country of 35 million people – there are many different opinions.”

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Guy Ritchie at the Red Sea Film Festival

(Getty Images for The Red Sea International)

He added: “To think that there is only one audience is a big mistake. And to look at Saudi Arabia as a monolithic whole is a big mistake.”

Sharon Stone, Michelle Rodriguez, Freida Pinto and Andy Garcia are among the international stars attending the festival, along with Saudi celebrities Haifaa Al Mansour, Sohayb Godus and Fatima Al-Banawi to name a few.

The main competition features 15 films by Arab, African and Asian directors, while the red carpet program features films such as Martin McDonagh’s Banshees of Inisherin, Park Chan Wooks decision to goSam Mendes’ realm of lightand Ruben Ostlunds triangle of sadness

In addition to the screenings, many stars will be interviewed on the In-Conversations program, including Oscar winners Spike Lee and Jackie Chan, and Oscar nominee Luca Guadagnino. Red Sea: Oliver Stone supports the “zero censorship” film festival in Saudi Arabia


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