Jeddah has recently seen a boom in entertainment. For example, the first ever Saudi Comic Con was held in February, and also, an entire governmental branch has been erected only to meet the demands of the kingdom’s growing hunger for entertainment. However, not all of the entertainment options are newcomers. Some long-standing titans exist in Jeddah, and recently, one of them started its annual festival. The European Film Festival in Jeddah has recently begun, which now marks its 11th year running.
On Monday, March 27, 2017 the Italian Club, located in the Al-Baghdadiyah district, opened its doors to embrace over a hundred people to the grand opening of the European Film Festival in Jeddah, of which 3 were reporters from The View.
The festival’s opening speech was one of an upbeat tone, with “promoting friendships and common values is the priority” central to its message. The opening night was arranged so that the festival would immediately comply with and support the opening speech: this year, it was decided that the opening film would, straying away from the tradition of screening an Italian movie, be a French-Italian produced movie, Dalida, as proposed by the French consulate, according to Mr. Karim Maatoug, who was present along with personnel from various European consulates to Jeddah.
The movie was a fitting choice; it was a biographical piece on the Italian-French star Yolanda Cristina Gigliotti, better known by her stage name Dalida. For more details on the movie, stay tuned for the upcoming movie review, which will be here shortly.
Another thing to note is that the attendees were expectedly ecstatic about the event and movie. Dammas, a Dutchman living in Jeddah, said of the event “It’s the eleventh time that I come to the European Film Festival. I used to live in Italy from 1960 to 1970, and I used to have Dalida records; I like the atmosphere of the film festivals.” A loyal follower of the festival, he said that he would also attend at least a few other movie screenings over the course of the festival.
Furthermore, Maria, who is a South African immigrant and has lived in Jeddah for 6 years, said that she’s always tried her best to attend the film festival. She also envisions a hopeful future for entertainment in the city, stating “maybe we should have western music like classical music concerts and jazz concerts. Also, maybe a fusion of cultures, so maybe a concert with Arab and western music, a sort of ‘east meets west’ event.”
Although this sounds far-fetched given the current status quo in the city and kingdom, there may be some hope, at least according to the head of protocol of the Jeddah chamber of commerce and industry Mohammad Azzam. On this topic, he responded:
“I think awareness [should be the primary concern of locals]. I totally understand that many Saudis are not accepting of different cultures, but there is a huge number of youth who have nothing to do with the old mindset.”
This is true for DJIS students, who are a perfect representation of this country’s youth, whether foreigner or not: eager to meet new people from different cultures and have fun.
Mr. Azzam also added that there should be a large investment on foreign consulates’ part to increase public interest.
Also, given that the movie was proposed by the French consulate, I decided that it would be best to hear from a spokesperson from the consulate. Mr. Karim Maatoug was there to provide commentary and stated “this is event not associated with the international month of French culture; however, I decided to add it to our documents because it is very closely related.”
That meant that the month of French culture was over, to be succeeded by nearly two weeks’ worth of European film screenings, including The Hallow, The Cut, El Greco, Victoria, Dossier K., and Swallows and Amazons.
Looking back on the past month, Mr. Maatoug stated:
“It was a great success. The best thing was the meeting with Saudi writers… the idea was to let French foreigners meet Saudi writers, and sometimes, we invited French writers only. To end it, we had a successful dinner.”
Speaking of dinner, an open, outdoor dinner was served directly after the end of the movie. Guests helped themselves to a profusion of fruit and cheese platters, plenty of Italian bread, and mini pizzas. For the rest of the night, guests chatted and ate to their hearts’ content.
If you’re looking to attend the next event, the next movie in the European Film Festival’s agenda is El Greco, scheduled to take place on April 1st, at the residence of the consul general of Germany. Be sure to sign up!
The View would also like to extend its sincere thanks to the kind people of the Italian Club and French consulate. Their cooperation was essential to the reporting and coverage of this event.