Saudi Arabia to show films for first time at Cannes festival: minister

PARIS: Saudi Arabia will make its first official appearance at France´s Cannes film festival, submitting a selection of short films when the prestigious competition opens next month, the Saudi culture minister said Monday.

“We are very happy… that there will be an official participation at the Cannes festival, for the first time,” Awwad Alawwad said after talks with his French counterpart Francoise Nyssen, part of an official two-day visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to France.

France to help Saudi Arabia set up orchestra, opera

Further, France is to help Saudi Arabia set up a national orchestra and opera, a further sign of major cultural changes underway in the Gulf kingdom.

“Today an agreement was signed with the Paris Opera to help Saudi Arabia set up a national orchestra and an opera,” French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen told a press conference after talks with her Saudi counterpart.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, dined with President Emmanuel Macron at Paris´s historic Louvre museum on Sunday night after flying in on his first trip to France as the heir to the Saudi throne.

The prince has used a global tour that has seen him travel to the US, Britain and Egypt to project an image of a modern reformer of his austere kingdom.

Backed by high-power lobbying and public relations firms, the prince is seeking to change the image of his homeland.

He has announced the lifting of a ban on women driving and has authorised cinemas for the first time in over three decades.

The move to reopen cinemas was seen by analysts as a bid to balance unpopular subsidy cuts in an era of low oil prices with more entertainment options — despite opposition from religious hardliners.

In February, Saudi Arabia´s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) announced it would stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.