Saudi fund invests in Johnny Depp's new film about French courtesan

© Stephanie Branchu. Why Not Productions

A Saudi film fund has announced that it is investing in Johnny Depp's new movie, a French period drama in which he plays King Louis XV.

The Red Sea Film Foundation said in a statement that it was backing the new film, Jeanne du Barry, which is directed by French filmmaker Maïwenn.

The actor and director, who goes by her first name only, also stars in the title role as the famous 18th century courtesan.

"We hope this collaboration will strengthen the ties between Saudi and French cinema and be the first of many international films that we can support that advocate for women filmmakers," said Mohammed Al Turki, CEO of the Red Sea International Film Festival, which is linked to the foundation.

It is the first major role for Depp since his high-profile defamation trial with ex-wife Amber Heard over her claims that he was physically abusive.

Accused of 'culture-washing'

The Saudi foundation, formed in 2019, has already funded some 170 African and Arab movies, it said, but this is its first foray into European cinema.

It runs the annual festival in Jeddah, which had its first edition in 2021, part of a spate of reforms in a country that had banned cinemas until 2017.

According to the international rights watchdog, which has called for boycotts, "Saudi Arabia has a history of using celebrities and major international events to deflect scrutiny from its pervasive abuses".

(with wires)


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