EXCLUSIVE: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation has announced it is investing in Johnny Depp’s Modi, Michael Mann’s Venice title Ferrari and Guy Ritchie’s World War Two spy action feature The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.
The foundation, which is the parent body of the Jeddah-set Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF), has supported the films through its Red Sea International Film Financing arm, which previously backed Maïwenn’s Cannes 2023 opening film Jean du Barry as its first major international co-production.
There are no details on the size of the investments, but the foundation revealed Modi would also act as a pilot for a new program under which Saudi Arabian interns would be welcomed on set to gain hands-on training in various departments including art, camera, and production.
The investments are a further sign of Saudi Arabia’s determination to carve itself out a place as a major player in the international film business at the same time as building an industry at home, following the lifting of its 35-year cinema ban in 2017.
“Red Sea International Film Financing is a vehicle for us to support out acclaimed storytellers, great directors, and create the opportunity for cultural exchange,” said RSIFF CEO Mohammed Al Turki.
“Following on from our first international co-production with Maïwenn’s highly anticipated Cannes opener Jeanne Du Barry, we are immensely elated to be playing a part in the debut of Michael Mann’s powerful film focused on one dramatic year in the life of Enzo Ferrari, as well as supporting the making of Johnny Depp’s fascinating window into the artist Modigliani’s life and work, which puts Depp back behind the camera, and Guy Ritchie’s propulsive exploration of WWII renegades through The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.”
Modi marks Depp’s second feature in the director’s chair after his 1997 feature The Brave. As revealed by Deadline last year, it stars Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio in the titular role of painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani, with Al Pacino and French actor Pierre Niney also in the cast.
The movie chronicles the life of the Italian artist over the course of 48 turbulent hours in a war-torn Paris in 2016.
His desire to prematurely end his career and leave the city is dismissed by fellow bohemians: French artist Maurice Utrillo, the Belarusian-born Chaim Soutine and his English muse and lover, Beatrice Hastings. Modi seeks advice from his Polish art dealer and friend Leopold Zborowski, but the chaos reaches a crescendo when he’s faced with a collector who could change his life.
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The feature is based on Dennis McIntyre’s play Modigliani, which has been adapted by screenwriters Jerzy and Mary Kromolowski.
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is inspired by the true story of the first special forces mission in history.
Led by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a tight group of naval intelligence officers including James Bond author Ian Fleming, an elite combat organization goes on a daring mission against the Nazis using utterly unconventional and entirely ungentlemanly fighting techniques.
Directed and co-written by Ritchie, it stars Henry Cavill, Eiza González, Alan Ritchson, Alex Pettyfer, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Til Schweiger, Babs Olusamokun, with Henry Golding and Cary Elwes.
The film is a Lionsgate release from Jerry Bruckheimer Films, a Toff Guy production, and Black Bear.
Aside from its investment in Ferrari, which world premiered in Competition in Venice on Thursday, the Red Sea Film Foundation is also out in force at the Italian festival through its Red Sea Film Fund aimed at films from the Arab world and Africa.
The fund, which has supported 170 films since its creation in 2019, has backed Tunisian director Mohamed Ben Attia’s Orizzonti title Behind the Mountains and Moroccan Atlas Mountains road movie Backstage by Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane, which plays in Giornate degli Autori.
The fund is also supporting three projects participating in the Final Cut programme of the festival’s industry-focused Venice Production Bridge initiative, comprising She Was Not Alone, Zion Music and Allah Is Not Obliged.