Johnny Depp's 'Jeanne du Barry'; a new Saudi whitewashing attempt
A Saudi film fund is investing in Johnny Depp's French period film.
A Saudi film fund announced its investment on Thursday in Johnny Depp's new film, a French period drama in which he plays King Louis XV.
The Red Sea Film Foundation announced its support for the new film "Jeanne du Barry," directed by France's Maiwenn, who also stars as the famous 18th-century courtesan in the title role.
"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 Depp's first major role since his high-profile defamation trial with ex-wife Amber Heard in which she claimed he was physically abusive.
According to the Saudi foundation, which was established in 2019, it has already funded 170 African and Arab films, but this is its first foray into European cinema.
It organizes the annual Jeddah Film Festival, which debuted in 2021 as part of an alleged wave of reforms in a country that had banned cinemas for the longest time.
Saudi whitewashing "again"
Critics including Human Rights Watch accused the festival of being part of the Saudi Kingdom's efforts to whitewash its image. "Jeanne du Barry," which has a distribution deal with Netflix, is the sixth film directed by Maiwenn, who goes by a single name.
The amount of Saudi money invested in the film, which has already been shot on location in France and is currently in post-production, was not immediately clear.
In a similar context, Saudi Arabia has been using the star-studded faces of international celebrities to whitewash its slate, in addition to hosting sports and cultural events, such as the Formula One event that 'enjoyed' a Justin Bieber performance, among many others.
Within this context, Human Rights Watch contended earlier that “Saudi Arabia has a history of using celebrities and major international events to deflect scrutiny from its pervasive abuses.”