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Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival kicked off its second edition on Friday with a splashy gala that alongside Egyptian icon Yousra and a plethora of Arab talent also saw Guy Ritchie, Sharon Stone and Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan on the red carpet. 

Held in the auditorium of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Jeddah, on the Red Sea’s eastern shore, the ceremony served as a strong affirmation of the event’s theme “Film is Everything,” and of the special meaning of cinema in a country where, until December 2017, moviegoing was banned for religion-related reasons.

Saudi producer and philanthropist Mohammed Al Turki, who is the event’s CEO, in his speech called the fest and market “a clear indicator of change that plays a crucial role in transforming and reshaping the future for our next generation of creatives.”

The opening of the Red Sea fest’s second edition also stands as testimony that organizers are getting their message across and that the international film community is responding positively.

Guests spotted on the red carpet included Red Sea jury president Oliver Stone; Australia’s Andrew Dominik, the director of “Blonde”; Oscar-winning Indian composer AR Rahman, who will be performing a live concert; German director Fatih Akin; Italian directors Luca Guadagnino and Giuseppe Tornatore; Indian actor Priyanka Chopra; French actor Melanie Laurent; and Spanish actor Rossy de Palma; as well as numerous Arab stars. Spike Lee and Jackie Chan are expected in the coming days.

After the ceremony, the fest kicked off in earnest with Shekhar Kapur’s frothy arranged marriage rom-com “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” with Kapur, writer Jemima Khan, and actors Shabana Azmi, Sajal Ali, Jeff Mirza, and DJ and music producer Naughty Boy in tow.

Then multiplatinum pop-R&B singer Bruno Mars performed a live set at the balmy opening party, where hundreds of guests from dozens of countries washed down local specialties with non-alcoholic bubbly, alcohol-free wines and chilled juices.

The Red Sea fest runs through Dec. 10.