CANNES: Saudi actors, producers and designers left a dazzling mark as this year’s lavish amfAR gala, that raises funds for AIDS research, returned to Cannes Friday evening.
Film producer and chairman of the Red Sea Film Festival Committee Mohammed Al-Turki, “The Perfect Candidate” star Mila Alzahrani, actress and screenwriter Sarah Taibah and “Born a King” actor Rakan Binbella were among the guests at the 27th edition of the fundraising gala, along with a star-studded guest list that included Spike Lee, Dylan Penn, Regina King, Orlando Bloom and Swizz Beatz.
For the occasion, Alzahrani opted to sartorially represent the Kingdom by wearing a draped, forest green gown with a chain link collar designed by Jeddah-born couturier Yousef Akbar.
The night began with a cocktail hour complete with ballerinas and flapper girls with Afghan hounds before a seated dinner under the stars at Villa Eilenroc in Antibes.
Guests dined while being entertained with a fashion show curated by fashion editor Carine Roitfeld titled “I am a Movie Star.” Alicia Keys was the music headliner, performing a set which included her legendary hit “New York” as well as “Fallin’.”
The live auction, which took place during the dinner, saw a combination of luxury holidays, jewels, art-work and one-off experiences go under the hammer.
Among the items being auctioned was a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Saudi Arabia’s inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival and a visit to the UNESCO heritage site Al-Ula, which went under the hammer for $354,161.
“This lot right here is very special to me. I’m a big fan of what’s going on in Saudi Arabia,” said music producer Swizz Beatz. “The forward-thinking, the youth, the entire region. And tonight this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the highly-anticipated first edition Red Sea International Film Festival, a celebration of Arab and global cinema,” he said.
“While enjoying the festival, you and a guest will have a relaxing, all-inclusive five-star accommodation for two— and when Saudi says its five stars, it’s 50 stars just know,” the music producer added.
Amongst the artwork, contemporary UAE-based British artist Sacha Jafri created a live painting during the auction, which raised $1.18 million.
“amfAR is about celebrating lives, saving lives and making lives more beautiful. That’s what the painting is going to be about,” Jafri said of the artwork.
“It’s got layers and layers of love, empathy, spirit, everything I can muster and all the actors and actresses, top footballers of the world that are with us here tonight, singers of the world have all hand-printed and signed my painting,” he explained.
An Andy Warhol Mickey Mouse piece raised $442,702 and a Chopard 18-karat white gold diamond necklace went for $200,692.
The collection of 32 evening gowns which were worn by models during the live fashion show were auctioned off for $200,000.
The non-profit amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, raises money to support AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $550 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.