Several prominent members of Hollywood’s elite are facing criticism for their participation in a contentious film festival held in Saudi Arabia, with many choosing to remain silent amid the growing backlash.
RadarOnline.com reached out to representatives of high-profile figures such as Will Smith, Sofía Vergara, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Michelle Williams, following reports that these stars were allegedly offered substantial sums, up to $1 million each, to make appearances at the overseas event. Despite attempts to seek comments, none of the representatives provided statements on the record.
The festival, described as the “blood red carpet” by Puck News, drew attention to the significant financial incentives, suggesting that Smith may have received even more for his participation. It was reported that Creative Artists Agency (CAA) negotiated around $900,000 for Michelle Williams, though the agency declined to comment on the matter.
Confirmation from the festival organizers revealed Gwyneth Paltrow’s scheduled appearance “In Conversation” with Jomana Al Rashid, the CEO of Arab News, on a Wednesday night session.
Sofía Vergara, who recently attended the Women In Cinema Gala, praising the event’s food and participants, has also faced criticism for her involvement in the festival.
During the festival, Will Smith not only attended but also shared personal reflections, discussed his aspirations to film in Saudi Arabia, and provided insights into his upcoming sequel to “I Am Legend.”
The participation of these A-listers has ignited accusations that they are turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses in exchange for financial gain.
Criticism has been particularly intense from Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of the slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Her condemnation emphasizes the timing of the celebrities’ attendance, given that U.S. intelligence previously implicated a team of 15 Saudi agents in a “capture or kill” operation, allegedly approved by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Sevag Kechichian, a senior researcher for Khashoggi’s non-profit organization Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), expressed disappointment, stating that instead of using their platform to advocate for the release of Saudi human rights defenders and an end to abuses, these celebrities seem content taking money from the Saudi government to “arts-wash” its controversial human rights record.
The continued participation of celebrities in events like the Red Sea Film Festival has sparked broader concerns about the entertainment industry’s involvement in what critics view as an attempt to sanitize Saudi Arabia’s image on the global stage.