Israel’s Netta, the voice of #MeToo at Eurovision

Israeli singer Netta Barzilai aka Netta poses for pictures during the Red Carpet ceremony of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 6, 2018. (AFP/Francisco Leong)
Updated 10 May 2018

Israel’s Netta, the voice of #MeToo at Eurovision

  • The performer's song "Toy" contains the defiant line “I am not your toy, you stupid boy”

LISBON: With her powerful voice and attention-grabbing clothes, Israeli singer Netta Barzilai has become the voice of the #MeToo movement at Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon.
Her uptempo song “Toy” — which include the lines “I am not your toy, you stupid boy” and “the Barbie’s got something to say” — has grabbed the limelight, summing up the concerns of many women who have adopted the movement.
“The song has an important message — the awakening of female power and social justice, wrapped in a colorful, happy vibe,” Barzilai was quoted as saying by Eurovision site wiwibloggs earlier this week.
“I think the song is #MeToo, but it’s an empowerment song for everybody, and everybody can find themselves in it,” she told OUTtv, a Netherlands-based speciality cable channel.
The song also references “Wonder Woman,” who was recently brought to the big screen by Israeli actress Gal Gadot.
“This song needed to make everyone dance, with a happy beat” but also “say something different about the #MeToo movement,” the author of the song, Doron Medalie, said in an interview with The Times of Israel.
Barzilai is the fans’ favorite at the contest, according to a poll carried out by OGEA, a network of Eurovision song contest fan clubs from around the globe.
At Tuesday’s first semifinal at Lisbon’s riverside Altice Arena, many of her supporters wore T-shirts that read: “I am not your toy.” Barzilai was one of the ten acts that made it through to Saturday’s final.
She says her fashion choices — at the semifinal she wore a multi-colored kimono while at Sunday’s opening ceremony she was decked out in a white chiffon dress that resembled a bridal gown — are part of her message.
“I see it as a really important way of expression. Also because larger women don’t celebrate themselves,” she told a news conference after a rehearsal in Lisbon last week.
“We only live once and I really believe than I am beautiful and sexy and special… it’s a wonderful chance to do a little change in the world.”
Barzilai is popular among young people in Israel after winning a reality show there earlier this year, giving her the right to represent the country at Eurovision.
Born in 1993, Barzilai was raised along with her two brothers in the Tel Aviv region. While still a child her parents moved to Nigeria where she lived for four years, learning rhythms of African lullabies sung to her by local nannies.
Back in Israel, she studied jazz at the Rimon School of Music, one of the most prestigious music schools in the country.
“I find her very talented, she has a very beautiful voice and she performs well on the stage,” said Naomi Yeivin, a 24-year-old Israeli singer and songwriter, who studied at the same music school.
She said many people focused on Netta’s weight and said it was good that she did not feel inhibited by it.
“I also find it good, but I don’t think it will completely revolutionize mentalities,” she told AFP in Israel.
For months Barzilai has been the bookmakers’ favorite to win Eurovision this year.
But after Tuesday’s semifinal she was overtaken by Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira with a catchy pop song entitled “Fuego.”

Cinema Akil founder brings the magic of independent movies to Dubai

Updated 18 August 2019

Cinema Akil founder brings the magic of independent movies to Dubai

  • Butheina Kazim founded Cinema Akil in 2014 as a platform for independent cinema
  • Kazim’s next goal is to expand the Cinema Akil concept from Dubai to the region

DUBAI:  Butheina Kazim has brought the magic of art-house movies to Dubai, through her project Cinema Akil.

Having worked in television, radio and film acquisitions, Butheina Kazim founded Cinema Akil in 2014 as a platform for independent cinema. For Kazim, who has also produced her own film “Letters to Palestine,” the project is about more than just watching films, it’s also for building community. 

She introduced the concept with pop-up screenings, but since last year Cinema Akil has a permanent theatre in Dubai’s art district on Al-Serkal Avenue. Step into the 133-seater theater, and you are transported to an old-school picture house.

“The permanent space allows us to release films every single night of the year. The programming is often exclusive and can’t be seen elsewhere,” said Kazim. But the pop-up format will always be part of Cinema Akil. “Our nomadic life allows us to reach different communities by bringing free public cinema to people.” 

Kazim works closely with special events such as Dubai Shopping Festival’s Market Out of the Box and Fashion Forward initiatives and has screened over 350 films across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

In summer, the cinema space’s robust line-up continues. “There’s a mythical Dubai exodus that everyone speaks of as soon as summer hits,” said Kazim. Some of Cinema Akil’s August highlights include “Straight Out of Berlin,” a series of eight films in collaboration with the Goethe Institut, which explores the many faces and tunnels of the German capital city.

There was even a “Cat Weekend” on International Cat Day earlier this month, when films that celebrate all things feline were screened.

Kazim has been encouraged by the region’s response to art cinema: “We’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm. Films we never expected to succeed, such “Cold War” by Pawel Pawlikowski and “Capernaum” by Nadine Labaki, had a wonderful response. It’s magical when that happens.”

Kazim’s next goal is to expand the Cinema Akil concept from Dubai to the region, giving cinephiles all over the Gulf a chance to enjoy independent films.