Saudi director’s latest film to debut in London

Mahmoud Sabbagh
Updated 02 September 2018
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Saudi director’s latest film to debut in London

  • In all my work, I take a humorous stab at the contradictory, unequal setups of our society

JEDDAH: Tickets for “Amra and the Second Marriage,” Saudi Director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s latest feature film, will go on sale in London on Sept. 13.
The film is scheduled to debut on Oct. 13 at the Vue cinema in Leicester Square, and the following day at the Curzon cinema in Soho.
“Amra and the Second Marriage” tells the story of how a middle-aged housewife handles her husband’s decision to pursue a second wife.
“It’s a dark comedy about an average housewife who discovers that her retiring husband is planning to marry a younger second wife,” Sabbagh told Arab News.
“In her attempts to comprehend this new reality, her life begins to unravel as she’s pushed toward a hefty compromise,” he said.
“Unlike my debut feature ‘Barakah Meets Barakah,’ which voiced millennials’ concerns about cosmopolitan Jeddah, this one touches on a heartland mainstream milieu. There’s a hyper-real element to it that serves not to estrange.” Both films were shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.
Born in Jeddah in 1983, Sabbagh grew up heavily influenced by Egyptian films from the 1980s.
In 2011, he attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied documentary filmmaking and production.
After earning his master’s degree, Sabbagh returned to Jeddah, where he released the highly acclaimed 2016 film “Barakah Meets Barakah.”
Shot entirely in Jeddah, the film is a comedic love story that plays on strict Saudi social conventions in a dramatically candid way.
It premiered at the 66th annual Berlin International Film Festival — the first Saudi feature film to do so — and was later selected as the Saudi entry for best foreign-language film at the 89th Academy Awards.
The following year, Sabbagh was appointed to the jury for the best first feature award at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.
“In all my work, I take a humorous stab at the contradictory, unequal setups of our society. There’s a cinematic moral responsibility to every filmmaker,” he said.
“My quest has been to modernize intersubjective realities and distort those unequal power dynamics so change can occur from within. This happens by being able to tell more and more local stories,” he said.
“These stories get their universal appeal because emotional conflicts are universal. You can’t deny that.”
Regarding his inspiration to pursue a career in filmmaking, Sabbagh credits his fellow Saudis.
“The everyday life of a Saudi inspires me. We have rich stories and fascinating milieus. In my latest film, I strived to give its dark comedy a Coen Brothers tone,” he said.
Along with directing and screenwriting, Sabbagh also produces films, and in 2015 he founded Elhoush Productions, the first independent feature film production company based in Jeddah.
Prior to filmmaking he worked as a journalist, which he attributes with shaping his perceptions on sensitive social taboos.
As for what is next, “I’d like to progress my style more. I have bigger desires for more cinematic fulfilment,” Sabbagh said.
“I’m interested as a director in the idea of being able to go further, to do something that hasn’t been done before, to work harder with everyone else to bring the filmmaking experience to a more pleasant and accessible standard.”


Miles Davis and all that jazz

Miles Davis teaches actress Jeanne Moreau to play the trumpet. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Miles Davis and all that jazz

  • Thankfully, the tapes were rolling on Dec. 19, 1970 — just one more historic evening when Miles changed music forever, before tearing up the rulebook again in pursuit of that most quixotic muse

ROTTERDAM: Miles Davis once claimed to have “changed music five or six times,” and while a man known for neither understatement nor modesty, some argue that the jazz icon sold himself short — biographer John Szwed once traced at least nine musical subgenres either born or shaped by Davis’ innovations. 

The revolutionary shopping list includes inventing cool-jazz in the 1940s, spawning hard bop, modal jazz and third-stream in the 1950s, and pioneering post-bop in the 1960s. However, the stylistic sea change Davis devoted most blood, sweat and tape toward were the ‘70s adventures in fusion most often epitomized by “B*****s Brew”, the first of ten dense double-LPs (plus two singles) recorded in just five years — which over 44 sides of vinyl explored and/or anticipated jazz-rock, funk, ambient, minimalism, worldbeat, psychedelic, space-jazz and even techno.

Trippy stuff, for sure, but not always easily listenable. Not the case with the misleadingly titled “Live-Evil” (1971) — a part-studio, mostly live set which captures Davis’ increasingly oblique electric permutations at their most fun, and funky. The bulk of the 102-minute runtime documents a one-night encounter with guest guitarist John McLaughlin, whose furious fretwork conceals an unusually ragged looseness and bluesy simplicity.

Such a raw approach suits the thick, squelchy grooves conjured by electric bassist Michael Henderson — recently recruited from Aretha Franklin’s band — grounding the untethered attack of drummer Jack DeJohnette’s crazed rock rhythms.

Recorded at the height of his boxing obsession, there’s a controlled aggression to Davis’ playing — the hurried rhythms of jabs and parries, ducks and dives — his horn harshly amplified through a wah-wah guitar pedal in a wholehearted Hendrix homage.

What little harmony there is comes from Keith Jarrett, whose overdriven organ scurries lend a frazzled energy and cerebral counter-balance. Soon after Jarrett — now the most renowned solo pianist on the planet — would quit and disavow electronic instruments altogether.

Thankfully, the tapes were rolling on Dec. 19, 1970 — just one more historic evening when Miles changed music forever, before tearing up the rulebook again in pursuit of that most quixotic muse.