Sofia Boutella hits the red carpet in Toronto

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Sofia Boutella poses on the black carpet during another event in Toronto. (AFP)  
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A still from ‘Climax.’  
Updated 11 September 2018
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Sofia Boutella hits the red carpet in Toronto

  • The film was screened at the 43rd edition of TIFF, which is set to run until Sept. 16

DUBAI: French-Algerian dancer, model and actress Sofia Boutella took to the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this week to promote her new film, “Climax.”
Witten and directed by Gaspar Noé, the film sees a group of young dancers gather in a remote, disused school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The gathering soon turns into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn that their drinks were laced with LSD.
The film was screened at the 43rd edition of TIFF, which is set to run until Sept. 16, alongside more than 300 features, short films, documentaries and world premieres.
Meanwhile, director Steve McQueen returned to the limelight at the film festival Sunday with an eagerly anticipated feminist heist movie, “Widows,” at a time when calls are multiplying for heftier roles for women.
It’s been five years since the British director released his last movie, “12 Years A Slave,” which won an Academy Award for best picture and other accolades.
His newest film, starring Viola Davis, was adapted from Lynda La Plante’s 1983-85 British television series, which McQueen says “just spoke to me as a 13-year-old black boy in London,” AFP reported.
In the film, Davis plays Veronica who lives a cushy life in Chicago paid for by her partner Rawlins (Liam Neeson), who makes money by robbing people.
When a job goes wrong leaving Rawlins’ gang dead, a local crime boss (Brian Tyree Henry) and his muscle (Daniel Kaluuya) come looking for the money, forcing Veronica to enlist the other women who lost their partners (Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo and Elizabeth Debicki) for a heist of their own, in order to win their lives back.
Also at the festival, nearly 200 men and women, among them Hollywood stars, rallied to call for equal pay and respect for women in film on Saturday.
Demonstrators shouted, “Women rock!” as they marched amid growing calls in the industry for more women-led storylines and meaty roles, and in the wake of the #MeToo movement brought into the spotlight by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Earlier, the festival’s head, Cameron Bailey, reiterated TIFF’s commitment to gender parity in the industry. The proportion of films by women screened at the festival this year was 35 percent, up slightly from 2017. There were also 136 female leads.
On the subject of diversity, the festival is also making headway in ensuring it offers an array of stories on screen, as well as among the ranks of the journalists covering its films.
Some 180 journalists and critics from underrepresented groups were granted credentials to the film festival, the Associated Press reported.
Toronto, along with the Sundance Film Festival, launched a “media inclusion initiative” in response to a study released in June by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. It found that of the 19,559 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for the top 100 box-office performers in 2017, 78 percent of reviews were written by male critics and 82 percent were by white critics.
To diversify its press corps, TIFF contacted freelance writers and videographers and it began asking all journalists, if they chose to, to provide personal details.


With Saudi roots and an Indian heart, Al-Kazi is an act the stage will never forget

Updated 40 min 23 sec ago
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With Saudi roots and an Indian heart, Al-Kazi is an act the stage will never forget

  • Though an icon in India, few people know about Al-Kazi’s Saudi roots

JEDDAH: India has always been a hub of art and culture. Over the last century, movies emerged as the most expressive cultural medium, and the Indian film industry — commonly known as Bollywood — has since become a powerhouse of world cinema.

One can never do its history justice without mentioning Ebrahim Al-Kazi.

A renowned director and drama teacher, he worked as the director of the prestigious New Delhi-based National School of Drama (NSD) from 1962 to 1977, teaching many well-known future actors and fellow directors, including Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Rohini Hattangadi. He also founded the Art Heritage Gallery in New Delhi.

Though an Indian icon, however, few people know about Al-Kazi’s Saudi roots. His father, Hamad bin Ali Al-Kazi, was a trader from Unaiza in the Kingdom’s Qassim region, who subsequently settled in Pune, India, where Ebrahim was born in 1925. 

Early on in his career, Al-Kazi worked with the Bombay Progressive Artists Group, which included M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee and Tyeb Mehta, who would all later contribute to the design of his sets.

He worked in India, the US and Europe before becoming the director of the NSD, and later of the Asian Theater Institute, and is credited with staging more than 50 plays in his lifetime. He also contributes to the preservation of Indian cultural history through his Al-Kazi Foundation for the Arts.

In February 2015, Al-Kazi was honored at the second Saudi Film Festival in Dammam. He was later quoted in Arab media sources on his Saudi upbringing: “Our father was a firm believer in our cultural roots that went back to Saudi Arabia, and we spoke only Arabic at home. We had a teacher of Arabic and Islamic studies who came from Saudi Arabia, and lived as part of our family.

“Arab families (in India) did not mix very much with others, but my father had close ties with people other than Arabs,” he added.

Al-Kazi has also won many prestigious Indian awards. He was the first recipient of Roopwedh Pratishthan’s Tanvir Award in 2004 for his contribution to Indian theater, and in 1966 received the Padma Shri award. He won the Padma Bhushan award in 1991, and was given India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2010.