Lebanese director Pam Nasr discusses her debut film ‘Clams Casino’

A still from the short film 'Clams Casino'. (Supplied)
Updated 09 January 2019

Lebanese director Pam Nasr discusses her debut film ‘Clams Casino’

DUBAI: “When we see something strange, if we’ve never been exposed to anything like it, we tend to push it away. But I was really interested in this phenomenon. There was so much to discover about it, and I was attracted to the human aspect of why people partake in it and why it’s so popular. Like, why does it exist?”

A still from the short film 'Clams Casino'. (Supplied)

Lebanese filmmaker Pam Nasr is talking about mukbang — a craze that began in South Korea and is basically a live stream of someone eating a large amount of food. Nasr’s first film, a short called ‘Clams Casino,’ which premiered in the region in Dubai last month, is based around the phenomenon. A young woman who lives with her mother, with whom she has a difficult relationship, spends hours collecting seafood, cooking it, setting it out beautifully on the table, and dressing up in order to eat it in front of a webcam.
“It stems from loneliness,” Nasr says. “Mukbang is kind of a solution to loneliness, and — at the same time — these performers make a lot of money from eating online.”
While some viewers, she says, are watching for fetishistic reasons, most “watch it because they’re lonely and they want to have someone to eat with.” Nasr recalls, as a child, arriving home from school each day and dining by herself, as the rest of her family had already eaten.
“I asked my family if someone would wait and eat with me,” she says. “In Lebanon, and in many other cultures too, the art of cooking for someone (and eating together) is such a way of delivering your love to them. So I really connected to this when I was studying Mukbang. It was a beautiful learning curve for me. And I hope for many others who watch ‘Clams Casino.’”

Filmmaker Pam Nasr. (Supplied)

The Q&A session that followed the Dubai screening was the longest she’s had so far (having toured several festivals in America with the movie). “A lot of people really connected to it and understood what I was doing.” In particular, Nasr was moved by an exchange with a young college student who told her that a friend in college had been going through a tough time and was watching a lot of mukbang.
“She was very tearful. She said that after watching my film, she understood her friend a lot more. My heart went out to her,” Nasr says. “There were a lot of intimate moments like that at the screening. It was really beautiful.”

‘Khusouf Al-Ard’ — The long-awaited return of Hayajan

‘Khusouf Al-Ard’ — The long-awaited return of Hayajan. (Supplied)
Updated 17 January 2019

‘Khusouf Al-Ard’ — The long-awaited return of Hayajan

  • Jordan-based indie-pop band 'Hayajan' has released a new album
  • The majority of tracks on “Khusouf Al-Ard” fall into one of two categories: Upbeat funky pop or slower synth-led ballads

DUBAI: It’s been more than five years since “Ya Bay,” the debut album from Jordan-based indie-pop band Hayajan, was released. Frontman Alaa Wardi was already hugely popular for his online videos of layered a capella covers, but in the years since he has become a genuine online phenomenon with almost a million YouTube subscribers and two solo albums to his name.
Wardi, and his voice, naturally, loom large over Hayajan’s recently released sophomore album “Khusouf Al-Ard.” But it would be a mistake to see this record as ‘Alaa Wardi plus musicians.’ Guitarists Odai Shawagfeh (who also plays with El Morabba3) and Mohammed Idrei, bassist Amjad Shahrouh, and drummer Hakam Abu Soud are equally responsible for Hayajan’s impressive sonic soundscapes.
The majority of tracks on “Khusouf Al-Ard” fall into one of two categories: Upbeat funky pop or slower synth-led ballads. Often, though, those pop tracks have pessimistic lyrics at odds with the bouncy, foot-tapping feel of the instrumentation.
In “Zubalah,” for example, Wardi warns a Martian newly arrived on earth to leave again ASAP because the planet is “trash” and “There is no hope for a better future.” On “Al-Ghabah,” he tells a tale of a bullying animal who becomes king of the jungle and burns it to the ground to quell an uprising, leaving himself ruler of nothing. A fable that could be relevant to any of the world’s ‘strongmen’ rulers.
Throughout the record Wardi shows his vocal chops not just on the top-line melodies, but with great choices of harmonies. The rhythm section is super-tight and the crystalline, angular guitar riffs are often instant earworms. Many of the tracks use the old ‘slow build to crescendo’ trick to great effect. “Kbirna” — a nostalgic ballad that employs Imogen Heap-style Vocoder effects — in particular culminates in the kind of soaring soundtrack-friendly climax that Sigur Ros seemed to have made their own in the Noughties.
The one bum note on the record is “Jibna Al-Eid,” in which Wardi’s requests for us all to come together cross the line into saccharine simplicity (as does the music). The result being a track that sounds like the kind of bad festive charity single usually accompanied by a video of the assembled vocalists grinning unconvincingly at each other.
Still, the rest of the album makes up for that misstep. Along with “Kbirna,” opening track “Yalla Bina” is a high point — driving, funky rhythms interspersed with staccato guitar stabs and a vibe reminiscent of French band Phoenix.
“Khusouf Al-Ard” is a confident, bold record that rewards the patience of the band’s fans.

Listen to the full album here: