Wonder Woman finally makes her debut on the big screen

Updated 25 March 2016
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Wonder Woman finally makes her debut on the big screen

BURBANK, California: She might not get top billing in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” or even very much screen time, but Wonder Woman still manages to steal the show from her caped counterparts in the superhero spectacle.

It’s not a moment too soon either. Despite the popular 1970s television series starring Lynda Carter, this is the first time the lasso-wielding crusader has been in major live-action film. And it’s all a setup for her own stand-alone feature coming in 2017 from director Patty Jenkins.
Tasked with playing the Amazonian warrior is 30-year-old Gal Gadot — a model who stumbled into acting when an agent spotted her photo and asked her to audition for a Bond girl role. She didn’t get it, but it did eventually lead to a role in the fifth and sixth “Fast & Furious” movies as the ill-fated fan favorite Gisele. Gravity defying car franchise aside, Gadot was still a relative unknown when she was announced as the new Wonder Woman in 2013.
And, like many casting decisions involving beloved characters, hers was not met warmly. Many complained that she was simply too thin. An early photo of her in the gladiator-inspired Wonder Woman costume assuaged some concerns. By that point, Gadot had gone through nine months of rigorous training focusing on martial arts and sword work to get into Wonder Woman shape.
Gadot has kept an even temper about the chatter from the start.
“Being an actress, my responsibility is to not pay too much attention to all the noise around me, but to pay attention to the script, to the director, and protect the character,” Gadot told reporters recently.
At 5 feet 10 inches, Gadot is a striking presence both in person and on the screen. In the film, seen first as Diana Prince, her outrageous cool and skintight asymmetrical frocks turn the heads of many characters — Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne included.
“Gal is so mysterious and sexy and interesting and strong that whenever she’s on-screen I think there’s definitely a projection for men who think, ‘Well I want to flirt with her,’” Affleck said. “I think she provokes in the audience the desire to be flirted with.”
While her introduction might be predicated on her glamorous image, her power is what makes her stand out, and “Batman v Superman” gives a little preview of her fighting skills, too.
“She brings something particular, something statuesque, something otherworldly to the character,” said Henry Cavill, who plays Superman. “It’s remarkable to see.”
As the mother of a 4-year-old girl who loves princesses but often complains about how the princes are always saving them, Gadot is especially excited to be bringing this character to life.
“I’m so happy to be the one who is going to tell the Wonder Woman story,” Gadot said. “It’s so important for girls and boys to have a strong female superhero to look up to.”


Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

Updated 23 May 2018
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Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

  • Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish
  • Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy

KABUL: One of the only Qur’ans ever made from silk fabric has been completed in Afghanistan — a feat its creators hope will help preserve the country’s centuries-old tradition of calligraphy.
Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish.
Bound in goat leather and weighing 8.6 kilograms, the Qur’an was produced by Afghan artisans, many of them trained at British foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul.
“Our intention was to ensure that calligraphy does not die out in this country — writing is part of our culture,” Khwaja Qamaruddin Chishti, a 66-year-old master calligrapher, said in a cramped office inside Turquoise Mountain’s labyrinthine mud-brick and wood-paneled complex.
With the Qur’an considered a sacred text, calligraphy is highly venerated in Islam and Islamic art.
“When it comes to art we cannot put a price on it. God has entrusted us with this work (the Qur’an) ... and this means more to us than the financial aspect,” Chishti continued.
Using a bamboo or reed ink pen, Chishti and his fellow calligraphers spent up to two days carefully copying Qur’anic verses onto a single page — sometimes longer if they made a mistake and had to start again.
They used the Naskh script, a calligraphic style developed in early Islam to replace Kufic because it was easier to read and write.
The decoration around the script, known as illumination, was more time-consuming, each page taking more than a week to complete.
A team of artists used paint made from natural materials, including ground lapis, gold and bronze, to recreate the delicate patterns popular during the Timurid dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries in the western city of Herat.
“All the colors we have used are from nature,” Mohammad Tamim Sahibzada, a master miniature artist who was responsible for creating the vibrant colors used in the Qur’an, said.
Sahibzada said working on silk fabric for the first time was challenging. The locally sourced material — all 305 meters (1,000 feet) of it — was treated in a solution made from the dried seeds of ispaghula, or psyllium, to stop the ink from spreading.
Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy.
It hopes the silk Qur’an will generate demand for more handmade Islamic religious texts that could create employment for its artisans and help finance the institute.
“We will show it to other Islamic countries to see if it is possible to create job opportunities for graduates to work on another Qur’an,” said Abdul Waheed Khalili, the organization’s Afghan director.
For now, it will be kept in a specially made hand-carved walnut wooden box to protect its delicate pages from the elements at Turquoise Mountain’s offices, which are in the restored Murad Khani, a historic commercial and residential area in Kabul’s oldest district.
There Turquoise Mountain has trained thousands of artisans with the support of Britain’s Prince Charles, the British Council, and USAID.
“The copying of the Qur’an onto silk is very rare,” country director Nathan Stroupe said.
He said the project has been “an amazing way to train our students at an incredibly high level in a very traditional type of work.”
“If a book collector in London... was interested in it, we would be thinking in the $100,000 to $200,000 (price) range,” he added.