Queen members discuss Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Queen members discuss Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
A shot from the film 'Bohemian Rhapsody.' (Supplied)
Updated 07 November 2018

Queen members discuss Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Queen members discuss Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
  • In its first week of release, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” has already grossed nearly $150 million
  • The American-Egyptian actor Rami Malek, who plays Mercury, has been acclaimed for his revelatory and transformative performance

DUBAI: In its first week of release, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic of legendary British rock band Queen and their late frontman Freddie Mercury, has done better than anyone expected, already grossing nearly $150 million. Its star, the American-Egyptian actor Rami Malek, who plays Mercury, has been acclaimed for his revelatory, transformative performance as one of modern music’s most recognizable, inimitable, and beloved figures.

After the nearly 50 years since the band was formed, one would think that people would stop underestimating the power of Queen. No one knows that better than the band’s two most prominent surviving members — guitarist Brian May, now 71, and drummer Roger Taylor, 69. Labels refused to sign them, executives said they’d never have a hit, but the band never gave up. And even May and Taylor admit that when they first met Mercury, they didn’t realize quite how special he was.

“The simple answer is no, we did not know. I don’t think we realized his talent to begin with. He was full of dreams, full of mad fancies and insecurities — and ebullience and flamboyance,” says May.

“I remember a little instance in the studio with John Anthony, our first producer. I sang ‘Son and Daughter’, and I had imagined that I would sing the song myself. Then Freddie sang it and John went, ‘Wow, I’ve never heard a voice like that,’ and that was one of the moments when we all went, ‘I guess that voice is pretty special,” he continues.

When the idea of a biopic was first raised, May and Taylor were reluctant. They couldn’t imagine any actor being able to do justice to Mercury. That changed when they met Malek.

“We kind of saw Freddie in him and we could sense Rami’s passion. The first time we saw him was actually in Roger’s flat. It must have been horrible for him, having us watching him for the first time. But we were really blown away by him and his ability to perform— he’s incredible,” says May.

Crucially, according to Taylor, Malek shares Mercury’s magnetism.

“You can’t get any bozo coming in and playing Freddie Mercury, you know. I remember watching him in The Pacific, and he stood out, he was fantastic. He really does have an innate charisma. And he brings out the timbre, the tone of Freddie’s voice. The range of Rami’s voice is spot on,” says Taylor.

Born in Los Angeles, Malek comes from an unpretentious background, the son of an Egyptian immigrant who was once a tour guide in Cairo. Though he has gained fame and (presumably) wealth in recent years for his mind-bending, multilayered role in the TV series “Mr. Robot,” it was Malek’s ability to connect with Mercury’s modest roots that stood out to May and Taylor.

“I love the way that Rami has captured not only Freddie’s great power and ebullience, but also his sensitive, vulnerable side, of which there was a lot. You know, he came from very small, humble beginnings, as you see in the film,” says May.

May and Taylor themselves are played by Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy respectively, and though they found their performances to be at times uncanny to behold, it was how the supporting members gelled with Rami Malek as a band that struck the two most.

“I think the performances you see in the film reflect the fact that they completely lived it all, they became us, and they believed that they were us. It wasn’t just an acting job for them. Actually, all the way down the cast and the whole production team, you can feel the enthusiasm. Visiting the set, there was an amazing feeling of loyalty and passion,” says May.

“Well done, Rami!’ says Taylor.

Freddie Mercury would likely be proud, as, according to Taylor, he himself was a creation of the man born Farrokh Bulsara.

“He sort of invented himself by an act of pure willpower and intelligence, and turned himself into Freddie Mercury,” says Taylor.

Reliving their greatest moments on screen reminded the two of Mercury’s extraordinary power as a performer and musician.

“He just developed this incredible affinity for making everybody feel that they counted in every moment. One of Freddie’s greatest talents was communication. He could connect with the small person at the back, who was feeling insecure, as perhaps Freddie had been early on in his life,” says May.

Though Queen would never have been so successful without May and Taylor — recognized as two of the greatest musicians in rock history — they acknowledge that this is Mercury’s story first and foremost. And it is on him that the spotlight rightfully remains, 27 years after his death aged 45.

“Obviously, we wanted to make a (great) movie, but the center of it is Freddie. We all felt we wanted to portray Freddie’s humanity, portray him as the human being he was — and as a musician. The film had to be truthful and not too indulgent, and watchable. I think Freddie would have agreed that, number one, it had to be entertaining. We wanted people to laugh and to cry, and I believe that is what people will do when they see this movie,” says May.

Though some critics have suggested the movie takes liberties with history, glossing over Mercury’s sexuality and appetite for hedonism, the pair both endorse this version of their tale.

“The movie is broadly true and at the same time it really is entertaining. That’s quite a balance to strike and I think that everyone involved in this film has pretty much got that right,” says Taylor.

As to the meaning of the film’s title, and the lyrics to the song from which the film takes its name, that still remains a mystery that died with Mercury.

“I think we imagined it was going to be called ‘Mama, Killed a Man’ or something, but Freddie said, ‘No. I’m calling it Bohemian Rhapsody’ and we all went, ‘Oh…’ I think it’s great that we don’t know what exactly was in Freddie’s mind at that point. We don’t know what the lyrics mean and the song will eternally retain its mystery,” says May. “And even if we knew what it meant, we couldn’t tell you!”


US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
Updated 14 April 2021

US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)

DUBAI: US-Palestinian stand-up comedian Mohammed Amer, who goes by the name Mo Amer, is set to star alongside US actor Dwayne Johnson in the new superhero movie “Black Adam.”

The action-adventure thriller is DC Comics’ long-awaited follow-up to 2019’s commercial hit “Shazam!” with the two characters, Shazam and Black Adam, being rivals in the DC Universe.

It is still unknown what role Amer will play.

 

 

The talent is famous for his role in the award-winning Hulu sitcom “Ramy,” in which he stars as US-Egyptian actor Ramy Youssef’s Muslim cousin who owns a diner. Amer also has a Netflix comedy special called “Mo Amer: The Vagabond.” 

Amer is not the only Arab actor in the cast. Tunisian-Dutch “Aladdin” star Marwan Kenzari confirmed in February that he is also starring in the movie, alongside actors Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge and Quintessa Swindell.

 

 

Johnson, otherwise known as “The Rock” from his professional wrestling days, announced he was taking part in “Black Adam” two years ago on Instagram: “This role is unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career and I’m grateful to the bone we’ll all go on this journey together,” he wrote at the time. 

The movie was supposed to be released in December 2021, but was pushed back due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Production is expected to begin in April in Atlanta.

According to Deadline, “Black Adam” is set for release in July 2022.


Former Disney, Nickelodeon stars send Ramadan greetings to Muslim fans

Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP
Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP
Updated 14 April 2021

Former Disney, Nickelodeon stars send Ramadan greetings to Muslim fans

Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP

DUBAI: Fulfilling every millennial and Gen-Z’s childhood dreams, stars from shows like “Hannah Montana,” “Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and “Drake and Josh” came together to wish their Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan this week. 

Non-profit, US-based initiative Paani Project brought the stars together in a one-minute long video, which it shared on its official Twitter platform on the first day of the Holy Month.

“Ramadan Kareem,” wrote the non-profit on Twitter. “Paani brought out a few childhood favorites to share a message with you all.”

The video featured the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Jesse McCartney, Jennifer Stone, Phil Lewis, Maria Canals-Barrera, Drake Bell and skateboarder Tony Hawk.

“Hannah Montana” star Jason Earles sent greetings to “all my wonderful, beautiful and inspirational Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Meanwhile, Kyle Massey, who played Corey Baxter in “That’s So Raven” and “Corey in the House” said “I want to wish you guys a happy Ramadan. It is the most amazing time of the year and I want you guys to stay blessed and continue to make each other happy and be nice to one another.”

Paani Project was founded by four Pakistani-American students on a quest to provide sustainable solutions for the water crises in Pakistan.

“Wishing you a happy Ramadan, and thank you for all your work you’re doing in South Asia, building wells,” said Hawk in the clip. 

Naturally, millennials and Gen Z’ers on the social media platform were thrilled, sharing their excitement in response to the clip.

“I never knew I needed Mr. Mosbey and Mrs. Russo to wish me Ramadan Kareem.  Thank u 3ammo w 3amto (sic),” wrote one user, in reference to two characters from Disney sitcoms.

“I love this so much, so many of my childhood favorite actors are here! Warmed my heart to see it and great respect to the project for building wells and helping out!” wrote another.


Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting

Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting
Updated 14 April 2021

Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting

Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting

DUBAI: After a year during which most people have spent more time at home than ever before, the month of Ramadan has also seen a pivotal shift in how it is celebrated.

No longer can fasting Muslims congregate in crowds around sumptuous hotel buffets or gather in large groups for a family iftar. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has put paid to that, certainly for now.

But, according to Fatima Osman, breaking the daily fast can still be a lavish and momentous event.

The founder of fine-dining tableware business, A’ish, believes that iftar at home can be as opulent as dining in a restaurant, with the help of what she refers to as “tablescaping.”

Fatima Osman is the founder of fine-dining tableware business A’ish. (Supplied)

The phrase is used to describe the creation of the perfect table set-up for hosting family gatherings (COVID-19 safety compliant, of course) at iftar time. Osman said it was all about beautiful accessories and finishing touches, but she noted that it did not need to break the bank.

Her “key element” to setting up a table was the charger plate, a large, decorative base setting that other dinnerware was then placed on top of. That, along with some “distinctive cutlery,” could elevate any place setting, she added. It also meant that any crockery, preferably plain, could be placed on top.

“That way, you don’t need to invest in a crockery set, you can use simple things. It adds that element of glamour and a touch of luxury, and automatically elevates the experience,” she said.

Osman pointed out that accessorizing was the next most important aspect of setting up her table with simple touches such as adding napkin rings, fresh flowers for the centerpiece, and putting thought into what platter to use for serving food.

Osman pointed out that accessorizing was the next most important aspect of setting up her table. (Shutterstock)

“To me, the setting is just as important as the food. So much effort goes into the preparation of the meal, and I believe that the presentation of the food and setting is appreciation of the effort,” she added.

Before starting her business, named after her daughter Aisha, Osman was a lawyer in South Africa. She said formal dining had always been a staple of her annual Ramadan experience.

Buoyed by a family background in trade, she turned her passion for homeware into a company four years ago and has not looked back.

“Dining is so important to me as it was an integral part of my day with my family, and this is a legacy I wish to continue for my kids.

Fatima Osman’s business is named after her daughter Aisha. (Shutterstock)

“There was a lot of preparation that went into our iftar and while I am not insinuating that it should be that way, I do insist on the time and memories we created by just being around a table.

“If the best memories are made this way, shouldn’t we be using our best utensils, our best dinnerware, for the best company for the best reason?”

Her table setting is on show at a new exhibition during Ramadan at Dubai’s Indigo Living, the luxury home furnishing company. The display features a range of homeware and accessories from local female entrepreneurs and artisans.

Osman said: “I understand this is a month of prayer, but nobody said you can’t also have a good time. For me, a table and dinner and iftar signifies togetherness, this is a time to enjoy and go all out.”


Cairo International Film Festival announces 2021 dates

Lebanese actress Nour poses on the red carpet at the opening ceremony of the 41st edition of Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). AFP
Lebanese actress Nour poses on the red carpet at the opening ceremony of the 41st edition of Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). AFP
Updated 13 April 2021

Cairo International Film Festival announces 2021 dates

Lebanese actress Nour poses on the red carpet at the opening ceremony of the 41st edition of Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). AFP

DUBAI:The 43rd edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is set to take place from Dec. 1-10, 2021, it was announced this week.

Egyptian film producer Mohamed Hefzy, president of the Cairo International Film Festival, said in a released statement: “Film Festivals have found a way to adapt and survive, acting as a lifeline for films and filmmakers that have been affected and challenged by the pandemic, including such threats as disrupted productions, and the closure of theatres throughout the world. Very few festivals managed to hold a physical edition, and we are proud to say that Cairo was one of them, setting the bar for an even more successful physical edition this year.”

This year’s festival will also offer prizes to 15 film projects.

“The festival’s programming team and management are thrilled by the challenge that this upcoming edition offers, and we are eager to present a diverse and rich lin0eup of films and a selection worthy of the festival’s audience that has come to expect more in terms of quality and surprises year after year,” added Hefzy.

“During the last three years we did strive to realize our fullest ambitions and utmost success in our offering of programming, and in the various support platforms offered to professionals by Cairo Industry Days, including the Cairo Film Connection which last year offered prizes valued at nearly $250,000 to 15 very different quality projects.”

As with the previous three editions, the festival will also feature the industry-focused Cairo Industry Days and its Cairo Film Connection co-financing event.

Last year’s edition featured more than 95 films from over 40 countries.

Despite challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including 50 percent less capacity due to social distancing, the festival sold 30,000 tickets while 200 international guests also attended in 2020. 

CIFF is not only the region’s oldest and largest annual film festival, but also the only internationally accredited one in the Middle East and Africa.

In 2019, the cinematic event also became the first Arab film festival to sign the 5050×2020 gender equality pledge, committing to empowering women and increasing transparency about issues of gender disparity in the Middle Eastern film industry.

That same year, CIFF achieved Oscar-qualifying film festival status in the Short Film category, becoming the only festival in North Africa to join Cannes, Venice, Sundance, and other prestigious events in this recognition.


Instagram partners with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on Ramadan stickers 

Instagram partners with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on Ramadan stickers 
Updated 13 April 2021

Instagram partners with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on Ramadan stickers 

Instagram partners with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on Ramadan stickers 

DUBAI: Social media platform Instagram has teamed up with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on three new stickers for Ramadan that were released on Monday.

The first sticker is an illustration of a mosque against the backdrop of star and a crescent. The second picture is a visual of tea and dates to represent Ramadan traditions. The last image is also an illustration of a crescent and stars. 

According to Instagram Design’s account: “Hala Al-Abbasi, an illustrator in Bahrain, was inspired by her favorite aspects of the holiday, and chose to reflect on the ‘beautiful moments that we share together.’” 

“Hala hopes that her stickers will be used throughout Ramadan to mark moments of celebration, from greetings to special suhoors and iftars, all the way to celebrating Eid,” the design-focused account added. 

To use the stickers, you will need to open the Instagram Story tray and add your favorite sticker to your story. 

Instagram/@haluulie

In celebration of the Ramadan, Instagram has added a feature that allows you to see stories with these stickers from people you follow all in a shared story.

Al-Abbasi took to her account to share her excitement for the collaboration. “OMG I DID RAMADAN STICKERS!! THEY ARE FINALLY OUT (sic),” she shared in her stories.

Instagram/@haluulie

“ENJOYED every process of creating these cute stickers for you guys! So you can use them as much as you can during your daily routine in Ramadan (sic),” the designer added.