The Breakdown: Faissal El-Malak — “Hallowed Threads”

From RAK to DRAK. (Supplied)
Updated 28 November 2018

The Breakdown: Faissal El-Malak — “Hallowed Threads”

  • Palestinian designer talks us through the piece "From RAK to DRAK"
  • He looked at an advertising and calligraphy shop as a theme

DUBAI: The Dubai-based Palestinian designer talks us through the piece he created for the exhibition “From RAK to DRAK” as part of Dubai Design Week.
Design Ras Al Khor invited three designers to investigate the community of Ras Al Khor. My task was to look at an advertising and calligraphy shop as a theme to respond to.

I found a tiny shop — Al Arif Advertising and Calligraphy — but they didn’t have a calligrapher; they basically use software. So I was sitting there trying to get some idea of what I could do, and I looked up and saw these religious stickers — ‘Dua’ stickers — very brightly colored, on vinyl, and with a really interesting Islamic design. For me, they were very nostalgic, because if you grew up in the region they are part of your visual language. And it was very interesting to see these designs that originated centuries ago, and have trickled down to this little print shop in this industrial area of Dubai to be printed on plastic. That was an interesting journey. So I wanted to use those designs, but in my own way.
Also, I recently came back from a two-week workshop for Gulf-based designers at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. When I was there, I saw this sakkos — an Orthodox Church vestment from 17th century Iran. And the dialogue between cultures in that piece was interesting to me. So I replicated that garment, but using my traditional artisanal fabric as a base. I applied roughly the same design placement, but with modern interpretations inspired by the stickers. And it was all done using embroidery, because the whole point was to create something handmade.

It’s signed too, in a discreet way, as artisans would, traditionally. I worked with a calligrapher to create the signatures; you have my name; Adnan, the embroiderer; Ibrahim, the calligrapher; and Al Arif, the shop.
With fashion design, you really have to shape your designs in a commercial way. So it sometimes ends up watering down to something that’s not as spectacular as your original idea. Which is fine. That’s the nature of the market. But projects like these are an amazing opportunity to just create for the sake of creating; to really work on the concept without thinking about whether or not it will sell. It was a lot of fun. And it reminded me why I’m doing what I do and why I love it.

‘Hamilton’ makes a successful transition to the big screen

Updated 04 July 2020

‘Hamilton’ makes a successful transition to the big screen

CHENNAI: Cinema sometimes looks to go back to its roots. Some years ago, European auteurs like Lars Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and others introduced “Dogme 95” as a new form of moviemaking, which meant using no props, no artificial lighting and no makeup. It did not last long. However, Thomas Kail’s “Hamilton” — released to coincide with the Fourth of July and streaming on Disney Plus — is another experiment that reminded me of the very early days of motion pictures when some directors in India captured a stage play with a static camera and then screened it in remote regions, where it was not feasible to cart the entire cast.

Kail used six cameras to shoot what was originally a theatrical production. Over two nights in 2016, he filmed the play with most of the actors, including Tony Award winners, who were in the stage version. Every attempt has been made to make it look cinematic, with impeccable camerawork and editing. There is a bonus here. The movie enables you to be a front-bencher at Richard Rogers’ stage production. This closeness that allows you to see clearly the expressions of the actors establishes an intimacy between the audience and the cast.

Inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton, the 160-minute show makes a fabulous musical. The release of the film with its intentionally diverse cast comes at a critical time when race relations in the USA have hit the rock bottom. When Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr) sings that he wants to be in “the room where it happens”, the lyrics are sung by a black man.

Alexander Hamilton (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, also the creator of the piece) is the least well known of the American founding fathers. An immigrant and orphan, he was George Washington’s right-hand man. Credited as being responsible for setting up the country’s banking system, Hamilton was killed in a duel by Burr.

The musical is inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton. Courtesy of Disney

The story is narrated through hip-hop beats. Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) sings his speech to Congression, and the debates he has with Alexander Hamilton are verbalized through lyrics. Hamilton also has a lot to say about America’s immigrant past. In one scene French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette tells Alexander, “Immigrants, we get the job done!”

Performances are top notch. Miranda is superb, and evokes an immediate connection between the film and the viewer. King George III is brilliantly portrayed by Jonathan Groff, and Hamilton’s wife, Eliza (Philippa Soo), is an endearing presence who has a calming effect on her often ruffled and troubled husband.

“Hamilton” is a great, if subjective, account of early American political history for those not familiar with that period. It must be said, however, the musical makes a long movie, which might be a trifle tiring for those not used to this format.