Arab News women driving cover wins further recognition in DNA Paris Design Awards

Arab News women driving cover wins further recognition in DNA Paris Design Awards
The Arab News cover, featuring an illustration by Malika Favre, has won eight design awards. (Arab News)
Updated 23 May 2019

Arab News women driving cover wins further recognition in DNA Paris Design Awards

Arab News women driving cover wins further recognition in DNA Paris Design Awards
  • Arab News scooped the awards for its front page by “New Yorker” illustrator Malika Favre, which was published to mark the move to allow women in Saudi Arabia to drive
  • It has won numerous awards since its publication and been one of the most retweeted artworks celebrating women driving in the Kingdom

LONDON: Arab News has continued its success on the international awards stage by winning two honorable mentions at the DNA Paris Design Awards.

The newspaper scooped the awards for its front page by “New Yorker” illustrator Malika Favre, which was published to mark the move to allow women in Saudi Arabia to drive.

The honorable mentions were for the categories “Graphic design - Editorial” and “Graphic design - Key art (Posters, covers, illustration).”

"For Arab News to be recognised again on a global scale with this award is a great honor," Simon Khalil, global creative director at Arab News, said. “Our women drivers cover has been recognised with eight design awards so far and this highlights just how important this moment in history was for women across the Kingdom.

 “Malika Favre was the obvious choice for our cover, and her illustration brilliantly captures the significance of this moment on the day Saudi Arabia changed forever."

The illustration was commissioned by Arab News for the cover of a special souvenir edition on June 24 of last year. It has become one of the most retweeted artworks celebrating women driving in the Kingdom.

The cover has won numerous awards since it was published. In March, it was recognized by SND awards, one of the most prestigious in the industry.

In February, the cover image was recognized in the international design awards run by “HOW” magazine.

The DNA Paris Design Awards honors international architects and designers “who improve our daily lives through practical, beautiful and innovative design,” according to its website.


Algeria cancels France 24 accreditation: State media

Algeria cancels France 24 accreditation: State media
Updated 13 June 2021

Algeria cancels France 24 accreditation: State media

Algeria cancels France 24 accreditation: State media
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index
  • The French government did not immediately comment on the withdrawal of France 24's accreditation

ALGIERS: Algeria cancelled the accreditation of France 24, the communications ministry said Sunday, a day after parliamentary elections in the former French colony.
The move was due to the satellite news channel's "clear and repeated hostility towards our country and its institutions", the ministry and government spokesman Ammar Belhimer said, in quotes carried by the APS news agency.
The outlet said authorities had given the channel a final warning on March 13, over its "coverage of Friday marches" of the long-running Hirak anti-government protest movement.
France 24 did not immediately respond to Sunday's announcement, but in March its director Marc Saikali had defended the outlet as "just doing our work as journalists, respecting the rules in place".
The French government, which has tense ties with Algiers, did not immediately comment on the withdrawal of France 24's accreditation.
Both foreign and local journalists in Algeria often face bureaucratic and unclear procedures to obtain permission to work.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Algeria 146 out of 180 countries and territories in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, a 27-place drop from 2015.
The withdrawal of France 24's accreditation came a day after the North African country held legislative elections, with almost 70 percent of voters abstaining according to official figures.
It also comes amid mounting official pressure against the Hirak and a string of arrests of journalists and opposition figures.
Although former Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down in 2019 in the face of anti-regime protests, demonstrations have continued, demanding an overhaul of the ruling system in place since independence from France in 1962.
The authorities say the movement's main demands have been met, and accuse the remaining protestors of working against Algeria's interests.


First look: the shocking details behind MBC’s explosive Carlos Ghosn documentary

“The Last Flight” runs at 103 minutes and will also be shown as a three-part series. It will also air on ShahidVIP and the BBC. (Supplied)
“The Last Flight” runs at 103 minutes and will also be shown as a three-part series. It will also air on ShahidVIP and the BBC. (Supplied)
Updated 13 June 2021

First look: the shocking details behind MBC’s explosive Carlos Ghosn documentary

“The Last Flight” runs at 103 minutes and will also be shown as a three-part series. It will also air on ShahidVIP and the BBC. (Supplied)
  • Every step of Ghosn’s arrest and escape was heavily covered by news agencies across the globe, however “The Last Flight” promises to shed light on the human side of Ghosn that was not covered
  • “This is the first time they are telling how their story started first and how they lived it from the inside,” Executive Producer Nora Melhli said

LONDON: “How on earth do you get to the point where somebody like Carlos (Ghosn) has to hang out with shadowy figures to smuggle him out across an international border, halfway across the world, safely?” Nick Green, the director of an upcoming documentary about the former Nissan chairman called “The Last Flight,” told Arab News.

The question of how Ghosn slipped through one of the tightest borders on the planet has been on everyone’s minds ever since he fled house arrest in Tokyo and escaped to his native Lebanon. 

“This is a story that you think you know, but there's a human being behind the story. And to get the human story of what is effectively a heist is completely unique,” Green said.

Ghosn, dubbed “Mr. Fix It” for essentially saving Nissan from bankruptcy, was arrested in Tokyo over allegations of false accounting and financial misconduct, including underreporting his salary and using company funds for personal benefit.

The 65-year-old businessman spent 13 months in custody or living in his Japanese home under 24-hour surveillance and strict bail conditions. But, in Dec. 2019, he pulled off a complex and dramatic escape that could have come straight from the pages of a TV or film script. 

And yet it was all true. 

Arab News had an exclusive inside look into the magic behind the highly anticipated documentary, which was the first venture into international production for Saudi Arabia’s MBC Studios in partnership with the French company ALEF ONE and the UK’s BBC Storyville.

“It’s a truly sort of global story,” said Green. “And so, obviously, you have to sort of travel the world to tell it. Critical parts of the story obviously happen in Japan. Critical parts of the story happen in Beirut. Critical parts of (the) story happen in Paris. Nobody knows about the story before, Carlos has never spoken about it.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo over allegations of false accounting and financial misconduct, including underreporting his salary and using company funds for personal benefit.

The 65-year-old businessman spent 13 months in custody or living in his Japanese home under 24-hour surveillance and strict bail conditions.

In Dec. 2019, he pulled off a complex and dramatic escape that could have come straight from the pages of a TV or film script.

MBC Studios secured the rights to Ghosn’s story in 2020 and announced its plans for it in October of that year.

Every step of Ghosn’s arrest and escape was heavily covered by news agencies across the globe, however “The Last Flight” promises to shed light on the human side of Ghosn that was not covered.

“With the press and the international outlets (they) have covered the story on a day-to-day basis, but from an outside perspective. Here we are having a unique and, for the first time, the inside perspective, meaning an inside one from Carlos Ghosn and Carole Ghosn, his wife,” Nora Melhli, the documentary’s executive producer, told Arab News.

“This is the first time they are telling how their story started first and how they lived it from the inside,” she said, adding that the documentary allowed viewers to ultimately become insiders.

Global filming during a global pandemic

There were multiple filming locations because of Ghosn’s global connections including Lebanon, Japan, France, the UK and South Africa, a challenging scenario as flights were grounded and travel was at a standstill amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I couldn't travel to Cape Town because at the time there was the South African variant, so I ended up having to shoot these shots with everything on a Zoom call,” Green said.

Carlos Ghosn, dubbed ‘Mr. Fix It’ for essentially saving Nissan from bankruptcy, is a Brazilian-born businessman. He also holds French and Lebanese nationality. He was arrested in Tokyo over allegations of false accounting and financial misconduct. (File photo)

He was sent images through the director of photography’s (DOP) monitor, and another director on location was being told through headphones what to do and tell the DOP.

“We ended up sort of finding our way to working with some extraordinarily sort of talented people who, you know, (are) just very cool at working in this sort of new way, a COVID way,” he added.

Among those interviewed for the documentary were officials from Japan’s Ministry of Justice, a Japanese prosecutor, Ghosn’s Japanese lawyer, the former French minister of finance, and Ghosn's former boss.

“This is a story told with the vision of some people all together. I want to say  on the same table but of course they have never met each other,” Melhli said. “You have (a) different paradigm, different perspectives, so it permits the audience to understand because of course it’s a very complicated story and of course it permits the audience to make their own point of view.”

As there was no footage of Ghosn’s actual escape, the retelling was done through what Green described as a slight visualizing palette with pictures, with all the Japanese posters and signage being shot in Cape Town.

MBC Studios go global 

MBC Studios secured the rights to Ghosn’s story in 2020 and announced its plans for it in October of that year.

Ghosn’s former Japanese lawyer Junichiro Hironaka faces the media outside his office in Tokyo. (AFP/File)

The CEO at the time, Marc Antoine D’Halluin, told Variety magazine that this project would mark the start of “a long lineup” of other MBC shows of this type.

“I think it’s going to change the perception of MBC Group and MBC Studios,” he said.

Less than a year later and the documentary is an official selection at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival, which is the third largest documentary festival in the world.

“This was my first collaboration with MBC and they gave me and Nick (Green) the director, a total kind of green card, they gave us what we needed to make it in the best way,” Melhli said. “We have a very strong vision all of us together, MBC and the creative team, and they just gave us everything we needed to follow our vision and trusted it.”

“The Last Flight” runs at 103 minutes and will also be shown as a three-part series. It will also air on ShahidVIP and the BBC.


Arab youth find a ‘safe space’ on invite-only app

Arab youth find a ‘safe space’ on invite-only app
Updated 12 June 2021

Arab youth find a ‘safe space’ on invite-only app

Arab youth find a ‘safe space’ on invite-only app
  • Mental health, identity and politics are favorite topics in Clubhouse’s virtual chat ‘rooms’

BANGALORE, India: Pia Abou Antoun, a 19-year-old Clubhouse moderator based in Beirut, still remembers  the heartfelt moment she experienced during an early session on the invitation-only audio app.
“A young woman from Egypt shared her story for the first time — she had always struggled with her weight and appearance. After being bullied through her childhood, she developed anxiety and depression,” Antoun said.
“She started crying and it was a very emotional moment for all of us in the room. It really touched my heart, as I could relate to her.”
Antoun is the founder of Dare Female, an online platform that encourages discussion on mental health, and also hosts regular sessions on Clubhouse, the social networking app that allows users to join virtual “rooms” on discussions that interest them.
Users can moderate, actively engage or simply sit in on these conversations. Rooms provide privacy options ranging from open to invitation-only, closed rooms. Much like a Zoom conference, users have to raise their “hand” to be allowed to speak.
Clubhouse was initially launched as a niche app catering to San Francisco’s tech and venture capitalist community but has found immense popularity in the Middle East. In February this year, the app had more than 4 million downloads in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
According to a Carnegie Melon University analysis, a wide range of political, social and cultural topics have already been discussed in Arabic-language Clubhouse chat rooms, including “politics, identity, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.”
Initially, Antoun sat in on rooms with nearly 100 members and quickly realized that people wanted to discuss mental health.
“We lack mental health awareness,” she said.
Recent research in the Arab Gulf countries reveals that there are high levels of stigma, negative beliefs and inappropriate practices associated with mental illness.
A 2019 Arab Youth Survey found that 50 percent of respondents in 15 Arab countries believe that mental illness carries a stigma.
Dr. Sarah Rasmi, psychologist and founder of Thrive Wellbeing Center in Dubai, said that while mental health has become prominent in public discussions in the past few years, particularly with the millennial and Gen Z demographic, it still carries a level of stigma. In this demographic, some of the issues she sees in her practice are work-life balance, procrastination and burnout.
“One of the most important things we can do to combat stigma is to normalize the conversation around mental health,” Rasmi sid. “By normalizing the conversation, we also encourage people to seek help at an earlier stage.”
As Antoun began hosting Clubhouse discussions, she found the voice-only aspect of the app immensely liberating. “People tend to speak freely, without fear of being judged. This authenticity and vulnerability really unite people.”
The community aspect of Clubhouse can be likened to a virtual support group. If individuals are uncomfortable talking about mental health within their inner circle, a support group can help normalize the experience and make people feel less lonely.
“Particularly in societies where seeking mental health support is still stigmatized, individuals find support groups a safe place to share, process and bond with people who are living through a similar experience,” Rasmi said.
Ally Salama, 24, founder of the mental health and wellness magazine EMPWR has moderated several therapeutic and powerful sessions on Clubhouse. 
Given that social media is frequently criticized for filtering reality and diminishing authentic human connection, Clubhouse, in some ways, brings back the connection.
“Audio platforms are not only more intimate, but also allow for enhanced connectivity, space for discourse, and a deeper, more meaningful conversation,” Salama says.
The Dubai-based mental health advocate believes that the Clubhouse audience is much more intentional. “You don’t just stumble into a room or end up swiping or seeing a story on your feed,” he said. “They actually come into your room and commit to the discussion.”
As attention has become a valuable commodity, the topic of mental health has grown more urgent. Citing statistics from the region, Salama said Clubhouse reflects society. He describes young people seeking an outlet on Clubhouse rooms for anxieties and worries compounded by the pandemic crisis, as well as turmoil in Lebanon and Palestine.
Clubhouse can offer more nuanced and meaningful discussions compared with other social media platforms, but 24-year old Mahmoud Khedr doesn’t attribute this solely to the app, adding that purposefully designing and clearly defining the objectives of the room can benefit discussions.
As the co-founder of
FloraMind, a platform that works with schools and government organizations to address mental health issues among youth, Khedr hosts frequent rooms on Clubhouse.
However, his sessions are much more targeted and specific to particular communities, such as Arab youth in the US or mental health support groups for men. He brings in both mental health experts and people with particular experiences to offer fresh and interesting perspectives.
While the term “safe space” has become a catchall for any new platform, mental health advocates are mindful of how they define this phrase within Clubhouse. Khedr includes a trigger warning since content can include difficult conversations, such as suicide attempts.
“Confidentiality is a priority and we hope people respect that by not recording or sharing content discussed in the session,” he said.
Other ground rules include being empathetic, giving space for people to share, and refraining from offering unsolicited advice on mental health.
Salama also works with psychologists to ensure that the vocabulary and language are inclusive and safe for everyone.
“The important thing to remember is that anything we see on social media does not substitute for therapy,” Rasmi added.
She suggested that social media users be mindful of disclaimers and consume content from a credible source. As the next best step and if needed, she recommends individuals contact qualified professionals.


This British YouTuber is showing the world what life in Saudi Arabia is really like

Obayd Fox, now 16, moved to Saudi Arabia when he was 10 after living in Egypt for six years and started documenting what it was like to grow up in the Kingdom. (Screenshot/Obayd Fox YouTube)
Obayd Fox, now 16, moved to Saudi Arabia when he was 10 after living in Egypt for six years and started documenting what it was like to grow up in the Kingdom. (Screenshot/Obayd Fox YouTube)
Updated 11 June 2021

This British YouTuber is showing the world what life in Saudi Arabia is really like

Obayd Fox, now 16, moved to Saudi Arabia when he was 10 after living in Egypt for six years and started documenting what it was like to grow up in the Kingdom. (Screenshot/Obayd Fox YouTube)
  • Obayd Fox shot to YouTube success at just 14, with an inside look at the Umrah pilgrimage
  • ‘It’s not like Dubai, it’s not like Egypt. It’s Saudi, it’s different,’ he told Arab News

LONDON: A teenage British YouTuber might not be the first place one looks for a step-by-step guide to Umrah or for a tour of Madinah’s Grand Mosque — but for millions of people around the world, Obayd Fox has become the first point of call for all things Saudi Arabia.

With half a million subscribers and over 20 million views across his videos, the teenager’s videos are not only becoming an internet sensation in the Kingdom and beyond, but they’re also overriding ingrained narratives about what life is really like in one of the world’s most misrepresented countries.

Fox, now 16, moved to Saudi Arabia when he was 10 after living in Egypt for six years. He told Arab News that it was initially hard to adjust: “Egypt has so much more greenery than Saudi Arabia.”

But since arriving all those years ago, Fox explained, he has not only embraced the country’s unique natural environment, but the Saudi people have made him feel more at home than he could have hoped for.

“One thing I always say about the Saudi people — and I’m not just saying this — they are, I think, the nicest people, honestly. They are so kind, you can meet anyone on the street and they’re so nice to you.

“There’s a respect that Saudi people have. When you greet them they ask about you, how you are, how your family is. Everyone does it.”

Fox’s “vlogumentaries,” as he calls them, feature him and his group of Saudi friends embracing all that the country has to offer — and they receive hundreds of thousands of views. 

From inside looks at how Saudis do Ramadan to dune bashing in the Kingdom’s famous deserts, his channel gives a direct and unfiltered insight into what it’s like to grow up in Saudi Arabia.

“My videos have ended up being a lighthearted view of what I experience when I’'m there — no bias or anything. I enjoy it, I like living in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

He told Arab News that the Kingdom’s recent drive for international and domestic tourism means there’s plenty to keep him entertained.

“You can camp in the desert, and if you have a good car you can go off-roading and stuff — those are the things I’d recommend people do,” Fox said. But his number one suggestion for a visitor: “There’s no doubt in my mind that early morning snorkelling in Jeddah is my top recommendation.” 

His next destination, he hopes, is AlUla. “I’ve seen all the YouTube videos and I really want to go.”

The young YouTuber, who despite his online success is currently studying to complete his A-level exams, explained that, to his friends back in the UK, the Kingdom feels overwhelmingly foreign — completely alien to their own lives.

“Saudi, for them, feels like such a distant mythical land that nobody can even imagine,” he said. And while his videos give them something of an insight about what it’s really like, he explained that what people should really do is visit the country and experience it for themselves.

“It’s completely different to anywhere you’ll ever go,” said Fox. “It’s not like Dubai, it’s not like Egypt. It’s Saudi, it’s different.”

He added: “And then you can say: ‘yeah — I went to Saudi Arabia.’”


Dan Bolton launches new events agency BE Experiential

Dan Bolton launches new events agency BE Experiential
Updated 11 June 2021

Dan Bolton launches new events agency BE Experiential

Dan Bolton launches new events agency BE Experiential
  • BE Experiential aims to change the events industry through a “people-first” and “experiential” approach

DUBAI: The pandemic majorly disrupted the events industry, with live events coming to a standstill. Disruption has continued well into 2021 in many countries.

At a time of gloom for the industry, entrepreneur Dan Bolton saw an opportunity to create a new kind of events agency, BE Experiential, which aims to bring an “experiential” and “people-first” approach to eventing. 

Bolton launched his first company, Dan Bolton Creative Management agency, in October 2015 in the UAE. Covering all things entertainment, the agency is responsible for “talent management, show design and production, which includes choreography, costumes and prop design as well as casting services for a selection of clients that are now looking at securing performance-related talent in the region for live shows, productions, and increasingly, digital content,” Bolton said.

The new agency, BE Experiential, was created on the back of the current agency, offering “different but complementary services,” catering to the wider event experience through services such as “event design and production, staging, tech & AV, guest experience, decor, augmented reality, and guest list management,” he added.

“We started to discover throughout 2019 that brands and clients wanted us to handle the whole production and creativity for particular projects, which is something we did not necessarily do at the time if it was not purely entertainment-focused,” said Bolton, explaining the rationale behind the launch of BE Experiential.

Entertainment and the overall event experience have increasingly become intertwined, resulting in a natural progression of sorts where the agency would support clients through the entire process.

“It made sense to our clients to engage with us to develop and deliver the complete narrative of the event and experience from A to Z,” he said.

The pandemic changed everything. Bolton had to put the launch of his new agency on hold. Clients were canceling events.

“Many people believed that we were permanently living in a ‘new normal’ and that live events, entertainment and music were not possible to return,” said Bolton.

This frustration led to the birth of Breakout DXB, a live community event supporting independent musicians and artists, held in November 2020. “It was the brainchild of Lobito Brigante and myself and was born mostly from frustration at the time that the events industry was completely on pause and that entertainment was particularly affected. Many of our friends and colleagues were out of work and struggling both mentally and financially,” said Bolton.

Following discussions with entities such as Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, event partners and health and safety professionals such as GallowGlass, Bolton and Brigante made the decision to host Breakout DXB.

But not everyone was comfortable with live events.

For example, the agency worked with P&G on a series of hybrid activation spaces using two local artists that created art works within JBR and CityWalk that could be viewed through an augmented reality application.

“Digital technologies and the virtual world have been encroaching into the live experience space for some time and last year has only forced this to gather pace and accelerate,” said Bolton.

However, live events aren’t going anywhere, he said. In fact, the appetite for attending live events together will only increase in the coming months.

Even when the pandemic began and everything from meetings to gyms was going virtual, “we made a solid decision to remain committed to live and in-person events no matter how difficult it would be,” Bolton said.

“We live for the ability to be on stages and bring people together face-to-face. If we suddenly pivoted towards all things digital, it would be completely contrary to what we believe in and would go against the authenticity we strive to live by as a company,” he added.

However, he admitted that digital technologies will have an increasingly important role to play. 

“As we can see from the discussions we are having with brands and clients, there is a desire to balance both worlds and merge them into a holistic experience where the end consumer has the choice and ability to attend in-person or live stream and follow remotely,” he said.

 BE Experiential is currently based in the UAE with operations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“This is certainly our focus for now as we rebuild from the madness of the last 15 months.

“However, I would be lying if I said that we were not discussing some incredible opportunities in Qatar, Saudi, the rest of the region, and Europe,” said Bolton.