Season of change: Jeddah gets the party started

Jeddah Season. (Huda Bashatah)
Updated 22 July 2019

Season of change: Jeddah gets the party started

Here are some highlights from the first Jeddah Season — from K-pop superstars to Shakespeare in Arabic. 

Sporting sensations 

The first Jeddah Season kicked off with a WWE Super ShowDown at King Abdullah Sports City. The event featured wrestling legends including Goldberg, the Undertaker, Triple H, and Randy Orton. It also included the largest Battle Royal Match in WWE history, with 50 stars scrapping it out simultaneously. Hometown boy Mansoor Al-Shehail (pictured) emerged victorious. “I can’t ask for anything better,” he said.

On July 12, British boxer Amir Khan claimed the WBC International Welterweight belt with a fourth-round stoppage against Australia’s Billy Dib. Khan has since claimed that he will return to the Kingdom in November to face Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao.

Arab legends

Music has been a major focus of Jeddah Season, and several of the region’s most popular performers visited the city over the past month to thrill their fans. Lebanese icons Nancy Ajram and ‘King of Romance’ Wael Kfoury (pictured), local legend Mohammad Abdo, Egyptian favourites Amr Diab, Angham, and Mohamed Hamaki, and Khaleeji stars Ahlam and Rashed Al-Majed were among those who performed.

International superstars

It wasn’t just regional artists who took to the stage during Jeddah Season — numerous international A-listers also arrived in the city to put on a show. From K-pop chart-toppers Super Junior (pictured) and Stray Kids, through big-name DJs including Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Marshmello and Dutch duo Afrojack and R3hab, through Nineties hit-machine Backstreet Boys, to the final night’s Jeddah World Festival’s stellar lineup — which included Future, 50 Cent, ex-One Directioner Liam Payne, and Janet Jackson — Jeddah has witnessed some of the biggest names in music playing live over the past few weeks.

The light fantastic 

Dazzling visual displays were a central part of Jeddah Season. The Flame, Fountain & Laser show in front of XJED was choreographed to regional and international pop hits and became a big hit with visitors. Elsewhere, the Glow Garden — “where art, technology and innovation immerse” — became equally popular, as the underwater world was recreated in Al Hamra. And rounding off most nights were the spectacular fireworks on Jeddah Waterfront.

Shakespeare in Saudi

For a shot of high-brow culture, Jeddah Season also saw a staging of William Shakespeare’s acclaimed tragedy “King Lear” about a monarch who — through his inability to accept criticism and only listen to those who falsely proclaim their love and respect for him — is driven to the verge of insanity. The play, which was translated into Arabic, starred Egyptian actor Yehia El-Fakharany (pictured) in the demanding leading role, with Heba Magdi, Rania Farid Shawki, and Riham Abdel-Ghafour also among the cast. In a press conference prior to opening night, El-Fakharany praised the “arts renaissance occurring in Saudi Arabia,” saying it would “surely inspire the new generation.”

Big-top bonanza 

Jeddah Season saw one of the oldest forms of mass entertainment making a splash — the circus. With the international stylings of Le Teatro Circus — magic, acrobatics, live music, and, as the name suggests, a healthy dose of the dramatic — and the US-based Circus 1903 — a dip into the ‘golden age’ of the traveling show around the turn of the century, complete with knife throwers, high-wire acts, and life-size elephant puppets — in town, Jeddawis were enthralled by this throwback to old-school entertainment.

 

Blue is the color 

American performance artists Blue Man Group were one of the big hits of Jeddah Season with their trademark mix of weird and wonderful music and art — and no dialogue. Judging by the troupe leader Scott Speiser’s interview with Arab News, the performers enjoyed their time in the Kingdom just as much as the audiences did. “The Saudi people seem to have really embraced the show and that makes it even more fun and fulfilling for us,” he said. “The audience here loves to clap in rhythm with the music. We weren’t really ready for it. And, well, we just love it!”


Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. (Supplied)
Updated 14 November 2019

Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

CHENNAI: Movies on World War II have delighted cinema audiences for years. Nobody can forget the daring Allied escape in the 1965 “Von Ryan’s Express” with Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard driving a train through Nazi-occupied territory.

There were others in that decade and earlier such as David Lean’s “The Bridge on the River Kwai” about British prisoners of war building a railway in malaria-infested Burma (now Myanmar). These were great classics, but recent efforts have not been as memorable.

(Supplied)

Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. Despite audiences still being thirsty for WWII sagas and a star-studded cast (Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Ed Skrein and Nick Jonas), the film is unmoving, mainly because of the shallow characters. If the dialogues are stiff, the dramatic potential – including the relationship among the men – appears to have been left midway.

The film begins with Japan’s December 1941 air attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, which dragged America into the conflict, and the flick follows America’s revenge mission culminating in the June 1942 Battle of Midway.

(Supplied)

For the US, it was a victory against all odds giving them control of the Pacific’s Midway atoll. It was also a major triumph of human spirit, but the film does not quite capture it.

Most of the exploits relate to real-life fighter pilot Dick Best (Skrein), whose devil-may-care attitude earns him the title “cowboy.” His wife Ann (Moore), the only female character, urges him on but seems a washed-out figure. However, there is plenty of action in the air with dog fights, bombings and pilots ejecting from burning planes high above the ground.

(Supplied)

For fans of singer Jonas, his small but significant part may appeal. He is sailor Bruno Gaido whose spontaneous and heroic action during a Japanese raid earns him promotion.

“Midway” plays at three levels, including one about Japanese military officers, and was shot in Hawaii and Montreal with a lot of computer graphics thrown in. The camera work (Robby Baumgartner) is impressive, but somewhere the soul is missing, and the characters fail to come across as real people.

Despite this, the film opened atop the North American box office last weekend with a reported $17.5 million in ticket sales.