Farah Al-Qasimi explores spirituality and Gulf history in latest film ‘Um Al Naar’

The film’s titular protagonist is a jinn. (Supplied)
Updated 24 September 2019

Farah Al-Qasimi explores spirituality and Gulf history in latest film ‘Um Al Naar’

SHARJAH: “Everyone in the Emirates has a jinn story — or a family with a jinn story, and yet everyone waivers in their belief. It’s not so much about the jinn as it is about what belief in spirituality allows us to do as humans.”

Emirati visual artist Farah Al-Qasimi is talking about her new film, a 40-minute fictional ‘documentary’ called “Um Al Naar” (Mother of Fire). The film will be shown for the first time in the region as part of Al-Qasimi’s solo show “Arrival,” which opens at the Third Line in Dubai on September 18 and runs until November 23.

The film’s titular protagonist is a jinn — a spirit capable of possessing humans — starring in a reality TV special in which she narrates her version of the history of her region (Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE).

“She laments her waning power and the loss of belief in the supernatural, and eventually decides to take matters into her own hands,” Al-Qasimi tells Arab News.

“We have come to known the jinn through folklore as mischievous, malignant characters, but I'm presenting Um Al Naar as an entity who might be simply misunderstood. Her dilemma is a fear of change, however inevitable and constant it is.”

Al-Qasimi is perhaps better-known for her photography than her films, but in this case, she says, “A longer film seemed appropriate; it gives room for different melodramas to unfold.

“I’m really interested in hearing people speak for themselves,” she continues. “The film moves between real documentary footage and silly, in-studio mockumentary, but everyone is speaking in their own expressive language, whether it's Um Al Naar, Ahmed the exorcist, or the men telling stories of jinn encounters.”

While there is a significant amount of humor in the piece, Um Al Naar “asks questions about belonging, mobility and cultural hegemony; questions that linger as we consider the significance of a lingering international presence in the Gulf, and questions of national progress and who (the Western presence serves),” Al-Qasimi explains.

“In our middle-school history books, the Portuguese and British invasions of the 1500s onwards is often overlooked or, at most, casually mentioned. And that's a pretty formidable history to contend with for such a young nation,” she continues. “The views are Um Al Naar's, but I like to think of her as an amalgamation of many of the critical thinkers I know and admire. She has a deep sense of love for her land, and considers critical thinking a necessary part of that love.”


Bella Hadid lands Michael Kors fashion campaign

Updated 23 September 2020

Bella Hadid lands Michael Kors fashion campaign

DUBAI: The fashion campaigns just keep rolling in for Bella Hadid. The part-Palestinian model was selected to star in the new Michael Kors fall 2020 ad campaign, which was shot by Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson. 

Appearing alongside models Luke Maehlmann and Kendall Harrison, the half-Dutch catwalker looks the part of a rock star on tour wearing bohemian designs, oversized felt hats, patchwork prints, yellow-tinted aviator sunglasses and leather handbags.

“The campaign channels the ultimate in rock star glamour,” said Michael Kors in a release. “The laid-back cool, the attitude and the star power.”

For Hadid, who has been an ambassador for Michael Kors since 2018 and featured in the brand’s spring 2019, holiday 2019 and spring 2020 ready-to-wear campaigns, working with the American house is familiar territory.

The 23-year-old has long been a muse for the American label and has also walked for the brand during New York Fashion Week.

The designer announced in June that he has opted out of New York Fashion Week’s fall edition this year in favor of a presentation in either October or November. Whether or not the new campaign can be taken as a barometer of the label’s forthcoming spring 2021 collection, something tells us that house favorite, Bella, could be involved. 

Indeed, the younger sister of Gigi Hadid hasn’t let the global health pandemic slow her down. In fact, she’s been as busy as ever, in spite of the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus.

In addition to her latest work with Michael Kors, the California-bred model also recently appeared in a beauty campaign for Dior as well as British heritage house Burberry’s Pocket Bag campaign.

Hadid also featured in an ad for fine jewelry label Bulgari, shot by Brooklyn-based photographer Tyler Mitchell.

And fashion lovers may recall that back in June, Hadid and Hailey Baldwin Bieber were spotted tanning on a yacht in Sardinia during lockdown.

As it turns out Bieber and Hadid, who were recently revealed as the faces of Versace’s Dylan Turquoise and Dylan Blue women’s fragrances, respectively, were shooting new-season campaigns for the Italian house. 

The part-Arab catwalker was also the star of Calvin Klein’s spring 2020 campaign for its CK Swim range, alongside Italian-Moroccan model Malika El-Maslouhi.