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.”


Chiara Ferragni soaks up the sun in Oman

Ferragni took to Instagram to share snaps from her sunny holiday in Oman this week. (AFP)
Updated 15 October 2019

Chiara Ferragni soaks up the sun in Oman

DUBAI: Italian fashion blogger and entrepreneur Chiara Ferragni took to Instagram to share snaps from her sunny holiday in Oman this week, giving her followers a good dose of travel inspiration in the process.

The influencer shared a selection of shots, including a visit to Muscat’s Grand Mosque — she covered her head with a black scarf while inside the mosque — a snap in which she can be seen smiling in front of a wall of pink bougainvillea and photographs taken in the 5-star resort where she is staying with her family.

Ferragni is staying at the swanky Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel along with her husband — Italian rapper Federico Leonardo Lucia, known by his stage name Fedez — and baby son, Leone.

The family is in town to celebrate Lucia’s birthday and Ferragni didn’t let the day go by without posting a sweet message on Instagram.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Happy 30th raviolito @fedez

A post shared by Chiara Ferragni (@chiaraferragni) on

“Happiest 30th birthday to my person, my soul mate and my best friend @fedez. I’m so proud of you, our relationship and everything we’ve built together in only three years. Thanks for making me the happiest mama and wife. Thanks for making my dreams come true. Thanks for understanding who I am and always support(ing) me. When I look at you, I can only think ‘he’s my person, I couldn’t have anybody else that makes me feel this way.’ You’re family and you’re home and you make me proud everyday,” she posted next to a photograph of the couple in Oman.

Having nabbed the number one spot on Forbes’ “Top Fashion Influencers” list in 2017, Ferragni is one of the world’s most recognizable social media stars and even launched her own namesake line, Chiara Ferragni Collection, in 2013. Since then, she has expanded into apparel, accessories and children’s clothing and reported revenues of $20 million in 2016, according to the Business of Fashion website.

Ferragni launched her blog, The Blonde Salad, in 2009 while attending Milan’s Bocconi University for a degree in law and went on to collaborate with an impressive clutch of design houses, including Dior, Louis Vuitton, Ermenegildo Zegna, Benetton and Mango.