Cirque du Soleil promises unforgettable Riyadh Season show

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Cirque du Soleil Bazzar set up a white tent out of consideration for visitors, as darker shades would heat up. (AN Photo)
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Cirque du Soleil’s wardrobe team worked hard on modifying 15 outfits out of respect for the Saudi culture and traditions. (AN Photo)
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Cirque du Soleil Bazzar will bring in 32 performers of different nationalities to deliver 10 powerful acts for the Riyadh Season. (AN Photo)
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Lauren Joy Herley worked on Cirque du Soleil Sand during Saudi National Day in 2018, and she loved Saudi Arabia’s enthusiastic reactions during the performance, calling them ‘very vocal.’ (AN Photo)
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Lauren Joy Herley is loving her character, the Floating Woman, who is rebellious and a trickster, but has good intentions and loves to have fun. (AN Photo)
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Cirque du Soleil Bazzar will bring in 32 performers of different nationalities to deliver 10 powerful acts for the Riyadh Season. (AN Photo)
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Cirque du Soleil’s wardrobe team worked hard on modifying 15 outfits out of respect for the Saudi culture and traditions. (AN Photo)
Updated 01 November 2019

Cirque du Soleil promises unforgettable Riyadh Season show

  • Cirque du Soleil Bazzar tells the tale of a maestro and a floating woman who keeps disrupting him and a mini maestro who wants to take his leading role
  • The acrobatic performers on stage will be accompanied by three musicians — one of them can play up to 17 instruments

RIYADH: Set in a white tent at Riyadh Front, the international team of artists and crew behind the sensational Cirque du Soleil gathered to prepare for their opening night on Nov. 1 as part of the Riyadh Season.

The show’s publicist Nicolas Chabot told Arab News about Cirque du Soleil Bazzar, which will tell the tale of a maestro and a floating woman who keeps “disrupting” him and a mini maestro who wants to take his leading role.

“People come to see Cirque du Soleil shows to see acrobatic acts, and Bazzar will hold 10 impressive acts with 32 artists in the choreographed show. We have beautiful costumes and amazing music in what is known as contemporary circus,” he said.

That means there will be no animal tricks during the show. Instead, it will have a mixture of acts, dance, music and theater. “That is what Cirque du Soleil has been doing for 35 years,” added Chabot.

The acrobatic performers on stage will be accompanied by three musicians — one of them can play up to 17 instruments. But unlike operas and plays, the acrobatic performance will lead the music. The songs will vary from pop to folk and classical music, to appeal to all ears.

This is not Lauren Joy Herley’s first visit to Saudi. The performer who plays the floating woman, a rebellious trickster, in Bazzar was part of Cirque du Soleil’s Sand on Saudi National Day last year, and she is excited to be back.

“Last year in Riyadh, the audience was very, very vocal, and I am hoping they are this year too,” she said.

As an intimate show, Herley thinks that “it brings about a raw, energetic atmosphere that does not rely on projections and side effects but the individuals that you see bringing their presence and skill.”

She said she was very proud to present Cirque du Soleil to Saudi Arabia, describing her previous experience as “different but positive.”

In order to show respect for Saudi audiences and to the kingdom’s culture, head of wardrobe Alexandra revealed that they had to modify 15 outfits.

But that did not decrease the performers’ mobility. “We made sure the artists trained in their modified outfits, and everyone is really excited for their upgraded clothes.”

Rania Al-Ghamdi, from Jeddah, has been a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil and she pledged to visit Bazzar during the Riyadh Season. Part of her obsession goes back to the fact that the circus giants refuse to incorporate animals in their performances, and were against it from the start.

“They spread awareness by leading by example, a movement that is led by many nowadays, but they did it first,” she said.

Al-Ghamdi also likes that there is always a tale to their performances; it is not “just an acrobatic show,” the costumes, makeup, the story, the art and the effort they put into their shows are what makes them unrivaled.

“They dig deep and research, learn languages to create songs that tell the tale in a very artistic way,” she added.

Cirque du Soleil Bazzar will open on Nov. 1 until Dec. 7 to dazzle the Riyadh Season, before moving on to the Caribbean.


Five Arab films that have won international acclaim

Updated 06 December 2019

Five Arab films that have won international acclaim

  • Saudi director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s 'The Perfect Candidate' is in the shortlist for an Oscar
  • A number of Arab productions are in the race for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar

CAIRO: The Oscars are just around the corner, and in January the shortlist for the coveted Best Foreign Language Film award will be confirmed.

Several titles from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have been submitted for consideration, including Saudi director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “The Perfect Candidate.”

The entry, which tells the story of a Saudi doctor who takes on her country’s patriarchal system by running in municipal elections, is particularly significant as it is the Kingdom’s first Academy Award submission following the ban on theaters being lifted in 2017.

It is also the first to be supported by the Saudi Film Council, an organization launched at Cannes Film Festival in 2018.

Here is a look at other recent Arab titles that have achieved international acclaim, and why they are worth watching.

 

1. WADJDA — Saudi Arabia

“The Perfect Candidate” is not the first of Al-Mansour’s films to be submitted to the Oscars. Her critically acclaimed drama “Wadjda” became the first title to be submitted by the Kingdom in 2013 for the 86th Academy Awards. It marked the debut of a Saudi female filmmaker, with the film shot entirely in the Kingdom.

The story of a 10-year-old Wadjda, and her desire to buy a bicycle to race against a male friend, sheds light on traditions and women’s rights.

In an article for The Guardian newspaper, film critic Henry Barnes described “Wadjda” as a message that Al-Mansour wrapped “inside a love letter to her people.”

 

2. ESHTEBAK — Egypt

The Egyptian film industry has a good track record when it comes to titles receiving global acclaim, one of the most recent being “Eshtebak” (“Clash”), by director Mohamed Diab.

Set in a police van during a period of street protests and unrest in 2013, the film chronicles a time of political and social instability in the country, where a clash of ideologies and personalities unfolds between communities.

 Egyptian director Mohamed Diab's “Eshtebak” (“Clash”). (Supplied)

The resulting tensions and dilemmas are acted out by the people trapped in the van.

“Eshtebak” was selected as the opening film for the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, and screened internationally across Europe, and in Brazil and China.

The film was publicly endorsed by actor Tom Hanks in a letter to the director: “Your film will go to great lengths to enlighten many. Audiences will see that humanity is a fragile community, but we are all in ‘this’ together.”

 

3. AL-JANNA AL-AAN — Palestine

A Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film — and nominated in the same category at the 78th Academy Awards — “Paradise Now” was described by its Palestinian director, Hany Abu-Assad, as “an artistic point of view of the political issue.”

The film digs deep into the human aspects of the Palestinian conflict, following the fictional story of two friends recruited by a terrorist group to become suicide bombers in Tel Aviv.

Palestinan director Hany Abu-Assad's “Al-Janna Al-Aan" (Supplied)

Armed with explosives, they attempt to cross into Israel, but are pursued by border guards and separated.

When they are reunited, one character decides against carrying out the bombing, and tries to convince his friend to quit as well.

“Paradise Now” was not Abu-Assad’s only Academy Award nomination. His film “Omar,” which won the Muhr awards for Best Film and Best Director at the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival, was also shortlisted for the same category at the 2014 Oscars.

 

 

4. CAFARNAUM — Lebanon

Directed by celebrated Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki, “Capernaum” depicts the complicated life of undocumented migrants, refugees and workers in Lebanon through the story of 12-year old Zain, who lives in the slums of Beirut.

The film generated $68 million at the box office worldwide, more than 17 times its production budget, becoming the highest-grossing Middle Eastern and Arabic movie of all time.

Lebanese director Nadine Labaki's “Cafarnaum" (Supplied)

“Capernaum” won the Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival — it received a solid 15-minute standing ovation after its screening there — and was shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

Labaki’s other productions include “Caramel” and “Where Do We Go Now?”

 

5. THEEB — Jordan

This drama by Naji Abu Nowar starred non-professional Bedouin actors and focuses on events unfolding in the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan during World War I.

Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar's “Theeb" (Supplied)

In 2016, “Theeb” won internationally recognition by becoming the first Jordanian nomination to make it to the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.

It was also nominated for Best Film Not in the English Language at the 69th British Academy Film Awards, and won the Best Director award at the 71st Venice International Film Festival.

 

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.