Snapchat brings Saudi UNESCO site to life with augmented reality 

The Lyihyan Bin Kuza (AlFarid) tomb carved into rose-coloured sandstone can be seen in Hegra (Madain Saleh), a UNESCO World Heritage site, near Saudi Arabia’s town of AlUla. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 February 2020

Snapchat brings Saudi UNESCO site to life with augmented reality 

DUBAI: Snapchat has collaborated with Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission of AlUla to bring the Unesco heritage site Lyihyan Bin Kuza (AlFarid) Al-Farid to life, by showcasing work from three artists using augmented reality (AR) via Snapchat Landmarkers.
Introduced in 2019, Landmarkers are the app’s lenses which enable AR experiences, transforming the world’s most iconic monuments in real-time.
During the Desert X AlUla art exhibition, which is running until March 7, Snapchat users will be prompted to find the icon of this landmark.
To activate the feature, visitors will have to point their phone cameras at Lyihyan Bin Kuza (AlFarid). By doing so, they will be able to see the works of the artists Zahrah Al-Ghamdi from Saudi Arabia, eL Seed from Tunisia, and Lita Albuquerque from the US, over a six-week time span at two-week intervals for each.
“We are excited to have Desert X AlUla, the first international collaboration for Desert X, as part of Winter at Tantora festival” said Nora Aldabal, arts and culture programs director at the Royal Commission of AlUla, in a statement.
“Artists from around the world will showcase their art in the desert of AlUla, home to a series of fascinating historical and archaeological sites. Having Snapchat participate in this landmark event will bring the landscape of AlUla to life in an entirely new light, in a juxtaposition of modern technology and history.”
Al-Ghamdi said: “I am thrilled to be among the artists whose work will be uniquely displayed on Lyihyan Bin Kuza (AlFarid) using a Snapchat Lens.
“This amazing feature will transform my artwork into an interactive experience. AR has become an integral element that brings art to life and provides people with an unparalleled experience.”


Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

“Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story, but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2020

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

CHENNAI: Sooni Taraporevala gained immense fame by writing for Mira Nair’s films, such as “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala” and the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay.” In 2009, Taraporevala stepped behind the camera to helm a small movie called “Little Zizou” about the Parsi community. It was a hit, and three years ago, she took up the camera again to create a virtual reality short documentary about two boys from Mumbai’s slums who became renowned ballet dancers. 

Taraporevala converted her documentary into a full-length feature, “Yeh Ballet,” for Netflix, and the work, though with a somewhat documentary feel, is fascinating storytelling — a talent we have seen in her writings for Nair. 

Happily, “Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story (of the kind “Gully Boy” was), but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. The film begins with a breathtaking aerial shot of the Arabian Ocean on whose shores Mumbai stands — an element that points toward the director’s background as a photographer. 

The film chronicles the lives of Nishu and Asif Beg. (Supplied) 

A story inspired by true events, “Yeh Ballet” chronicles the lives of Nishu (Manish Chauhan) and Asif Beg (newcomer Achintya Bose). The two lads are spotted by a ballet master, Saul Aaron (British actor Julian Sands) who, driven away from America because of his religion, lands in a Mumbai dance school.

Nishu and Asif, despite their nimble-footed ballet steps, find their paths paved with the hardest of obstacles. When foreign scholarships from famous ballet academies come calling, they cannot get a visa because they have no bank accounts. And while Asif’s father, dictated by his religion, is dead against the boy’s music and dancing, Nishu’s dad, a taxi driver, feels that his son’s passion is a waste of time and energy.

Well, all this ends well — as we could have guessed — but solid writing and imaginative editing along with Ankur Tewari’s curated music and the original score by Salvage Audio Collective turn “Yeh Ballet” into a gripping tale. It is not an easy task to transform a documentary into fiction, but Taraporevala does it with great ease. Or so it appears. Of course, the two protagonists add more than a silver lining to a movie that will be long remembered — the way we still mull over “Salaam Bombay” or “The Namesake.” But what I missed was a bit more ballet; the two guys are just wonderful to watch as they fly through the air.