Series review: Despite slickness, ennui sets in as ‘Money Heist’ season 4 streams

Series review: Despite slickness, ennui sets in as ‘Money Heist’ season 4 streams
Season four of  ‘Money Heist’ is now available on Netflix. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 April 2020

Series review: Despite slickness, ennui sets in as ‘Money Heist’ season 4 streams

Series review: Despite slickness, ennui sets in as ‘Money Heist’ season 4 streams

CHENNAI: Netflix’s wildly popular Spanish original “Money Heist” (“La Casa de Papel”) kicked off with a band of robbers led by The Professor (Alvaro Morte) sneaking into the Royal Mint of Spain in Madrid, printing currency notes and escaping.

This week, season four was released after much anticipation online. Made up of eight episodes, the season follows the team — each of whom is named after a city — as they try to grab gold from the Bank of Spain while The Professor himself takes on a personal mission related to his lady-love, Lisbon.

The series, created by Alex Pina, is slickly done with the dead Berlin (Pedro Alonso) returning in flashbacks. The gang, which calls itself La Banda, attempts to execute Berlin’s plan with his best friend Palermo (Rodrigo de la Serna) as the operation’s new chief.

There are twists and turns, a power struggle between characters and the usual added flavor of romances and breakups. There is also more of a focus on the emotional side of The Professor — audiences will follow him as he makes tough calls on his love life and commitments.

There is also a marked increase in on-screen brutality — what used to be a battle of wits has boiled over into a slinging match with plenty of blood and violence. While in previous seasons, tension was built using the threat of violence — with Berlin’s unhinged character playing a main role in this — now, there is no anticipation or anxiety. Characters let rip and it seems like a failed ploy to distract viewers from the fact we aren’t really learning anything new for much of the run-time.

Much like TV serials, which go on forever, “Money Heist” now feels a bit jaded and ennui has begun to set in. The conflicts are the same and the flashbacks to times when the gang was planning the heist haven’t got anything new to say. The police interrogations are incredibly drab and the romantic yearnings are portrayed with no real vigor. Here’s to hoping season five will breathe new life into this much-loved show. Bella ciao!

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari
Updated 14 May 2021

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari
  • Banarsi silk was a luxurious hand-woven fabric once made in the city of Khairpur, in Sindh
  • No official data exists on the history of the industry and the stories are told by the weavers themselves

SINDH: At the Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Colony in the city of Khairpur, in Sindh, 47-year-old merchant Zafar Abbas Ansari was waiting, hoping for a few additional orders of silk Banarsi saris as Eid Al-Fitr approached.
The sari is a garment native to South Asia, where a long piece of cloth is wrapped elaborately around the body — usually in cotton or silk — and worn with a matching blouse.
Although the city does not make Banarsi any longer — it is now made in Karachi, more than 400 km away — customers still come to the city to purchase the fabric.
Inside the deserted 70-year-old market — once a bustling place — Zafar’s shop is among the last three Banarsi shops left. His family is one of the 40 weaver families who brought the industry to Khairpur when they migrated from India in 1952.
“It is almost two decades since Khairpur stopped producing Banarsi saris after the industry’s collapse. However, even today, the brand is popular among customers. They keep demanding Khairpur’s brand,” Zafar told Arab News.
In its heyday, Khairpur’s Banarsi sari was synonymous with luxury, with vendors supplying the fabric not only locally but also exporting to Pakistani families living in the UK and other European countries.
Inside Zafar’s shop, unstitched pieces of colorful saris — the blouse, the petticoat and main sari fabric — are displayed. The shop shows off different varieties of saris, including the traditional katan — a plain woven fabric with pure silk threads — chiffon, as well as synthetic fabrics.
“Banarsi sari has distinction and standing,” Zafar said proudly. “It is worn by royal families because of its grace and elegance. In some families it is an essential part of the bridal trousseau.”

The price of a sari depends upon its type. The most expensive sari fabric available in the Khairpur market currently is worth Rs45,000 ($300) a piece
Khairpur’s Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Colony is named after the city of Banaras in India (now Varanasi) because of the silk weavers who migrated from there.
There are no official records, and the story of the garment comes from the weavers themselves. They say the history of the Banaras sari industry in Khairpur is linked with Ghulam Saddiquah Begum — the wife of Khairpur state’s then ruler, Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur of the Talpur dynasty.
Saddiquah Begum herself came from Bahawalpur state, and in 1949, the weavers said, during a visit to India’s Hyderabad Deccan, she offered Mohammed Yusuf Ansari — a sari trader from Banaras — the chance to start manufacturing in Khairpur.
She is said to have offered her state’s support for the establishment of the manufacturing units required.
In 1952, about 40 families of the Ansari clan migrated from Banaras to Khairpur and sari manufacturing began on handlooms. Later, the saris were exported to other countries.
Arab News could not independently verify this information.
According to Anjum Sajjad Ansari, grandson of Muhammad Yusuf Ansari and a representative of the Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Association Khairpur, at its peak there were 400 handlooms in Khairpur. Today, not a single handloom remains.
“At Khairpur’s Banarsi Silk Weavers Colony today there are 16 houses of traditional weavers. However only three are involved in this business of selling Karachi-made fabric,” Anjum said.
Like elsewhere, the Banarsi brand was associated with pure silk thread work. Initially, Khairpur used silk imported from China, but later the silk came from Punjab’s Changa Manga as Pakistan developed hatching silkworms and silk fiber producing factories.
The whole family engaged in the manufacturing process, including silk weaving, dyeing, warping, and reeling. It took between two to three days’ work to complete a single sari.
The silk weaving industry was thriving into the 1960s.
“In 1965, Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan visited and gave incentives and subsidies that boosted the industry,” said Anjum.
“However, in the later years successive governments paid little heed to this industry, and manufacturing units were shifted to Karachi by 2000,” he said.
For Anjum, there is still a chance to revive the past glory of Khairpur.
“We have given proposals to the government at different forums. But nothing has been done yet. The Banarsi sari has become a trademark for Khairpur,” he said.
“Khairpur’s distinction was to produce only handmade silk fabric, unlike other areas where machines are involved. If the government is sincere, factories could be re-established and skilled laborers could be recalled once more from Karachi.”

Rare books shed light on history of the Arab world

Rare books shed light on history of the Arab world
Updated 14 May 2021

Rare books shed light on history of the Arab world

Rare books shed light on history of the Arab world
  • Regional highlights from the latest catalogue of rare book dealer Peter Harrington, which will be represented at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair later this month

A visual record of a Jeddah landmark

This “apparently unique” bespoke album contains 120 original photographs of Jeddah’s well-known Bayt Nassif, taken before its restoration in the early 1980s. The Saudi government purchased this historic landmark in 1975 and initially used as a library, but it is now a cultural center that hosts exhibitions and other events. King Faisal’s decision to rehabilitate the building “provided an enlightening and inspiring model for sustainability in historic areas,” according to a book cited in the Peter Harrington catalogue.

Located on the main street of Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad district, the house was built for the then-governor of Jeddah, Sheikh Umar Effendi Al-Nassif between 1872 and 1881 and is now, the catalogue states, “widely recognized as one of the most important surviving examples of Red Sea coralline limestone architecture.” The house was later used by King Abdulaziz bin Saud as his primary residence in the city until Khuzam Palace was constructed.

Until the 1920s, Bayt Nassif was also the site of the only tree in Jeddah’s old city — so the building is also known locally as The House of the Tree. That neem tree still survives and can be seen in images in this book.

Account of a 19th-century journey from Jeddah to Egypt

In 1819, Sir Miles Nightingall, commander-in-chief of Britain’s Bombay Army, was returning to England from India when their ship “Teignmouth” was grounded on a sandbank in the Gulf of Aden. Having got their boat moving again, Nightingall and his entourage — including Captain James Hanson, the author of this work — headed to Jeddah “where they were welcomed by the Turkish governor, newly installed following the restoration of Ottoman rule in Egypt. Having taken advice from Henry Salt, consul-general in Egypt, they decided on an overland route across the desert that would take in the ‘most interesting and marvelous ruins’ at Thebes.” Hanson’s book describes — and maps — their journey from Kosseir (now Quseer) on the Red Sea westwards inland to Kennah (Qena) on the Nile, just east of Dendera “passing ruined forts, ‘Hills having the appearance of Tombs’ and ‘Sterile Desert - not a blade of Vegetation.’”

Journals of a British naval officer in the Arabian Gulf 1928-51

This three-volume manuscript relate to Midshipman Francis Wyatt Rawson Larken’s service in the British Royal Navy in the early-to-mid 20th century, for part of which Larken was stationed in the Arabian Gulf around what the British then called the Trucial States, which later became the UAE. The books were unpublished at the time, and according to the catalogue, include “a compelling account of a visit to Dubai and an on-board reception for the Trucial Sheikhs.”  Those visitors would have included Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al-Maktoum of Dubai, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al-Qasimi of Sharjah, among others.

“There were some 8 or 10 of the higher cast (sic.) on board and these were taken round the ship by the Admiral and the Captain while their followers stayed on the Quarter Deck. … They all then congregated on the Quarter Deck where the band played. They then left in their respective barges — ornate and rather splendid motor dhows, the various Sheikhs receiving salutes — the number of guns ranging from 6 to 1 in ratio to their importance. They brought us gifts of Beef and Melon Jelly … and were sent away with Gold Flake Cigarettes and chocolate,” Larken writes. “Every man carries his broad curved belt knife — heavily set with worked silver — and the chief ones wore splendid ‘Bournous’ of gold work cloth. All were fine upstanding men very much like the Sheik of fiction.”

During his service, Larken also visited Aden, Muscat, Sohar, Sur, Khasab and Khor al-Jarama in modern Oman, as well as Dubai and the island of Sir Abu Nu’ayr in what is now the UAE.

British intelligence manual from the time of the ‘Arab Revolt’

This manual includes material from T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) and was produced by the British Arab Bureau as a guide to the “tribal and political organization, geography and passable routes in the region” at the time of the military uprising by Arab forces against the Ottoman Empire during World War I, led by Hussein bin Ali, the sherif of Makkah, backed by the British government. One of the “passable routes” that Lawrence himself gave information on was that from Madinah to Makkah.

This copy previously belonged to William Cochrane, deputy to Colonely Cyril Wilson, the British Agent at Jeddah. Among Cochrane’s duties was the organization of the Hajj for Muslims from British India, and he reportedly “took charge of the £125,000 in gold sovereigns that was brought to Jeddah each month by the Red Sea Patrol of the Royal Navy” — Hussein’s subsidy from the British for the uprising.

Eyewitness account of a Danish expedition to Arabia in the 1760s

An English translation of a two-volume account of the 1761-7 Danish expedition to the region — “the first great scientific expedition to the Middle East” — by the surveyor Carsten Niebuhr, the only member of that expedition to survive.

“The party left Copenhagen in early 1761, travelling via Constantinople to Alexandria and spending a year in Egypt, ascending the Nile and exploring Sinai. They then crossed from Suez to Jeddah and sailed down the Arabian coast to al-Luhayyah in Yemen, making frequent landfalls, before continuing overland to Sana’a via Mocha, with two members of the party dying en route. On returning to Mocha, the remaining four collapsed with fever and were put on a ship bound for Bombay, with only Niebuhr surviving the sea voyage.”

Niebuhr’s account of the trip, the catalogue says, “has long been considered one of the classic accounts of the geography, people, antiquities and archaeology of the Arabian Peninsula and wider Middle East, with maps which remained in use for over 100 years” and is “a singularly important account of the Gulf in this still-obscure period.”

A chronicle of traditional Arab seamanship

The full title of this work from 1940 is “Sons of Sinbad. An Account of Sailing with the Arabs in their Dhows, in the Red Sea, around the Coasts of Arabia, and to Zanzibar and Tanganyika; Pearling in the Persian Gulf; and the Life of the Shipmasters, the Mariners and Merchants of Kuwait.” As it suggests, the book — written by Australian adventurer Alan Villiers — is a comprehensive account of traditional seamanship, boat building and trade in the region at a time when those traditions were coming to an end with the discovery of oil. It includes dozens of illustrations from photographs and charts too.

In the line of fire: Angelina Jolie on ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’

In the line of fire: Angelina Jolie on ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’
Updated 14 May 2021

In the line of fire: Angelina Jolie on ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’

In the line of fire: Angelina Jolie on ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’
  • Angelina Jolie and co-stars discuss shooting Taylor Sheridan’s latest movie

DUBAI: It has been two decades since Angelina Jolie, one of the world’s top movie stars, began dedicating herself to helping the people of the world most in need, working with the UNHCR to visit refugee camps across the Middle East and the world.

As renowned as she is for her acting and directing, it is her humanitarian work that is closest to her heart, and through all the tumult that she has gone through in her life, it’s the one thing that has kept her grounded.

“We’re all connected,” Jolie tells Arab News. “A life in service of others makes us better. It makes us grow.”

Jolie’s latest film, “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, may not, on its surface, mirror the mission that Jolie has been following for the most important decades of her life, but it shares those same themes.

“Those Who Wish Me Dead” is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. (Supplied)

In it, she plays Hannah, an elite firefighter called a smokejumper based in the wooded hills of Montana in the northern United States who risks her life at the first sign of a forest fire by parachuting directly into the flames. She’s plagued by the memory of a group of young boys she wasn’t able to save from a fire years earlier. While camped out in the woods, she comes in contact with a young boy on the run from two hitmen, and by helping save the boy, she saves herself.

For Jolie, while the arc of the character is ultimately about the importance of selflessness, she had to keep first and foremost in her mind that Hannah was a troubled character who lacks the maternal instincts that Jolie herself, the mother of six children, has in spades.

“[At first], they are both struggling to be around each other. She doesn't actually hold him closer to her. But it's that interesting moment we see as he says, ‘Are you someone I can trust?’ I think in that moment, she has no idea who she is. If you're somebody that feels like you've failed in your life and you're in grief and somebody comes to you and says, ‘Are you somebody who can help me? Can I trust you? Can you be the person that protects me?’ You want to be, but you can't imagine you are,” says Jolie.

It’s no surprise that Hannah is so broken—after all, she has walked through the fire both literally and spiritually, over and over. While the title of the film seems to be a reference to the hitmen in pursuit of the young boy, Jolie interprets it as being about Hannah.

“It's funny, during filming we used to joke, after Hannah gets hit by lightning, what else can happen to her? It's like the universe is trying to kill her — it’s the universe that wishes her dead. I think most of us have felt that in life. You feel for a moment that you're just completely up against it and what more can be thrown at you or who else can attack? But yes, definitely, we grow stronger. We grow stronger if we survive it,” says Jolie.

While the phrase ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is oft repeated, for Jolie, the concept of what ‘stronger’ means needs to be more deeply interrogated.

“You go through the fire, but how do you come out the other end? Did you come out bitter, angry, broken, at a loss and overwhelmed? Or did you come out of it where your spirit got stronger, you confronted your fears, you protected others? And within that fire you found something that made you stronger,” says Jolie.

The fires were not only both literal and spiritual for her character; they were in fact a real part of the shoot. Director Taylor Sheridan avoided using computer-generated imagery to add to the film’s realism.

“He's amazing. He built a fake forest to light it on fire instead of using CG, because he wants to immerse his actors in what's going on and make them understand what the character's going through,” says Finn Little, who plays Connor, the young boy Hannah protects.

The realism extended past the flames. Through Sheridan’s films “Sicario,” “Hell or High Water” and “Wind River,” he has become his country’s premiere chronicler of rural America, with “Those Who Wish Me Dead” continuing that mission with a keen eye and a true heart.

That’s something that has kept actor Jon Bernthal, who plays a police officer named Harrison in the film, coming back to work with Sheridan, with whom he previously worked on “Sicario” and “Wind River.”

“I think Taylor Sheridan is a great American storyteller. He understands the West, he understands the wilderness and what it means to live off the land. If you look at all his films, there’s a richness and authenticity to them,” says Bernthal.

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi artist Rashed Al-Shashai discusses conceptual artwork ‘Brand 14’

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi artist Rashed Al-Shashai discusses conceptual artwork ‘Brand 14’
Updated 14 May 2021

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi artist Rashed Al-Shashai discusses conceptual artwork ‘Brand 14’

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi artist Rashed Al-Shashai discusses conceptual artwork ‘Brand 14’

DUBAI: The Saudi artist discusses his conceptual artwork, recently displayed at Art Dubai through Jeddah-based Hafez Gallery, fueled by the theme of modern day consumerism.

I come from an academic background; even though I loved art before academia. I grew up in a village and, at one point, my father was an art educator. From an early age, he gave me the confidence to make art and I used to design things in the house. I graduated with degrees in art in Makkah and I’ve been teaching art for around 20 years.

I’m one of those people that likes to think outside the box. I don’t like traditional art. In the past few years, I’ve leaned towards using art as a medium of expression, knowledge, enlightenment and an embodiment of things that affect our daily lives.

In the Gulf, we are living in a time of rapid development, which is due to the presence of oil and people’s need to have a better quality of life. This rapid change leads to changes in different aspects of life, including art. I always focus on change in its social and collective context. I’m always keen that my work is visually attractive and conceptually deep.

My ‘Brand’ series discusses how humanity has been cheapened in the face of global organizations and world economic trade. I’m not against organizations, but I’m against organizations taking advantage of people. A person has become cheap — like a second-or third-class citizen. It’s like you’re telling a person that you’re just a number in this organization. The problem isn’t the consumer; it’s these organizations that are brainwashing us. People have this stunning will to buy. They’re always working on this idea that you work to buy a new television; you work to buy a new car.

In “Brand 14,” I focused on the consumption of cleaning and decorating products as seen on supermarket shelves. The cases in the front are made of plastic, which were used as supermarket crates. I’ve used light in many of my works. As you can see here, I always place light in the background of the artwork and not in the front. Light isn’t there just to see the work, but it is a main component. I feel that light has a filtering that creates another story.

‘I’m getting orders from around the world’: How Merihan Dobiea took her new fashion label global

‘I’m getting orders from around the world’: How Merihan Dobiea took her new fashion label global
Updated 13 May 2021

‘I’m getting orders from around the world’: How Merihan Dobiea took her new fashion label global

‘I’m getting orders from around the world’: How Merihan Dobiea took her new fashion label global

DUBAI: From a fashion label to international brand collaborations, Dubai-based influencer Merihan Dobiea has been working hard to make a name for herself in the highly competitive fashion industry. 

The Egyptian blogger started her career four years ago, and already has garnered partnerships and brand deals with Swedish label Daniel Wellington and US footwear label New Balance among others. 

Dobiea, 23, recently launched the fashion label Threadz by Marmar. 

The brand, which went live in April, offers kaftans, dresses and abayas that can be worn by all women, not only conservative buyers, according to the young entrepreneur. 

“People say, ‘we see this stuff in the market, but every single piece has a different twist that you added that we can’t find in the market,’” Dobiea told Arab News. 

A month after the launch, the influencer said the feedback has been “amazing.” 

“I am getting orders from around the world — from the UK, Canada, Algeria, Egypt,” she said. “And a lot of customers are emailing me, praising the quality and packaging.”

To add a personal touch to the brand, Dobiea also sells two perfumes: Amani, named after her mother, and Layla, named after her niece.

Her passion for fashion and design goes back to her childhood. 

“I have pictures in my mom’s heels and her dresses. I always liked to apply lipstick as a kid. So, I feel like it was something that was just meant to happen after time,” she said. 

The idea for her fashion brand came after she struggled to find something for Ramadan to wear.

“I decided to start making my own stuff. I knew where the fabric shops were. So I went to get clothes that I liked and I used to take them to a tailor,” Dobiea said. 

After explaining her designs to the tailor, she began wearing the finished product. 

“People were like, ‘Wow, that’s so nice. Where did you get it from?’ and I’d always be like, ‘Oh, I just made it by myself,’” said Dobiea.

“Eventually my friends wanted to start wearing what I was wearing and I started making them pieces. Then it just got out of hand to be honest, but in a good way. So I started selling online.”

Dobiea began selling a few items on Instagram under a different brand name. But during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, she worked on the branding, quality and designs of her new brand, Threadz by Marmar.  

The designer is set to release a new Eid collection, just in time for the holiday.