‘What’s a UN journalist?’: New film on Syrian refugees sparks ire for lack of Arab casting

‘What’s a UN journalist?’: New film on Syrian refugees sparks ire for lack of Arab casting
Olivia Munn is set to play the lead in feature drama “Aleppo.” (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 September 2020

‘What’s a UN journalist?’: New film on Syrian refugees sparks ire for lack of Arab casting

‘What’s a UN journalist?’: New film on Syrian refugees sparks ire for lack of Arab casting
  • ‘The Newsroom’ actress Olivia Munn selected to star in drama ‘Aleppo’
  • Many online users are concerned that the film will center on a Western journalist, while the Syrian refugee will simply be seen as an extra

DUBAI/LONDON: “What is a UN journalist?” asked the Twitterverse on Friday after the announcement came that actress Olivia Munn would be playing a UN reporter alongside a Syrian refugee in the feature film titled “Aleppo.”

It’s been announced that US actress Olivia Munn is set to play the lead in the feature drama, a story about a Syrian refugee and UN journalist (Munn), who are brought together by their escape from war-afflicted Syria. 

Many online users are concerned that the film will center on a Western journalist, while the Syrian refugee will simply be seen as an extra - given that the job of a UN journalist simply does not exist and will ironically be played by an actress known for her role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s hit show “The Newsroom.”

“Jesus Christ. Firstly, there’s no such thing as a ‘UN journalist’; secondly there was no UN in those last terrifying months of Aleppo, and the only journalists around were Syrians,” Human Rights Watch researcher Sophie McNeill tweeted.

“How any film about Aleppo can centre anyone but brave Syrians is insane. Who writes this s***?”

Nada Homsi, a Beirut-based Syrian reporter and producer for NPR tweeted: “Hello Hollywood I’m Syrian and a journalist and would love to become a movie star, so would many other Syrians, also ‘UN journalists’ aren’t a thing. Hire us!”

Others weren't pleased with Munn’s casting, and have taken to social media to express their discontent.

“The onslaught on Aleppo was one of the most traumatic events for Syrians in Syria and for the diaspora,” wrote one user on Twitter following the news. “Spinning the tragedy to center it around some hypothetical journalist for a Westerner to star in is disgusting,” they added.

Another user wrote: “Oh yay a ‘Syrian refugee drama’ that is actually about a white lady. Just what we need, another white savior movie.”

“Just call it ‘The White Savior,’ why muck about?” added another.

“Aleppo,” which is currently in pre-production in Los Angeles, will be directed by Brazilian filmmaker David Schurman.

The casting of the Syrian starring character has yet to be announced.

Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, many films and documentaries have been made about the tragedy, including “For Sama,” Waad Al-Kateab’s critically-acclaimed documentary.


Netflix shares tumble as subscriber growth cools

Netflix shares tumble as subscriber growth cools
This Aug. 13, 2020 photo shows a logo for Netflix on a remote control in Portland, Ore. (AP)
Updated 21 April 2021

Netflix shares tumble as subscriber growth cools

Netflix shares tumble as subscriber growth cools
  • Netflix executives had cautioned in past quarters that the pandemic fueled a surge in subscriptions, with people who would have eventually signed up jumping on board sooner than they might have

SAN FRANCISCO: Netflix shares plunged Tuesday after the leading streaming service reported cooling growth in paid subscriptions that had caught fire during the pandemic.
While revenue jumped 24 percent in the first quarter of this year when compared to the same period in 2020, paid memberships grew less than expected to 208 million, Netflix said in its quarterly earnings release.
New subscriber additions were some two million below Netflix's forecast.
"We believe paid membership growth slowed due to the big Covid-19 pull forward in 2020 and a lighter content slate in the first half of this year, due to Covid-19 production delays," executives said in the release.
Netflix reported profit was up to a stunning $1.7 billion on revenue of $7.2 billion, as subscribers weathered price increases.
The Silicon Valley-based company said it expected subscriber growth to accelerate anew later this year as it releases sequels to hit shows.
"We had those ten years where we were growing smooth as silk," Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings said on a streamed earnings call.
"It is just a little wobbly right now."
Netflix executives had cautioned in past quarters that the pandemic fueled a surge in subscriptions, with people who would have eventually signed up jumping on board sooner than they might have.
"We continue to anticipate a strong second half with the return of new seasons of some of our biggest hits and an exciting film lineup," Netflix said in an earnings letter.
A shift from traditional television to streamed services such as Netflix remains a clear trend, according to the company.
However, competition is also ramping up from Disney, Amazon and other titans.
"More and more new streaming services are launching, reinforcing our vision that linear TV will slowly give way to streaming entertainment," Netflix said.
"We're working as hard as ever to continually improve our service so that we are the best entertainment option available."
But the sharp deceleration suggested slower growth ahead from Netflix, sending shares down some 11 percent in after-hours trade.
Hastings said that competition in the streaming television market has been consistently fierce, with Amazon Prime and Hulu as rivals for more than a decade.
The cooling is a "sign that the world is coming back to more normal at the expense of Netflix," tweeted Gene Munster of the investment firm Loup Ventures. "We think the long-term growth is flattish."

Productions delays caused by the pandemic have resulted in the release of many original Netflix shows being delayed until the second half of this year, according to the company.
"While the roll out of vaccines is very uneven across the world, we are back up and producing safely in every major market, with the exception of Brazil and India," Netflix said.
The streaming television service expected to spend more than $17 billion on a wide range of content, much of it original.
New seasons of hit shows set for release later this year included Sex Education, The Witcher, La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), and You.
Original films slated to arrive included the finale to The Kissing Booth trilogy; Red Notice starring Gal Gadot, Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds, and Don't Look Up which has a cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Timothee Chalamet, and Meryl Streep.
Netflix is also investing in shows made by talent outside the US, finding "locally authentic stories" from around the world resonate with viewers.
"We're increasingly seeing that these local titles find significant audiences around the world, which supports our thesis that great stories are universal," Netflix said.,
Examples of recent local language hits included Lupin, a series based on French novels telling tales of a daring gentleman burglar, according to Netflix.
A second season of Lupin is due out later this year.


Samsung to launch remote control button for Shahid VIP

Sam Barnett, MBC GROUP CEO, and President of Samsung Electronics Middle East and North Africa Sungwan Myung. (Supplied)
Sam Barnett, MBC GROUP CEO, and President of Samsung Electronics Middle East and North Africa Sungwan Myung. (Supplied)
Updated 20 April 2021

Samsung to launch remote control button for Shahid VIP

Sam Barnett, MBC GROUP CEO, and President of Samsung Electronics Middle East and North Africa Sungwan Myung. (Supplied)
  • Shahid VIP becomes first MENA streaming service to have dedicated branded button on Samsung Smart TV remote controls

DUBAI: The premium subscription-based service of Shahid, and Samsung Electronics, have linked up to bring an exclusive Shahid VIP branded button to the new Samsung Smart TVs launched this year.

The partnership marks the first time a MENA-based streaming service will have its own branded button on a Samsung Smart TV remote control.

The South Korean multinational was also the first TV provider to launch Shahid VIP’s Smart TV app.

Buyers of the new Smart TVs might also have the chance to receive a free subscription to Shahid VIP.

Sam Barnett, CEO of MBC Group, said: “Two of the biggest brands in entertainment are coming together to provide a game-changing experience for at-home viewers.

“This is the first time Samsung has integrated a MENA-based streaming service on its TV remote. And this makes Shahid VIP easier to watch for an even bigger audience this year.”

Sungwan Myung, president of Samsung Electronics MENA, said: “It’s extremely exciting for us to be partnering with the region’s No. 1 broadcaster and the world’s leading Arabic streaming platform.

“Our partnership with Shahid VIP provides our users with an extensive library of premium content that caters to a variety of tastes.”


StarzPlay to broadcast new shows during Ramadan in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media

StarzPlay to broadcast new shows during Ramadan in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media
Updated 20 April 2021

StarzPlay to broadcast new shows during Ramadan in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media

StarzPlay to broadcast new shows during Ramadan in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media
  • StarzPlay subscribers will have access to a range of GCC and Arabic programming by the UAE media firm throughout Ramadan
  • Earlier this year, the companies collaborated to live-stream Ultimate Fighting Championship events across the MENA region

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi Media has extended its strategic agreement with StarzPlay to broadcast six new Arabic and GCC drama series during the holy month of Ramadan.

Earlier this year, the companies collaborated to live-stream Ultimate Fighting Championship events across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

As part of the extended partnership, StarzPlay subscribers will have access to a range of GCC and Arabic programming by the UAE media firm throughout Ramadan.        

Abdul Raheem Al-Bateeh Al-Nuaimi, acting general manager of Abu Dhabi Media, said: “This ongoing agreement with StarzPlay is in line with Abu Dhabi Media’s commitment to strengthening the reach of our digital and entertainment content through strategic partnerships.”

The collaboration is also aimed at increasing digital engagement for Abu Dhabi Media’s Ramadan campaign “Hatha Waqtaha,” which features a line-up of programs and productions with Emirati, Gulf, and Arab stars, he added.

The titles on StarzPlay streaming throughout Ramadan include “A’liqoun,” “Bayn Anf w Shafatyn,” “Bukhour Al-qasa’ed,” “Nabd Mu’aqat,” and “Heen Ra’at.”

Khaled Benchouche, senior vice president for strategy and original content at StarzPlay, said: “We have recorded a growing demand for original Arabic programming and have steadily built our content library.

“With our new partnership with Abu Dhabi Media, we will have a wider breadth of some of the most popular Arabic programming and are delighted to bring this additional choice of quality programming during Ramadan.”


Arab News, FII Institute partner to shed light on the future of regional media industry

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J, Abbas (L) and FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J, Abbas (L) and FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.
Updated 20 April 2021

Arab News, FII Institute partner to shed light on the future of regional media industry

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J, Abbas (L) and FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.
  • Cooperation to produce research, panel discussions and industry level, government white papers

Riyadh: Arab News — the Middle East’s leading English language daily — is partnering with the Future Investment Initiative Institute to shed light on the future of the regional media industry. 

The year-long cooperation — marking the newspaper’s 46th anniversary — will see the co-production of a series of expert panel discussions, surveys, white papers and recommendations of how the industry can survive the digital disruption and create sustainable models for the future. 

“The past two decades saw traditional media dramatically impacted by rapidly developing technology. The rise of tech giants, social media platforms has created an uneven competitive environment and curtailed many traditional media outlets ability to have a sustainable growth model, be it through advertising or subscription models,” said Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief of Arab News. 

“While technology has had a positive impact on many new businesses and individual content creators/influencers; it has meant that established, credible media organizations are left with no means to sustain the costly process of producing, editing and disseminating credible news. It has also made it easier for other entities to illegally benefit from, infringe on these organizations copy rights.” He added. 

The partnership between Arab News and FII Institute will see the larger impact of technology on economic models of media businesses discussed. It will also cover topics such as the negative impact of social media platforms on matters such as the rise of fake news, increase in hate speech and loss of personal privacy. 

“As part of the FII institute commitment to empowering the world’s brightest ideas to materialize and scale sustainability, we are delighted to partner with Arab News on this deep dive into the media industry, and find solutions to help the industry evolve and resolve its digital transformation issues,” said Richard Attias, CEO of the FII Institute.

“As such, we invite all key players — be it traditional media, tech companies, social media platforms, advertising agencies, government officials — to take part in the discussions as per the year-long agenda which will be announced soon. By including the relevant stake holders, we are sure our Institute and Arab News can help bringing points of view closer, identify exact issues and hopefully come up with creative solutions to all of them,” added FII Institute’s Richard Attias. 

The first deliverable of this cooperation, will be a white paper produced by the Arab News Research and Studies Unit (RSU) based in London. The paper, to be released in May, will be published under the title of “The Myth of Digital Transformation” and will seek to explain in detail the technical problems that face the media industry from a commercial perspective and what impact do they have on various levels. 

The paper will be available for distribution via Arab News and the FII Institute websites, and a panel discussion will be held following its release to shed light on its findings. 


Arab News bags six indigo design awards, launches web gallery of most celebrated works

Arab News bags six indigo design awards, launches web gallery of most celebrated works
Updated 20 April 2021

Arab News bags six indigo design awards, launches web gallery of most celebrated works

Arab News bags six indigo design awards, launches web gallery of most celebrated works
  • The newspaper has won 47 international design awards since its relaunch in 2018

RIYADH: Arab News, which today celebrates its 46th anniversary, has added six Indigo Design awards to the 41 honors it has accumulated since the relaunch of the region’s leading English language daily in 2018.

The recent awards — two of each gold, silver and bronze — went to Arab News’ special coverage across its international editions - Arab News en Francais and Arab News Japan.

One gold award went to the promotional launch video of the Arab News French edition which went live on July 14, 2020.

“Selection of the quintessential French song “la foule,” interpreted with Arabic instruments, lent the video a unique element, bringing East and West in beautiful harmony,” Ali Itani, Region Head Japan & France, said of the first place-winning Arab News En Francais promotional video.

Commenting on the Japanese edition, he said: “Japanese and Arabic calligraphy are world renowned for their unique styles.

“Incorporating the two with the rising sun of Arab News Japan was not only appreciated but also presented to the former Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, during his trip to Saudi Arabia.”

The new design was presented by Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas and Ali Itani (left) to then Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in 2020. (Arab News photo)

Ever since Arab News announced its new digital transformation strategy in 2016, importance has moved towards design and innovation, with the appointment of the publication’s very first creative director as well as a focus on commissioning award-winning designers around the world to make this happen.

“For Arab News to be recognized with six Indigo Design Awards is a brilliant achievement,” said Creative Director Simon Khalil. “ Winning 47 design awards to date is remarkable and it reinforces the creative vision we have at Arab News.

Arab News Creative Director Simon Khalil.

“Our mission is to inform and delight our readers around the world and these awards will push the whole team to be even more innovative.”

Indigo also took pride, saying in a statement: “We are very proud to have such a big media company as Arab News among our awardees. We are impressed with what they do as a publisher, especially their value-added content that contributes immensely in social change.”

As part of its 46th anniversary announcements, Arab News also today launches a new section on its website which houses all its award-winning special editions, covers and videos in one place to serve as a resource for students, news designers and editors alike. This can be accessed by visiting www.arabnews.com/greatesthits.