Inside ‘Paranormal,’ Netflix’s new Arabic series

Inside ‘Paranormal,’ Netflix’s new Arabic series
“Paranormal” is on Netflix. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 November 2020

Inside ‘Paranormal,’ Netflix’s new Arabic series

Inside ‘Paranormal,’ Netflix’s new Arabic series
  • The creator and stars of the Egyptian drama on adapting a beloved literary series for the small screen

DUBAI: In 1993, Egyptian filmmaker Amr Salama, then just 11 years old, decided that — for the first time in his life — he was going to read a book for fun. It was written by famed Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, part of his 81-book series “Ma Wara’a Al Tabiei,” and told the story of a hapless hematologist named Dr. Refaat Ismaeil and his interactions with the world of the supernatural. Salama’s life would never be the same.

Tawfik’s novels helped Salama discover his love of storytelling, and it is a gift he’s never forgotten. Becoming an acclaimed storyteller in his own right, helming acclaimed films including “Asmaa” (2011) and “Sheikh Jackson” (2017), Salama made it his mission to bring the beloved book series to the small screen, toiling obsessively behind the scenes to bring “Paranormal,” as it’s called in English, to life.

“I was basically carrying the show on my back,” Salama tells Arab News. “I reached out to Dr. Tawfik and got the rights from him. I went around trying to convince different networks and buyers to buy the show.”




“Paranormal” is directed by Egyptian filmmaker Amr Salama. (Supplied)

Salama and his producing partner and founder of Film Clinic, Mohamed Hefzy, brought the idea to Netflix, which at the time was looking to start producing original content in the Arab world. The two wanted to do it properly, making a world-class series with the budget Tawfik’s great work deserved. Netflix agreed and, after two years of work, “Paranormal” has become a reality.

“We wanted to make this fantastic book series into a TV drama, and we had no idea how to do it. The market was not ready for such a production,” says Hefzy. “(Netflix coming on board) really was the beginning of making the dream come true. It's been a very long journey, but I think worth the wait because we learned a lot. This is a show that we could not have made earlier because just there's no way that we could have done something of that magnitude, in terms of production execution, challenges, and the freedom to risk so much on the idea. No Arab broadcaster or streaming service would have taken such a risk on a property of such size and that budget and with a genre which is untested in Arab drama and Egyptian drama.”

Rather than try to update the series to a modern setting, Salama and his team painstakingly recreated the Cairo of the 1960s — replicating everything from the fashion, the contemporary language, and the very streets themselves.




Amr Salama and his producing partner and founder of Film Clinic, Mohamed Hefzy, brought the idea to Netflix. (Supplied)

“I had a visual plan and a particular mood that I wanted to create. It was very hectic, and there was huge attention to detail,” Salama says. “Each department in the show (put in a) great effort. Cairo is a dynamic city that seems to transform every month. Ninety percent of the accessories that were used in the show our production designer Ali Hossam Ali had to create himself. We also spent a lot of time watching Sixties movies to be able to translate their way of speaking, how they greeted each other or said goodnight. Sometimes even one word can make a difference. It was a journey, but we were able to execute everything that we imagined for the show.”

Salama also leaned on Emirati filmmaker Majid Al-Ansari, who helmed the acclaimed 2015 film “Zinzana,” with the two splitting the load behind the camera.

“One of the blessings of this show was meeting Majid Al-Ansari. I had already seen ‘Zinzana’ and when we first were introduced to each other we found that we have a similar movie taste. It was a match made in heaven. When Majid first came to Egypt, he knew that there would be a difference in culture, but he adapted very quickly in just a matter of days. It was an amazing experience. He’s an amazing human being. Artistically, he added a lot to the project,” says Salama.




To play the lead role of Refaat Ismaeil, Salama selected Egyptian comedy actor Ahmed Amin. (Supplied)

Choosing how to present Tawfik’s beloved books not only to devoted fans, but also to new audiences from across the world was just as tough a task. Even selecting which books of the 81 to pull from was overwhelming. Salama chose to not attempt to be all things to all people, instead focusing on living up to the expectations of the one fan who he’s been trying to please the longest — the 11-year-old boy who first fell in love with Tawfik’s world.

“The biggest variable was my personal love for particular stories, and which ones still linger in my mind until today,” Salama says. “And since this will hopefully get to people across the world, we wanted to choose stories that are more authentically Egyptian and tied to our culture. They might be more challenging to execute, but we were effectively able to do it. In the end, the novels are already there and whoever wants to read them can read them. What I’m giving them is my own personal vision as a producer, director, and artist. That translation might appeal to some people but not to others. That’s why you have to be very true to yourself about the vision that you have.”

To play the lead role of Refaat Ismaeil, Salama selected Egyptian comedy actor Ahmed Amin, renowned for his viral videos and award-winning TV show “Al Plateau.” While “Paranormal” is a step in a completely different direction for Amin, the character is one he has dreamed of playing since he was a boy, and one he put a lot of pressure on himself to play well.




Salama and his team painstakingly recreated the Cairo of the 1960s — replicating everything from the fashion, the contemporary language, and the very streets themselves. (Supplied)

“I have loved this character since I was 13 years old,” Amin tells Arab News. “The most paranormal thing that happened to me is that I was actually able to portray him when I reached the age of 40, similar to the age of the character. I felt like I had a huge responsibility towards the readers and towards the Netflix audience and towards drama itself.”

For Razanne Jammal, the British-Lebanese actress who plays Maggie Mckillop — Ismaeil’s schoolmate-turned-colleague and love interest  — the pressure that each of them put on themselves to bring this iconic series to life paid off, and translated into the most rewarding experience of her career.

“I've never in my life been on a set that was so harmonious. There were as many women as men; it was a very cooperative spirit. Everybody was helping each other, and everybody was so passionate. It was so important to us that our hard work comes across on screen,” says Jammal.

While Tawfik sadly passed away in 2018 at the age of only 55, the cast and crew of “Paranormal” — some of his biggest fans — have done all they can to do justice to his legacy. Now, as the show debuts on Netflix, audiences around the world will finally discover the world he created.   


British Museum, TEFAF team up to restore glass artifacts damaged in Beirut explosion

 British Museum, TEFAF team up to restore glass artifacts damaged in Beirut explosion
Completing "puzzle-work" of a smashed glass beaker at the Archaeological Museum, AUB. Courtesy of the AUB Office of Communications and Archaeological Museum
Updated 28 July 2021

British Museum, TEFAF team up to restore glass artifacts damaged in Beirut explosion

 British Museum, TEFAF team up to restore glass artifacts damaged in Beirut explosion

DUBAI: It has been almost one year since two explosions rocked the port of Beirut, killing more than 200, injuring over 6,000 and leaving hundreds of thousands without a home. The incident, which occurred on Aug. 4, 2020, caused significant damage to buildings in Lebanon’s capital, including the Archaeological Museum at the American University of Beirut (AMAUB), situated two miles away from Beirut’s port where the blasts occurred. During the explosions, many of the artworks on display were damaged.

Now, almost a year after the devastating event, the British Museum and The European Fine Art Foundation have announced that they will partner to help restore some ancient artifacts that were damaged by the blast.

The museum and the fair will restore eight glass vessels dating to Roman and early Islamic times.

The case of glass vessels displayed at the Archaeological Museum (AUB) before the explosion. Courtesy of the AUB Office of Communications and Archaeological Museum

During the explosion, the glass objects that were on display at the AMAUB shattered into hundreds of tiny shards. They will now be painstakingly pieced back together at the British Museum’s conservation labs in London.

Most vessels were shattered beyond repair with only 15 being identified as salvageable.  Of these, only eight are safe to travel to the British Museum to be conserved.

The restored glass works will go on view at the British Museum in a temporary exhibition before returning to Beirut.

Claire Cuyaubère, a conservator from the French Institut National du Patrimoine helped to collect and categorize the shards of ancient glass from the mixed debris, which included glass from the display case and surrounding windows, after the blast.

Conservator Claire Cuyaubère assisting with "puzzle-work" of shard from a glass dish at the Archaeological Museum, AUB. Courtesy of the AUB Office of Communications and Archaeological Museum

She returned to Beirut in July 2021 to identify and match broken shards from each vessel, and identify those suitable for shipment to London. The puzzle-work was supported by the Friends of the Middle East Department at the British Museum.

Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, said in a statement: “Like the rest of the world, we looked on in horror at the devastating scenes in Beirut in August last year. We immediately offered the assistance of the British Museum to colleagues in the city. As we mark one year since the tragedy, we’re pleased to be able to provide the expertise and resources of the British Museum to restore these important ancient objects so they can be enjoyed in Lebanon for many more years to come.”


How models Shanina Shaik, Imaan Hammam and more are spending their summers

How models Shanina Shaik, Imaan Hammam and more are spending their summers
Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik is in Croatia to celebrate model Jasmine Tookes’ bachelorette party. File/Instagram
Updated 28 July 2021

How models Shanina Shaik, Imaan Hammam and more are spending their summers

How models Shanina Shaik, Imaan Hammam and more are spending their summers

DUBAI: With the easing of travel restrictions in some countries, our favorite jet-setting It-girls have taken the opportunity to catch a flight this summer — and they’re making sure to document every minute of their holidays on social media.

Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik, along with her closest friends, fellow models Sara Sampaio, Lais Ribiero, Jasmine Tookes and Josephine Skriver, flew to Croatia to celebrate Tookes’ bachelorette party.

Tookes and Snapchat’s Juan David Borrero are set to get married in Borrero’s home country of Ecuador, but due to COVID-19, the exact wedding date is yet to be announced.   

“Seeing the beautiful sights,” Shaik wrote. Instagram

The stylish friend group toasted the future bride, who got engaged to Snapchat’s director of international markets in September 2020, this week in Hvar, an idyllic island surrounded by turquoise waters in Croatia. The models were transported to the island by way of a fun-filled boat excursion, which saw them dancing, tanning, sight-seeing and swimming.

“Seeing the beautiful sights,” Shaik wrote alongside a video of the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea.

Elsewhere, Moroccan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam decided to spend her summer in her homeland.

The 24-year-old jetted to Agadir, Morocco, where she is enjoying some much-needed family time following months of lockdowns and movement restrictions.

Hammam, who was born in the Netherlands to a Moroccan mother and Egyptian father, offered her followers a sneak peek into her family life, sharing candid photos of herself snuggling with her baby cousins and enjoying traditional Moroccan food.

Moroccan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam decided to spend her summer in her homeland. Instagram

And Hammam isn’t the only jetsetter to revisit her roots this summer.

British-Albanian crooner Dua Lipa is currently Albania with her partner of two years, part-Palestinian model and singer Anwar Hadid.

Dua Lipa and Anwar Hadid are in Albania. Instagram

 The 25-year-old hitmaker has made sure to document the trip for her 69.4 million Instagram followers, sharing photos and videos of herself and her beau making the most of their downtime by relaxing by the beach and lapping up the sunshine.

The couple are with the Grammy award winner’s parents, Dukagjin and Anesa Lipa, in Albania, where the “New Rules” singer made an appearance at the Sunny Hill Kindergarten construction site last week.

And it seems like Hadid is getting along well with the parents.

Anwar Hadid with Dua Lipa's father Dukagjin Lipa. Instagram

Lipa shared a carousel of images on her Instagram feed, which included a sweet photo of the two most important men in her life in an affectionate embrace.  

Elsewhere, Moroccan-British model Nora Attal is enjoying Paris with her family and US-Somali model Halima Aden’s “Munich trip is going lovely,” as per her Instagram caption.


Three Arab films set to premiere at Venice Film Festival

The oldest film festival in the world is kicking off its 78th edition Sept. 1. (Shutterstock)
The oldest film festival in the world is kicking off its 78th edition Sept. 1. (Shutterstock)
Updated 28 July 2021

Three Arab films set to premiere at Venice Film Festival

The oldest film festival in the world is kicking off its 78th edition Sept. 1. (Shutterstock)

DUBAI: The Venice International Film Festival unveiled a starry lineup of world premieres for September, including three films from the Arab world.

“Amira” by Mohamed Diab is set to play in the Horizons section and is a coming-of-age drama shot in Jordan, but set in Palestine.

“Costa Brava” is Lebanese director Mounia Akl's debut work and pairs Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri with Lebanese actress and director Nadine Labaki.

Finally, “Republic of Silence” by Diana El-Jeiroudi is a personal account of the director’s childhood in Syria and, 40 years on, her exile in Berlin.

The films will premiere alongisde international titles, including Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer,” starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, and Ridley Scott’s medieval drama “The Last Duel,” featuring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Adam Driver.

The oldest film festival in the world is kicking off its 78th edition Sept. 1 on the Lido with the premiere of Pedro Almodóvar’s “Madres paralelas,” starring Penelope Cruz. “Spencer” and “Madres paralelas” are among 21 features premiering as part of the official competition, which has often helped guide eventual Oscar best picture nominees and even winners.
 


Beauty mogul Huda Kattan backs new female wellness brand

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan backs new female wellness brand
Ketish, launched by former Huda Beauty product developer Eman Abbass, is the first brand to be launched by HB Angels. Supplied
Updated 27 July 2021

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan backs new female wellness brand

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan backs new female wellness brand

DUBAI: Iraqi-US beauty mogul Huda Kattan has announced Ketish as the first brand to be launched by Huda Beauty Angels — which falls under HB Investments, Kattan’s venture capital firm. Ketish, a feminine care label, is being spearheaded by Eman Abbass, a former Huda Beauty product developer.

“I’m really excited on a deep level about Huda Beauty Angels and being able to reveal to you guys very soon the first project we are investing in with an amazing founder who has such an amazing mission and purpose and we know they’re going to change the world,” she said in a video shared with her 49 million Instagram followers.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HUDA KATTAN (@hudabeauty)

“When we first started our brand, nobody wanted to invest in us. Nobody wanted to really believe in our cause and what we were doing,” she added, revealing what prompted her to start the $10 million female entrepreneur seeding initiative, HB Angels.

Specializing in female wellness, Ketish aims to launch its first product in August 2021, although Abbass has been tight-lipped on the sort of products that will be offered, telling The Industry Fashion website that the brand will focus on “targeted body care products.”

The new brand was inspired by Abbass’s own health experience. When she was 21-years-old, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer during her first-ever gynecologist appointment. Coming from a conservative background, Abbass felt ashamed to talk to her American-Egyptian family about her health during the diagnosis and treatment process.

Huda and Mona Kattan pictured with Eman Abbass (M). Supplied

Following a nine-year healing journey that she had to go through alone, Abbass was inspired to launch the luxurious female wellness brand that aims to reform feminine care products in the Middle East and is named after a female ancient Egyptian deity.

“A lot of those brands and products that we find now are in the pharmacy and the pharmacy is traditionally a place that you go when you are sick or something is wrong,” she told The Industry Fashion website. “We want to take feminine wellness and care out of the pharmacy and put it in the places that women shop… when I’m having a bad day I go to Sephora or I hop on to Cult Beauty. It’s those spaces that we want to be playing in to really elevate that experience and give women products that they can incorporate into their overall beauty and self-care routines.”

“Ketish is a movement,” Kattan said in a press release. “It’s about taking power back and being fully comfortable with yourself. When people start to become part of this community, they’re going to feel liberated. I realized very quickly that this was a topic that so many people had so many issues with. The more I started talking to Emaan, the more I was convinced that she could change the category.”


Saudi online platforms bridge gap between creatives, inquisitive minds

 These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector. (Supplied)
These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector. (Supplied)
Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi online platforms bridge gap between creatives, inquisitive minds

 These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector. (Supplied)
  • Offering people easy ways to learn new skills, explore methods to promote self, business

JEDDAH: Online platforms are helping smaller creative businesses to pass on their knowledge to interested parties. Two such platforms that have been attracting attention from Saudi locals are Suplift and Upgrade.

These online platforms began popping up on social media a few years ago with experiences and activities offered with a registration fee.
Fadi Yahya, the founder of Suplift, told Arab News that the question that inspired Suplift was “How can I ask people with skills to share them with other people who are interested in learning?”

I started noticing that people here didn’t have easy access to activities and workshops or a platform to access these activities.

Fadi Yahya, Founder of Suplift

“I started noticing that people here didn’t have easy access to activities and workshops or a platform to access these activities,” he said. “It was extremely hard for an average person to try any activity they like.”
This led to Yahya giving over a few years of his life to build a business from scratch that allowed profits to be given back to a talented person rather than an organization. “Our job was to make the structure simple.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Suplift extends across 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, with more than 1,000 experiences on offer. This has helped 10,000 people to make money simply by following their passion.

• Upgrade-sa.com’s targeted audience is people who want to learn new hobbies and explore different worlds, as well as business owners who want to build more connections and move toward expanding their work.

He said there were many challenges as the team was building a new market. “We are not running away or finding the easy way out. One thing we had trouble with was the lack of experience.”
Yahya said that to enable the experiences, the team had to find locations, work out the structure, marketing, customer service, technology, management, as well as ways of working with the government.
The aim of Suplift is to promote the idea of having hobbies. “The thing I am most proud of is that we help so many people make money. Many people say that passion can not help you make money, but I think it is needed in order to help the Saudi economy move further.”
Suplift extends across 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, with more than 1,000 experiences on offer. This has helped 10,000 people to make money simply by following their passion.
“Now that people understand that they can make money doing what they love, we will have more artists, golfers, divers, archers and so many more,” he said. “This makes me proud of my team and myself.”

When we started, we were the ones designing the workshops and we used to seek out the trainers — training and being creative are two different things.

Mohammad Mujahid, COO of Upgrade-sa.com

Mohammad Mujahid, COO of Upgrade-sa.com, told Arab News that their platform’s targeted audience is people who want to learn new hobbies and explore different worlds, as well as business owners who want to build more connections and move toward expanding their work.
The early days of the business were very challenging, Mujahid said. “When we started, we were the ones designing the workshops and we used to seek out the trainers — training and being creative are two different things. So now when the trainers or upgraders, as we call them, come to us, we provide them with guidelines so they can spread their knowledge.”
These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector — supporting Saudi economic diversification objectives and building a prosperous future.