Director Zeina Durra’s ‘Luxor’ captures spirit of the time

Director Zeina Durra’s ‘Luxor’ captures spirit of the time
The stills from Luxor feature Andrea Riseborough and Karim Saleh, and are courtesy of Front Row Filmed Entertainment.
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Updated 30 November 2020

Director Zeina Durra’s ‘Luxor’ captures spirit of the time

Director Zeina Durra’s ‘Luxor’ captures spirit of the time
  • ‘I think it speaks to the sadness a lot of us have at the moment,’ the filmmaker explains

DUBAI: Zeina Durra was a child when she picked up her first camera. It belonged to her father, a Palestinian-Jordanian journalist who ran the Middle East desk at United Press International in London. From a young age, she watched keenly as he and his colleagues collected stories from across the region, setting up his camera on the floor and pretending to be a news reporter just like them. She yearned to tell stories, but in her journey to becoming a filmmaker, she realized she should use the camera to tell the stories her father never could.

“I would always hear from my father how certain really important stories wouldn’t make the news, then you realize there’s so much more. You have these grand ideas about changing the world, and I thought that narrative was a much better way to do it,” Durra tells Arab News.

Her latest film, “Luxor,” tells one such story. Far from the news cameras that chronicle the front lines of conflict, it’s about a surgeon (Andrea Riseborough) suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) floating through the titular Egyptian city, haunted by her past as she tries to assess who she is and who she wants to become. Ahead of its Middle East release, it’s already become a hit in the UK — a film with themes that are easy to relate to as the world suffers through the traumas that the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted.

“We’ve beaten some pretty huge movies (in the UK), and I think it’s really interesting, because I think the film really speaks to the sadness that a lot of us have at the moment, even though it doesn’t drag you down. We’re living in this very low-grade PTSD situation with the coronavirus and coming in and out of lockdown. Watching it, you just go on this journey with her. Then at the end, you, like her, cathartically have gotten rid of stuff as you watch, and are left with hope,” says Durra.




The film ia about a surgeon (Andrea Riseborough) suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) floating through the titular Egyptian city, haunted by her past. Supplied

Growing up, Durra saw trauma manifest in the people she loves most, with many friends and family who escaped war zones or had been displaced from their homes only to find feelings they thought they’d buried come to the surface in the most mundane of settings. “It’s not necessarily seeing bombs falling. That’s not what triggers my memory of those things.

It’s more like being in a nightclub with a cousin who’s just arrived from Syria, and he is saying he has to leave because the sound of the beat reminds him of the shelling, and so we both go home. Or sitting in a café in New York while on the phone with a friend in Beirut who is describing how she can hear jets overhead, and you’re just having your coffee. I think that’s a very Middle Eastern thing. We don’t really deal with that, but that’s really part of our lives,” says Durra.




Ahead of its Middle East release, the movie has already become a hit in the UK. Supplied

Since childhood, Durra has travelled back and forth with family across the Middle East and Europe. This year is perhaps the first time in Durra’s entire life that she’s been largely stuck in one place, struggling to sit still as she waits to see which potential filming location for her upcoming projects will open up first. Although her films are not autobiographical, Durra’s peripatetic lifestyle is reflected in her characters.

“My characters are, often, constantly on the move. I wonder if that’s because I’m the daughter of people that left somewhere that was troubled and moved here to the UK,” she says. “My mom’s also Palestinian-Bosnian, and she came from Beirut to London. I wonder, is that something that I’ll always have? Like, will I ever make a film of someone who is just sitting in one room? I doubt it. Because for me, I can’t understand what story that would be. To me, it’s always ‘You’re moving, you’re moving!’ And I’m wondering if that was me searching for something.”




‘Luxor’ stars Andrea Riseborough, Michael Landes, Shireen Reda and Karim Saleh. Supplied

While Durra’s films may always feature characters who are in transit, the way she handles that material has matured, as much of that journey has moved beyond just the physical world into the emotional and even spiritual.

“The first film I made was more rock and roll. It was a younger movie in spirit. ‘Luxor’ was much more about the other side of that,” she says. “There’s a deep, subconscious psyche that I was trying to deal with.”

Durra recently turned 44, and the experience has made her reflect, she says. Aged 22, half a lifetime ago, Durra moved to the US to attend the legendary film school of New York University, a dream she’d had since she was a child.

As an Arab filmmaker, the most important lesson she learned there were to trust her vision rather than to do what every other peer or teacher thought she should, especially if she was dealing with subject matter that others did not understand as well as she did.




The film is writer-director Zeina Durra’s feature. Supplied

“It’s really important to be kind to oneself. I just know that I really know what I’m doing. Back in the day, there’d be a lot of people that would say, ‘Are you sure you want to do it that way? Why don’t you do it this way?” In my head I’d say, ‘No, I don’t want to do it that way,’ but you listen to them anyway. Now I know what to listen to and what not to listen to,” says Durra.

“You have to work out that, if you have a singular voice, which you probably do if you’re from the MENA region, (you have to trust it). People from the region are still misunderstood, so you come from a place and you have so much to say, you have to find the right people to work with and listen to,” she continues.

For Durra, it’s people she met when she was 22 that are still her favorite collaborators, and her greatest champions.

“Don’t dismiss anyone that you meet, because you don’t know who anyone’;s going to become. In the end, film is tough. A lot of people don’t stick around and those who are still in it 22 years later, they’re pretty much in it, you know? One thing that’s thing that’s really nice is that all the people I’m working with I really have known for years.”

Without those people, Durra would not be able to tell stories that others wouldn’t, the stories that never make the news but are just as essential as those that do, especially in the Middle East. Durra has many more stories she wants to tell about the region. With a little help from her friends, she will continue to for decades to come.


Nominated actor Tahar Rahim debuts unreleased Louis Vuitton watch at Golden Globes

The Franco-Algerian actor wore custom Louis Vuitton to the Golden Globes 2021. File/Instagram
The Franco-Algerian actor wore custom Louis Vuitton to the Golden Globes 2021. File/Instagram
Updated 01 March 2021

Nominated actor Tahar Rahim debuts unreleased Louis Vuitton watch at Golden Globes

The Franco-Algerian actor wore custom Louis Vuitton to the Golden Globes 2021. File/Instagram

DUBAI: The Golden Globes 2021 kicked off on Sunday night, heralding the start of the annual awards season calendar. When it came to red carpet style, just like their female counterparts, the men did not disappoint with their sartorial choices. 

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim, who was nominated in the Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture category for his role in “The Mauritanian” made a fashion debut during the virtual awards ceremony wearing a head-to-toe Louis Vuitton look that included the French maison’s newest watch: The Tambour Street Diver.

The 39-year-old actor, who watched the virtual ceremony from his Paris hotel suite, wore the Skyline Blue model, customized with a black strap, that matched his navy blue, double-breasted suit. 

The unreleased timepiece will be unveiled at Watches of Wonder in Geneva in April and launch on April 9.

Rahim was nominated for his role as Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who was held for 14 years without charge in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The film is based on Salahi’s 2015 memoir, “Guantánamo Diary.” 

The film also stars Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The accolade ultimately went to the late Chadwick Boseman, who was awarded the Golden Globe for lead actor in a movie drama for his emotional role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”


Netflix’s ‘The Girl on the Train’ with Parineeti Chopra goes off-track

Netflix’s ‘The Girl on the Train’ with Parineeti Chopra goes off-track
Updated 01 March 2021

Netflix’s ‘The Girl on the Train’ with Parineeti Chopra goes off-track

Netflix’s ‘The Girl on the Train’ with Parineeti Chopra goes off-track

CHENNAI: “The Girl on the Train,” the bestseller written by British author Paula Hawkins in 2015, told the story of three women in bad relationships drowning their woes in binge drinking. The novel was on The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list for 13 consecutive weeks before being adapted into a Hollywood film in 2016 by Tate Taylor, with Emily Blunt as the girl on wheels. Netflix has now brought out a Bollywood remake directed by Ribhu Dasgupta. Also entitled “The Girl on the Train,” it stars Parineeti Chopra (the cousin of actress Priyanka Chopra).

Dasgupta sticks to the thriller genre of the book, but instead of narrating the story through three women, he focuses on Chopra’s Mira Kapoor, a brilliant lawyer whose life spins off axis after she gets a man convicted. Practising in London (why this city was chosen remains a puzzle) and once happily married to Shekhar Kapoor (Avinash Tiwary), her relationship suffers after a tragic motor accident.

“The Girl on the Train” stars Parineeti Chopra (the cousin of actress Priyanka Chopra). (YouTube)

The audience watches as Mira takes a train back and forth from central London every day, passing the house where she had lived in absolute bliss. Seeing happily married Nusrat John (Aditi Rao Hydari) with her husband, Anand (Shamaun Ahmed), Mira becomes obsessed with what could have been her own life. Fueled by alcohol, she is driven into a self-destructive cocoon. Finally, when she is accused of murder, with British-Asian policewoman Inspector Kaur (Kirti Kulhari) leading the investigation, Dasgupta’s effort begins to sway as wildly as Mira’s tottering steps.

Parineeti Chopra is an amazing actress, but the script has been so shoddily written that it becomes clear midway that she has had a raw deal. A terribly tormented woman should have been offered a better script, but the director settled for smudged makeup and stage tricks — there is hardly any depth in the way her character has been built.

Tiwary gets nothing better — the minute he displays his darker, sinister side, he is sidelined with a fresh twist.

The one person who sparkles is Hydari, who manages to rise above the sparsely written part in a short screen time with a remarkable range which swings from love and care to anger and fear.

With contrivances and coincidences at every turn, the train goes way off track. While the original work invested in emotional trauma and psychological brutality, which the girl fought to emerge from the mess, Dasgupta offers a murder mystery whose carriages seem uncoupled. The work is so choppy that a lot of talent, including that of Kulhari, is wasted.


Model Shanina Shaik shows off trip to Dubai on social media

The part-Saudi model jetted off to Dubai this week. Instagram
The part-Saudi model jetted off to Dubai this week. Instagram
Updated 01 March 2021

Model Shanina Shaik shows off trip to Dubai on social media

The part-Saudi model jetted off to Dubai this week. Instagram

DUBAI: Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik has landed in the UAE, according to her Instagram Stories. 

The catwalk star, who has walked the Victoria’s Secret runway five times, announced that she landed in Dubai by way of a clip shared with her 2.2 million followers that showed her at Dubai International Airport collecting her luggage at baggage claim. “Landed in Dubai,” she revealed to her fans. 

The Saudi-Pakistani-Lithuanian-Australian star flew in from Los Angeles and it’s uncertain whether she is in the UAE for business or for pleasure. However, she made sure to document how she spent her trip on her Instagram account.

The model flew in to Dubai from Los Angeles this week. Instagram/@shaninamshaik

After checking into the Waldorf Astoria, where the 30-year-old was greeted with a floral bouquet sent from MAC Cosmetics Middle East as soon as she arrived, and she made sure to show off her treats from Mama Rita, the food delivery concept launched by Australian-Lebanese model  Jessica Kahawaty alongside her mother Rita Kahawaty. 

“Had to try,” Shaik captioned a picture of herself holding a white Mama Rita bag. 

Instagram/@shaninamshaik

The star later met up with her close friend, Dubai-based influencer Mahmoud Sidani, who is commonly known as Mr. Moudz to his legion of social media followers. 

“Look who’s in Dubai,” he excitedly announced in a video posted to his Instagram Stories of Shaik indulging in a dessert from local healthy restaurant Krave. “So, Shanina’s never tried a cheesecake from Krave,” he said, adding “I’m about to change your life. Have a bite.”

The next morning, Sidani picked up Shaik, AKA his “workout buddy for the day,” and the two headed to 51 Gym Dubai for an early bird sweat session. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Mahmoud (@mrmoudz)

In a recent clip, the Los Angeles-based beauty revealed that she hasn’t been traveling as often due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

She also shared her travel essentials for when she does hop on a plane. 

Instagram/@shaninamshaik

Among the items she can’t travel without are her silk pillowcase from Slip – “for hygienic reasons” – melatonin for sleep, gut probiotics, Vitamin C capsules and Zinc.

“That comes with me everywhere,” she stated.

Prior to going to Dubai, the jet-setting star was recently in Mexico and in Ghana, where she spent New Year’s Eve.


Beauty mogul Huda Kattan speaks up against racism toward Asian community

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan speaks up against racism toward Asian community
Updated 01 March 2021

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan speaks up against racism toward Asian community

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan speaks up against racism toward Asian community

DUBAI: US-Iraqi beauty mogul Huda Kattan on Monday spoke out about racist comments towards the Asian community that she says have “increased dramatically” since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2019 in China. 

On her makeup brand Huda Beauty’s Instagram page, she shared a story writing: “At Huda Beauty, we stand against racism of any kind. Today, we want (to) draw attention to the violent hate crimes against the Asian community that have increased dramatically since the pandemic began.”  

Instagram:@hudabeauty

The makeup artist and entrepreneur added: “Sadly these alarming events have had very little attention with the media, and that is not okay.”

Kattan shared a series of images that gave her 47.8 million followers insight into the issue. The source of the statistics presented in the images is not immediately clear.  

Kattan also shared a video by Michelle Lee, host of The Science of Beauty podcast, who addressed this issue. In the video, Lee said: “Racism was always there, but the pandemic has given people an excuse to act on it.” 

In the 84-second clip, Lee shared videos of Asians people being pushed, thrown objects at and made fun off. 

“No one’s going to pay attention to you. You’re a stupid blue Asian haired girl,” said one man in the video. 


MAC Cosmetics teams up with Nadine Njeim on new makeup range

It is the second time the former Miss Lebanon collaborates with MAC Cosmetics. Supplied
It is the second time the former Miss Lebanon collaborates with MAC Cosmetics. Supplied
Updated 01 March 2021

MAC Cosmetics teams up with Nadine Njeim on new makeup range

It is the second time the former Miss Lebanon collaborates with MAC Cosmetics. Supplied

DUBAI: MAC Cosmetics has developed a 15-piece cosmetics range in collaboration with Lebanese actress and model Nadine Nassib Njeim. The collection features eye, lip and complexion products that come in striking Japanese cherry blossom-inspired packaging.

The former Miss Lebanon, who has previously launched the Mosaic Masterpiece collection with the beauty brand, appears wearing Zuhair Murad in The Black Cherry x Nadine N. Njeim collection campaign, which was lensed by photographer Desiree Mattson.

“I’m so excited to reveal my second collaboration with M·A·C Cosmetics, starring in the campaign for the new limited edition Black Cherry collection!” wrote the star on Instagram alongside images of the ad.

“Transform a brief moment of Cherry Blossom bliss into a full season of new looks, with this stunning color collection for eyes, lips and skin!” she added.

The Black Cherry x Nadine N. Njeim collection. Supplied

The collection includes a limited edition mascara, liner, lip primer, three lipsticks, four lip balms, four blushers and a Cherry Blossom Fix+ Spray that will hit shelves on March 10 in MAC Cosmetics boutiques as well as online.