Arabian apocalypse: Inside a live-streamed Saudi horror film

Arabian apocalypse: Inside a live-streamed Saudi horror film
“Yajuj: The Curse of Iram” is a Saudi horror film. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 December 2020

Arabian apocalypse: Inside a live-streamed Saudi horror film

Arabian apocalypse: Inside a live-streamed Saudi horror film
  • The director of ‘Yajuj: The Curse of Iram’ on creating a Middle Eastern movie genre

BENGALURU: If a pandemic that has infected 71 million people worldwide isn’t scary enough, a Saudi horror film “Yajuj: The Curse of Iram,” is asking audiences to imagine an alternate reality where a deadly virus turns its victims into violent, flesh-eating monsters.

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The feature film follows a group of tourists as they head to Iram of the Pillars, a recently-discovered buried city in the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia. On their way, they encounter a mysterious, fast-spreading virus that causes people to go insane and become severely violent.




The feature film follows a group of tourists as they head to Iram of the Pillars, a recently-discovered buried city in the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

For some tourists, it signals the end time — a prophecy coming true with the arrival of Yajuj and Majuj (malevolent forces also known as Gog and Magog in Christianity). Others claim there is a scientific cause behind the virus, while some deem it a bioterrorist attack. Based on their theories, members either pray, take precautions or prepare for an apocalypse. In what follows, they have to protect themselves not only from a virus, but warring factions too, and any bad decision could lead to their deaths.

The horror genre has always fascinated the film’s producer and director, Fahmi Farahat, but he was also looking for an idea that was relevant to Saudi culture. “In 2012, I wrote several scripts about zombies and vampires in Saudi,” Farahat tells Arab News. “But these characters come from African and European cultures. I wanted to create a genre or a brand that is inherently Middle Eastern.”




Fahmi Farahat is the film’s producer and director. (Supplied)

Inspiration struck in 2016, when Farahat was hired by the Ministry of Health to create public service videos during the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak. “As I was learning about MERS-CoV — which originated from the dromedary in Saudi Arabia — the idea of a virus appealed to me. I thought, ‘If an apocalypse happened in Saudi today, how would people react?’”

Farahat and his co-producer and writer Murad Alden Amayreh started working on “Yajuj: The Curse of Iram” earlier this year. In what its creators claim was a first-of-its-kind release, the film was live-streamed on Instagram late last month. Inspired by Orson Welles’ “The War of the World’s” live broadcast over the CBS radio network in 1938, the filmmakers used social media to reach a predominately young audience in Saudi Arabia.




Murad Alden Amayreh is the co-producer and writer. (Supplied) 

“Viewers tuned in to the film’s Instagram account and from there, they were directed to other accounts where they could see the story from a particular character’s perspective,” explains Amayreh.

Viewers could watch events unfold through different perspectives simultaneously and interact with the actors. The filmmakers liken the experience to mediums such as virtual reality and gaming. “As characters argued over the cause of the virus, some turned to their Instagram following to ask the audience what they thought was the likely cause,” Amayreh continues.

Writing a screenplay for an unconventional medium presented some unique challenges, Amayreh says. While actors were not required to memorize dialogue, they had to embody their characters. “We gave them the situation and context, but it was up to the actors to pull off these performances ad-lib.”




Fahmi Farahat and Husaain Abbas. (Supplied)

The film was live-streamed from the green oasis of Al-Hasa, but preparations for the event began with intensive character development sessions and small group rehearsals. Coming from a theatrical background, actor Faez Choudary, who plays Dr. Imran Anjum, says the format is very similar to that of stage plays. However, having to film in several different locations added a level of complexity. Following the live event, the filmmakers observed that this type of performance required a varied skillset: acting, engaging with the audience, and being immersed in the environment.

The film’s cast includes a diverse mix coming from a theater, film or social-media background. However, one thing all cast and crew members had in common was the hunger to try new and challenging genres.

“Everyone wanted to be a part of something different; something that moves away from the stereotype of what Saudi was, a decade ago,” Farahat says. “Now, instead of complaining about how difficult it is do art in this country, people are hungry for challenging projects.”




The film’s cast includes a diverse mix coming from a theater, film or social-media background. (Supplied)

The stream of two-way, real-time communication did not determine the trajectory of the film, but offered viewers an option to sit back and watch or play along and even learn a lesson or two about preparing for an apocalypse.

“Up until the day of the event, we were all nervous,” Farahat says. While the team anticipated social-media trolls, the risk paid off and the filmmakers are pleased with the level of interest and engagement the live-stream generated.

It garnered around 600 viewers on the main account and an average 1,500 views on videos saved from the live-stream. Anyone who missed the live feed can watch saved videos on the movie’s Instagram page (@yajujfilm). The team hopes to edit this two-hour long footage and release it for film festivals and streaming platforms shortly.




The film was live-streamed on Instagram late last month. (Supplied)

And the production team hope that the buzz generated by “Yajuj: The Curse of Iram” means it will not be a one-off event. It is intended to be the first installment in a series set in the same apocalyptic world. The team is currently planning “The Tower of Babel,” a film featuring a series of catastrophic events that coincide with the happenings of Yajuj. However, the impact will be larger as the second installment is set to take place in a semi-metropolitan suburb where thousands of people live and work.

“We envision a series like ‘Saw’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ that will be a recognizable brand for Saudi,” says Farahat.


UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus
Updated 19 June 2021

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus
  • Dressed in a mint-green outfit and matching hat, the queen was applauded by the crowd
  • She smiled broadly as she inspected one of her horses, after it finished a close second

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II was smiling broadly as she attended the final day of the Ascot races on Saturday, where environmental protesters urged the monarch to press politicians to act faster against climate change.
The 95-year-old queen, a keen racing fan and racehorse owner, has attended Ascot almost every year of her seven-decade reign. She was absent last year, when the event was held without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic. Her return came two months after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, at 99.


Dressed in a mint-green outfit and matching hat, the queen was applauded by the crowd as she arrived to cheer on four horses she owns that were racing on Saturday. She smiled broadly as she inspected one of her horses, Reach for the Moon, after it finished a close second.
The annual racing meeting west of London is a heady mix of horses, extravagant headwear, fancy dress, champagne and strawberries with cream.
Protesters from environmental group Extinction Rebellion unfurled a banner reading “Racing to Extinction” at the racecourse on Saturday. The group said four women glued themselves to their banner and chained themselves to the fence in a protest intended to be seen by the queen. She was not nearby at the time.


Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection
Nora Attal showed off a sporty look during the Dior 2022 Cruise collection show in Athens. Getty Images
Updated 19 June 2021

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection

DUBAI: French fashion house Dior this week returned to live audience shows with an extravagant presentation of its partly-sports inspired 2022 Cruise collection in Athens’ Panathenaic stadium, the 4th-century site of the first modern Olympic Games, 70-years after an iconic Dior shoot at the Acropolis.

Dior’s Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri enlisted models, including Moroccan-British star Nora Attal, to showcase the sport-infused designs that made up the collection in the presence of celebrities that included film star Catherine Deneuve, model Cara Delevingne and “The Queen’s Gambit” actress Anya Taylor Joy, as well as Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

Nora Attal showed off a sporty look during the Dior 2022 Cruise collection show in Athens. Getty Images

Dior also broadcasted the event live on social media, television and in public areas in Greece.

For Chiuri’s first focused foray into athleisure, Attal wore a striped, waterproof unitard with an attached hood, paired with matching shorts and futuristic sneakers. A pair of scuba-inspired goggles, studded wristbands and an oversized bowling bag completed the look.

“The Queen’s Gambit” actress Anya Taylor Joy was one of the stars in attendance. AFP

The 22-year-old, who made her runway debut in 2017, is a catwalk fixture at the house of Dior. She has walked in plenty of shows for the Parisian maison, including the most recent Fall 2021 ready-to-wear show in March. 

She also turned heads at the French maison’s socially-distanced Spring 2021 ready-to-wear show in Paris, as well as at the brand’s Spring 2019 couture, Spring 2018 ready-to-wear and Fall 2018 couture shows, among others.

Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri focused on athleisure for the cruise collection. AFP

The Dior Cruise 2022 collection — which featured a color palette of mostly black, white, grey, gold and blue — also boasted suits inspired by jackets and pants worn by iconic German-American actress Marlene Dietrich.

Peplos, the robe traditionally worn by women in ancient Greece, was also a major source of inspiration for the show’s eveningwear components.

The work of Greek artisans was featured in the collection, including a tailor and embroiderer from Argos in the Peloponnese, a silk factory in the northeastern town of Soufli, and a maker of fisherman’s caps from the port of Piraeus.

The work of Greek artisans was featured in this collection. AFP

Additionally, after receiving the green light from Greece’s top archaeological advisory body to have photoshoots in some of the country’s cherished ancient sites, such as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the temple of Poseidon at Sounio and the temple of Zeus at Nemea, Dior presented the photographs from the shoot during the runway show.

 


French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line

French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line
Balmain resort 2022. Supplied
Updated 19 June 2021

French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line

French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line

DUBAI: Balmain Creative Director Olivier Rousteing grew up not knowing who his birth parents were. He was adopted by a French couple from the region of Bordeaux when he was a baby. It wasn’t until very recently that the young designer discovered his genetic heritage. His mother is from Somalia and his father is Ethiopian. His parentage is set to be explored in a forthcoming Netflix documentary, “Wonder Boy,” launching on June 26. It will follow Rousteing’s 10-year tenure at Balmain, in addition to his search for his biological parents.

Due to the pandemic, Rousteing has been unable to visit Somalia or Ethiopia, though he has been vying to go. Instead, he has taken to researching the Horn of Africa and was particularly moved by a visit to the exhibition “Arab Divas: From Oum Kalthoum to Dalida” currently taking place at the Arab World Institute in Paris for Balmain’s Resort 2022 collection. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The exhibition’s influence is palpable throughout the new collection, which Rousteing has dubbed “perhaps his most personal offering to date,” especially when it came to the jewelry.

The designer also reflects on his Ethiopian and Somali heritage in the collection by way of loose silhouettes, strong patterns and rich textures.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The offering comprises 60-looks, and offers both womenswear and menswear in the form of roomy ponchos, silky kaftans and mini dresses for women as well as bomber jackets, loose trousers and sharply-tailored, embellished blazers for their counterparts.

The new collection marked the 75th anniversary of Pierre Balmain’s debut presentation with Balmain’s 2022 Resort Collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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In celebration of the milestone, the designer chose to revive the archival labyrinth print, invented by Pierre Balmain and reintroduced by Rousteing, splashing it on oversized hobo bags, floor-length coats, palazzo pants, wrap skirts and crop tops. “The clients really like it, so we played with it even more,” he said.

Another highlight of the collection is a pair of fur shoes that are notably cruelty free– the footwear consists of a mix of faux fur and long-haired goat fur sourced from the goat-milk industry.


Lebanese label Azzi & Osta dedicates its Fall 2022 couture collection to perfume

Lebanese label Azzi & Osta dedicates its Fall 2022 couture collection to perfume
Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied
Updated 19 June 2021

Lebanese label Azzi & Osta dedicates its Fall 2022 couture collection to perfume

Lebanese label Azzi & Osta dedicates its Fall 2022 couture collection to perfume

DUBAI: Perfume has the special ability to conjure up cherished memories, stimulate emotions and transport you to faraway locations. So powerful is scent, that Lebanese design duo Assaad Osta and George Azzi decided to pay homage to the art of perfumery for their joint label Azzi & Osta’s Fall 2022 couture collection.

It all started with a visit to France. The couturiers took a trip to a perfume museum in the French town of Grasse, known for its long-established perfume industry. There, they discovered a vast universe of essences, that included everything from Osmanthus flowering plants from Japan, pine needles from Canada and sandalwood from India.

Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied

The design duo were especially struck by all of the different territories, civilizations, talents and cultures that can intersect in a single bottle of perfume. Thus, they decided that their next collection would be dedicated to fragrance.

The idea was to utilize different materials and shapes in order to evoke the lightness and volatility of perfume.

Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied

They embroidered precious ingredients including orange blossom, peach bud, patchouli, magnolia, fig, neroli and myrtle, that compose a typical fragrance, with subtle petals of fabric molded and colored by hand, accompanied by ribbons of tulle stitched together edge-to-edge in frills.

The 23-piece offering also boasts custom-made floral fabric, printed in 3D with verbena and patchouli; a corset inspired by the 1950s from which the embroidered flowers of a dress pour out and dresses cut in the shape of a vase.

Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied

In an effort to incorporate eco-conscious practices into their designs, the couturiers opted for faux fur and feathers in the collection. Adding to this conscious practice, the couturiers also utilized raffia, a natural and renewable woven fiber, in the looks.

The collection culminates with three striking wedding gowns.

Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied

One is made of tightened velvet ribbons and tulle and features a skirt embroidered with myrtle flowers.

Another is embroidered with tuberose on Chantilly silk, under a layer of lace dotted with organza flowers and spangled with crystals, while the third wedding gown boasts a sprinkling of sequins and organza feathers on the shoulders that would make any bride say “I do.”

 


International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia
Updated 18 June 2021

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

In honor of International Sushi Day celebrated on June 18, here are six sushi spots to try in Saudi Arabia, rounded up by Arab News Japan.  

Chez Sushi

This modern and casual restaurant on Prince Saud Al-Faisal Road in Jeddah feature custom dishes such as a Japanese burrito and attractive lunch offers.

Oishii Sushi

Owner Khulood Olaqi turned this home-based online store into a fully-fledged restaurant where she is both a chef and manager. Cozy, warm and welcoming, Oishii Sushi is located in Riyadh.

Sushi Centro

Promising sushi that is “rolled to perfection,” the restaurant also provides traditional Japanese food that is rich in flavor and flair. Sushi Centro has two branches in Saudi Arabia, one in Jeddah in Centro Shaheen Hotel, and the other in Riyadh’s Centro Waha Hotel.

Nozomi

Nozomi’s menu is internationally renowned and award-winning, offering an unrivaled fine-dining experience on Riyadh’s Dabab Street.

Wakame

A hip restaurant that plays host to business meetings, gossip and fast-paced service at a dimly lit sushi bar, Wakame has three branches in Jeddah: In Ar Rawdah district, in Obhur and on Al-Malik Road.

Sushi Yoshi

A franchise with branches in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar where guests can enjoy anime with their sushi.