Habibi Collective: Championing indie movies in the region

Habibi Collective: Championing indie movies in the region
“Are You Glad I’m Here” is by Noor Gharzeddine (2018). (Supplied)
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Updated 29 January 2021

Habibi Collective: Championing indie movies in the region

Habibi Collective: Championing indie movies in the region
  • Founder Róisín Tapponi discusses her platform for the promotion of female filmmakers

DUBAI: In an age where representation in art and culture matters more than ever, the cinema-focused digital platform and archive Habibi Collective rises to the occasion by placing independent movies by female filmmakers from South-West Asia and North Africa on centre stage.

Although Habibi Collective was founded in 2018, its concept goes back to the younger years of Iraqi-Irish film enthusiast and curator Róisín Tapponi, who noticed a particular gap in the films she viewed.




Iraqi-Irish film enthusiast and curator Róisín Tapponi is the founder of Habibi Collective. (Supplied)

“I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Ireland,” she tells Arab News from London. “I’d just be watching films with a different director every night and I was wondering why I wasn’t watching films made by Arab women. That was something especially important for me, being Iraqi and going home to visit family every summer and having that connection.”

Habibi Collective has been active in both the online and physical world. One of Tapponi's first steps was setting up an Instagram page that has a community of around 25,000 followers today. Its posts share an ongoing archive of stills, often accompanied by thought-provoking commentary, of Middle Eastern and North African documentaries and essay films that were produced by emerging, socially-engaged women directors, many of whom are Tapponi’s friends and collaborators.




“MAR10, I’m Bored. Aren’t You Bored?” by Firas El Hallak (2018). (Supplied)

“No one can lose their language,” says the caption on one film still coming from Algerian filmmaker Nina Khada’s 2020 short documentary “I Bit My Tongue,” in which she explores the challenges of returning to her home country, with no understanding of the language and no real knowledge of the country. Another still comes from LA-based Lebanese filmmaker Farah Shaer’s “Shakwa” (meaning ‘complaint’ in Arabic), a stirring portrayal of marital rape.

The selected films delve into raw, complex and topical subjects — from the self to socio-political concerns. “Habibi Collective, I think, gained such traction early on not necessarily because people were interested in cinema, but because they were seeing themselves being represented,” Tapponi says.

“I just wanted to create something super-accessible, because there wasn’t anything dedicated to women,” she continues. “It’s so crazy, because there are so many films made by women. People are always saying to me: ‘Oh, we should have more films being made by Arab women,’ and I’m like, ‘No, we have (a lot of) films by Arab women — we need to get them circulated on the market.’”




“Before I Forget” is by Mariam Mekiwi. (Supplied)

Tapponi has also curated film screenings at various institutions, her programming supporting and showcasing the work of Sudanese, Saudi, Lebanese, and Iranian filmmakers in places including Sharjah Art Foundation in the UAE, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and The Mosaic Rooms in London. The turnout for these events has been strong, suggesting a universal appetite for this alternative type of storytelling through film. “Every single screening has been sold out and it’s always been full of diaspora women. It amazes me. Wherever I go in the world, there’s Arab women,” she says.

Tapponi has also been a guest lecturer at Oxford University, Duke University and UC Berkeley, delivering talks on cinema in the MENA region and feminism in art. The subsequent conversations inspired her to push herself harder. “I thought, ‘How do I bring this knowledge that I’ve been sharing in a lecture theatre back into the community?’” she recalls.

One way has been through a free podcast organized by Habibi Collective, in which Tapponi invites guests from the region and diaspora to discuss their insights into the world of film. Guests have included Buthaina Kazim, who co-founded Dubai’s independent arthouse cinema Cinema Akil and Iraqi film editor Shahnaz Dulaimy, who, along with Tapponi and others, established the recently launched Independent Iraqi Film Festival.




“Errans” is by Mira Adoumier. (Supplied)

In March, Habibi Collective will launch “Shasha” (‘screen’ in Arabic), the first independent streaming service for Middle Eastern and North African cinema (it will also include films from male filmmakers). Subscribers will have access to 20 films per month — all following a specific theme — as well as a conversation series hosted by the filmmakers.

It’s an initiative that Tapponi hopes will further boost the regional profile of indie movies, hopefully encouraging the establishment of more alternative cinemas as well as archival institutions.

“Institutions should invest more in the industry,” she says. “There’s so much hype, but that’s just not being translated into the important part that gets these films made.”


Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes
Updated 28 February 2021

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes
  • The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years
  • Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions

DUBAI: A haven for humans craving furry feline company, a cat cafe in Dubai also doubles as an adoption center for some of the United Arab Emirates’ many strays.
The Ailuromania Cat Cafe, which was the Middle East’s first cat cafe when it opened in 2015, hopes the relaxing properties of its 25 rescue and shelter cats will help find them their forever homes.
“Anyone who is stressed just has to find a cat. All your stress will go away,” said Omnia Fareed, whose two cat-loving sisters Allaa and Iman started the cafe after university, taking inspiration from similar establishments in Korea and London.
The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years. Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions.
The cafe’s name Ailuromania is a play on the Greek-derived English word for a lover of cats: ailurophile.
The cafe has regular customers who come seeking relaxation from the stresses of life, or because they cannot keep a cat at home.
“They are so cute, they love playing,” said visitor Shaasthra. She said she appreciates how the cafe looks after the cats’ welfare by advising people not to hold them or wake them up.
Another regular visitor, a street cat who would stare in through the window, was also invited and eventually adopted.
Since Dubai began lifting coronavirus lockdown measures last summer, the cafe re-opened with capacity and sanitization restrictions.
Dubai has a large number of stray cats, with many abandoned on the streets by their owners. In 2018 UAE authorities made it illegal to abandon animals, but animal welfare activists in Dubai have for years called for a large-scale trap-neuter-release scheme and feeding programs to bring numbers down humanely.
In August, Dubai municipality issued a circular restating a policy of fining anyone caught feeding strays, saying it increases the spread of diseases.


Sneaker giant New Balance releases latest line with French-Moroccan label

New Balance x Casablanca Drop III. Supplied
New Balance x Casablanca Drop III. Supplied
Updated 28 February 2021

Sneaker giant New Balance releases latest line with French-Moroccan label

New Balance x Casablanca Drop III. Supplied

DUBAI: The latest collaboration between Casablanca x New Balance dropped yesterday on casablancaparis.com and, naturally, it sold-out within minutes – Footwear designer Amina Muaddi took to Instagram to show off her pair – But, if you didn’t manage to click “add to cart,” then we have some good news for you: You can still get your hands on a pair of the highly covetable footwear when they drop in the region next week.

Drop III comes in two silhouettes. The 327 boasts an octopus-like outsole that extends up the shoe and an interlocking Moroccan tile print that stays true to the French-Moroccan designer Charaf Tajer’s North African roots.

New Balance x Casablanca 327 silhouette. Supplied

Meanwhile, featuring a wedge heel, suede, mesh and nylon upper, as well as Casablanca’s signature monogram design, the 237 is an entirely new silhouette. Unlike the 327 style, the lugs on the outsole are less bold and don’t extend up the back of the shoe. 

Both trainers feature a clean white, pink and green colorway and an oversized “N” logo on the upper.

It’s not the first time the Paris-based apres-sports fashion house and the footwear company have joined forces. In fact, this recent drop marks their third footwear collaboration together.

New Balance x Casablanca 237 silhouette. Supplied

Casablanca’s first collaboration with New Balance debuted last year, when the 327 dropped in zesty orange and green colorways, inspired by Moroccan sweet oranges and tennis uniforms, respectively. 

The Casablanca x New Balance 327 and 273 sneakers will be available to purchase on March 5 at 9am (KSA time) on newbalance.co.ae and will be retailing for $163 for the 327 and $150 for the 237. Given how quickly the shoes sold out online on Feb. 27, we suggest setting an alarm.


Oscar-nominated ‘White Eye’ asks the hard questions

“White Eye” has made it to the 10-movie shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. Supplied
“White Eye” has made it to the 10-movie shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. Supplied
Updated 28 February 2021

Oscar-nominated ‘White Eye’ asks the hard questions

“White Eye” has made it to the 10-movie shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. Supplied

LONDON: “White Eye” — a short film from writer-director Tomer Shushan — serves as a masterclass in concise storytelling. After all, the pivotal moment at the heart of Shushan’s semi-autobiographical (and recently Oscar-nominated) short involves little more than a dispute over a stolen bicycle, with no lavish set pieces or special effects required to create an enthralling atmosphere. Furthermore, “White Eye” is shot in a single, continuous take that follows Omer (Daniel Gad) as he tries to retrieve his stolen bike.

The short film from writer-director Tomer Shushan serves as a masterclass in concise storytelling. Supplied

The camera buzzes around Omer, sometimes looking over his shoulder, then backing up to show events unfolding in front of him, or circling to show the audience what he can’t see. It makes for an intense 20 minutes of cinema, and it’s no surprise that “White Eye” has made it to the 10-movie shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.

“White Eye” is shot in a single, continuous take that follows Omer (Daniel Gad) as he tries to retrieve his stolen bike. Supplied

Shushan keeps the scale of the film small. “White Eye” takes place in a single building and on the street outside. As Omer’s attempts to get his bike back escalate into a far more high-stakes situation, there’s a palpable sense of rising tension and, without giving away too much of the story (which would undo the strength of the narrative), Shushan begins to ask a number of uncomfortable questions — about assumption, about prejudice, about empathy and retribution.

“White Eye” takes place in a single building and on the street outside. Supplied

The 20-minute runtime flashes past in a heartbeat as the tiny world the film inhabits becomes both more familiar through repetition, and more uncomfortable as the severity of the situation dawns on Omer — and, by extension, the audience. Thanks to an understated performance from Gad, we see Omer begin to ask himself the hard questions about the strength of his own character. And by that point, we’re so taken in by Shushan’s carefully crafted microcosm that we can’t help but ask ourselves the same of our own humanity.


Bella Hadid shares insight on her autoimmune disorders

Hadid was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012. Instagram
Hadid was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012. Instagram
Updated 28 February 2021

Bella Hadid shares insight on her autoimmune disorders

Hadid was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012. Instagram

DUBAI: US-Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid offered fans a glimpse into how she treats her autoimmune disorders in an Instagram post this weekend.

On Friday, the 24-year-old posted a series of photos showing her hooked up to an intravenous drip. “Living with a few chronic autoimmune disease = always finding time for my IVs,” she captioned the post.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

Hadid was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012 alongside with younger brother Anwar, 21, and their mother, Yolanda, 57.

In 2016, Bella opened up to People magazine about dealing with Lyme disease while being in the spotlight.

“Life isn’t always what it looks like on the outside, and the hardest part of this journey is to be judged by the way you look instead of the way you feel,” she said at the time.


Part-Moroccan model Malika El-Maslouhi is the star of the Dundas Fall 2021 collection

The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied
The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied
Updated 28 February 2021

Part-Moroccan model Malika El-Maslouhi is the star of the Dundas Fall 2021 collection

The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied

DUBAI: Norwegian designer Peter Dundas presented the Dundas Fall 2021 collection this week with a little help from Malika El-Maslouhi. The fashion heavyweight tapped the Moroccan-Italian rising model to showcase the glamorous new offering, which was digitally presented in a look book format.

The 22-year-old, who was born in Milan to an Italian mother and a Moroccan father, features in the look book, shot by fashion photographer Charlotte Wales in London, wearing 31 looks that range from draped minidresses and velvet pantsuits to slender duster coats and the brand’s newest category — hosiery.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

“If we’re ever allowed to go out at night again, I promise I’m stepping out in @dundasworld,” wrote El-Maslouhi on Instagram alongside a carousel of videos and photos that included backstage clips from the shoot. “What a fun day it was and loved to rock these looks. Thank you for having me,” she added.

Indeed, the collection is perfect for post-lockdown revelry.

Inspired by the glamour of the 1930s and the 1970s, the collection was punctuated with flowy wide-leg trousers, tailored jackets worn over lavish dresses, fringed tops and skirts, feathered cardigan dresses and lots of animal print.

The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied

The London-based designer chose rich and luxurious fabrics such as velvet and charmeuse and details like ostrich fur and sequins to dream up the latest offering.

El-Maslouhi, who is signed to VIVA Model Management, made her modelling debut when she was 18 years old at the Alberta Ferretti Fall 2019 show and went on to walk for the Dior Cruise 2020 show held in Marrakech a month later.

She would go on to quit her university studies to pursue modeling full-time, and completely captivate the fashion industry in the process.

The model posed for Norwegian designer Peter Dundas’s latest collection. Supplied

In addition to gracing the runways of storied fashion houses such as Hermes and Chanel, the rising fashion star has also appeared in international campaigns for the likes of Jacquemus and Zadig & Voltaire, and was selected as the face of Calvin Klein swimwear.

Meanwhile, the model, who splits her time between Italy, France and the Netherlands, was also recently selected as the cover star of the latest edition of Elle France.