CHENNAI: It is rare to find an Indian-Nigerian collaboration in cinema, and “Namaste Wahala,” now playing on Netflix, scores points for its novelty factor. But beyond this, the film has little to offer, and it is such a disappointment. The two countries have been in a neck-and-neck race, producing close to 2000 titles each year, and I expected some kind of quality, given their long experience in moviemaking. But director Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, a hotelier-turned-filmmaker living in Lagos, does not go beyond a cliched love story, and her passion for watching television serials (presumably Indian) leaves its mark all over the narrative. Ahuja falls back on lazy writing, and the result is a plot riddled with coincidences — a ploy adopted ever so often by Indian films to push the story forward.
In an early scene, we see Didi (Ini Dima-Okojie), a Nigerian NGO lawyer, brush past an Indian investment banker, Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz), while she is out jogging on the beach. It is love at first sight for the two (cue the eyerolls). Didi’s dad (Richard Mofe-Damijo), a lawyer who runs a large firm, wants his daughter to follow in his footsteps and carry forward his legacy, as he never tires of repeating. Didi, however, has other plans: She works for victimized women and thinks this is far nobler than to be part of her father’s empire, in which everything goes.
Things get complicated with the arrival of Raj’s overly possessive mother (Sujata Sehgal), which is marked by an unbelievably ridiculous confrontation between her and the cabbie who drives her from the airport to her son’s home. She will not hear of her only child marrying a woman whose culture is at odds with Indian ways! Meanwhile, Didi’s old man hates Raj because the banker interrupts the plans he so carefully laid out for his daughter.
Must we say anything more about a collaborative effort that misfires from the word ‘go’? The songs, including a pop number, ‘I Don’t Wanna Let You Go,’ are terribly tacky. “Namaste Wahala” rolls on with scenes featuring the kind of drama that modern cinema has given up on — yes, even in notoriously melodramatic Bollywood. Ahuja weaves in a legal tussle between father and daughter over a rape victim, but this hardly uplifts a story whose characters are cartoonish, and the cultural divide provides more for laughter rather than any serious introspection.
Zac Efron, Jessica Alba star in another Dubai Tourism campaign
Updated 23 September 2021
DUBAI: Hollywood duo Zac Efron and Jessica Alba have returned with another Dubai Tourism campaign.
Released on Wednesday, the actors’ fourth promotional video, called “Dubai Presents: A Captivating Saga,” takes a close look at the UAE’s traditional activities and attractions.
Alba stars as a young pilot who explores the country’s deserts.
Over recent months, Dubai Tourism has released three videos, directed by Australian filmmaker Craig Gillespie, ahead of the long-awaited Expo 2020 Dubai event.
The first ad was a spoof of an action film featuring Alba and Efron fighting off enemies at well-known landmarks across the city, such as the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa and the Museum of the Future.
In the second video, the stars appeared as tourists visiting the city. Upon their arrival at their hotels, they discover that they’ve got each other’s bags.
The Hollywood celebrities travel across the city on various adventures to meet and collect their identical luggage.
In the third advert, Efron plays two characters, his younger self and an older version of himself who comes from the future to teach him life lessons.
The two characters go on a journey in the country’s souks and the surrounding deserts. They also go skydiving.
The films present some of Dubai’s most-admired attractions, including the city’s dunes, Sheikh Zayed Road that runs through the heart of Dubai and historical sites — such as Dubai Creek and Al-Fahidi area.
Saudi-Canadian YouTube couple celebrate National Day with new cooking series
Updated 23 September 2021
DUBAI: In honor of the 91st Saudi National Day, celebrated on Sept. 23, food and lifestyle TV channel Fatafeat has partnered with Dubai-based social media couple Ali Almeshaal and his wife Jacquelyn to cook some of the Kingdom’s most-loved dishes.
In the five-episode series, available on YouTube, the couple, who have over 750,000 subscribers on the site, shared their personal take on traditional meals like the shrimp biryani, saleeg and laham margoog.
The show was not the Canadian wife’s first time cooking Saudi food since the pair got married a year-and-a-half ago.
In an interview with Arab News, Almeshaal, who is from the Kingdom, said that when they tied the knot, his wife surprised him by cooking Kabsa, a hearty rice dish made with lamb, chicken, fish or seafood. “It was a very, very nice Kabsa,” he said.
“It was a healthy Kabsa kind of recipe,” Jacquelyn explained. “It’s our spin, because there is not a right or wrong way to make any dish, but attune it to how your family or your friends or how you like it.”
Her video of the famous dish, which is their favorite, got over 600,000 views on Twitter, Almeshaal said, and fans demanded more tutorials.
The couple said they enjoyed shooting the Fatafeat series together. “Ali isn’t usually in the kitchen with me helping me too much, so it was nice to actually have him in the kitchen conversing with him and having him help me out,” she said.
This is Almeshaal’s second time shooting for Fatafeat. “This year was way nicer than last year, taking into consideration that my beautiful wife was with me. I really enjoyed it.”
“I think that the media in the west portrays the Middle Eastern culture in a very strict and rigid way. There are a lot of misconceptions,” said the 29-year-old, who is expecting a baby girl. “I would just suggest anybody who has ever been afraid or curious or ever wanted to explore the Middle East but was afraid of anything they heard in the media that it’s wrong.”
RIYADH: Celebrations for 91st Saudi National Day will kick off on Wednesday with plenty to entertain revellers across the Kingdom well into the weekend.
Access to all events will only be granted with a green pass on the Tawakalna app.
National Day Horse Jumping competition — Riyadh
Hosted in the Almortajaz Equestrian center in Riyadh, the two-day competition will celebrate National Day with show jumping event. Guests can purchase their 50 SAR tickets online through Riyadh Platinum or through Enjoy Saudi via the General entertainment Authority. The event will take place between Sept. 22-Sept. 24 from 4:00pm-12:00am.
Saudi Hawks Air Show — Khobar, Jeddah and Riyadh
Organized by the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, the Saudi Hawks show is expected to be a spectacular air show with jetfighter and civil aircraft taking part in what is billed as the largest air show in the Kingdoms’ history. The show can be viewed from the Khobar Corniche, Um Ajlan Park in Riyadh, and Jeddah Corniche. Admission is free and the air show will be held from on Sept. 24 and 25. The show will take place from 04:15pm to 05:30pm (Khobar) and 4:00pm to 5:15pm (Riyadh).
Culture and Heritage Program — Ithra, Dhahra
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) will be holding a special National Day cultural and heritage program for the public to enjoy. Visitors will learn more about traditional coffee farming practices, the diversity of culture and fashion in the Kingdom, and experience traditional performances of grain pounding.
The program will run from Sept. 22-25, from 04:00pm-07:30pm and 8:00pm-12:00am. Tickets cost 50 SAR.
National Day 91 Fireworks — Hail, Tabuk, Albaha, Buraidah, Abha, Madinah, Jazan and Jeddah
● The National Day Firework Show in Hail will be held in Al-Salam Park from 9:25pm-9:30pm.
● The National Day Firework Show in Albaha will be held in King Abdulaziz Cultural Center from 9:00pm-9:05pm.
● The National Day Firework Show in Tabuk will be held on University Bridge from 9:00pm-9:05pm.
● The National Day Firework Show in BuraidahKing will take place on Fahad Road from 9:00pm-9:05pm.
● The National Day Firework Show in Abha will be held in Alqser Place from 9:00pm-9:05pm.
● The National Day Firework Show in Madinah will be held in Al-Hadiqah from 9:00pm-9:05pm.
● The National Day Firework Show in Jazan will be held at Corniche Jazan from 9:00pm-9:05pm.
● The National Day Firework Show in Jeddah will be held at the Red Sea Mall from 9:00pm-9:07pm.
Abadi Al-Johar and Huda Al-Fahad in Concert — Riyadh
A concert will be held on Sept. 23 in Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in the Conference Center from 10:00pm -1:00am in Riyadh. Children are not allowed during this event and guests can purchase their tickets through the Enjoy Saudi website.
Diriyah, past, present and future
On Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, the birthplace of the Kingdom continues to make history
Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’
The Lebanese filmmaker discusses her powerful and damning documentary, ‘ENOUGH! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour’
Updated 23 September 2021
DUBAI: Before the catastrophic explosion at Beirut Port on August 4, 2020, Daizy Gedeon was making a film called “The Dream is Everything.” The Lebanese filmmaker had been working on it for years, interviewing the top political figures in Lebanon, centering it around a message of hope, of building a better Lebanon in the long recovery from the country’s civil war.
“When I started digging in, it became a very hard story. People were suffering. But when I was asking politicians about their solutions — between 2017 and 2019 — I still believed that there may have been some truth in what they were saying; that they were trying to fix the country and make things better for people. But when August 4 hit, the shock turned to sadness, and the sadness to anger,” Gedeon tells Arab News.
“I said forget the dream. There’s no more dreams, baby.”
After that epiphany, Gedeon began radically reworking her old footage while manically adding new aspects, ultimately creating a very different film: “ENOUGH! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour.” Her new vision, centered around the perceived negligence that led to the tragic event and the suffering that it left in its wake, and serving as a call to action for substantive change, has already resonated in the international film community, winning the Movies That Matter Award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, supported by the Better World Fund and Filmfestivals.com.
“When we went back to the footage we had, we realized that I didn’t need to try to indict them, they indicted themselves with their own words. I didn’t need to take anything out of context. I just had to decide that I’m not going to make them look good anymore,” says Gedeon. “Before, I thought that they were part of the solution, so I didn't want to destroy them. I thought we needed them. That explosion was the worst thing that could have happened to Lebanon, but it was the best thing that could have happened to the film.”
While Gedeon, 56, was born in Lebanon, she grew up in Australia, spending years as a journalist. In 1988, she covered the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, as a soccer writer, jetting off to Europe for a holiday afterwards. While there, her mother implored her to go back to Beirut to visit her family, and after initial hesitation due to the ongoing conflict, she decided to go for two weeks.
“That was the beginning of my love affair with Lebanon. I called my editor in Australia and said, ‘Hey, the airport's closed, I can't come back’. Really, I wanted to learn more about it. It was fascinating because there was a war going on. Like, how close do you ever get to war? There was the green line and there were snipers right nearby. One of my cousins was in one of the militias and so he took me through the buildings,” says Gedeon.
She had long been a fan of the Jason Bourne spy novels of Robert Ludlum, which used real-life convicted Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal as their main antagonist.
“I loved those books, so Beirut in that era really did fit my interests. In Beirut, it was real life. Carlos the Jackal had a base in Beirut. This was James Bond stuff, and it fit into my imagination and my intrigue. But at the same time, there was something serious because I came from this place,” she says. “I started to feel a real affection and connection to people, and that brought me deeper into all of it in a way I wasn’t expecting.”
After that trip, Gedeon never lost her connection to Lebanon and the broader region, relocating to London and covering regional conflicts in the Middle East throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties, before returning to Lebanon to make her first documentary in 1993 — the critically acclaimed “Lebanon… Imprisoned Splendour,” released in 1996. It was a reflection of all she had learned from peeling back Lebanon’s layers and finding a warm and generous people that welcomed her even amidst the bloodshed.
“With that film, I was trying to show the world that there is more to this place than what people had heard for the previous 20 years. The conflict was real, but that was only one piece of the puzzle. I wanted to fill in the gaps, delving into the history and the actual people there, the reality on the ground,” says Gedeon.
While her journalism continued as she pursued other myriad projects, Gedeon stepped away from documentary filmmaking for the next two decades. She reveals with visible emotion to Arab News that this was due in part to a “stifling, oppressive” marriage — which ended officially in 2015 — to a person who had once been her closest friend and champion, a devolution that she found shocking and dispiriting.
“You can’t be creative if you’re in a desperate situation. When it was officially over, my mind started to clear and the little voice in my head returned, louder, louder, and by 2016 it was screaming, screaming, in my head. I don't know how else to explain it. I said to myself, ‘Alright, I’ll do it. I’ll return to Lebanon.’”
Throughout the process of making “ENOUGH!,” Gedeon starkly changed as a filmmaker. While raising awareness broadly is still an important part of her work, she is no longer the person that she was when she arrived in 1988. The beautiful words written about her last film in the late Nineties in the West were no longer sufficient.
Her gaze with her latest film, which is currently on the festival circuit and scheduled for a wide release in cinemas and on digital platforms in early 2022, is firmly set on the place that bore her, and the people like her in the Lebanese diaspora across the world, whom she hopes to bring back to the country to help fix it once and for all.
“This is not just for film critics,” Gedeon says. “It’s got to inspire Lebanese people, everywhere. If the film does not agitate, provoke, or motivate people to take action, then it's failed. I want to channel their energy and their anger and their frustration to join the movement, change things to a free and fair Lebanon, which starts with the elections in 2022. I'm trying to create a movement. We've got to build this groundswell of people in Lebanon, as well as the diaspora everywhere.
“There are 16 million outside Lebanon. My goal is to educate and inform those people, people who believe in justice and social change,” she continues. “We need more than just the Lebanese on the ground. We need more people to stand up for social justice everywhere, and for Lebanon to be one of the countries that they say ‘Yes, it's time.’”