‘Memory Box’ is a haunting look at love in battered Beirut

‘Memory Box’ is a haunting look at love in battered Beirut
“Memory Box” competed for the Golden Bear at the recent Berlin International Film Festival. (Abbout Productions)
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Updated 09 March 2021

‘Memory Box’ is a haunting look at love in battered Beirut

‘Memory Box’ is a haunting look at love in battered Beirut

CHENNAI: A compelling work about love, life and loss packaged neatly and executed with brilliance, “Memory Box” competed for the Golden Bear at the recent Berlin International Film Festival. Part of the reason why the movie is so touching is its story and script, which drew inspiration from Lebanese co-director Joana Hadjithomas’ letters and diaries penned during her teens. Made with Khalil Joreige – the duo is known for their range of documentaries, features and performance art – “Memory Box” covers three generations of women from 1980s war-ravaged Beirut to icy Montreal. The writing — by the directors — is tight and leaves no room for confusion in this back-and-forth narrative.

The first film from by the award-winning directors in nine years, it has a picturesque start. It is Christmas Eve in Montreal, but one woman carries in her heart the ravages of the war, the loss of her love and the distress of seeing a sibling and parent die.

Hundreds of grainy old photos, notebooks, newspaper articles and cassettes arrive in a huge box without warning during a snowstorm at the Montreal home of Maia (Rim Turki) and her teenage daughter, Alex (Paloma Vauthier). The parcel is from Paris, and it contains just about everything Maia sent to her best friend, Liza after she left Beirut in 1983. Maia had put down every thought, every feeling, every sorrow in letters, notepads and cassettes and mailed them to Liza. Now that she is dead, the boxful of memories has been returned to the sender.

Alex is infinitely curious to see what the parcel contains, but her grandmother, or Teta (Clemence Sabbagh), discourages her, telling the young girl to hide it and wait for the holidays to be over before informing Maia. But in the middle of the night, Alex sneaks into the basement and discovers the ecstasy and agony of her mother’s youth, her love, her stolen kisses inside a car with bullets flying all around or sometimes in the darkened auditorium of a cinema.

Alex finds out that her mother, Young Maia (passionately played by Manal Issa) was strong-willed and lived with her parents, who struggled to accept the death of their son in the war. The father was a principal who refused to leave his school, and the mother a nervous wreck living each minute in fear. But carefree Maia roamed the streets with her girlfriends, until she meets the handsome Raja (Hassan Akil). And then there was no stopping them — in a visually engaging sequence we watch the two zip along on a motorbike with the city in flames. This is one of the impressive visual effects by Laurent Brett. Josee Deshaies’ cinematography offers some arresting moments. The contrast between a city living under falling bombs and the tranquility of the Canadian metropolis, where snow-white clouds hang tantalizingly low, is striking, to say the least. And the last shot of the sun rising over post-war Beirut infuses certain warmth.

It is a heady cocktail of a mother-daughter struggle and a story on the overwhelming power of memories. But the end is a tad too tame, even slightly contrived, which rather lets a wonderful film down.


Rags to riches: Italian project launched to help refugees, migrants start fashion career

Rags to riches: Italian project launched to help refugees, migrants start fashion career
Updated 22 June 2021

Rags to riches: Italian project launched to help refugees, migrants start fashion career

Rags to riches: Italian project launched to help refugees, migrants start fashion career
  • “Fashion Deserves the World” is an initiative by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion (Camera della Moda)
  • Project will give the young refugees and migrants an opportunity to study fashion and find work in Italian companies

ROME: Fifteen young refugees and migrants living in Italy will be given the chance to launch a career in fashion.

The project, called “Fashion Deserves the World,” is an initiative by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion (Camera della Moda). 

It will give the young refugees and migrants an opportunity to study fashion and find work in Italian companies, giving them new lives from the places they fled. 

Camera della Moda has been given the patronage of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, a UN project on ethical fashion.

“Fashion Deserves the World” was introduced at the end of Milan Men’s Fashion Week as a part of the initiatives organized in Italy for World Refugee Day, in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Mygrants, a startup that provides micro-learning programs in three languages to help migrants consolidate their knowledge and find a job.

“Giving an opportunity is an extraordinary opportunity,” said President of Camera della Moda Carlo Capasa in a press conference attended by Arab News.

“‘Fashion Deserves the World’ is not just an opportunity for refugees but also for Italian companies. With retirements scheduled to cover the next three to four years, we estimate that there will be nearly 40,000 vacant jobs in the Italian fashion sector,” Capasa added.

“A minimum of two years is necessary to train new professional figures in this field, and it would be a disaster if we lost the outstanding quality of our fashion craftsmen who will leave their jobs without heirs if we do not train somebody else so that their unique skills will not be lost.”

Talented migrants and refugees could continue the tradition of Italian fashion craftsmen. “In this sense migrants and refugees can be our assets, and fashion could be theirs,” Capasa said.

“We are starting with this small project, which we hope will soon become a big one. For the moment it is a stone in the pond, but we expect something bigger to come at some point,” he said, calling for “specific training paths set by the government with a preference for talented migrants and refugees.”

Laura Iucci, the head of private sector partnerships for UNHCR Italia, said: “In this operation, everybody wins. Companies need a turnover of well-trained and motivated people and, according to the latest macroeconomic studies, the diversity brought by migrants is an added value. The National Chamber of Italian Fashion is now forging a new path.”

Applications are open to migrants, refugees and stateless people with a good knowledge of the Italian language and a strong desire to work in the fashion sector.

The applications must be sent through the Mygrants website, where they will be examined by experts from the National Chamber of Italian Fashion in Milan.

The 15 finalists will attend training sessions and then start working at companies associated with the Camera della Moda across Italy.


Actress Jameela Jamil is set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Actress Jameela Jamil is set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe
She is set to play Titania, who is the longterm arch nemesis of She-Hulk. Instagram
Updated 22 June 2021

Actress Jameela Jamil is set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Actress Jameela Jamil is set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe

DUBAI: Jameela Jamil is set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s been announced that the British-Indian-Pakistani actress and body positivity activist will be joining the cast of streaming service Disney+’s new MCU series, “She-Hulk,” premiering in 2022.

Jamil, who gained prominence for her role as Tahani Jamil on NBC’s “The Good Place,”  is set to play Titania, who is the longterm arch nemesis of She-Hulk.

As reported by Cinema Blend, Jamil’s villainous character will have the superpowers of super strength and super stamina.

Meanwhile, She-Hulk will be played by “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany.

The series is premiering in 2022. Supplied

The actresses will star alongside Renee Elise Goldsberry, Ginger Gonzaga and Tim Roth.

Deadline reports that Mark Ruffalo will make an appearance at one point as the Hulk. 

“She-Hulk” was written by Jim Shooter and Matt Zeck in 1984.

The plot revolves around Maslany's character Jennifer Walters, who gets a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner –better known as the Hulk. After the transfusion, Walters gains super strength and her skin turns green.

Jessica Gao from “Rick and Morty” is the lead writer, while Kat Coiro and Anu Valia are co-directing. 

Jamil, who was born to a Pakistani mother and an Indian father in London, also stars in a new Disney Junior series, “Mira Royal Detective,” in which she voices the aunt of a headstrong young investigator.

Outside of acting, the star is also known for her activism and her I Weigh body positivity movement that she founded in 2018.

Jamil, who started her career as a model and a BBC Radio 1 presenter, is also an MC and a judge on the HBO Max series “Legendary.”


The ‘Quaranteen’ Project: Dubai photographer unites international teenagers during the pandemic

The ‘Quaranteen’ Project: Dubai photographer unites international teenagers during the pandemic
Updated 22 June 2021

The ‘Quaranteen’ Project: Dubai photographer unites international teenagers during the pandemic

The ‘Quaranteen’ Project: Dubai photographer unites international teenagers during the pandemic

DUBAI: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has sparked new ideas for many entrepreneurs, creatives and artists. One such creative is Dubai-based photographer Tanya Rex.

The South African lenswoman launched The Quaranteen Project, which is ongoing to this date, when lockdowns began last year.   

She sent 30 disposable cameras to 30 teenagers across the world and asked them to document their quarantine experience. The results are unedited and moving realities of the pandemic as seen through the eyes of teenagers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Belarus, Afghanistan, Latvia, South Africa, India, the US, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and more. 

“I wanted it to be as raw as possible and capture the simplicity of what people see every day,” she said in an interview with Arab News.

This image was taken by a teenager in the United States. (Supplied)

“I didn’t really know what to expect. I remember speaking to my husband, and he said: ‘You don’t know these people. They aren’t photographers, and you really don’t know what you are going to get back. Maybe you could use pictures from five of the cameras that come back.’ And I accepted that,” Rex added.

She has so far received 24 rolls of film back, with around 300-400 images. 

Not all rolls of film came back as properly exposed pictures. “Some of them came back with very little effort put in, and some of them came back absolutely exceptional,” she said. 

“It didn’t really matter if I got one photo or 20. Each time, it was like receiving a gift,” Rex added. 

When enough cameras came back to the photographer, she sent the films to South Africa so they could be developed and scanned. 

This image was taken by a teenager in Latvia. (Supplied)

According to Rex, who came to the UAE 17 years ago, it was not easy to deliver the cameras to the teenagers. 

She lost some cameras due to theft, while others took time to be delivered due to the COVID-19 restrictions in some countries.

When discussing the inception of her idea, Rex said that lockdown was exciting for her when it first started.

“I remember seeing an initiative called ‘Together at Home,’ where celebrities invited you into their homes for their private concerts. I thought the idea was incredible. It meant the world was stepping up and we were all uniting,” she said.  

“After two weeks, though, the novelty wore off, and we all settled into the reality of what COVID-19 was,” she added.

This image was taken by a teenager for The ‘Quaranteen’ Project. (Supplied)

The photographer said she went from being enthusiastic at the prospect of having time off to realizing that all her work had been canceled and that there was nothing to look forward to for an indefinite amount of time. It was then that she had the idea to start The Quaranteen Project.

Rex is currently looking into turning her project into a coffee table book. “I think it would be a great way to show these teenagers’ stories in a simple format,” she said. 

Rex has worked for campaigns with international brands including fast-food company McDonald’s and makeup brands Maybelline, Bourjois and Max Factor, among others.   

Her latest campaign was with Adidas — a shoot for the German sportswear giant’s “Run for the Oceans” campaign. 

“It was a great project because, firstly, I got to shoot underwater again, which I haven’t done for a very long time,” she said. “It was also empowering because we were shooting women who have perceived disabilities and differences. They are all proud, strong women who are moving forward with their lives.” 


DJ Khaled, Salma Hayek to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

DJ Khaled, Salma Hayek to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
DJ Khaled is among 38 celebrities to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. File/AFP
Updated 22 June 2021

DJ Khaled, Salma Hayek to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

DJ Khaled, Salma Hayek to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

DUBAI: DJ Khaled and Salma Hayek are among 38 celebrities to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a famous stretch of sidewalk along the Hollywood Boulevard that celebrates some of the most successful entertainers in the industry via a brass star bearing the name of producers, actors, musicians and directors.

Taking to Instagram this week, the US-Palestinian producer who gave us “Wild Thoughts” expressed his gratitude for receiving the Hollywood Walk of Fame star.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)

His family also celebrated the music producer by presenting him with a star-shaped cake on Father’s Day.

“Thank you so much! I love my queen, my boys, I love my family! So much! GRATEFUL! Amazing Father’s Day!” he captioned a video shared with his 24.9 million Instagram followers.

US-Mexican actress Hayek, whose father is part-Lebanese, is also set to nab a star on the historic boulevard.

Hayek posted a throwback picture of herself on Instagram with a surprised expression and captioned it: “Today I am combining a #tbt picture with very recent news, because this image represents how surprised and happy I was a few minutes ago when my team showed me the announcement that I am getting the star in the Hollywood walk of fame! Thank you to the fans for their support through the years.”

The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises more than 2,690 stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard. 

The selection panel, made up of fellow Walk of Famers, handpicks a group of honorees each year that represent various genres of the entertainment world.

Other artists picked to be honored with a star alongside DJ Khaled include the late Nipsey Hussle, Avril Lavigne, Michael B. Jordan and Ashanti.

Nipsey Hussle isn’t the only late entertainer who was selected posthumously. Carrie Fisher, who died of cardiac arrest in December 2016 at age 60, was also picked in the motion picture category.

Honorees have two years to schedule a star ceremony from the date of their selection.


Kylie Jenner flaunts custom-made ‘Kylie’ heels by Lebanon’s Andrea Wazen 

Kylie Jenner flaunts custom-made ‘Kylie’ heels by Lebanon’s Andrea Wazen 
Updated 22 June 2021

Kylie Jenner flaunts custom-made ‘Kylie’ heels by Lebanon’s Andrea Wazen 

Kylie Jenner flaunts custom-made ‘Kylie’ heels by Lebanon’s Andrea Wazen 

DUBAI: Kylie Jenner championed yet another Arab designer this month. 

The reality TV star and entrepreneur stepped out last week in a pair of heels by Lebanese footwear designer Andrea Wazen. 

Jenner wore the ‘Kylie’ pumps by Andrea Wazen to the 72nd Annual Parsons’s Benefit in New York City. The pumps featured a 10.5cm heel, PVC translucent upper and pointed-sole, with a shimmering olive green leather at the heel matching Jenner’s forest green dress. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Kylie (@kyliejenner)

These shoes were created for the mother-of-one as a custom-style, and will be available to the public from August 2021 in a variety of colors on andreawazen.com.

The Kylie Cosmetics founder’s picture in Wazen’s design went viral because she posed alongside her on and off partner rapper Travis Scott and their three-year-old daughter Stormi. 

The pumps featured a 10.5cm heel, PVC translucent upper and pointed-sole, with a shimmering olive green leather at the heel matching Jenner’s forest green dress. (AFP)

Just last week, one of Jordanian-Romanian designer Amina Muaddi’s Instagram posts showed Jenner — carrying Stormi — stepping out in a pair of white boots by Muaddi called “the Pernille bootie.” 

The businesswoman also accessorized her look with the brand’s Pernille handbag from the designer’s newly launched line.