Image Nation Abu Dhabi launches cultural exchange webinars with Israel Film Fund

A still from “Only Men Go to the Grave,” a film directed by Abdullah Al-Kaabi, who will be speaking during the webinar series. Supplied
A still from “Only Men Go to the Grave,” a film directed by Abdullah Al-Kaabi, who will be speaking during the webinar series. Supplied
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Updated 22 March 2021

Image Nation Abu Dhabi launches cultural exchange webinars with Israel Film Fund

A still from “Only Men Go to the Grave,” a film directed by Abdullah Al-Kaabi, who will be speaking during the webinar series. Supplied

DUBAI: Culture has a unique way of bridging cultures and nations. This is why in an effort to foster cultural exchange between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Image Nation Abu Dhabi has teamed up with the Israel Film Fund (IFF) on a series of webinars that aim to support filmmakers in both countries.

Titled “Film Exchange: Abu Dhabi - Israel,” the new series will explore critical areas within production, talent development and filming in both Abu Dhabi and Israel to encourage collaboration between Image Nation and IFF.

The first webinar will debut on March 24. It will feature industry experts spanning from the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, Israel Film Fund, the Israel Film and TV Academy as well as renowned film directors. 

Those tuning in to the webinars can expect to learn about an array of different topics relating to feature film funding, such as tax rebates, film funds and opportunities for filmmakers in the two countries, among others aspects.

Speakers include Emirati filmmaker Abdullah Al-Kaabi, “City of Life” director Ali F. Mostafa and the Israeli filmmaker who gave us “The Syrian Bride,” Eran Riklis, to name a few.

“This series of webinars is a key cultural and business initiative held in partnership with the IFF,” said Michael Garin, CEO of Image Nation, in a released statement.

“We are ultimately promoting and informing audiences on the many production and investment opportunities that have resulted from the partnership between the UAE and Israel. Through collaboration on content creation, we will deepen the ties between the two countries to the benefit of the media industry in the entire region.”

Echoing on Garin’s statement, Lisa Shiloach-Uzrad, Executive Director of the Israel Film Fund, added: “We are excited to begin what we hope will be a long and fruitful relationship between Israeli and UAE filmmakers. We believe there is much that unites our two nations and are proud and happy to be the stepping stone for cultural collaboration that will bring us closer together while creating innovative and fascinating films, which is what we're all about.”

The IFF was established in 1979 in order to assist Israeli filmmakers realize their vision and talent and produce their full length feature film.

Meanwhile, Image Nation Abu Dhabi creates films, TV series, documentaries and entertainment for consumers throughout the world. It is also the first UAE company to have multiple productions stream globally on streaming giant Netflix.


Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites

Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites
Updated 10 April 2021

Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites

Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites
  • The popular street vendor says he usually has more customers during Ramadan
  • On his daily rounds of the Hamidiyah covered market, dozens of customers approach him to quench their thirst

DAMASCUS: In a busy market in Syria’s capital, 53-year-old Ishaaq Kremed serenades customers and agilely pours tamarind juice from the ornate brass jug on his back ahead of Ramadan.
The popular street vendor says he usually has more customers during the Islamic holy month starting next week, during which many favor the drink to break their day-long fast at sundown.
But he says his trade of more than 40 years has also taken on new meaning since the war-torn country has been plunged into economic crisis.
“My main job is to make customers smile,” says the moustachioed father of 16, dressed in billowing trousers, a patterned waistcoat and red fez.
“What’s most important is that they leave me feeling happy — that whoever turns up stressed leaves feeling content,” adds the street vendor.
On his daily rounds of the Hamidiyah covered market, dozens of customers approach him to quench their thirst, often taking pictures of him and his traditional get-up with their cellphones.
As he nimbly pours juice in long streams into plastic cups, he distracts them for a while with a song.
A surgical face mask lowered under his chin, Kremed intones lyrics for a mother and her two young daughters, before handing her a cup of the dark brown beverage.
He takes his fez off to collect his payment, then places it back on the top of his head.
Another man, dressed in a long white robe, joins Kremed in a song then gives him a peck on the cheek as he leaves.
Syria’s economic crisis has sent prices soaring and caused the national currency to plummet in value against the dollar on the black market.
In a country where a large majority of people live in poverty, Syrians have also had to contend with several lockdowns to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“For three years, Ramadan has been different because of people’s financial worries,” Kremed says.
“When people come to the market, you see them bumping into each other as if they were in a daze.”
The Damascus government blames the economic crisis on Western sanctions, but economists say the conflict, the pandemic and the financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon are also major factors.
Some state institutions have temporarily been closed over the pandemic and the economic crisis, but for now, markets remain open.
Although he does his best to keep up a cheery demeanour, Kremed says he too is feeling the effects of the economic crunch.
Tamarind and sugar are becoming increasingly costly, he says, and not everyone has enough spare cash for a refreshment.
“People’s priorities have become putting food and drink on the table, before tamarind juice,” he says.


Introducing Renaissance Renaissance, the Lebanese label shortlisted for the LVMH Prize 2021

Cynthia Merhej founded her Lebanese label in 2016 alongside her mother. Supplied
Cynthia Merhej founded her Lebanese label in 2016 alongside her mother. Supplied
Updated 10 April 2021

Introducing Renaissance Renaissance, the Lebanese label shortlisted for the LVMH Prize 2021

Cynthia Merhej founded her Lebanese label in 2016 alongside her mother. Supplied

DUBAI: “I’m doing femininity on my own terms,” says Cynthia Merhej, a LVMH Prize 2021 semi-finalist — the first-ever Arab woman to be selected as a semi-finalist for the prestigious accolade — when asked to describe her womenswear label Renaissance Renaissance.

Merhej, the 31-year-old Lebanese designer, who studied graphic design and illustration at London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins art school, was always destined to be involved in the fashion industry. She hails from multiple generations of designers — her great-grandmother and mother both ran their own ateliers in Palestine and Lebanon.

The 31-year-old creative hails from a family of fashion designers. Supplied

Her focus and determination to push the envelope can be traced back to her family history. “She was an anomaly,” said Merhej of her great-grandmother. “To have this really strong woman who decided to start her own fashion business and run it herself was pretty unique at the time.”

Merhej grew up in a tiny suburb in Beirut. Her earliest childhood memories are of her mother’s bustling atelier, watching seamstresses at work and seeing her mother carefully drape clothing on clients all day.

“I didn’t have the typical story where I’m looking at fashion as an outsider and thinking ‘wow, it looks so glamorous, beautiful and fantastical.’ Fashion was something very real. I was exposed to the whole other side of it, which you usually don’t hear about or see in magazines or fashion shows and things like that,” she said.

Merhej launched her own sustainable label alongside her mother in 2016. Supplied

At 17, the third generation tailor left Lebanon to pursue an education in London, before moving back aged 24 and launching her own sustainable label alongside her mother in 2016.

But although her mother was already a successful fashion designer with over 30-years of experience back home, Merhej revealed that her own foray into the industry began with self-learning. “My mom was too busy. She wasn’t like ‘oh, I’m going to sit and teach her how to sew and teach her how to do this,’” said Merhej. “And I really appreciate that, because fashion is a really tough business.”

Merhej had to take pattern-making classes for a year and a half before she felt she was on “her mother’s level,” as she put it. The mother and daughter duo went on to develop pieces for the brand of clothing known for its bulbous silhouettes, corset-style detailing and flouncy, feminine ruffles.

Renaissance Renaissance is known for its bulbous silhouettes, corset-style detailing and flouncy, feminine ruffles. Supplied

“The brand aims to challenge perceptions of femininity, but in a beautiful way,” said the designer. “When people look at the clothes, they might think that they’re not very radical due to our perception of what radical is. But when you take my clothes and display them in shops in Beirut, they’re really the opposite of everything that is found there,” she added.

Merhej has a point. When one thinks of classic Lebanese designs, one cannot help but think of the glamorous red carpet gowns and gorgeous couture creations that come out of Beirut season after season.

“It was actually really hard to get recognition in the Middle East,” said Merhej. “I had to really go outside the region to find people that would understand what I’m doing,” she added, noting her relocation to Paris following the tragic Beirut explosion on Aug. 4.

Merhej is the first Arab woman to be shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize. Supplied

As a result of her hard work, Merhej’s designs are now being recognized. Last week, she made fashion history after being announced as one of 20 semi-finalists for the LVMH Prize 2021, making her the first-ever Arab woman to be shortlisted as a semi-finalist for the award.

“It’s already incredible we even got to the semi-finals,” said Merhej. “It will be even more incredible if we get to the finals, but I think even just to get to this point is pretty amazing.”

Her Lebanese label has also elicited a positive response for its strong commitment to sustainability.

Merhej’s most recent fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection, for example, features fewer looks, ethical production and a complete absence of buttons and zippers, which often end up in the trash even after a garment is recycled.

The fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection features fewer looks, ethical production and a complete absence of fastenings. Supplied

“I was raised to approach fashion ethically since before I even knew that sustainability was a term,” said Merhej. Her sustainable approach to fashion was further encouraged by her father, an engineer, whose lessons taught her the importance of producing something to the highest quality so that it lasts over time.

“I think the most sustainable thing you can do is design things with a lot of consideration. You have to make sure that what you’re designing actually has a purpose, that it’s beautiful, and it’s something people want to keep and desire — and that you’re using ethical conditions to produce it,” Merhej said.

“Everything around me is constantly being destroyed in this country,” she added. “I am trying to make something that’s going to be really beautiful and that stands the test of time for the women that inspire me.”


Egypt to unveil ‘portion’ of 3,000-year old city

Egypt to unveil ‘portion’ of 3,000-year old city
Updated 10 April 2021

Egypt to unveil ‘portion’ of 3,000-year old city

Egypt to unveil ‘portion’ of 3,000-year old city
  • Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass had announced earlier this week the discovery of the “lost golden city”
  • Items of jewelry have been unearthed, along with colored pottery vessels, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks

LUXOR: Archaeologists near Luxor have unearthed just a portion of the “largest” ancient city ever found in Egypt and dating to a golden pharaonic age 3,000 years ago, officials said Saturday.
Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass had announced earlier this week the discovery of the “lost golden city,” saying the site was uncovered near Luxor, home of the legendary Valley of the Kings.
“We found one portion of the city only. But the city extends to the west and the north,” Hawass told AFP Saturday ahead of a press conference in the archaeologically rich area.
Betsy Bryan, professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, had said the find was the “second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun” nearly a century ago, according to the excavation team’s statement on Thursday.
Items of jewelry have been unearthed, along with colored pottery vessels, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III.
The team began excavations in September between the temples of Ramses III and Amenhotep III near Luxor, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Cairo.
Amenhotep III inherited an empire that stretched from the Euphrates River in modern Iraq and Syria to Sudan and died around 1354 BC, ancient historians say.
He ruled for nearly four decades, a reign known for its opulence and the grandeur of its monuments, including the Colossi of Memnon — two massive stone statues near Luxor that represent him and his wife.
“It’s not only a city — we can see... economic activity, workshops and ovens,” Mostafa Waziri, head of the country’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Saturday.
Since the announcement, some scholars have disputed that Hawass and his team have succeeded where others had failed by locating the city.
Egyptologist Tarek Farag posted Friday on Facebook that the area was first excavated more than a century ago by a team from New York’s Metropolitan Museum.
But Waziri dismissed these concerns, saying previous digs had taken place further afield to the south the site.


US singer Alicia Keys serenades students in Saudi Arabia

The Grammy Award-winning singer has visited Saudi Arabia multiple times. File/Instagram
The Grammy Award-winning singer has visited Saudi Arabia multiple times. File/Instagram
Updated 10 April 2021

US singer Alicia Keys serenades students in Saudi Arabia

The Grammy Award-winning singer has visited Saudi Arabia multiple times. File/Instagram

DUBAI: US hitmaker Alicia Keys recently gave an impromptu performance to Saudi students and staff at Madrasat AdDeera in AlUla.

The performance, which was posted onto Instagram by Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah on Friday, saw the award-winning singer perform her hit “Fallin’’ in front of students and staff at a girls’ school.

The Grammy Award winner has visited Saudi Arabia numerous times. 

Keys was one of the headliners of Riyadh Season 2019, alongside Bruno Mars, Pitbull and John Legend who all performed concerts across the capital city.

And according to a recent photo that has been circulating around Twitter, the “Girl on Fire” singer was in the Kingdom even more recently than that.

The photo in question, posted by Twitter user @dcantiheroes, is a screenshot from April 9 taken from Hassan Ghoneim’s Instagram Stories that showed the Saudi media personality standing beside Keys.

If the picture was taken over the weekend, that means that Keys was in town when Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli performed at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, AlUla.


US-Lebanese model Nour Arida launches new children’s line

US-Lebanese model Nour Arida has just made her first foray into fashion design with the launch of her new kidswear line, Generation Peace. (File/ Getty Images)
US-Lebanese model Nour Arida has just made her first foray into fashion design with the launch of her new kidswear line, Generation Peace. (File/ Getty Images)
Updated 10 April 2021

US-Lebanese model Nour Arida launches new children’s line

US-Lebanese model Nour Arida has just made her first foray into fashion design with the launch of her new kidswear line, Generation Peace. (File/ Getty Images)

DUBAI: US-Lebanese model Nour Arida has just made her first foray into fashion design with the launch of her new kidswear line, Generation Peace.

The clothing line is made for girls and boys between the ages of six months to 12-years-old.

Arida, who is a mother of a five-year-old girl named Ayla, announced the exciting news this weekend via Instagram.

“I genuinely hope this brand will meet your expectations,” she told her nine  million Instagram followers. “We’ve been working for so long on every detail, every design and every idea for every single aspect to meet international standards,” she added.

For the new children’s brand, Arida tapped her friend and designer Rebecca Zaatar to help her launch the label.

“So many of you have told me that they like my relationship with my daughter Ayla, and my way of dealing with her – this is what inspired me to enter the ‘kids world’ in general,” Arida explained of what prompted her to launch a children’s wear brand.

The debut collection features graphic tops for boys and girls, frilly dresses, onesies for babies and toddlers, cozy sets and swimsuits.

There are also hair accessories for girls, such as printed headbands, silk bandanas and scrunchies made out of left-over fabric from the garments.

Meanwhile, each purchase comes inside a sustainable, eco-friendly package that doubles as a coloring book for little ones. 

Designs range from $7 to $148, and can be purchased online. 

Each piece from the new range boasts a message of equality, tolerance and peace that is addressed to kids and to their parents.  

Though this is Arida’s first official foray into the world of design, the Paris-based model and social media influencer has years of fashion experience under her belt. 

Before becoming a highly-successful fashion blogger, Arida worked as a buyer and brand manager for a number of prestigious fashion labels, including Rag & Bone, Zimmermann, Theory, Vince, J-Brand and Frame Denim, among others.

Additionally, she has lent her face to several campaigns for renowned international brands such as French fine jewelry company Boucheron, for whom she is a brand ambassador and spokesperson.