US filmmaker David Osit discusses his new, atypical, documentary about Ramallah’s Musa Hadid

US filmmaker David Osit discusses his new, atypical, documentary about Ramallah’s Musa Hadid
David Osit is a US filmmaker. (Getty)
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Updated 01 April 2021

US filmmaker David Osit discusses his new, atypical, documentary about Ramallah’s Musa Hadid

US filmmaker David Osit discusses his new, atypical, documentary about Ramallah’s Musa Hadid

DUBAI: Musa Hadid, the mayor of Ramallah in Palestine’s West Bank, never imagined that he was documentary material. After all, the life of a bureaucrat who spends his day in meetings devoted to branding and traffic signals is not the sort of figure who normally captures the attention of an American filmmaker. For director David Osit, that was exactly why he chose Hadid as the subject for his latest film, “Mayor.”

“Watching the news in America, you see no diversity or complexity in the depiction of Palestinians, (nor) really of the entire Middle East. You either see depictions of terrorists, or you see victims, but in that depiction, they're all so one-dimensional. They're lacking agency,” Osit tells Arab News.

Hadid is a very different sort of figure. He is, at his heart, a public servant, one who is focused on the power of local government to make small but transformative changes to people’s lives. It’s a job that is, by and large, mundane. There are Musa Hadids in every city on earth. The difference for Hadid, of course, is that he’s also trying to keep his city functioning in occupied territory — a job that is often equal parts rewarding, farcical, and heart-breaking.




Musa Hadid is the subject for Osit’s latest film, “Mayor.” (Supplied)

It was the universal aspects of Hadid’s job that Osit believed would allow audiences to connect with the story, while also bringing the differences between Hadid and the mayors of their own cities — and thus the average Palestinian’s situation — into stark relief.

“I felt from the start that it would be a story that Westerners, especially Americans, would be able to engage with in a way that didn't put their guard up, or didn't make them feel like they were uneducated, and instead gave them this really common framework to understand some elements of the situation,” says Osit.“I really wanted to make a film that didn't require people to basically have a history degree. It's unfair to expect everyone to be able to understand all the complexities that are part of this world, so I asked what I could do, with my education and understanding (Osit is a graduate of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan), to actually simplify things for somebody else.”

The idea to profile Hadid came when Osit returned to Ramallah to find a city unrecognizable from the one he’d visited years earlier, when he spent time in the region assisting on films and studying refugee law at the University of Cairo.




Osit travelled in and out of Ramallah for three weeks at a time over a period of two years while making “The Mayor.” (Supplied)

“It seemed like, all of a sudden, there were hipster spots and nightclubs,” he says. “There's free unlimited public Wi-Fi and a Jaguar dealership. There’s Popeye’s! All these things were very interesting, and a little odd. There are monolithic expectations of what a ‘Middle Eastern city’ should look like. And Ramallah really stood out against that monolith.”

Osit travelled in and out of Ramallah for three weeks at a time over a period of two years while making “The Mayor.” He decided against moving to the city full time to shoot the film because he wanted to embrace the benefit that an outsider perspective gave him on the city and the situation, a clarity of vision that can get lost when one is fully embedded in it.

What’s more, he felt that positioning himself as anything but a foreigner who lacks the lived experience of a Palestinian, even to a small degree, would have been dishonest.

“It would be absurd of me to try to make a film pretending that I was from Ramallah,” he says. “I made it for people who have never been there, who would see things in a different way by seeing the film.”

Osit used the many filmmaking techniques at his disposal in order to make his version of Ramallah as disconnected as possible from the usual tropes used in films set in the Middle East — the yellow filter used ubiquitously in self-serious Hollywood dramas set in the region, for example. Or the way that traditional Arabic music is often used to suggest an air of menace.




It was the universal aspects of Hadid’s job that Osit believed would allow audiences to connect with the story. (Supplied)

“In the color-correction stage of post-production, I was, like, ‘Let's make everything blue. Let’s make it look like winter — as if it’s “The Lakehouse” starring Keanu Reeves. Let’s make this feel like it's like it's not what we've seen before.’ The music you're hearing in the film, as well, is very much a part of that, because you're hearing classical music, as well as folk music from all over the world,” Osit explains. “What you're not hearing is, like, the typical ‘oud playing over a sunset,’ which is, like, all I ever saw growing up. I even combined sound effects I recorded from my own neighborhood in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with those of Ramallah.

“All of this tries to destabilize your understanding of where you are, and to show you that just because you're going to be watching a movie about Ramallah, you haven’t been dropped there by a filmmaker with a shaky camera. Instead, you’re watching something elegant. Hopefully, even that becomes a subversive act.”

The steady hand with which Osit crafted the film (edited from around 350 hours of footage) also engenders trust in the viewer, allowing Osit to show you scenes that may appear mundane at first without losing your attention, as you know they have been carefully selected for a reason. Often, those scenes will become humorous, like something written by Armando Iannucci, say, or the great Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman.

“I wanted the film to be funny because I know that local government is funny,” Osit says. “And I also know that when you're laughing at local government, you're not laughing at people, you're laughing because you're seeing dignified people in undignified situations. To me, that is the crux of the Palestinian situation. To be able to use humor as this tool, and to also let viewers lean in who wouldn't normally get to have any sort of relatability with an elected official in Palestine. I knew that, from the beginning, the approach and the way we pitched the film was as a satire.”

In the end, when Osit finally showed the film to Hadid, his subject had to admit that he was wrong: He was, in fact, documentary material, and the story of his life’s work was one that may help finally answer a question that Hadid himself asks Osit in the film’s most affecting scene. As Hadid stares out the window after a particularly hard day, speaking to the man behind the camera without ever looking back, he says: “David, do people in America know what we’re going through here?”

“I know that it surprised him, but it didn't surprise me,” says Osit. “Musa was a collaborator with me, and we were in great communication about what I wanted to do, what he wanted to do, what his goals were for his city, and how I could reflect those goals. Perhaps it surprised him how in tune I was with his work over these two years, but that was of fundamental importance to me.”

In the end, all Osit needed to do was to put the camera on Hadid and record what he achieved, as well as what he could not. That was more than enough.

“A lot of documentaries in this part of the world are trying to stuff as many ideas down your throat as possible,” says Osit. “With ‘Mayor,’ I really wanted to focus on making a small story, almost a fable — but in a really complicated place.”


US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
Updated 14 April 2021

US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)

DUBAI: US-Palestinian stand-up comedian Mohammed Amer, who goes by the name Mo Amer, is set to star alongside US actor Dwayne Johnson in the new superhero movie “Black Adam.”

The action-adventure thriller is DC Comics’ long-awaited follow-up to 2019’s commercial hit “Shazam!” with the two characters, Shazam and Black Adam, being rivals in the DC Universe.

It is still unknown what role Amer will play.

 

 

The talent is famous for his role in the award-winning Hulu sitcom “Ramy,” in which he stars as US-Egyptian actor Ramy Youssef’s Muslim cousin who owns a diner. Amer also has a Netflix comedy special called “Mo Amer: The Vagabond.” 

Amer is not the only Arab actor in the cast. Tunisian-Dutch “Aladdin” star Marwan Kenzari confirmed in February that he is also starring in the movie, alongside actors Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge and Quintessa Swindell.

 

 

Johnson, otherwise known as “The Rock” from his professional wrestling days, announced he was taking part in “Black Adam” two years ago on Instagram: “This role is unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career and I’m grateful to the bone we’ll all go on this journey together,” he wrote at the time. 

The movie was supposed to be released in December 2021, but was pushed back due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Production is expected to begin in April in Atlanta.

According to Deadline, “Black Adam” is set for release in July 2022.


Former Disney, Nickelodeon stars send Ramadan greetings to Muslim fans

Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP
Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP
Updated 14 April 2021

Former Disney, Nickelodeon stars send Ramadan greetings to Muslim fans

Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP

DUBAI: Fulfilling every millennial and Gen-Z’s childhood dreams, stars from shows like “Hannah Montana,” “Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and “Drake and Josh” came together to wish their Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan this week. 

Non-profit, US-based initiative Paani Project brought the stars together in a one-minute long video, which it shared on its official Twitter platform on the first day of the Holy Month.

“Ramadan Kareem,” wrote the non-profit on Twitter. “Paani brought out a few childhood favorites to share a message with you all.”

The video featured the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Jesse McCartney, Jennifer Stone, Phil Lewis, Maria Canals-Barrera, Drake Bell and skateboarder Tony Hawk.

“Hannah Montana” star Jason Earles sent greetings to “all my wonderful, beautiful and inspirational Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Meanwhile, Kyle Massey, who played Corey Baxter in “That’s So Raven” and “Corey in the House” said “I want to wish you guys a happy Ramadan. It is the most amazing time of the year and I want you guys to stay blessed and continue to make each other happy and be nice to one another.”

Paani Project was founded by four Pakistani-American students on a quest to provide sustainable solutions for the water crises in Pakistan.

“Wishing you a happy Ramadan, and thank you for all your work you’re doing in South Asia, building wells,” said Hawk in the clip. 

Naturally, millennials and Gen Z’ers on the social media platform were thrilled, sharing their excitement in response to the clip.

“I never knew I needed Mr. Mosbey and Mrs. Russo to wish me Ramadan Kareem.  Thank u 3ammo w 3amto (sic),” wrote one user, in reference to two characters from Disney sitcoms.

“I love this so much, so many of my childhood favorite actors are here! Warmed my heart to see it and great respect to the project for building wells and helping out!” wrote another.


Lebanon’s Zuhair Murad creates custom gown for iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan’s Ramadan comeback

Sherihan wore custom Zuhair Murad for her on-screen return. YouTube
Sherihan wore custom Zuhair Murad for her on-screen return. YouTube
Updated 14 April 2021

Lebanon’s Zuhair Murad creates custom gown for iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan’s Ramadan comeback

Sherihan wore custom Zuhair Murad for her on-screen return. YouTube

DUBAI: Iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan is back. After a 20-year-hiatus, the famed television star, who is beloved the world over for her “Fawazeer” series that traditionally aired during Ramadan, returned to our screens in an advertisement for Vodafone Egypt that marked the first day of the Holy Month.

In the ad, the trained singer and dancer wore a design by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad who created a bespoke look for the actress. 

Directed by Ahmed Shaker Khudai, the nostalgic, four-minute ad tells the story of Sherihan’s career, starting with her very first Ramadan fawazeer in 1985 –  a riddle show that started on Egyptian radio in the 1960s, which soon moved into television–  until her car accident in 1989, followed a years-long battle with cancer.

Murad took to Instagram to share his excitement over Sherihan’s on-screen return, writing: “After more than 20 years @sherihanofficial makes an impressive comeback with an ad for @vodafoneegypt that leaves a strong impression and takes the social media by storm,” adding “The star is wearing custom made @zuhairmuradofficial. The ad portrays her resilience in a journey that was filled with ups and downs.”


Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting

Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting
Updated 14 April 2021

Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting

Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting

DUBAI: After a year during which most people have spent more time at home than ever before, the month of Ramadan has also seen a pivotal shift in how it is celebrated.

No longer can fasting Muslims congregate in crowds around sumptuous hotel buffets or gather in large groups for a family iftar. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has put paid to that, certainly for now.

But, according to Fatima Osman, breaking the daily fast can still be a lavish and momentous event.

The founder of fine-dining tableware business, A’ish, believes that iftar at home can be as opulent as dining in a restaurant, with the help of what she refers to as “tablescaping.”

Fatima Osman is the founder of fine-dining tableware business A’ish. (Supplied)

The phrase is used to describe the creation of the perfect table set-up for hosting family gatherings (COVID-19 safety compliant, of course) at iftar time. Osman said it was all about beautiful accessories and finishing touches, but she noted that it did not need to break the bank.

Her “key element” to setting up a table was the charger plate, a large, decorative base setting that other dinnerware was then placed on top of. That, along with some “distinctive cutlery,” could elevate any place setting, she added. It also meant that any crockery, preferably plain, could be placed on top.

“That way, you don’t need to invest in a crockery set, you can use simple things. It adds that element of glamour and a touch of luxury, and automatically elevates the experience,” she said.

Osman pointed out that accessorizing was the next most important aspect of setting up her table with simple touches such as adding napkin rings, fresh flowers for the centerpiece, and putting thought into what platter to use for serving food.

Osman pointed out that accessorizing was the next most important aspect of setting up her table. (Shutterstock)

“To me, the setting is just as important as the food. So much effort goes into the preparation of the meal, and I believe that the presentation of the food and setting is appreciation of the effort,” she added.

Before starting her business, named after her daughter Aisha, Osman was a lawyer in South Africa. She said formal dining had always been a staple of her annual Ramadan experience.

Buoyed by a family background in trade, she turned her passion for homeware into a company four years ago and has not looked back.

“Dining is so important to me as it was an integral part of my day with my family, and this is a legacy I wish to continue for my kids.

Fatima Osman’s business is named after her daughter Aisha. (Shutterstock)

“There was a lot of preparation that went into our iftar and while I am not insinuating that it should be that way, I do insist on the time and memories we created by just being around a table.

“If the best memories are made this way, shouldn’t we be using our best utensils, our best dinnerware, for the best company for the best reason?”

Her table setting is on show at a new exhibition during Ramadan at Dubai’s Indigo Living, the luxury home furnishing company. The display features a range of homeware and accessories from local female entrepreneurs and artisans.

Osman said: “I understand this is a month of prayer, but nobody said you can’t also have a good time. For me, a table and dinner and iftar signifies togetherness, this is a time to enjoy and go all out.”


UK Model Mariah Idrissi gets charitable for a good cause this Ramadan

Mariah Idrissi took to social media to share the charity Help Yateem's latest campaign. Instagram
Mariah Idrissi took to social media to share the charity Help Yateem's latest campaign. Instagram
Updated 14 April 2021

UK Model Mariah Idrissi gets charitable for a good cause this Ramadan

Mariah Idrissi took to social media to share the charity Help Yateem's latest campaign. Instagram

DUBAI: This Ramadan, UK-based charity Help Yateem will be selling Ajwa dates harvested in Madinah with all profits going toward the charity, which raises funds for orphans and widows across the Middle East and Africa. Pakistani-Moroccan model Mariah Idrissi, who is a brand ambassador for the charity, took to her Instagram account this week to support the good cause.

“I’ve been working with @helpyateem for just over two years now and I’ve seen the amazing work they do for orphaned children across Africa and Yemen,” she wrote to her 92,4000 Instagram followers. “This Ramadan, they are selling Ajwa dates straight from Al-Madinah and 100% of the profit will go back into the charity. Please enjoy the dates and support the many children who need it this year,” she added.

It’s not the first time that the UK-born model has worked with the UK registered charity.

Back in March, Idrissi and the Help Yateem team flew to Kenya to visit the Al-Walidayn centre, a mosque, hospital and girl’s orphanage that Help Yateem helped fund via donations made through its website.

“Landed in Kenya safe and sound with the @helpyateem familia! (sic),” wrote the hijab-wearing model at the time. “Can’t wait to visit the sites that you helped to build and share with you the difference that you’ve made.”

The 28-year-old, who made headlines when she became the first hijab-wearing model to front a major fashion campaign for H&M in 2015, documented her trip to the African country on social media, sharing pictures and videos of herself visiting different parts of Kenya on Instagram.

Idrissi uploaded a smiling photo of herself with two little girls who are seemingly from the orphanage that Help Yateem helped build.

She captioned the picture: “Some of my new friends over at @alwalidayncentre. On my first day arriving at this center, I couldn’t believe how big it was. This place is more than an orphanage, it’s an entire complex that doesn’t just benefit the children but also the neighbors in surrounding villages. It has an orphanage, madrasa, mosque, school, hospital and youth center. This is the first of its kind in the entire country! Keep following the journey, there’s so much I have to share with you guys.”