Saudi actress Sumaya Rida personifies the zeitgeist of an era of change in the Kingdom

One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em.” (Josselyn Ramirez)
One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em.” (Josselyn Ramirez)
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Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi actress Sumaya Rida personifies the zeitgeist of an era of change in the Kingdom

One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em.” (Josselyn Ramirez)
  • Sumaya Rida is a rising star of Saudi Arabia’s fledgling domestic film industry, empowered by the Vision 2030 agenda  
  • Rida wants more investment in Saudi writers, producers and directors who can share the Kingdom’s stories with the world

DUBAI: Cinema returned to Saudi Arabia just three years ago, when a 35-year ban was finally lifted. Since then, movie theaters have been springing up across the Kingdom, invigorating the domestic film industry and inspiring a growing cast of homegrown actors.

One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em” — among the first films to premiere in the Kingdom after legalization.

From early childhood, when she began performing in school plays, Rida knew what was her true calling. “I also used to make short films with my little sisters and brothers using my father’s Sony camera,” Rida told Arab News.

“I actually acted and directed short films when I was 12 years old. I loved how the whole family would gather to watch what I made, and to me it meant the whole world at that time, and filled me with passion.”




Saudi-born actress Sumaya Rida moved to the UK as a teenager to attend the King Fahad Academy, an elite independent school in the London borough of Ealing. (Josselyn Ramirez)

The Saudi-born actress moved to the UK as a teenager to attend the King Fahad Academy, an elite independent school in the London borough of Ealing. Even while completing an MSc in international marketing management at the University of Surrey, Rida kept up acting on the side, appearing in several commercials.

Following her studies, she spent five years in the world of business, but all the while felt a profound longing for the stage and screen. It took a chance encounter to set her on the right track.

“After working so much in the ruthless business world, I stumbled one day on Ali Al-Sumayin, a well-known, award-winning Saudi film and commercial director, who led me to the world of performing again,” Rida said.

While visiting Al-Sumayin at his office in Jeddah in 2017, Rida took part in an acting class. The familiar adrenaline rush of performing before an audience quickly came flooding back.

“I can’t describe the feeling,” she said. “I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach that day and I had this nostalgic feeling.”

Soon enough, Rida had recorded an audition and landed her first role. To prepare, she signed up for an intensive four-month acting course and one-to-one coaching with respected Turkish instructors, as advanced acting courses were not yet available in Saudi Arabia.

“In the Kingdom, we didn’t have any institutions for acting or performance training, so I had to do it the fast way,” Rida said.

“Every actor should have mentors, because they always direct you and show you different perspectives.”




From early childhood, when she began performing in school plays, Rida knew that acting was her true calling. (Josselyn Ramirez)

Today, Rida performs in both English and Arabic. For one show she had to master the bedouin accent. “It was a bit challenging in the beginning, but it was fun,” she said.

Her latest project is a movie called “Rupture,” a Saudi-made psychological thriller directed by Hamzah Kamal Jamjoom, produced by Ayman Kamal Khoja and funded by MBC Studios.

Playing the lead, Rida portrays the journey of a Saudi woman struggling to save her marriage, and ultimately her life, from a villain with a twisted mind.

“I played against Billy Zane from ‘Titanic’ who is both a wonderful human being and a tremendously talented actor,” she said.

“The movie intelligently incorporated a few powerful themes in its thrilling narrative. One of these was about standing up for your own cultural values, even when relocating to another country.

“Another was about the importance of privacy and the dangers of oversharing on social media, and the third was about the concept of striking a balance between co-dependency and individual freedom in a marriage.”

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For Rida, the most important part of the project was having the opportunity to play a strong, independent Muslim woman, standing up for herself, her family and her beliefs.

“It is honestly an honor and a rare opportunity to work with such gifted Saudi filmmakers and producers on this project,” she said.

“I’ve enjoyed Hamzah’s direction. His positive energy and passion were infectious. We will hopefully finish filming after Ramadan. I can’t wait to share this film. I’m excited because it’s one of the very few Saudi feature films that recognizes the struggles of Saudi women.”

The strict social codes and gender segregation of a much more conservative era meant that Saudi actresses were rare when Rida was growing up. Support from her family has been crucial, but so has been the opening up of Saudi society.

“The timing was very good because I started when Vision 2030 was taking place and I was going with it,” Rida said.

Under the Vision 2030 plan to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil, the Kingdom has placed greater emphasis on the arts, opportunities for young people and the social and economic empowerment of women.




Saudi Arabia has placed greater emphasis on the arts and opportunities for young people, and lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas in the Kingom three years ago. (AFP/File Photo)

As a result, Saudi women are finding their voices and discovering their strengths — a journey Rida says she found key to becoming a professional actress.

“This helped me to understand myself. I wanted to tell stories. We have a lot of stories here in Saudi Arabia, and I wanted to feel, to be able to emote, to risk and share, and to be courageous and vulnerable as an artist. This is very fulfilling.

“The real fulfilment also lies in overcoming all the limitations that have been placed on humanity.

“I discovered that performing is a very fun thing. It’s very nurturing, fulfilling and it feeds the soul and your inner self.”

As an artist, Rida is still on a journey of self-discovery and building her confidence on camera. She hopes to try new characters, to help her develop “naturally and sincerely, because acting is a continuous process — we keep learning and evolving constantly.”

As for her country, Rida says she is thrilled to see so many changes taking place and to be part of a new wave of young actors and filmmakers shaking up the Saudi film industry. “This makes me very happy and optimistic,” she said, but acknowledges there is still a long way to go.




As investment into nurturing talent in the Kingdom grows under Vision 2030, Sumaya Rida believes the future of Saudi filmmaking is a bright one. (AFP/File Photo)

“I see very passionate actors every now and then, but I really believe that we need to work on ourselves more than we think. It’s not just getting a degree in performing or acting and that’s it — it’s a continuous process.”

Rida also hopes to see more young Saudis coming forward to share their stories with the world. “We need to not only invest in actors but invest more in writers, producers and directors, because it’s not the job of one person alone,” she said.

“Acting is not only the actor you see on the screen. Behind that there is a huge production.”

Without investment, training and opportunities, this potential cannot be mastered. The raw ingredient, nevertheless, is talent — of which the new Saudi Arabia has in abundance.

“It’s unlimited,” said Rida. “It’s infinite and it keeps evolving.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana

US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana
The Dolce & Gabbana x Khaled collaboration. Instagram
Updated 12 min 56 sec ago

US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana

US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana

DUBAI: Back in March, US-Palestinian producer DJ Khaled unveiled his first collection with Italian luxury maison Dolce & Gabbana – a Miami-inspired capsule of  beachwear and ready-to-wear unisex pieces, including tracksuits, hoodies, shorts and accessories.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)

Now, the award-winning hitmaker is launching his second collaboration with the Italian fashion house just in time for summer.

Inspired by music, the wilderness and the Mediterranean, the new offering features designs for men, women, children as well as babies. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)

The collection, which is available online and in select Dolce & Gabbana stores, is punctuated with flamingo and butterfly motifs, floral and animal print and a harmonic purple, blue and yellow colorway. 

A special edition box includes DJ Khaled's latest album, where he dons D&G on the cover.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)


London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection

London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection
Qasimi Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear. Instagram
Updated 32 min 44 sec ago

London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection

London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection

DUBAI: Day one of London Fashion Week kicked off on June 12 with a striking digital presentation from London-based Emirati menswear label Qasimi titled “Between Ashes and Roses” – inspired by Syrian poet Adunis’s 2004 book of the same name.

Hoor Al-Qasimi, the creative director, presented the brand’s Spring 2022 ready-to-wear collection via an eight-minute runway film staged at St. Ann’s Court, a country estate in Surrey. 

Male and female models snaked down a spiral staircase and stomped through the white-washed estate wearing bright, bold colors reminiscent of the bougainvillea and magnolias growing against the backdrop.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by QASIMI (@qasimi_official)

The collection opened with vivid pink trousers worn with a matching cape with a built-in bucket hat, which set the tone for the fringed skirts, boxy shirts with laser-cut designs, jacquard button-ups, bomber jackets and graphic T-shirts and hoodies that spelled the words “Longing” and “Belonging” in Arabic and English, that followed. 

Some of the models carried fringed bags made using the traditional Emirati craft of palm frond weaving known as safeefah.

Al-Qasimi weaved her heritage into the new offering by collaborating with the Sharjah-based  Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council – a platform that empowers women artisans and preserves the skills and rich cultural heritage of the UAE.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by QASIMI (@qasimi_official)

She also tasked Lahore-based jeweler Zohra Rahman with creating a round, multi-functional embellishment that functioned as a brooch, a pendant and an earring in the show.

Meanwhile, tarboushas – the tassels that hang from the Emirati gutra – swung from the front pockets of tailored jackets, the bottoms of small bags and the necks of shirt dresses.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by QASIMI (@qasimi_official)

The new collection is Al-Qasimi’s fourth for the London-based brand since taking over the reins after her twin brother Khalid Al-Qasimi’s passing in 2019.

Qasimi, which was founded in 2015, focuses on crafting understated garments that reflect its multicultural origins.


Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale

Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale
Jamil is one of the judges on the HBO Max competition series. File/AFP
Updated 13 June 2021

Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale

Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale

DUBAI: Jameela Jamil has a well-known penchant for Arab designers. The British-Pakistani-Indian actress and activist has been pictured donning looks from regional labels on plenty of occasions, including designs by Rami Kadi and Georges Chakra, to name a few.

This week, the actress, who is known for her role as Tahani on NBC’s “The Good Life,” was spotted wearing a ballgown by Moroccan-Dutch couturier Benchellal  in the finale episode of “Legendary.”

The 35-year-old posted a series of snaps on Instagram of herself on set dressed in an extravagant royal blue dress with  long sleeves and voluminous shoulders. She paired the look with sparkling fishnet boots from Jimmy Choo.

Mo Benchellal launched his namesake couture womenswear label in 2007 and has since made a name for himself with his elegant and classic eveningwear, which has also been worn by popstar Camilla Cabello and supermodel Helena Christensen, to name a few.


Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal

Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal
British-Moroccan model Nora Attal celebrated her birthday Saturday. Getty Images
Updated 13 June 2021

Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal

Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal

DUBAI:  Saturday marked British-Moroccan model Nora Attal’s birthday — and she certainly has a lot to celebrate. Though Attal just turned 22, she has already achieved many career milestones that most models can only dream of. 

Attal, who was born to Moroccan parents in London, was first discovered by Jonathan Anderson, founder of the J.W. Anderson label, and shot a campaign for the British fashion house in 2014 before she had even taken her first steps down a runway.

She would go on to become a runway fixture after making her catwalk debut in 2017. 

Based in London and signed to Viva Model Management, Attal has worked with a number of renowned designers and stylists and walked the runway for major fashion houses, including Dior, Fendi, Burberry and Valentino to name a few. 

She also strutted her stuff on a runway in the south of France for Chanel’s resort 2022 show last month.

On Instagram, birthday wishes poured in from Attal’s loved ones. Instagram

When she’s not turning heads on the catwalk, Attal can be found gracing the pages of prestigious magazines such as the American, Arab and British editions of Vogue, in addition to fronting campaigns for renowned fashion brands such as Loewe, Chanel and Alexander McQueen. 

The newly-minted 22-year-old also uses her massive platform for good, often taking to Instagram to voice her support for important social issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and countering violence against the Asian community in the US and UK. 

“Happy birthday,” wrote fellow model Luna Bijl, alongside a backstage shot of her and Attal.

“Happiest birthday,” wrote model Camille Hurel. Instagram

Runway model Camille Hurel posted a throwback of Attal from 2019 and wrote: “Happiest birthday,” alongside a blue heart emoji.

Attal spent her 22nd birthday with her fiancé, cinematographer Victor Bastidas, in Paris.

The couple announced their engagement in October 2020.

Captioning a series of images of the proposal on Instagram, the model told her 48,000 followers: “Forever my life partner... @sictor.”

The proposal took place on a beach in Formentera, an island in Spain. Among the pictures the bride-to-be shared, Attal showed off her engagement ring — a round-cut solitaire.


Plans for movie on New Zealand mosque attacks draw criticism

Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne (L) was set to play Ardern, with New Zealander Andrew Niccol (R) writing and directing. (AP/File Photos)
Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne (L) was set to play Ardern, with New Zealander Andrew Niccol (R) writing and directing. (AP/File Photos)
Updated 12 June 2021

Plans for movie on New Zealand mosque attacks draw criticism

Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne (L) was set to play Ardern, with New Zealander Andrew Niccol (R) writing and directing. (AP/File Photos)
  • The movie would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques

WELLINGTON: Tentative plans for a movie that recounts the response of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to a gunman's slaughter of Muslim worshippers drew criticism in New Zealand on Friday for not focusing on the victims of the attacks.
Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne was set to play Ardern in the movie “They Are Us,” which was being shopped by New York-based FilmNation Entertainment to international buyers.
The movie would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques.
Deadline said the movie would follow Ardern's response to the attacks and how people rallied behind her message of compassion and unity, and her successful call to ban the deadliest types of semiautomatic weapons.
The title of the movie comes from the words Ardern spoke in a landmark address soon after the attacks. At the time, Ardern was praised around the world for her response.
But many in New Zealand are raising concerns about the movie plans.
Aya Al-Umari, whose older brother Hussein was killed in the attacks, wrote on Twitter simply “Yeah nah,” a New Zealand phrase meaning “No.”
Abdigani Ali, a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Canterbury, said the community recognized the story of the attacks needed to be told “but we would want to ensure that it’s done in an appropriate, authentic, and sensitive matter.”
Tina Ngata, an author and advocate, was more blunt, tweeting that the slaughter of Muslims should not be the backdrop for a film about "white woman strength. COME ON.”
Ardern’s office said in a brief statement that the prime minister and her government have no involvement with the movie.
Deadline reported that New Zealander Andrew Niccol would write and direct the project and that the script was developed in consultation with several members of the mosques affected by the tragedy.
Niccol said the film wasn't so much about the attacks but more the response.
“The film addresses our common humanity, which is why I think it will speak to people around the world," Niccol told Deadline. "It is an example of how we should respond when there’s an attack on our fellow human beings.”
Byrne's agents and FilmNation did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The report said the project would be filmed in New Zealand but did not say when.
Niccol is known for writing and directing “Gattaca” and writing “The Terminal" and “The Truman Show,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
Byrne is known for roles in “Spy” and “Bridesmaids.”