SAFAR Film Festival spotlights Arab cinema with return to London

SAFAR Film Festival spotlights Arab cinema with return to London
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Updated 01 June 2021

SAFAR Film Festival spotlights Arab cinema with return to London

SAFAR Film Festival spotlights Arab cinema with return to London
  • Event will feature 3 premiers, 20 films, talks, events
  • This year’s edition comes at critical time for UK cultural industry battered by pandemic

LONDON: A film festival dedicated to showcasing creative talents from the Arab world is set to return to London from July 1 for its sixth instalment.

The SAFAR Film Festival, launched by the Arab British Centre, is the only UK festival dedicated to showcasing films from the Arab world.

Featuring three premiers, 20 films and a host of talks and events, this year’s edition will be the biggest iteration yet, and will utilize a hybrid model of online and in-person events spread across London’s cinemas.

Also new to the festival, this year’s event will be presented in partnership with the Shubbak Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture, which showcases and supports the diversity of Arab artists’ creativity and innovation.

Curated by Lebanese film guru Rabih El-Khoury, this year’s festival will revolve around the theme of “Generational Encounters in Arab Cinema,” showcasing contemporary and classic films with emergent youth, familial disparities and societal tensions at their center. 

READ MORE

Five Arab movies are set to screen at the US’s Tribeca Film Festival this month among hundreds of international films. Click here to find out more.

“It is my absolute pleasure to be curating the sixth edition of the SAFAR Film Festival,” said El-Khoury. “We are raring to get back into cinemas with the festival’s largest program to date, and have a fantastic line-up of screenings exploring our theme of generational encounters.”

Theaters and other venues across the UK have suffered from a sustained period of restrictions to social gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The blow that Britain’s cultural sector has taken means this year’s SAFAR Film Festival is all the more important, said Amani Hassan, program director at the Arab British Centre.

“This year’s SAFAR Film Festival marks our first time partnering with our friends at the Shubbak Festival, which, after a difficult year for the cultural sector, offers both our organizations the opportunity to join forces and amplify the voices of Arab artists and filmmakers across the UK,” Hassan added.

SAFAR will open at London’s iconic Barbican cultural center with a premier of Egyptian Director Ayten Amin’s new film “Souad.”


‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards

‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards
Updated 32 sec ago

‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards

‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards
  • Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction
  • Broadway favorite Danny Burstein won a featured acting Tony

NEW YORK: “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie, took an early lead at the Tony Awards, earning seven trophies at the halfway point.
The pandemic-delayed telecast kicked off with an energetic performance of “You Can’t Stop The Beat” from the original Broadway cast of “Hairspray!”
The optimistic number was performed for a masked and appreciative audience at a packed Winter Garden Theatre. Host Audra McDonald got a standing ovation when she took the stage. “You can’t stop the beat. The heart of New York City!” she said.
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” won for scenic design, costume, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and a featured acting Tony for Broadway favorite Danny Burstein. Sonya Tayeh won for choreography on her Broadway debut.

Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction of a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”
It is Timbers’ first Tony. The show is about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, updated with tunes like “Single Ladies” and “Firework” alongside the big hit “Lady Marmalade.”
Timbers has been nominated twice before, for directing “Peter and the Starcatcher” in 2012 and directing and writing “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” He has been a production consultant on David Byrne’s “American Utopia,” directed “Rocky” and “The Pee-wee Herman Show” and is directing “Beetlejuice” for the second time next spring.
He picked up a Lucille Lortel Award for directing the off-Broadway production of “Here Lies Love” and went on to direct the show at London’s National Theatre. Other notable off-Broadway credits include the “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in Central Park and the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2016 revival of “The Robber Bridegroom.”
For the Tony, he beat Phyllida Lloyd of “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical” and Diane Paulus of “Jagged Little Pill.”
Burstein, who won for featured actor in a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” thanked the Broadway community for supporting him after the death of his wife, Rebecca Luker, ReDavid Alan Grier won featured actor in a play for his role in a “A Soldier’s Play.” “To my other nominees: Tough banana, I won,” he said.
Lois Smith won her first Tony for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play for “The Inheritance.” And Lauren Patten edged out her co-stars from “Jagged Little Pill” to win the award for best featured actress in a musical.
“A Christmas Carol” was cleaning up with five technical awards: scenic design of a play, costumes, lighting, sound design and score. No one from the production was on hand to accept the awards.
Sunday’s show has been expanded from its typical three hours to four, with McDonald handing out Tonys for the first two hours and Leslie Odom Jr. hosting a “Broadway’s Back!” celebration for the second half, including the awarding of the top three trophies — best play revival, best play and best musical.
While other entertainment industries like TV and film found ways to restart during the pandemic, Broadway was unable until now due to financial and physical impediments. The lifting of all capacity restrictions was crucial to any reopening since Broadway economics demand full venue capacity.
The sobering musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which plumbs Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album to tell a story of an American family spiraling out of control, goes into the night with a leading 15 Tony nominations.
Nipping on its heels is “Moulin Rouge!,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub that has 14 nods.
“Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris’ ground-breaking, bracing work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class, earned a dozen nominations, making it the most nominated play in Tony history.
Other shows to keep an eye on are “The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez, which nabbed 11 nominations. It’s a two-part, seven-hour epic that uses “Howards End” as a starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century. And “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical,” which tells the rock icon’s life with songs that include “Let’s Stay Together” and “Proud Mary,” earned 12 nods.
This season’s nominations were pulled from just 18 eligible plays and musicals from the 2019-2020 season, a fraction of the 34 shows the previous season. During most years, there are 26 competitive categories. This year there are 25 with several depleted ones. But theater insiders think an awards show is even more vital now.
“I would argue it’s more important than ever, in a way,” said James Corden, who hosted the Tonys in 2016. “If there’s a year that we should ever celebrate them, it’s this year, where people’s entire lives have just been ripped away and turned upside down.”
Some intriguing races include whether Karen Olivo wins best leading actress in a musical, despite quitting her show, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” in frustration with Broadway.
Six-time Tony-winner McDonald is not just a host. She’s up for best actress award in a play, which, if she won, would give her seven awards, breaking her own record for the most Tonys won by a performer. And something bizarre has to happen to deny Aaron Tveit winning for best leading actor in a musical; he’s the only person nominated in the category. Voting for the nominees was done in March.
The last Tony Awards ceremony was held in 2019. The virus forced Broadway theaters to abruptly close on March 12, 2020, knocking out all shows and scrambling the spring season. Several have restarted, including the so-called big three of “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and “The Lion King.”
“Jagged Little Pill” goes into the telecast on the defensive, dogged by two controversies.
A former cast member, Nora Schell, a Black nonbinary actor who made their Broadway debut in the chorus in 2019, posted a statement this week on social media describing repeated instances early in the run of the show in which they were “intimidated, coerced, and forced by multiple higher ups to put off critical and necessary surgery to remove growths from my vagina that were making me anemic.”
“Jagged Little Pill” producers — saying they are “deeply troubled” by the claims — have hired an independent investigator, and the union Actors Equity Association said Sunday it was also commissioning “a thorough, independent investigation” of the show’s workplace.
In another controversy, the show’s producers have apologized to fans for changing a character from gender-nonconforming to cisgender female after the show moved from Boston to Broadway.
Two original stars — Celia Rose Gooding and Antonio Cipriano — have announced that they are leaving after Sunday’s performance, with Cipriano on Sunday citing “the harm that many trans + non-binary, and all marginalized folks, in-stage cast members and off have endured.” He wrote he took responsibility “for being part of the cause harmed.”

 


Painting the words: ‘Sauce of Mango’ mixes between the beauty of Arabic fables and art

Painting the words: ‘Sauce of Mango’ mixes between the beauty of Arabic fables and art
Updated 27 September 2021

Painting the words: ‘Sauce of Mango’ mixes between the beauty of Arabic fables and art

Painting the words: ‘Sauce of Mango’ mixes between the beauty of Arabic fables and art
  • The book fits all age groups but primarily caters to an older audience as some stories have dark themes

JEDDAH: Finding the right art to represent literary work is a challenge. With so much to choose from, one Saudi author decided to get help through an art platform for diversity and inclusion.

Saad Almotham mixed with his literary work with artwork provided by a group of 56 Saudi and Arab artists to create a book that is an art project in itself, titled “Sauce of Mango.”

Made up of a hundred short fables, written in Arabic and showcasing 96 artworks, it began in 2012 when Almotham found his niche, initially using Twitter to share the stories in 140 and, later, 280 characters. 

“I had a word limit and I had to tell a story within that limit, and that’s quite a challenge,” he said. “I often had to go back and forth through the stories I wanted to tweet as I wanted them to be meaningful and short at the same time.”

It was after posting 200 stories that Almotham got the idea of compiling them in a book. He selected 100, and decided on the title after the main character from one short fable.

“The main character is afraid of trying new things and I too was experiencing something new, so I chose his name as a reference to my own story in writing as we’re both trying to create something new and different,” said Almotham. 

The book fits all age groups but primarily caters to an older audience as some stories have dark themes.

For the artwork, the author wanted to select things that would accommodate the storyline best. With the help of artists through the Fitrh Art platform, he was able to have a unique and distinct piece of art for most of his literary works.

Fitrh Art is a platform that serves as a home to Arab artists interested in being part of a storytelling adventure. 

Selected artists were given the stories and worked on the ones that attracted them the most. “I didn’t interfere much with the artists past the initial rough sketch, I wanted to preserve their style and what they were comfortable with. I didn’t want it to look like a comic book, I wanted it to be a work of art,” said Almotham.

Hana Kanee, a 29-year-old Saudi artist, was part of the creative set that contributed to the book.

“I didn’t know the author beforehand; I found this opportunity through Instagram and the way they showcased it was ‘as a collection of stories where animals will be expressing themselves through Arabic poetry,’ it sounded very creative and made me imagine the possibilities,” she artist told Arab News. 

Kanee chose the stories that resonated with her most. She described the process as fun, saying that “the stories made me laugh immediately and the artist’s description of the stories was very colorful, which is perfect for my artwork. It reminded me of my childhood as well.”

The artists had the freedom to bring their creative talent to the mix and were given enough space to pursue it.

Bringing the book together proved to be quite a challenge for Almotham; he said he felt like it was impossible at times. The pandemic did not help this initial dread, and he added: “The fact that we were able to pull it off and put this project out in the world makes me feel very proud.” 

Once the book was complete, the author organized an online art exhibition in collaboration with the Fitrh Art platform, where they showcased the artwork with the stories as a description. 

Almotham is currently working on the English translation of the book, and hopes to publish it soon.

“During the exhibition we roughly translated the stories and those too were very well received, so I thought I should work on the translation for English readers to enjoy.”


New AlUla events announcement sparks excitement

Organizers have revealed that the highly anticipated Winter at Tantora event is set to return. (SPA)
Organizers have revealed that the highly anticipated Winter at Tantora event is set to return. (SPA)
Updated 55 min 31 sec ago

New AlUla events announcement sparks excitement

Organizers have revealed that the highly anticipated Winter at Tantora event is set to return. (SPA)

JEDDAH: Festivals and events are set to return to the beautiful landscape of AlUla. Saudis are growing in excitement after the announcement of Winter at Tantora, AlUla Arts, AlUla Skies, and the AlUla Wellness Festival. The series of events will start from Dec. 21 this year until March 30, 2022.

The festivals will offer experiences fit for all, including arts, culture, music, wellness, equestrian events, gastronomy, and astronomy.

The Winter at Tantora Festival will run from Dec. 21 to Feb. 12. Musical performances will be taking place in the beautiful Maraya Center, with a Candlelit Symphonic Concert at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra kicking off proceedings.

Paying tribute to Saudi Arabia’s horsing heritage, many equestrian events will take place, such as the Ikmah Fashion Calvary, an haute couture fashion event, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Race, and the AlUla Desert Polo.

Amira Abbas, who visited the festival in 2020, was thrilled to hear the announcement: “When I first went to AlUla it was magical, truly one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I am already excited to get back to the calm and quiet of the place. I will take at least a week off my schedule and plan a trip.”

FASTFACTS

• The Winter at Tantora Festival will run from Dec. 21 to Feb. 12. Musical performances will be taking place in the beautiful Maraya Center, with a Candlelit Symphonic Concert at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra kicking off proceedings.

• AlUla Arts festival will commence February 2021, bringing together events.

The visitors will add to their knowledge of the site and the Kingdom through archeology and cultural workshops taking place at the heritage sites.

AlUla Arts festival will commence February 2021, bringing together events centered around artistic talents. The “art of our time”  exhibition will boast cutting-edge contemporary art created by Saudi artists. Alongside the exhibition is the Cinema El Housh, an outdoor cinema that will be showing the beauties of the oasis and other landscapes within AlUla. Saudi filmmakers will also contribute to these projects.

Another festival that will take flight is AlUla Skies, which will give tourists the chance to float over the Hegra in a hot air balloon, glide in a vintage plane over the oasis, and take a helicopter above the Madakheel. Back on land, adventurers can take the star-gazing tour titled “Constellations.”

Ohoud Abdallah, 27, spent three days touring the heritage sites of AlUla last year and told Arab News that she was not able to enjoy the skies on her visit: “It is a childhood fantasy of mine to go ride in a hot air balloon; last time I couldn’t because my timing was off. I am absolutely thrilled to see that it is coming back and there is nothing more I want to do than to float off in a balloon or just sit under the stars after being cooped up in my house for so long.”

Alula Wellness Festival, running from March 17 to 27, will focus on the well-being of the mind and body, including yoga, meditation, mindful practices, and an exhibition that will use space, light, and sound to provoke the senses.


Model Malika El-Maslouhi walks for Missoni at Milan Fashion Week

Malika El-Maslouhi walked the runway at the Missoni show in Milan. (Getty Images)
Malika El-Maslouhi walked the runway at the Missoni show in Milan. (Getty Images)
Updated 26 September 2021

Model Malika El-Maslouhi walks for Missoni at Milan Fashion Week

Malika El-Maslouhi walked the runway at the Missoni show in Milan. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi hit the catwalk at Missoni’s Spring/Summer 2022 showcase at Milan Fashion Week on Saturday, showing off the label’s signature print in her latest outing on the runway.

El-Maslouhi showed off a patchwork, halter-neck dress in the Italian fashion house’s go-to knit material, complete with zigzag patterns in varying sober shades.

“A dream to conclude Milan Fashion Week with the beautiful @missoni show,” she wrote on Instagram in Italian, alongside a carousel of videos and photos from the show.

El-Maslouhi showed off a patchwork, halter-neck dress in the Italian fashion house’s go-to knit material. (Getty Images)

The ready-to-wear collection marked the first outing as creative director for Alberto Caliri, the longtime right-hand designer of Angela Missoni.

It was a daring collection dotted with bandeau tops with trailing side panels, midriff-baring patchwork jumpers and trench coats opened to reveal barley-there bikinis. There were, however, more sedate options, with form-fitting dresses in patchwork or zigzag lurex, such as the piece worn by El-Maslouhi, as well as alluring minidresses and fluid knitted trousers with a shimmering silver finish.

The show marks the latest outing for El-Maslouhi, who has been in high demand this fashion week season.

Designer-to-the-stars David Koma tapped the model to showcase his latest collection during London Fashion Week earlier in September, and the Spring/Summer 2022 line did not disappoint.

For her part, El-Maslouhi showed off a number of looks, including a form-fitting gown in fluorescent pink complete with thin spaghetti straps and a heavily feathered bodice. A hip-high slit finished off the look.

Next up, the model showed off a black oversized hooded sweatshirt and matching leggings, both adorned with large reflective sequins.

The model was hot off a series of runway showcases at New York Fashion Week, where she walked for the likes of Ulla Johnson, Prabal Gurung and Peter Dundas’s collaboration with online retailer Revolve.  

The breakout star has been taking the industry by storm since making her modelling debut when she was 18-years-old.

In addition to gracing the runways of storied fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel, Valentino and Jacquemus, among others, the fashion star has also appeared in international campaigns for the likes of Off-White, Lanvin, Calvin Klein Swim and Zadig & Voltaire.


Run-of-the-mill Netflix thriller ‘Intrusion’ does not have much to hide

‘Intrusion’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)
‘Intrusion’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)
Updated 26 September 2021

Run-of-the-mill Netflix thriller ‘Intrusion’ does not have much to hide

‘Intrusion’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)

LONDON: We may have now reached a point whereby “middle-of-the-road Netflix thriller” should become an official cinematic sub-genre. The latest in the streaming giant’s slate of so-so dramas is “Intrusion,” which stars Freida Pinto and Logan Marshall-Green as married couple Meera and Henry, a pair of Bostonians who have given up city life to build an ultra-modern, luxury house in small-town USA. When the two come home from date night to find their fancy house ransacked, the police seem a little confused that only their phones and laptops were taken, with all their fancy belongings left behind. Why didn’t the thieves take anything else? Could this not be the simple home invasion we’re supposed to think it is?

The film stars Freida Pinto and Logan Marshall-Green. (Supplied)

Meera, inevitably, asks the same questions. Still reeling from the sense of violation after her home has been invaded, she begins to second-guess the details of the investigation. Why do the police seem so antagonistic towards them? Why is Henry so calm about the break-in? And what does any of it have to do with the case of a missing local teenager?

Director Adam Salky manages a few jump scares as Meera begins to poke around, but “Intrusion” lacks much in the way of palpable tension — Pinto frowns pretty well as she uncovers clue after clue, but the revelations of the final third are telegraphed in the first, and what is supposed to be the big finish might seem like a surprise to Meera, but audiences will be frustratingly ahead of her.

Director Adam Salky manages a few jump scares. (Supplied)

“Intrusion” is also clunkily written, which is a shame given that it is penned by Chris Sparling, who wrote last year’s entertaining and satisfyingly thoughtful “Greenland.” There is just something so unerringly predictable about Meera being led from one breadcrumb to the next, gathering painfully obvious clues that will have audiences shouting at the screen. At one point she seems like she has put the entire issue to bed — until you realize there’s about 25 minutes of the movie left, so you can expect at least one more twist. For a film built on a central mystery, there is very little that “Intrusion” leaves to the imagination.