French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to star in rom-com alongside Anne Hathaway

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to star in rom-com alongside Anne Hathaway
Rahim gained international prominence for his critically-acclaimed role in “The Mauritanian.” File/AFP
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Updated 09 June 2021

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to star in rom-com alongside Anne Hathaway

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to star in rom-com alongside Anne Hathaway

DUBAI: French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim is set to star in “She Came to Me,” a romantic comedy written by screenwriter and director Rebecca Miller.

Rahim, who gained international prominence for his critically-acclaimed role in “The Mauritanian,” will star alongside actresses Anne Hathaway, Marisa Tomei, Joanna Kulig and “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” star Matthew Broderick.

It is not yet known what role Rahim will take on in the forthcoming film, which is set in New York and tells the stories of a string of characters, including “a composer suffering from writer’s block, a couple of gifted teenagers and a woman who seemingly has it all.”

The 39-year-old star received a BAFTA nomination in the Leading Actor category for his portrayal of former Guantánamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Salahi in the thriller-drama “The Mauritanian.” 

The actor was also nominated in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama category at the 2021 Golden Globes for the same role.

“She Came to Me” will begin shooting in New York in Fall and is being co-produced by Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler.

The producers said in a joint statement: “After an incredibly difficult period in the world, we couldn’t be more excited to be producing Rebecca’s next film. Rebecca has created a hilarious, timely and uplifting New York story and we are thrilled to have such a uniquely talented cast join us on our journey.”


French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to join Spike Lee on Cannes jury

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to join Spike Lee on Cannes jury
Updated 24 June 2021

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to join Spike Lee on Cannes jury

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to join Spike Lee on Cannes jury

DUBAI: French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim will be part of this year’s Cannes Film Festival jury led by director Spike Lee, organizers announced on Thursday.

“The Serpent” star will be joined by US actress Maggie Gyllenhaal and “Parasite” lead Song Kang-Ho. 

It will be a female-majority jury for the July 6 to 17 festival, which has faced criticism in recent years for its lack of female representation.

Only one woman has ever won the Palme d’Or in its 73 years: Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993.

This year’s jury will wade through 24 entries (only four by women) to decide the winner of the arthouse world’s most coveted film prize.

The nine members include French actor-director Melanie Laurent, best known abroad for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

The jury also features several international filmmakers: Brazilian Kleber Mendonca Filho, who competed at Cannes in 2016 with “Aquarius”; Austrian Jessica Hausner, who competed with “Little Joe” in 2019; and French-Senegalese director Mati Diop, whose debut “Atlantique” won the Grand Prix the same year.

Egyptian director Sameh Alaa will be part of the short film jury. (Getty)

Rahim made his name with indie favorite “The Prophet” and recently had an award-winning turn in Guantanamo drama “The Mauritanian” and a TV hit with the BBC-Netflix show “The Serpent.”

Rahim is not the only Arab joining the jury for this year’s Cannes. 

Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania will be part of the short film jury. (AFP)

Last week, the festival announced that Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania and Egyptian director Sameh Alaa will be part of the short film jury.


French-Lebanese illustrator Lamia Ziadé’s ‘My Port of Beirut’ addresses the devastation of the August 4 explosion

French-Lebanese illustrator Lamia Ziadé’s ‘My Port of Beirut’ addresses the devastation of the August 4 explosion
Updated 24 June 2021

French-Lebanese illustrator Lamia Ziadé’s ‘My Port of Beirut’ addresses the devastation of the August 4 explosion

French-Lebanese illustrator Lamia Ziadé’s ‘My Port of Beirut’ addresses the devastation of the August 4 explosion
  • In ‘Mon Port de Beyrouth,’ the author and illustrator addresses the devastation wrought by the August 4 explosion 

PARIS: On June 6, portraits of Sahar Fares circulated widely once more on social media. With her long black hair and dazzling smile, she looked stunning in her evening gown. Fares should have been getting married that day, if she hadn’t perished in the Beirut Port explosion on the August 4, 2020. Called out with her fellow firefighters to extinguish the fire, she died on the port’s dock, having been caught in the explosion. 

Ten months later, there have been no convictions and no culprits identified for the blast. Meanwhile, Fares’ fiancé continues to share photos and drawings of her on Instagram, keeping her memory alive.

In Paris, where she has been living since she was 18, Lamia Ziadé was intensely moved when she saw those pictures on her phone, as she had been by so many of the images of other victims.

The French-Lebanese author and illustrator published her book “Mon Port de Beyrouth” (My Port of Beirut) in April. (Supplied)

The French-Lebanese author and illustrator published her book “Mon Port de Beyrouth” (My Port of Beirut) in April. In it, she looks back at the tragedy, combining text and drawings inspired by photos shared on social media or published in traditional media: memories and moments captured on the spot.

In January, putting the finishing touches to the book, she couldn't help but add one last drawing: one of Sahar Fares celebrating her final birthday at the fire station. "I finished working on the book a few days ago,” she wrote on the final page. “But this morning, a short video made me cry. It was impossible not to add this last drawing.”

Fares became, for Ziadé, “the heart of the tragedy.” 

In her book, she looks back at the tragedy, combining text and drawings inspired by photos shared on social media or published in traditional media. (Supplied)

“That girl is a movie character, a full-fledged heroine straight out of a novel,” Ziadé tells Arab News. “Hers was the first of the victims’ faces to be shared on social media. She was so beautiful, so full of life… During the six months I was working on the book, pictures of her kept coming through. It felt like I knew her. This wasn’t the case for the other victims — most of them having just one shot of them being shared on social media. That girl is the one who filmed the last video of what was going on right before the port explosion. She took the photo of the three men trying to open the doors leading inside the hangar. I don’t know what other character could have been as strong.”

In the introduction to the book, Ziadé said she had been unable to sleep properly since the explosion at the port, and was liable to burst into tears throughout the day. When she speaks to Arab News, it is apparent that the emotions raised by the blast remain raw today, if slightly less immediate. 

“I no longer cry every day, the way I used to during the six months in which I wrote the book,” she tells us. “But I still follow the news every morning and the situation in Lebanon — the economic crisis and the political situation — is hitting hard. People are hungry, they get shot and thrown in jail when they protest. It’s terrible. I am still very worried about the situation and not very optimistic. One of my book’s last drawings depicts the light of the setting sun on the silos, as a symbol of the end of an era. It would take a miracle.”

In January, putting the finishing touches to the book, she couldn't help but add one last drawing: one of Sahar Fares celebrating her final birthday at the fire station. (Supplied)

When respected French daily Le Monde first contacted Ziadé the day after the explosion to ask if she would be interested in producing an article for their weekly magazine, she declined. 

“I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t well at all,” she says. “I had no intention to write at all. I didn't feel like I could do something on the spur of the moment. I felt so devastated.

“But the next day, I told myself that one could not just say no to 15 pages about Beirut in Le Monde,” she continues. “So I started drawing.”

Once the article was published, Ziadé’s editor suggested that the project should be expanded into a book. This was not a random proposal. As Ziadé explains, in all of her work, from her first book “Bye Bye Babylon,” her aim has been “to bear witness to Lebanon’s history. — whether I have lived it or not — and to keep a trace, shed light on unknown stories, dig in the archives.”

Her desire is that the book will stand as “a testimonial, a tribute to all the victims and to Beirut itself.” (Supplied)

But “Mon Port de Beyrouth” was a little different, she explains: “My approach has always been about bearing witness, telling a story, but this was the first time I did that live, on the spot, as an event is unfolding. It was a quite difficult task because I didn’t have the necessary hindsight.”

The book is also, she says “quite personal.” Aside from the general research she did on the port, and the fact that her drawings are based on actual pictures, she also looked into her family history. The result is an intimate, revealing portrayal of events that at times feels like reading someone’s diary. “The fact that I worked on it while I myself was completely devastated (comes across) in the writing,” she says. “I was working 24/7. No distractions. No movies, no books, nothing that could take my mind off the tragedy for a fragment of time.

“Working on something tangible surely helped me,” she continues. “But, conversely, I was also immersed in this constantly. I couldn't get away from it.”

In the introduction to the book, Ziadé said she had been unable to sleep properly since the explosion at the port. (Supplied)

Her desire is that the book will stand as “a testimonial, a tribute to all the victims and to Beirut itself.” 

And while her earlier admission that she is “not optimistic” still stands, Ziadé does have hope for Lebanon and its people.
“Without hope, you stop living and watching the news,” she says. “There are people who no longer want to hear about what is going on. But I believe there is always the possibility of doing something.

“The reconstruction work is well underway,” she continues. “We will get through this.”

 Adapted from an article originally published by Arab News France: https://arab.news/wnywd.


A Chinese tea and dim sum masterclass at London’s Yauatcha restaurant in Riyadh

A Chinese tea and dim sum masterclass at London’s Yauatcha restaurant in Riyadh
Updated 24 June 2021

A Chinese tea and dim sum masterclass at London’s Yauatcha restaurant in Riyadh

A Chinese tea and dim sum masterclass at London’s Yauatcha restaurant in Riyadh
  • Experience authentic Oriental culture in the heart of Riyadh

RIYADH: Yauatcha promises a “fine dining experience that fuses dim sum, mixology, tea, and European patisserie.”

Since opening its flagship location in London in 2004, Yauatcha has expanded globally, opening in Mumbai and Bengaluru too, and then in Riyadh just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year (it reopened in June 2020).

Now the restaurant is offering a new “Art of Tea” masterclass. It’s a perfect couple’s activity — but not a particularly family-friendly one as kids will likely get bored quickly — and a fascinating introduction to the complex world of Chinese teas.

The restaurant is offering a new “Art of Tea” masterclass. (Supplied)

The masterclass is a private 45-minute experience that takes guests through a selection of traditional, authentic Chinese teas. You’ll discover the soft and subtle notes behind the leaves, the proper brewing and serving techniques, along with dim sum pairings that help accentuate the flavor profiles of each tea. Apart from tasting a wide variety of teas, you’ll also learn about their origins and history, and the range of health benefits that traditional Chinese medicine attributes to each blend.

The exclusive one-on-one masterclass is hosted in the restaurant’s rooftop bar and focuses on five types of tea: white tea, green tea, blue oolong tea, black tea, and a flavored dark tea.

Our sommelier and beverage manager Jegaan was hugely experienced and took us step-by-step through the masterclass, answering questions and sharing personal anecdotes along the way. By the end of the class, we’d learned a lot of valuable information about the proper brewing techniques — such as the correct temperatures to bring out the true flavors and hidden notes of the teas. What made the masterclass so enjoyable was how interactive and personal it felt. This wasn't a lecture about teas and their origins; it was an experience that allowed us to immerse ourselves in Chinese culture.

The masterclass is a private 45-minute experience that takes guests through a selection of traditional, authentic Chinese teas. (Supplied)

The Art of Tea Masterclass is only available between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. through reservation and costs SAR250 (roughly $65).

For the same price, you can also treat yourself to the Yauatcha afternoon tea, which combines a classic European high tea with a blend of Eastern flavors. We would definitely recommend booking a table on the restaurant’s patio overlooking downtown Riyadh so that when the staff present a patisserie selection in an impressive ladder display you have the picture-perfect Insta-moment — especially if you time it for sunset.

From the variety of teas on offer, we selected the French Earl Grey (Golden Swan and Harmutty were also available), which is infused with citrus flavors and blue cornflower, giving an aromatic and soothing blend.

The Art of Tea Masterclass is only available between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. through reservation and costs SAR250 (roughly $65). (Supplied)

The afternoon tea included two types of dim sum platter. The classic steamed contained shrimp (har gau), scallops siu main and seafood black truffle dumplings, all of which were delicious, offering a blend of seafood and umami flavors with a hint of truffles and mushrooms — a great option for seafood lovers.

The baked dim sum platter consisted of sesame prawn toast, mushroom spring roll, and venison puff. The latter was the highlight — the warm venison nestled in the flakiest puff imaginable.

The extensive dessert options offered something for everyone. The lemon crème with sables Breton (salted-butter cookies) gave a sweet citrus hit, for example, while the pecan coffee cube was a deep, rich, nutty delight.

The exclusive one-on-one masterclass is hosted in the restaurant’s rooftop bar and focuses on five types of tea: white tea, green tea, blue oolong tea, black tea, and a flavored dark tea. (Supplied)

The standout dessert, though, was the hazelnut yuzu chocolate bag — a mini handbag made of chocolate and hazelnut with a yuzu bar tucked inside. Not only is it a delicious use of the East Asian yuzu fruit (a hybrid citrus fruit), but the floral-decorated mini chocolate handbag gives you another perfect Instagram picture.

The afternoon tea runs from noon to 8 p.m., and we would recommend booking after 3 p.m. if you’re going to sit outdoors.

With its blend of authentic culture and delicious flavors — topped off with several stunning photo opportunities — we’re sure Yauatcha will continue to be as popular in Riyadh as it has proved to be elsewhere.


Vaccine drive boosts return of California tourism

As health guidelines are lifted, California is celebrating the return of the outdoors and welcoming back tourists. (Shutterstock)
As health guidelines are lifted, California is celebrating the return of the outdoors and welcoming back tourists. (Shutterstock)
Updated 24 June 2021

Vaccine drive boosts return of California tourism

As health guidelines are lifted, California is celebrating the return of the outdoors and welcoming back tourists. (Shutterstock)
  • The return of tourist season also brings a financial breath of fresh air to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES: The United States has distributed around 111 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, totaling just over 44% of its population fully vaccinated, the highest count worldwide. 

As health guidelines are lifted, California is celebrating the return of the outdoors and welcoming back tourists.

“As people are vaccinated and feeling more comfortable traveling, we’ve found that it’s not as a drive market-centric as it was in the last few months,” said Vanessa Williams, General Manager of the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. “We’re starting to see people travel from other states. I think the exciting part is that we started to see a lot of movement out of the Middle East.”

An estimated 50% of summer tourism in Beverly Hills is comprised of Arabs, particularly in the luxury tourism sector. Between its natural beauty and iconic Hollywood sights, Los Angeles is in high demand for travelers looking for somewhere exotic, but COVID-19 safe.

“If I take safe practices, take the good precautions I think I’ll be good you know,” a Hollywood Blvd tourist told us. “But other than that you know the world? I really don’t know really don’t know. Can’t judge it.”

The return of tourist season also brings a financial breath of fresh air to Los Angeles. During the pandemic the tourism industry lost $1.3 trillion. While many furloughed hospitality employees have returned to their jobs, more than 120 million have not.

“California as a whole and in our cities,” added Williams. “There has been a very big push to support business and to actually get that messaging out that we’re open for business.”


THE BREAKDOWN: Multidisciplinary designer Sara Khalid discusses ‘Garden of Men’

THE BREAKDOWN: Multidisciplinary designer Sara Khalid discusses ‘Garden of Men’
Updated 24 June 2021

THE BREAKDOWN: Multidisciplinary designer Sara Khalid discusses ‘Garden of Men’

THE BREAKDOWN: Multidisciplinary designer Sara Khalid discusses ‘Garden of Men’
  • The multidisciplinary designer discusses her collaboration with fellow Saudi artist Alya Al-Qarni, which was showcased at the third edition of Cairotronica in late April

LONDON: “Garden of Men” was inspired by a previous project of Alya’s in which she ran different photos through an AI model that generates automated captions. One image was of her father and other male family members standing together wearing their shemagh (headscarves), but the AI recognized them as a group of women. We can’t really tell what went wrong, but the system probably confused the shemagh for actual hair.

That mix-up inspired my collaboration with Alya. We decided to test the AI’s ability (or lack of ability) to understand Saudi dress. The idea was to examine whether the AI model would keep misconstruing men wearing the shemagh. To do that, we inserted multiple photos into the model, and all the captions came out equally weird. There was one specific photo, however, which intrigued us the most. It was of some young men posing together in a stadium. The caption described them as “flower-filled vases.” Alya and I immediately chose this photo as the basis of our “Garden of Men” project.

We found the contrast the men being mistaken for flowers interesting. That the AI system inaccurately saw masculinity as a typically delicate, feminine object was particularly intriguing. We decided to take the contrast a step further and masked flowers into the men’s faces. We then inserted the edited image into a different AI generator called “Deep Dream,” which is supposed to add a dreamy touch to photos. In a way, we wanted to parody this mix-up. It’s like we insisted we were submitting to the view of the machine, but what we were really trying to do was to mock the system’s confusion.

“Garden of Men” was an attempt on our part to test the archival notion of AI technology, and I believe that the audience understood the main message behind it. We always speak of how biased this technology can be towards race or gender, but we wanted to reveal how culturally biased it can be too; how it can simply fail to recognize certain cultural objects, like the shemagh, abaya or niqab.