First look: the shocking details behind MBC’s explosive Carlos Ghosn documentary

“The Last Flight” runs at 103 minutes and will also be shown as a three-part series. It will also air on ShahidVIP and the BBC. (Supplied)
“The Last Flight” runs at 103 minutes and will also be shown as a three-part series. It will also air on ShahidVIP and the BBC. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 June 2021

First look: the shocking details behind MBC’s explosive Carlos Ghosn documentary

“The Last Flight” runs at 103 minutes and will also be shown as a three-part series. It will also air on ShahidVIP and the BBC. (Supplied)
  • Every step of Ghosn’s arrest and escape was heavily covered by news agencies across the globe, however “The Last Flight” promises to shed light on the human side of Ghosn that was not covered
  • “This is the first time they are telling how their story started first and how they lived it from the inside,” Executive Producer Nora Melhli said

LONDON: “How on earth do you get to the point where somebody like Carlos (Ghosn) has to hang out with shadowy figures to smuggle him out across an international border, halfway across the world, safely?” Nick Green, the director of an upcoming documentary about the former Nissan chairman called “The Last Flight,” told Arab News.

The question of how Ghosn slipped through one of the tightest borders on the planet has been on everyone’s minds ever since he fled house arrest in Tokyo and escaped to his native Lebanon. 

“This is a story that you think you know, but there's a human being behind the story. And to get the human story of what is effectively a heist is completely unique,” Green said.

Ghosn, dubbed “Mr. Fix It” for essentially saving Nissan from bankruptcy, was arrested in Tokyo over allegations of false accounting and financial misconduct, including underreporting his salary and using company funds for personal benefit.

The 65-year-old businessman spent 13 months in custody or living in his Japanese home under 24-hour surveillance and strict bail conditions. But, in Dec. 2019, he pulled off a complex and dramatic escape that could have come straight from the pages of a TV or film script. 

And yet it was all true. 

Arab News had an exclusive inside look into the magic behind the highly anticipated documentary, which was the first venture into international production for Saudi Arabia’s MBC Studios in partnership with the French company ALEF ONE and the UK’s BBC Storyville.

“It’s a truly sort of global story,” said Green. “And so, obviously, you have to sort of travel the world to tell it. Critical parts of the story obviously happen in Japan. Critical parts of the story happen in Beirut. Critical parts of (the) story happen in Paris. Nobody knows about the story before, Carlos has never spoken about it.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo over allegations of false accounting and financial misconduct, including underreporting his salary and using company funds for personal benefit.

The 65-year-old businessman spent 13 months in custody or living in his Japanese home under 24-hour surveillance and strict bail conditions.

In Dec. 2019, he pulled off a complex and dramatic escape that could have come straight from the pages of a TV or film script.

MBC Studios secured the rights to Ghosn’s story in 2020 and announced its plans for it in October of that year.

Every step of Ghosn’s arrest and escape was heavily covered by news agencies across the globe, however “The Last Flight” promises to shed light on the human side of Ghosn that was not covered.

“With the press and the international outlets (they) have covered the story on a day-to-day basis, but from an outside perspective. Here we are having a unique and, for the first time, the inside perspective, meaning an inside one from Carlos Ghosn and Carole Ghosn, his wife,” Nora Melhli, the documentary’s executive producer, told Arab News.

“This is the first time they are telling how their story started first and how they lived it from the inside,” she said, adding that the documentary allowed viewers to ultimately become insiders.

Global filming during a global pandemic

There were multiple filming locations because of Ghosn’s global connections including Lebanon, Japan, France, the UK and South Africa, a challenging scenario as flights were grounded and travel was at a standstill amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I couldn't travel to Cape Town because at the time there was the South African variant, so I ended up having to shoot these shots with everything on a Zoom call,” Green said.




Carlos Ghosn, dubbed ‘Mr. Fix It’ for essentially saving Nissan from bankruptcy, is a Brazilian-born businessman. He also holds French and Lebanese nationality. He was arrested in Tokyo over allegations of false accounting and financial misconduct. (File photo)

He was sent images through the director of photography’s (DOP) monitor, and another director on location was being told through headphones what to do and tell the DOP.

“We ended up sort of finding our way to working with some extraordinarily sort of talented people who, you know, (are) just very cool at working in this sort of new way, a COVID way,” he added.

Among those interviewed for the documentary were officials from Japan’s Ministry of Justice, a Japanese prosecutor, Ghosn’s Japanese lawyer, the former French minister of finance, and Ghosn's former boss.

“This is a story told with the vision of some people all together. I want to say  on the same table but of course they have never met each other,” Melhli said. “You have (a) different paradigm, different perspectives, so it permits the audience to understand because of course it’s a very complicated story and of course it permits the audience to make their own point of view.”

As there was no footage of Ghosn’s actual escape, the retelling was done through what Green described as a slight visualizing palette with pictures, with all the Japanese posters and signage being shot in Cape Town.

MBC Studios go global 

MBC Studios secured the rights to Ghosn’s story in 2020 and announced its plans for it in October of that year.




Ghosn’s former Japanese lawyer Junichiro Hironaka faces the media outside his office in Tokyo. (AFP/File)

The CEO at the time, Marc Antoine D’Halluin, told Variety magazine that this project would mark the start of “a long lineup” of other MBC shows of this type.

“I think it’s going to change the perception of MBC Group and MBC Studios,” he said.

Less than a year later and the documentary is an official selection at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival, which is the third largest documentary festival in the world.

“This was my first collaboration with MBC and they gave me and Nick (Green) the director, a total kind of green card, they gave us what we needed to make it in the best way,” Melhli said. “We have a very strong vision all of us together, MBC and the creative team, and they just gave us everything we needed to follow our vision and trusted it.”

“The Last Flight” runs at 103 minutes and will also be shown as a three-part series. It will also air on ShahidVIP and the BBC.


Belarus sends reporter to prison over deleted chat messages

Belarus sends reporter to prison over deleted chat messages
Updated 03 August 2021

Belarus sends reporter to prison over deleted chat messages

Belarus sends reporter to prison over deleted chat messages
  • Belarus sentences journalist to 1.5 years in prison for insulting the Belarusian president in a deleted chat group
  • Belarusian authorities have ramped up the pressure against non-governmental organizations and independent media in recent weeks
KYIV: A court in Belarus convicted a journalist of insulting the president in messages in a deleted chat group and sentenced him to 1 1/2 years in prison, the Belarusian Association of Journalists said Monday.
The verdict in the case against Siarhei Hardziyevich, 50, comes as part of a massive crackdown that Belarusian authorities have unleashed on independent media and human rights activists.
Hardziyevich on Monday was found guilty of insulting the president and slandering police officers, according to the association. The court sentenced him to a prison term and a $1,600 fine.
The charges against the journalist from Drahichyn, a city 300 kilometers (185 miles) southwest of Belarus’ capital of Minsk, were brought over messages in a chat group on the messaging app Viber which was deleted last year.
Hardziyevich, who worked for a popular regional news outlet, The First Region, has maintained his innocence. His defense team demanded the charges be dropped due to a lack of evidence and because the crime was impossible to establish.
“I have nothing to do with these crimes, I don’t consider myself guilty,” Hardziyevich said in his address to the court before the verdict.
The Viasna human rights center declared Hardziyevich a political prisoner.
Belarusian authorities have ramped up the pressure against non-governmental organizations and independent media in recent weeks, conducting more than 200 raids of offices and apartments of activists and journalists in July alone, according to Viasna.
Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has vowed to continue what he called a “mopping-up operation” against civil society activists whom he has denounced as “bandits and foreign agents.”
Lukashenko faced months of protests triggered by his being awarded a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition and the West saw as rigged. He responded to demonstrations with a massive crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.
A total of 29 Belarusian journalists remain in custody either awaiting trial or serving their sentences.

Twitter partners with AP, Reuters to battle misinformation on its site

Twitter partners with AP, Reuters to battle misinformation on its site
Updated 03 August 2021

Twitter partners with AP, Reuters to battle misinformation on its site

Twitter partners with AP, Reuters to battle misinformation on its site
  • Twitter will partner with AP and Reuters to provide credible information on the platform and combat the spread of misinformation
  • Twitter said it will collaborate with the newswires during breaking news events to add accurate context
LONDON: Twitter Inc. will partner with the Associated Press and Reuters to more quickly provide credible information on the social networking site as part of an effort to fight the spread of misinformation, it said on Monday.
Like other social media companies, the San Francisco-based firm has been under pressure to remove misleading or false information on its site. Earlier this year Twitter launched a program called Birdwatch, asking its users to help identify and fact-check misleading tweets.
Twitter said it will collaborate with the newswires during breaking news events to add accurate context, which could appear in various places on Twitter, such as a label attached to tweets about the event or as a “Moment,” which curates information about trending topics on Twitter.
The partnerships mark the first time Twitter will formally collaborate with news organizations to elevate accurate information on its site, a Twitter spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added Twitter will work separately with both the AP and Reuters, a division of information services company Thomson Reuters Corp, and the newswires will not interact with each other.
“Trust, accuracy and impartiality are at the heart of what Reuters does every day ... those values also drive our commitment to stopping the spread of misinformation,” Hazel Baker, global head of UGC (user-generated content) newsgathering at Reuters, said in a statement.
Tom Januszewski, vice president of global business development at the AP, said: “We are particularly excited about leveraging AP’s scale and speed to add context to online conversations, which can benefit from easy access to the facts.”

US to evacuate journalists, aid workers from Afghanistan

Afghan interpreters at a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, before the beginning of the U.S. troop withdrawal in April. (File/Getty Images)
Afghan interpreters at a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, before the beginning of the U.S. troop withdrawal in April. (File/Getty Images)
Updated 03 August 2021

US to evacuate journalists, aid workers from Afghanistan

Afghan interpreters at a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, before the beginning of the U.S. troop withdrawal in April. (File/Getty Images)
  • The Biden administration expands efforts to evacuate at-risk Afghan citizens and give them refugee status in the US
  • Afghans eligible for asylum now include current and former employees of US-based news organizations, US-based aid and development agencies and other relief groups

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration on Monday expanded its efforts to evacuate at-risk Afghan citizens from Afghanistan as Taliban violence increases ahead there of the US military pullout at the end of the month.
The State Department said it is widening the scope of Afghans eligible for refugee status in United States to include current and former employees of US-based news organizations, US-based aid and development agencies and other relief groups that receive US funding. Current and former employees of the US government and the NATO military operation who don’t meet the criteria for a dedicated program for such workers are also covered.
However, the move comes with a major caveat: applicants must leave Afghanistan to begin the adjudication process that may take 12-14 months in a third country, and the US does not intend to support their departures or stays there.
Nevertheless, the State Department said the move will mean that “many thousands” of Afghans and their immediate families will now have the opportunity to be permanently resettled in the US as refugees. It did not offer a more specific number of those who might be eligible for the program.
“The US objective remains a peaceful, secure Afghanistan,” it said in a statement. “However, in light of increased levels of Taliban violence, the US government is working to provide certain Afghans, including those who worked with the United States, the opportunity for refugee resettlement to the United States.”
The creation of a “Priority 2” category for Afghans within the US Refugee Admissions Program is intended for Afghans and their immediate families who “may be at risk due to their US affiliation” but aren’t able to get a Special Immigrant Visa because they did not work directly for the US government or didn’t hold their government jobs long enough.
To qualify for the Priority 2 category, Afghans must be nominated by a US government agency or by the most senior civilian US citizen employee of a U.S-based media outlet or nongovernmental organization.
The first group of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants — most of whom served as translators or did other work for US troops or diplomats — who have cleared security vetting arrived in the US on Friday. That group of 221 people are among 2,500 who will be brought to the US in the coming days.
Another 4,000 SIV applicants, plus their families, who have not yet cleared the security screening are expected to be relocated to third countries ahead of the completion of the US withdrawal. Roughly 20,000 Afghans have expressed interest in the program.


MENA music platform to launch entertainment destinations in region

MENA music platform to launch entertainment destinations in region
Updated 03 August 2021

MENA music platform to launch entertainment destinations in region

MENA music platform to launch entertainment destinations in region
  • First Anghami Lab to open in Dubai followed by Riyadh, Jeddah, other cities

DUBAI: A leading music streaming platform in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has unveiled plans to launch an innovative entertainment venue in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The first Anghami Lab will open in Dubai, followed by Riyadh, and then other major cities.

Anghami, the digital distribution company behind the initiative, has partnered with hospitality group Addmind, which operates venues such as White, Iris, and Clap throughout Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Qatar, and London.

Tony Habre, chief executive officer of Addmind, said: “Anghami is more than just a streaming platform, they have elevated the value of the music industry in the Middle East as a whole – Anghami Lab is an amazing and unique concept that embodies our rich Arab culture with an international twist, which we are thrilled to bring to fruition and scale.”

Anghami Lab will combine the online and offline worlds, bridging digital and traditional entertainment. The venue will feature a lounge, stage, and studio where creators can experiment and work together making music, which will be played and performed there.

The resulting music will also be made available exclusively on Anghami and the app will provide special features complementing both experiences.

The fusion cuisine served at Anghami Lab will be aimed at embodying the essence of Anghami by providing an international taste with an Arabic flavor.

Eddy Maroun, co-founder and CEO of Anghami, said: “We are excited to partner with Addmind to create this unique, transformational experience for our users.

“Addmind is a leading expert in conceptualizing and operating hospitality spaces, and this is a great opportunity to further reinforce the value we provide digitally to be converged offline in a unique user-to-guest experience.”

The first venue is due to be opened in Dubai in early 2022, to be followed by similar centers in Riyadh, Jeddah, Cairo, Beirut, and other cities such as London, New York, and Los Angeles.


Study: Social media platforms ‘fail to remove 80% of antisemitic content’

More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 02 August 2021

Study: Social media platforms ‘fail to remove 80% of antisemitic content’

More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Results show Facebook, Twitter and more are ‘safe spaces for racists,’ official says

LONDON: More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a large-scale study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has found.

The social media posts reported included holocaust denial content, incitement of violence against Jews and other conspiracy theories. Despite being flagged to content moderators, the large majority of posts remained online.

The study, published on Aug. 1, took place over a period between May 28 and June 29 this year.

It identified 714 antisemitic posts across major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, and subsequently reported the content to the respective sites. These 714 posts were viewed at least 7.3 million times.

Six weeks later, the study found that more than 80 percent of the reported posts remained on the platforms. On Facebook and Twitter, 90 percent of antisemitic posts were not taken down.

The most significant finding of the study was that platforms failed to remove 89 percent of antisemitic conspiracies, with just 5 percent of posts blaming Jewish people for the coronavirus pandemic being removed by moderators.

Twitter hashtags that remained online ranged from “#holohoax” to “#killthejews,” while TikTok continued to allow hashtags that organized and promoted conspiracies, such as “#synagogueofsatan,” “#rothschildfamily” and “#soros.” These posts gained a total of 25.1 million views on the platform.

CEO of CCDH Imran Ahmed said that the findings of the study prove that social media is a “safe space for racists to normalize their conspiracies and hateful rhetoric without fear of consequences.”

The findings come in light of the UK government’s Online Safety Bill, which aims to regulate social media. The legislation will make it a legal requirement for social media companies to protect users from harm, including misinformation, abuse and hatred.

The bill will also force tech giants to impose age checks to prevent underage children from accessing their services.

“These reports do not account for the fact that we have taken action on 15 times the amount of hate speech since 2017,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The prevalence of hate speech is decreasing on our platform and, of the hate speech we remove, 97 percent was found before someone reported it.”

Meanwhile, Twitter was more forthcoming about taking responsibility and recognized that there was more work to be done. “We strongly condemn antisemitism,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “We’re working to make Twitter a safer place, and improving the speed and scale of our rule enforcement is a top priority.”

TikTok released a similar statement and condemned antisemitism.