Review: ‘Schumacher’ is a touching, if unsatisfying, portrait of a legend

Review: ‘Schumacher’ is a touching, if unsatisfying, portrait of a legend
The documentary is now streaming on Netflix. (Motorsport Images)
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Updated 20 September 2021

Review: ‘Schumacher’ is a touching, if unsatisfying, portrait of a legend

Review: ‘Schumacher’ is a touching, if unsatisfying, portrait of a legend

LONDON: Michael Schumacher will always be an iconic figure in Formula 1 — widely regarded as one of the most gifted racers of all time, with a work ethic hitherto unseen in the sport, and a drive for perfection that left his rivals staggered by his laser focus. And while this documentary, created with the blessing and cooperation of the Schumacher family, offers an incredible look at the personal and private life of the German driver, it does little to expand on what most people already know about the seven-times world champion.

Now streaming on Netflix, a procession of famous faces from the world of F1 — Ross Brawn, Flavio Briatore, Jean Todt, Eddie Irvine, David Coulthard and many others — offer their recollections of Michael, and those interviews are expertly combined with archival material from Schumacher himself, home videos released by the family, and interviews with his wife and children.




Michael Schumacher’s documentary offers a look at the personal and private life of the German driver. (Motorsport Images)

But while directors Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns, Vanessa Nöcker and Michael Wech do a skilled job of stitching everything together, they rarely take the chance to take “Schumacher” into new territory. Subjects such as Schumacher’s aggression-fueled lapses in racing judgement, or his insistence that he simply couldn’t be in the wrong in any crash, get little more than lip service — perhaps understandably, given that the film was created in such close cooperation with his family. But it does beg the question of what “Schumacher” hopes to achieve. Anyone who follows F1 knows that his was a generation-defining talent, and hearing that same sentiment reflected by a series of notable interviewees simply rings a little hollow.

What’s more, the movie steers clear of offering up any glimpse of Schumacher today. At the end of 2013, Michael suffered a significant brain injury during a skiing trip and hasn’t been seen since. He is, his family insists, continuing to live his life as privately as possible. And while that privacy is important, and absolutely his right, it makes for a strange juxtaposition with a film billed as offering such an intimate portrait of a racing legend.


What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion
Updated 16 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

Author: Elizabeth Carolyn Miller

The 1830s to the 1930s saw the rise of large-scale industrial mining in the British imperial world. Elizabeth Carolyn Miller examines how literature of this era reckoned with a new vision of civilization where humans are dependent on finite, nonrenewable stores of earthly resources, and traces how the threatening horizon of resource exhaustion worked its way into narrative form.
Britain was the first nation to transition to industry based on fossil fuels, which put its novelists and other writers in the remarkable position of mediating the emergence of extraction-based life.
Miller looks at works like Hard Times, The Mill on the Floss, and Sons and Lovers, showing how the provincial realist novel’s longstanding reliance on marriage and inheritance plots transforms against the backdrop of exhaustion to withhold the promise of reproductive futurity. She explores how adventure stories like Treasure Island and Heart of Darkness reorient fictional space toward the resource frontier.


Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival

Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival
Updated 15 October 2021

Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival

Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival
  • Moving film tells the story of the Catalan activist who went to the aid of migrants trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos
  • Festival auditorium hosts a photo exhibition dedicated to the situation of the women in Afghanistan today

ROME: The tragedies of migrants risking their lives trying to reach Europe from North Africa and Syria was the focus of the inaugural day at the 16th Rome Film Fest, the annual film review that was opened on Thursday by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

One of the opening films at the festival was “Mediterraneo,” by Spanish director Marcel Barrena, about the rescue of migrants at sea by the NGO Proactiva Open Arms.

The movie, starring Eduard Fernández, tells the story of the Spanish lifeguard Oscar Camps, the founder of Open Arms.

Moved by the indignation he felt at the photograph of the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose was washed up on a beach in Turkey, Camps decided to rescue immigrants from the sea, operating from the Greek island of Lesbos, a popular tourist destination that hosted a refugee camp where thousands of people lived in unsanitary conditions, subjected to inclement weather and constant anguish.

In 2015 alone, more than 450,000 people passed through Lesbos, an island of just 85,000 inhabitants.

In 2016 Pope Francis visited in Lesbos the refugee camp of Moria, which was later destroyed by a fire. He called on the international community to help “those who risk their lives to find a better future and to escape from war.”

Vatican sources told Arab News that the Pope may go back again to Lesbos “in the near future.” A new refugees camp is being built on the island, completely financed by the European Union.

Barrena told a festival press conference that his film, which has heartbreaking images of the thousands of people risking their lives to escape the war in Syria, is “a cry of protest and pain against Europe’s indifference to the drama of the immigration.”

The 39-year-old director spoke about the challenges of the conditions, filming in the open sea, with real refugees and thousands of extras speaking different languages.

The discovery of hundreds of people floating on the sea, one of the biggest dramas in recent European history, is among the most shocking scenes.

The director explained that his is “not a political film.” “It is about love for human beings. You can’t make a choice between leaving a person to die in the water or saving them. I can’t understand how it is possible that there are people who are not moved by this.”

The main foyeur of the auditorium is hosting “Afghana,” an exhibition of photos shot in the Emergency NGO’s maternity center in Anabah, in the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan.

The pictures by photographer Laura Salvinelli tell the story of the doctors, nurses and patients in this medical facility. There is the smiling face of Zarghona who gave birth to the first son; Kemeya struggling with her fifth caesarean; the Kuchi nomad women during one of their seasonal passages through the Valley; and Asuda who, thanks to the Maternity Center, was able study and train to become a midwife.

 


Stars put on a show at El-Gouna Film Festival’s opening ceremony

Stars put on a show at El-Gouna Film Festival’s opening ceremony
Updated 15 October 2021

Stars put on a show at El-Gouna Film Festival’s opening ceremony

Stars put on a show at El-Gouna Film Festival’s opening ceremony

EL-GOUNA: The fifth edition of El-Gouna Film Festival (GFF) in Egypt kicked off on Thursday, bringing together international filmmakers, producers, actors, industry insiders and cinema enthusiasts who all flocked to the Egyptian resort town for a lavish opening ceremony.

Despite the fire that broke out in the site’s main hall on Wednesday, just a day before the event was scheduled to begin, the show still went on. Organizers managed to reconstruct and repaint the structure that was engulfed in flames in 24-hours.  

Egyptian actress Shereen Reda descended upon the red carpet wearing a luxurious gown from Maison Yeya. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)

Celebrities, including Egyptian actress Shereen Reda and Lebanese singer Maya Diab, descended upon the red carpet wearing luxurious, eye-catching evening gowns to the event that has quicky become one of the most important film festivals in the MENA region.

The opening ceremony, which started at around 10 p.m., featured speeches by Samih Sawiris, founder of GFF, Amr Hanafy, governor of the Red Sea Governorate and Egyptian icon Youssra, who is also a member of GFF’s International Advisory Board.

Lebanese singer Maya Diab wore an eye-catching dress with a giant red hat from Jean-Louis Sabaji. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)

During the ceremony, Egyptian actor Sayed Ragab presented a video that paid tribute to the works of stars and filmmakers who passed away earlier this year, including Samir Ghanem, Dalal Abdel Aziz, Wahid Hamed, Ezzat El-Alaili, Ramses Marzouk, Moufida Tlatli and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Later on in the evening, Tunisian-Egyptian award-winning actress Hend Sabri introduced GFF’s Career Achievement Award, which was presented to Egyptian actor Ahmed El-Saka, who made a special red carpet appearance with his family.

Egyptian actor Ahmed El-Saka made a special red carpet appearance with his family. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)

The opening day came to a triumphant close with a live performance from Egyptian singer and actor Mohamed Ramadan, who took to the stage to perform his new song “Gaw El Banat,” alongside Moroccan-Swedish record producer RedOne and Amsterdam-born singer Nouamane BelAiachi.  

Also at the star-studded event was Canadian-Lebanese musician Massari, Chilean-Palestinian singer Elyana and Lebanese-Canadian entrepreneur Wassim Slaiby, who manages The Weeknd and founded the record label XO. 

This year, the festival, which launched in 2017, will screen films from countries around the world including France, Germany, Russia, Finland, Australia and more. 

The festival will also show a selection of award-winning Arabic movies from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Tunisia and others. 

Here we have rounded up some of our favorite gowns from the opening night.

Yasmine Sabri wearing Rami Kadi. (AFP)
Mona Zaki wearing Maison Yeya. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Dorra Zarrouk wearing Georges Chakra. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Yousra wearing Georges Hobeika. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Bushra Rozza wearing Michael Cinco. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Hend Sabri wearing Fouad Sarkis. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Amina Khalil wearing Salma Osman. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Laila Elwi. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)

 


Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious

Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious
Tbilisi is also a good starting point for day trips around the rest of Georgia. Getty Images
Updated 15 October 2021

Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious

Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious
  • The Georgian capital and its surrounds offer rich history, stunning views, and hearty food at bargain prices

DUBAI: If you are on the lookout for a city vacation that won’t break the bank, but also won’t force you to compromise on quality, then the Georgian capital of Tbilisi — an urban sprawl nestled in a series of mountains following the route of the Kura River — is well worth a visit.

Its architecture reflects the country’s varied past and its geographical location where East (nearly) meets West. The influence of the latter is as clearly apparent as that of the Russian Empire and the Soviet era with its imposing apartment blocks.

Tbilisi is not a huge city, but you can easily fill a week walking the streets, visiting the various tourist attractions and absorbing its busy, vibrant atmosphere.

The old city of Tblisi. Getty Images

The airport is a short drive from the city center, but beware; there are people, mostly men, wearing black tabard’s emblazoned with the words “Airport taxi.” Make sure you agree a price before starting your ride, otherwise you might find you’re paying up to three times the actual fare.

Despite the airport taxis, though, Tbilisi is highly affordable. Georgia has embraced the European Union but not the Euro and as such remains a place where your wallet will be less strained than in many European countries.

You can stay in one of the many 4-star hotels in the heart of the old city for as little as $300 for four nights — although you can certainly spend more if you want to — and you can eat a hearty meal with beverages for as little as $20. 

View from Zedazeni Mountain. Shutterstock

The concierge at most hotels will help you come up with an itinerary, but be sure to include the Zedazeni Monastery. Located at the top of the Zedazeni mountain, it is one of the country’s oldest and boasts a vast metal cross as well as panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

It’s also worth investing in bus tour of the city. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, and the tour takes in all major tourist attractions.  

A walk around the old town is a must — the narrow streets are lined with historic buildings, first floor balconies overlooking the tree-filled streets; it’s like a scene from an old French market town. Overlooking this idyll is the Mother of Georgia statue. It’s a short-but-steep walk to this monument, and the reward is spectacular views across the city.

 

Mother of Georgia statue. Getty Images

Outside of the old town, the roads are busier and traffic is heavy. It’s not the most pedestrian-friendly place — sidewalks often come to an abrupt end, leaving you with the choice of a quick dash into the road or a sharp U-turn to find a better route.

Another great location for spectacular views is Mtatsminda Park, which can be reached via the Tbilisi Funicular ropeway railway connecting Chonkadze street with the summit, 727 meters above sea level. 

It gets hot in Georgia in the summer and the city’s galleries and museums offer a welcome escape. The National Gallery, on Rustaveli Avenue, is small, but provides an interesting insight into Georgian history. A short distance away is the Georgian Museum of Fine Art, which — apart from its three floors of artworks — also boasts a tremendous café.  

National Art Gallery. Shutterstock

If markets are your thing, set aside some time for the flea market next to the Dry Bridge. It has a wide selection of arts and crafts and is a nice place for a stroll, even if you have no intention of buying anything. Who knows? You might just find that bronze bust of Stalin to add the finishing touch to your guest room.

Tbilisi is also a good starting point for day trips around the rest of Georgia. The country’s third city, Kutaisi, is around three hours away by car, up in the mountains, surrounded by impressive scenery. It’s a far slower-paced city than the capital, with a broad selection of restaurants and cafés in which to while away the time.

Kutaisi. Shutterstock

Georgia is a beautiful country, and a popular destination because it is also remarkably cheap. Remember though, people are paid relative to that level of cost — so be sure to tip generously when eating out. You’ll be able to afford it, and it will make your waiter’s day.


‘Spencer’ — compelling portrait of Princess Diana lives up to the hype

‘Spencer’ — compelling portrait of Princess Diana lives up to the hype
Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in ‘Spencer.’ Supplied
Updated 15 October 2021

‘Spencer’ — compelling portrait of Princess Diana lives up to the hype

‘Spencer’ — compelling portrait of Princess Diana lives up to the hype

LONDON: A lot was riding on the UK premiere of “Spencer” at the BFI London Film Festival this month. After all, this was the film’s ‘homecoming,’ as the festival organizers dubbed it. As the film’s credits began to roll, a roaring three-minute-long applause rightfully thundered across the theatre.

“Spencer,” directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Steven Knight, is set over a three-day holiday at the British Royal family’s vacation home in the early Nineties and puts Princess Diana’s mental health at the forefront of the film from start to end. 

“Spencer” was directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Steven Knight. Supplied

Throughout, the camera stalks Diana and offers a look into the troubled mind of the princess and her dealings with the highly-secretive, ultra-traditional royal family. Beautifully shot and, at times, overwhelmingly dark, the film pulls no punches in its depiction of Diana’s struggles — her bulimia, loneliness, acceptance of her husband’s affair, and above all, smiling through it all for the cameras.

Larrain and cinematographer Claire Mathon make excellent use of camera movement and scene setting to showcase what the paparazzi lurking about the grounds are trying so hard to capture (and what Prince Charles and the rest of the royal family are equally trying to hide, even going as far as sewing up Diana’s bedroom curtains). 

Kristen Stewart is excellent in the lead role, stealing every scene. It was a brave move for an American actress to take on such an iconic British personality, but Stewart is pitch-perfect — from Diana’s flirtatiously innocent head tilt to her reluctant-yet-assertive tone of voice, she nails it at every turn.

The films pace shifts confidently between overwhelming emotion and minutiae-focused tedium — surely an accurate portrayal of a Royal holiday — and the supporting cast, including Diana’s confidante and Royal Dresser Maggie (Sally Hawkins), Equerry Major Alistair Gregory (Timothy Spall), Royal Head Chef Darren McGrady (Sean Harris) and Princes William and Harry (Jack Nielen and Freddy Spry) all play wonderfully off Stewart’s Diana. 

“Spencer” is a compelling portrayal of the princess’ plunge into mental-health difficulties in the lead up to her untimely death, and a still-too-relevant reminder of the pressure placed on young women in the public eye.