Co-founder of the Independent Iraqi Film Festival discusses second edition 

 Co-founder of the Independent Iraqi Film Festival discusses second edition 
Shahnaz Dulaimy is the co-founder of the Independent Iraqi Film Festival. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 September 2021

Co-founder of the Independent Iraqi Film Festival discusses second edition 

 Co-founder of the Independent Iraqi Film Festival discusses second edition 
  • ‘We have other stories to tell besides chaos,’ says Shahnaz Dulaimy

DUBAI: When Iraqi film editor Shahnaz Dulaimy was a university student, an academic counsellor advised her to pursue heavyweight majors such as economics and business management — the kind of thing a typical family would approve of — and not her desired option, film. 

Instead, Dulaimy, who was raised in Jordan, did the complete opposite. She moved to Rome, where classic movies including “La Dolce Vita” and “Roman Holiday” were shot, and studied film history and production. 

“There’s such a stigma around (working in creative sectors),” she tells Arab News. “When you hear people talking about actors and actresses, for example, they make it sound like such a demeaning job. But, at the same time, everyone sits in front of the TV, watching the latest TV series or films. There’s still this (disparaging attitude) towards the film industry. Luckily, there are more people pushing it, but I don’t think it’s 100 percent where it needs to be.”




Dulaimy was raised in Jordan. (Supplied)

In London, where she now lives, she co-founded the Independent Iraqi Film Festival along with like-minded cinema-loving Iraqis. The volunteer-run, online event launched last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and notched up around 5,000 views. Dulaimy calls it a “passion project,” highlighting talent from emerging and established Iraqi filmmakers. 

“We wanted to see films that reflect us and our identity. Iraqi cinema is generally underrepresented on the international circuit,” she says. “What we had aimed to do is to provide a platform dedicated to showcasing Iraqi films.” 

The organizers of the IIFF were so overwhelmed by support from both viewers and filmmakers that they decided to go for a second run. Between October 1 and 7, the IIFF will present a curated program of 15 feature films and a series of talks featuring three well-known industry figures: American-Iraqi visual artist Michael Rakowitz, Iraqi actress and director Zahraa Ghandour, and Iraqi set designer Mohammed Khalid. 




Among the featured films this year is “Iraqi Women: Voices from Exile,” made in the 1990s by London-based director Maysoon Pachachi. (Supplied)

This time around, more than 90 film submissions were received, which made Dulaimy and her colleagues realize more than ever the responsibility they bear. “I think it shifted from being just a passion project to more of a duty towards the Iraqi community in Iraq and the diaspora,” she says. 

To make the festival as accessible as possible, all its offerings will be freely available for streaming worldwide and subtitled in English. The filmmakers did not have to pay any submission fee either. 

“The moment you ask people to pay, there’s a wall. You’re kind of blocking people, you’re blocking talent,” she says. The selected independent films, created by both men and women who live inside and outside of the country, reflect the diversity of Iraqi society, as well as the struggles people encounter and their hopes and dreams. There is a particular focus on telling the stories of the marginalized — specifically women and minorities. 

“Iraq is not a one-layered country,” notes Dulaimy. “It’s a multi-dimensional, multi-textured culture. You’ve got everyone from the Kurds in northern Iraq to the Assyrians and Yazidis. It’s so important that everyone gets an equal voice. Iraqis are not just Arabic-speaking, Baghdad-born-and-raised Arabs.” Among the featured films this year is “Iraqi Women: Voices from Exile,” made in the 1990s by London-based director Maysoon Pachachi, and Ali Raheem’s 2015 documentary “Balanja,” about four Kurdish people overcoming the pains of the past. 

Over the past couple of decades, the image the outside world has of Iraq has been one of warfare, terror, and destruction. But, Dulaimy points out, Iraq has much more to offer to the world. 

“Iraq is not just a war-torn zone, where people are struggling on a daily basis. We have other stories to tell besides the political disarray and chaos. I think we’re ready to move on from that, we don’t want to keep playing the victims. I feel the time for us to move on is now,” she says. “I hope audiences also take into consideration how difficult it is to shoot a film. You’re not going to see a polished, dazzling film. What you’re going to see is raw, social, realist films. I just want people to go into the festival with open eyes and ears.”


Incomparable Cordoba — a cultural crossroads with unique multicultural history

Cordoba’s historic center is architecturally unique as it preserves, side by side, its complex Islamic, Christian, and Jewish past. (Supplied)
Cordoba’s historic center is architecturally unique as it preserves, side by side, its complex Islamic, Christian, and Jewish past. (Supplied)
Updated 28 October 2021

Incomparable Cordoba — a cultural crossroads with unique multicultural history

Cordoba’s historic center is architecturally unique as it preserves, side by side, its complex Islamic, Christian, and Jewish past. (Supplied)

CORDOBA: At a time when religious differences continue to divide, a visit to the Andalusian city of Cordoba is a refreshing history lesson, reminding us of what it means to live together in multicultural harmony. 

Cordoba’s historic center is architecturally unique as it preserves, side by side, its complex Islamic, Christian, and Jewish past. “Convivencia,” or coexistence in Spanish, is a term you’ll often hear in reference to medieval Spain, where Arabs ruled between 711 and 1492 CE. 

The Jewish Quarter. (Shutterstock)

Cordoba is a city that celebrates tolerance and knowledge. With its yellow buildings, narrow cobblestoned streets, and white walls clad with blue flowerpots, Cordoba’s historic center is a wonderful place for a holiday. 

The Hotel Maimonides — named after the Cordoba-born 12th-century Jewish philosopher — is a stone’s throw away from the city’s most-iconic monument, the Mosque-Cathedral. There will be hordes of tourists and street vendors attempting to sell you rosemary twigs, but it is worth the hassle. Built in the 8th century, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was first erected by Abd al-Rahman I, whose successors kept expanding it to accommodate the area’s growing population. At one point, it could fit in around 40,000 worshippers. Its concrete jungle of red and white, arching columns command attention, as does its sumptuous mihrab, decorated with golden mosaics.    

A statue of Maimonides. (Shutterstock)

When Catholic forces took over the city in 1236, they eventually built a gothic cathedral — also elegant in its own way — in the middle of the mosque. Nowhere else in the world does such a disorienting structure exist, which is why some believe the Mosque-Cathedral’s interior lacks visual harmony. While it’s free to enter the building’s spacious orange-tree courtyard, to enter the Mosque-Cathedral itself you’ll have to pay, but concessions apply for students, seniors and the disabled. The nighttime “Soul of Cordoba” tour is a great time to visit the Mosque-Cathedral. It is much quieter and breathtakingly beautiful with dimmed lighting. 

The nighttime “Soul of Cordoba” tour is a great time to visit the Mosque-Cathedral. (Shutterstock)

The Jewish Quarter, or ‘Juderia,’ is another historical point to explore. As you walk up Calle de los Judíos (Jewish Street), you will not only come across a well-known statue of Maimonides but one of just three remaining synagogues in all of Spain. Inside this 14th-century synagogue, which has a women’s gallery in the upper section, Hebrew inscriptions and geometric patterns cover the walls. In the past, the synagogue was also a hospital and kindergarten. 

The city is full of statues of luminaries associated with it, including the philosopher Averroes (Ibn Rushd) and oculist Al-Gafequi. If you have time, stop by the underground Baños del Alcazar Califal — an Arab bath house used by caliphs for socializing, pampering, and cleansing. 

Baños del Alcazar Califal. (Shutterstock)

Cordoba also has plenty of dining options. Casa Qurtubah is a lovely restaurant that cooks up Moroccan and Levantine dishes. For upbeat ambiance, go for La Chiquita de Quini. For cozy, try El Rincon de Carmen or Casa Palacio Bandolero for a quiet dinner. The restaurants’ popular patio spaces tend to get busy, so it’s wise to book in advance. Wherever you decide to go, the city’s simple and delicious staple of salmorejo, a thicker version of gazpacho soup, is a must-try.

A number of small and affordable museums are peppered around the city center. The Archaeology Museum, founded in the 19th century, sits on the site of an old Roman Theatre, the remains of which can still be found in the museum’s basement. The Museo Julio Romero de Torres is especially intimate with its deep red walls and sensual paintings of Spanish women. De Torres was born in Cordoba in 1874. He lived and died there, and his namesake museum was set up right next to his home. 

Elsewhere, over 20 years ago, Salma Al-Farouki founded Casa Andalusi, which educates visitors about Arabs’ long history of cultural contributions to Andalusia. Casa de Las Cabezas (House of Heads), meanwhile, is a charming museum — despite the gory myth of seven heads found hanging here — that demonstrates how an upper-class family would once have lived in this house and its multifunctional rooms. 

Finally, Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus recounts Cordoban histories through detailed miniature displays. The latter museum is connected to the Mosque-Cathedral area by the city’s long Roman Bridge. Crossing it, preferably around sunset, is an ideal way of ending the day, above the Guadalquivir River.


Candlestick breaks Sotheby’s record for sale of an ‘Islamic object’ at $9.1 million

The silver-inlaid brass candlestick, which was made in Northern Iraq circa 1275, soared to $9.1 million. (Supplied)
The silver-inlaid brass candlestick, which was made in Northern Iraq circa 1275, soared to $9.1 million. (Supplied)
Updated 28 October 2021

Candlestick breaks Sotheby’s record for sale of an ‘Islamic object’ at $9.1 million

The silver-inlaid brass candlestick, which was made in Northern Iraq circa 1275, soared to $9.1 million. (Supplied)

DUBAI: A 12th century candlestick has broken the record for an Islamic object at auction at Sotheby’s, following its sale as part of the Arts of the Islamic World & India auction this week.

The silver-inlaid brass candlestick, which was made in Northern Iraq circa 1275, soared to $9.1 million during a 25-bidding battle on Wednesday.

The silver-inlaid brass candlestick, which was made in Northern Iraq circa 1275, soared to $9.1 million. (Supplied)

The price represents a new record for an Islamic object at auction at the famed British auction house, beating the previous record for an Islamic object held by the “Debbane" Iznik Charger, which sold at Sotheby's for $6.9 million in 2018.

The auction house said the candlestick the finest example of Islamic metalwork to appear on the market in over ten years, adding that it has been in the same private collection since the 1960s and was recently exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The decorations on the object include a stately parade of courtiers and musicians  


Fashion turns heads at FII summit in Riyadh

Fashion turns heads at FII summit in Riyadh
Updated 28 October 2021

Fashion turns heads at FII summit in Riyadh

Fashion turns heads at FII summit in Riyadh

RIYADH: The coronavirus pandemic forced most organizers around the world to hold several key summits and events online thus depriving participants of the chance to meet others in person. 

High-profile events such as the Future Investment Initiative not only offer a platform to discuss global and regional issues but also provide an opportunity for the attendees to try to look their best. 

The pre-event to-do list not only includes finalizing keynote speeches or presentations but also the most suitable attire to don at the event.

Despite all the seriousness of the issues being discussed at this year’s FII, one cannot ignore the style and fashion tastes of the participants. Colorful abayas, suits, dresses, and special accessories tell stories of their own.

Colin Rhys, chief executive officer of KARAVAN, a nomadic hospitality brand looking to expand into the Kingdom, turned heads with his unique fedora with a piece of Shemagh (Saudi headgear) tied to it. 

He told Arab News that the idea of the hat came up five years ago in AlUla when the original black band that went around it broke off. “I was with a Saudi friend who tied this (Shemagh material) to the hat,” Rhys said.

“I wore it to every FII, every single event, every year, everywhere,” he said. “It has become a part of me.”

He added: “We’re really excited to be here at the FII. I think we see the huge opportunity that the Crown Prince has laid out for us, and we’re excited to be part of the journey moving toward (Vision) 2030.”

Asma Arkubi, Saudi client adviser at the Red Sea Development Co. said she saw some of the most beautiful abayas at the FII.

“I really liked how these women walked in with something cultural and extremely fashionable at the same time, it was like a mini fashion show for me,” she told Arab News.

“Combining modern chic designs with culture is something I’ve always been a fan of,” she added.

John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Development Co. and Amaala, said it is his third time attending the FII, and highlighted that attendees are eager to come back to in-person events.

“I think this is almost probably the best FII for a whole variety of reasons, not least because it's the first one after the pandemic and it just shows how much people want to come and meet face to face something we had been missing for over the last two years,” Pagano told Arab News.

“But I also think, and I’m really pleased of the fact that it’s really cemented Saudi Arabia’s reputation for the Future Investment Initiative. It is now a global event, and it’s attended by the brightest people in the world, and I’m pleased to be part of that,” he added.

Mimoun Assraoui, CEO of RIF Trust and vice-chairman of Latitude, who was also present at the FII, said: “I’m very happy to be here because I missed it last year. We did it virtually last year and this year I’m amazed by the contents, the people, and the high-level of experience, and seeing people happy again to connect with each other.”


Highlights from day 3 of Arab Fashion Week: An Emirati comeback and party dresses galore

Polish label Dorota Goldpoint showed off a vibrant collection. (Supplied)
Polish label Dorota Goldpoint showed off a vibrant collection. (Supplied)
Updated 27 October 2021

Highlights from day 3 of Arab Fashion Week: An Emirati comeback and party dresses galore

Polish label Dorota Goldpoint showed off a vibrant collection. (Supplied)

DUBAI: Emirati designer Yara bin Shakar made her return to the Arab Fashion Week calendar on Tuesday night, with a dynamic show in Dubai Design District.

Relaxed sleeveless cuts made up the bulk of the new collection, while the designer announced a collaboration with the Fashion Week partner GoDaddy as she launched an online store.

Polish label Dorota Goldpoint opened its show with a classical violin performance before the runway was dominated by floral red prints inspired by the Polish culture. The collection featured mainly evening gowns with attention to simple cuts sans embroidery and embellishments.  

Polish label Dorota Goldpoint staged a colorful show. (Supplied)

Dubai-based label Autonomie, founded by Egyptian creative director Maha Ahmed, showed off its typically edgy ready-to-wear collection titled “Metanoia,” which refers to the act of reforming. The line was dominated by short dresses, oversized pants, cropped trousers, asymmetrical skirts and playful fabric styled with white sportswear socks and black pumps.

Autonomie showed off a typically edgy ready-to-wear collection. (Supplied)

Meanwhile, French designer Victor Weinsanto showed off his Spring collection. Having worked at the elbow of Jean Paul Gaultier before launching his brand last year, Weinsanto showed off pretzel-shaped braids propped on headbands, kooky kougelhof handbags and shirt dresses with nipped waists and ballooning sleeves.

French designer Victor Weinsanto showed off his Spring collection. (Supplied)

The last highlight of the day was New York-based British designer Christian Cowan. The collection was perfect for partying with its off-the-shoulder, skintight dresses, oversized rhinestones and slits galore.

The last highlight of the day was British New York-based designer Christian Cowan. (Supplied)

 


Italian designer Giorgio Armani puts on a flamboyant show in Dubai

 Italian designer Giorgio Armani put on a flamboyant show in Dubai on Tuesday night. (Instagram)
Italian designer Giorgio Armani put on a flamboyant show in Dubai on Tuesday night. (Instagram)
Updated 27 October 2021

Italian designer Giorgio Armani puts on a flamboyant show in Dubai

 Italian designer Giorgio Armani put on a flamboyant show in Dubai on Tuesday night. (Instagram)

DUBAI: Italian designer Giorgio Armani put on a flamboyant show in Dubai on Tuesday night, with a stellar guest list to match.

The well-heeled crowd included US actress Sharon Stone, Italy’s 100m Olympic gold medalist Marcell Jacobs, and musician Eric Nam. For the evening’s entertainment — besides the bevvy of gorgeous gowns that were paraded down the runway — the audience was serenaded by Coldplay front man Chris Martin, who jokingly dedicated a song to “everyone here who owns a skyscraper, even if it’s only one skyscraper.”

The silver, palm-tree lined runway, which was located at the Armani hotel at the Burj Khalifa, played host to a showcase of Armani’s Spring 2022 collection and pieces from the Armani Privé couture line.

Menswear also made a strong appearance, with sharp blazers and quirky accessories on show — from liquid velvet workwear to tailored pants perfect for work-to-play needs.

The second portion of the show was dedicated to womenswear — and it was a treat.

Crystal embroidery, sparkling sequins and lashings of fringe were on show throughout as the graceful models showed off a collection of full-skirted gowns and ruffles galore.

Ahead of Armani’s first-ever Middle East showcase, the Italian designer received a UAE golden visa, giving him 10-year residency in recognition of his contribution to the international fashion scene.

The golden visa scheme began in 2019 and grants 10-year residency in recognition of special contributions to the country. Armani was given the UAE golden visa by Major General Mohamed Ahmed Al-Marri, director general of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.

The designer opened the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, which at 160 stories is the world’s tallest building, ten-years-ago.

Tuesday night’s exclusive fashion show was planned to coincide with Expo 2020 Dubai, while also marking the 10th anniversary of the hotel and the 40th anniversary of the Armani brand, which was launched in 1981.

The One Night Only Event was first staged in London in 2006, and has since been reinterpreted in Beijing, New York, Paris and Rome, among other cities.