RIYADH: Saudi artists, academics and critics will take part in five discussion sessions as part of the Art Memento Exhibition being held at the National Museum in Riyadh until Nov. 6.
The dialogue sessions, organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, will focus on the history of visual arts in the Kingdom and the factors that influence artistic development, along with the role of what was previously known as the General Presidency of Youth Welfare in supporting art and artists over five decades.
The first of the dialogue sessions will be held on Monday under the title “The Journey of Art Collections from Youth Welfare to the Ministry of Culture.” Dr. Suzan Al-Yahya and Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmed will take part in this session as panelists, while Dr. Maha Al-Senan will be the facilitator.
The second session, “Towards a Better Organization of the Acquisition of Artworks,” will be held on Tuesday, with visual artists Mohammed Al-Saawi, Sara Al-Omran and Abdulrahman Al-Sulaiman as panelists and Hafsa Al-Khudairi as facilitator.
The third session will be held next Sunday under the title “The Features of Saudi Visual Arts from Modern to Contemporary,” and will feature Dr. Mohammed Al-Resayes, Dr. Eiman Elgibreen and Faisal Al-Khudaidi as panelists and Dr. Khulood Al-Bugami as facilitator.
“Fostering Arts and the Extent of their Cultural Impact on Society,” the fourth session, will be held next Tuesday, with Ehab Ellaban as panelist and Dr. Hanan Al-Hazza as facilitator.
The fifth and final session will take place on Nov. 2 under the title “The Journey of a Saudi Artist Between the Local and International Scenes.” It will feature Dr. Ahmed Mater, Bakr Shaikhoun and Maha Malluh as panelists and Dr. Noura Shuqair as facilitator.
The Art Memento Exhibition showcases artworks and paintings of Saudi artists over the past five decades, documenting the history of the Kingdom’s visual arts for public display.
Saudi artistic development is highlighted in terms of form, subject and ideas, while the exhibition also celebrates the efforts of leading artists and founders, preserves their history and presents their work to a new generation.
Saudi Arabia’s Desert X AlUla to return for second edition in 2022
Updated 08 December 2021
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s site-responsive contemporary art display Desert X AlUla is returning for its second edition in 2022.
The event, which launched in 2020, will take place from Feb. 11 to March 30, in the Al Mutadil valley, across the Elephant Rock sculpture in AlUla.
Desert X AlUla, which is part of AlUla Arts, will present works by Saudi and international artists. Under the theme of “Sarab,” the exhibition will explore the ideas of a mirage and the desert oasis.
The list of the artists selected for the exhibition will be announced in January.
In the 2020 edition, some of the artists that took part in the project were involved in the creation of Desert X installations in California, and they created artworks based on AlUla’s ancient civilizations and sand and rock formations.
Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Huda’s Salon’ continues director’s tradition of challenging himself
Tense drama, set in occupied Palestine, screens at the Red Sea International Film Festival
Updated 08 December 2021
LONDON: If a story makes Hany Abu-Assad wake up in the middle of the night, it’s fair to say it’s probably one worth telling. The Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated director recalls waking up at 4 a.m. and spending the next four hours writing out the idea for what would become “Huda’s Salon” — a tense, spy drama that will open the Red Sea International Film Festival on Dec. 6 — after a conversation with his wife and long-time producing partner, Amira Diab.
“I had this story about a salon that was recruiting Palestinian girls to work for the occupation’s secret service by putting them in a shameful situation and blackmailing them,” Abu-Assad told Arab News.
“It was in the newspapers, and I was struck by it. It stayed in my mind. Two years ago, my wife wanted to explore something about women in Palestine, and I told her about this idea,” he recalled. “She asked me what the story was, and I didn’t know. So, we slept on it. Then I woke up at 4 a.m. and started to write. During the night, my head must have been working on it.”
“Huda’s Salon” is the taut, character-driven story of Reem, a young mother who visits a Bethlehem business for a haircut and winds up trapped by the salon’s owner, Huda, unless she agrees to spy for the occupation. At the same time, Abu-Assad’s film focuses on Huda’s interrogation by Hasan, who begins to comprehend the gravity of the impossible situation faced by a woman equally trapped by the shame of her past actions.
Abu-Assad is a director equally at home with documentary, biographical and fiction moviemaking, but “Huda’s Salon,” he explained, could only have been made as a story.
“A documentary would have been impossible. I don’t think victims would want to talk to me because of the troubles they would still face if they did so. And, for sure, the secret service isn’t going to talk about it,” he explained. “In fact, one of the only victims who came forward, 15 or 20 years ago, wrote a letter and then committed suicide. So, a fictional story was the only way.
“But the way I shot the film was like a documentary,” he continued. “Most of the scenes are in one shot, where the audience feels like they are trapped in the same time and place as the characters. We walk with the characters, we sit with them. When there are no edits, you are living at the same time as them, second by second. You are almost a mirror for them. And it’s shot with a handheld, too, which adds to that impression.”
In order to pull off such a feat, Abu-Assad needed actors he could trust to control the scenes, who were capable of driving the story for the audience to follow. To that end, the director wrote the parts for actors he had worked with before: Maisa Abd Elhadi (Reem), Manal Awad (Huda) and Ali Suliman (Hasan).
“I called them all after I had the story but before I started the script,” he explained. “I told them the idea and that I wouldn’t write it unless they participated — especially Maisa, because she needed to be vulnerable, not only physically but emotionally. You need brave actors to do that.”
The close-up, often claustrophobic nature of the movie is a world away from Abu-Assad’s previous film, 2017’s “The Mountain Between Us” starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. But it is in line with his commitment to selecting projects that challenge — and scare — him.
“This is why I love it. Without challenge, I can’t do this job. It’s hard, but I’ve always challenged myself to go to extremes and discover new things. I don’t want to do another version of previous films ‘Paradise Now’ or ‘Omar.’ I have to come up with something new, and I might fail, but at least I will learn.”
“Huda’s Salon” was suitably new, challenging and scary for Abu-Assad.
“To do an entire movie in two locations, with three characters, almost always in one shot, with a handheld — which I’d never done before — was certainly a learning process. You have no idea if it’s going to work, if a shot will work in favor of the story or of the characters,” he said. “But otherwise, you work on automatic pilot. You know what’s going to happen because you’ve done it before, and you know what mistakes you’ve made, so you don’t make them again. It becomes boring.”
Up next for Abu-Assad — and part of the reason for his involvement in the Red Sea International Film Festival — is a desire to continue challenging himself and learning.
“For the last eight years, I have been working with my wife, and we’re excited to explore working in the Arab World, in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to widen our borders beyond Palestine. We have several ideas, and we want to explore them with producers from the Arab World. I can’t wait.”
“SOUNDSTORM 21 will bring together 200+ artists that tailor to the taste of all festivalgoers attending,” said Talal Albahiti, COO and head of talent booking and events at MDLBEAST. “Announcing this exceptional line-up of Arab pop stars is an exciting moment for fans who are keen to experience this unique blend provided by electronic dance music global headliners with the Arab world’s most popular artists.”
DUBAI: US singer Nicole Scherzinger is set to head to the UAE for the Global Citizen Forum, which will take place in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah on Dec 12. and 13.
And she’s not the only star slated to attend the event — US-Somali model Halima Aden landed in Dubai on Monday ahead of the forum, and promptly took to Instagram to share snaps with her 1.4 million followers.
Alongside Aden and Scherzinger, there are a number of guests and speakers who will attend the event, including Grammy-nominated DJ and record producer Steve Aoki, US actress Eva Longoria, part-Saudi supermodel and philanthropist Shanina Shaik, award-winning filmmaker Craig Leeson and more.
A fundraiser Gala will close the event on Dec. 13, where international talents are set to light up the stage, including Longoria – who has been honored with the 2021 Global Citizen Forum Award, Scherzinger, Aoki, Dutch DJ Afrojack, and Grammy award-winning artist Wyclef Jean.
The event will be hosted by British host and author June Sarpong, US journalist Richard Quest and Emirati entrepreneur Sara Al-Madani.
Aden’s inspiring story began in a Kenyan refugee camp, where she was raised before emigrating to the US with her family at age seven.
The UNICEF ambassador went on to make headlines as the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, where she was a semi-finalist. The Muslim model was also the first contestant to wear a hijab throughout the competition and the first to favor a burkini during the contest’s swimsuit round.
Shortly afterwards, she made history as the first hijab-wearing model in New York Fashion Week after she made her runway debut in 2017 at the Yeezy Season 5 show.
In November 2020, model made the decision to walk away from the industry, claiming that it did not align with her faith. She announced her return in May 2021, after adding a clause to her contract with IMG Models to ensure she would never have to remove her hijab.
‘I’m living these stories,’ says Hind Al-Fahhad, one of the Saudi directors behind ‘Becoming’
Updated 07 December 2021
DUBAI: Five Saudi female directors will present their new drama “Becoming” at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah.
The 70-minute, Arabic-language film features five short narratives, each reflecting on Saudi society and the changes it is undergoing.
Produced by the festival, “Becoming” focuses on problems confronting female characters — from a divorced mother struggling with anxiety attacks to a middle-aged hairdresser considering an abortion.
The five filmmakers behind “Becoming” include Hind Al-Fahhad, whose work mostly portrays women and the psychological and physical challenges they face.
“I feel that their stories are relevant to me,” she told Arab News. “I’m still living them and they’re all around me.”
Al-Fahhad launched a creative career as a photographer in 2006. “I’m attracted to images and the idea of expressing myself visually,” she said.
At the time, there were no opportunities to study film direction in Saudi Arabia, but the self-taught Al-Fahhad trained herself by reading, watching films and attending workshops.
Five years later, she began experimenting by directing short films, such as the award-winning “Basta” (“Peddlers”), showcasing her productions in Gulf film festivals.
“Every day, I’m discovering,” she said, explaining what she enjoys most about her artistic profession. “I experience a story, a situation in every film. I feel like I’ve entered people’s homes and their stories.”
Like most film professionals, Al-Fahhad’s interest in movies began at an early age, watching videotapes and listening to stories of her grandmother visiting local cinemas in the 1970s.
This family story, in particular, inspired Al-Fahhad to work on her upcoming film “Sharshaf” (“Fitted Sheet”), which will be filmed in 2022.
She is optimistic about the revival of cinema in the Kingdom, as well as the encouragement of aspiring independent filmmakers in her country.
“The situation is different now. We are living the dream,” she said.
“I believe things have gone back to the way they used to be. Saudi society is starting to look like other societies worldwide. It has its dreams, stories and experiences.”