Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021

Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021
The 23-year-old social media star and architecture graduate was born in Aleppo, Syria, and rose to fame when his comedic videos and sketches began to go viral on the internet. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 December 2021

Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021

Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021

DUBAI: E! Entertainment Television announced on Monday that Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun has been voted by the public as the Middle Eastern Social Media Star of 2021 at this year’s People’s Choice Awards.

This is the first time the awards show has dedicated a category to the Arab world. 

Maskoun is recognized by the People’s Choice Awards alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names including the entrepreneur, fashion and beauty mogul Kim Kardashian, who will receive “The Fashion Icon” award; entertainment powerhouse Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who will be honored with “The People’s Champion” award, and Academy Award-winning actress, director and producer Halle Berry who will take home “The People’s Icon” award. 

On receiving his award, the social media star said in a released statement: “Throughout my life, all external factors, especially during my period of asylum, made me feel that I didn’t have much worth and that I was inferior to others. I think that this award is proof that with passion and dedication, there is nothing that can stop you from dreaming.”

The 23-year-old social media star and architecture graduate was born in Aleppo, Syria, and rose to fame when his comedic videos and sketches began to go viral on the internet. 

He is best known for playing the character of “Umm Suzan,” a persona that he created. 

From being a Syrian refugee in Turkey and France, to now becoming one of the most famous social media influencers in the Arab world, Maskoun has reached over three and half million followers on Instagram and almost four million subscribers on YouTube in just seven years. 

The other nominees in the Middle Eastern Social Media Star of 2021 category included Kuwaiti style icon and fashion influencer Ascia, Saudi Arabian fashion and style influencer Fozaza, Lebanese fashion guru and lifestyle influencer Karen Wazen; Emirati storyteller Khalid Al-Ameri, Egyptian Instagram sensation and beauty influencer Logina Salah, Iraqi YouTube sensation Noor Stars and Bahraini filmmaker Omar Farooq.

The 2021 People’s Choice Awards will be broadcast on Dec. 8, starting with 2021 People’s Choice Awards: Live From E! at 3:00 a.m. and the ceremony at 5:00 a.m. (Saudi time). 

The red carpet and ceremony will air again later that same day at 3:30 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. 


Half-Algerian Loli Bahia takes PFW by storm

Half-Algerian Loli Bahia takes PFW by storm
Updated 7 sec ago

Half-Algerian Loli Bahia takes PFW by storm

Half-Algerian Loli Bahia takes PFW by storm

DUBAI: Loli Bahia is the breakout model to watch out for this fashion month. The French-Algerian rising star is having a stellar Paris Fashion Week and has already turned heads on the runways of Alaia, Paco Rabanne and Schiaparelli.  

The Paris-based model’s season kicked off at Alaia, where she helped designer Pieter Mulier showcase his second collection as creative director for the fashion house, which he now helms following Tunisian couturier Azzedine Alaia’s death in 2018.

 The 19-year-old model walked for Alaia during Paris Fashion Week. Getty Images

Bahia took to the runway wearing a black oversized blazer dress featuring a white dramatic skirt derived from the late Tunisian couturier’s Spanish skirts from 1982 and 1988. The look was paired with black thigh-high boots.

She wasn’t the only model of Arab descent to strut down the label’s runway, shown off-schedule in Paris. The part-Algerian beauty walked alongside Moroccan-British Nora Attal.

She went on to join the likes of Louise Robert, Akon Changkou and Giselle Norman at Paco Rabanne’s Fall 2022 runway presentation during Paris Fashion Week.

Bahia strutted down the catwalk wearing a cropped wool turtleneck sweater paired with a matching wool and blue grain de poudre slit skirt that was studded with domed silver buttons.

Loli Bahia at the Schiaparelli Spring 2022 haute couture show. Getty Images

She later hit Schiaparelli’s surrealist show wearing a black silk crepe mini dress with black frothy curls sprouting from the shoulders that bounced as she moved down the runway of the Petit Palais.

At just 19, Bahia is quickly shaping up to be one of the most in-demand models in the industry, becoming a runway fixture in just a couple of months after a breakthrough Spring 2022 fashion month, where she walked in 65 shows.

The rising star strutted down the catwalks of a host of prestigious labels, including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Givenchy, Lanvin and Valentino, to name but a few.

Bahia, who is signed to Women Management Paris, made her runway debut in 2020 at Louis Vuitton’s Fall 2021 show. She would go on to star in the Parisian luxury house’s advertising campaign for Fall 2021.

She has also featured in campaigns for Saint Laurent, Courreges and Max Mara in addition to starring on the cover of Vogue Italia.


Beauty buzz: Skincare trends to look out for in Saudi Arabia in 2022

Beauty buzz: Skincare trends to look out for in Saudi Arabia in 2022
Updated 25 January 2022

Beauty buzz: Skincare trends to look out for in Saudi Arabia in 2022

Beauty buzz: Skincare trends to look out for in Saudi Arabia in 2022

DUBAI: Just like fashion and beauty, skincare also has its yearly trends. 

To learn more about the forecast for 2022, Arab News sat down with Ryan Saddik, general manager for the Middle East and North Africa region at the Swedish beauty company Foreo. 

The specialist said that the first trend that consumers are going for this year is clean beauty.

Ryan Saddik is the general manager for the Middle East and North Africa region at the Swedish beauty company Foreo. (Supplied)

“Consumers are very aware of what they are putting on their skin and are looking for products with less chemicals and more clean ingredients,” he said. 

He also believes that beauty lovers are stepping away from the multi-step skincare practices and are opting for “personalized routines,” adding that consumers are starting to become more conscious of the labels they opt for and the ingredients in their skincare products.

Over the past few years, beauty-focused technology has been garnering the attention of beauty gurus, including US-Iraqi entrepreneur and blogger Huda Kattan and part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik. The social media stars have previously shared snaps of themselves using light therapy treatments that are said to make the skin look smoother and fuller, for example. 

“Consumers are looking into smarter tech-beauty gadgets that will enable them to keep up with their skincare treatments, all in the comfort of their own homes,” said Saddik. “Technology-infused skincare, LED lights and micro currents are no longer as niche as they used to be — and Saudi Arabia sees more people dabbling in beauty tech.”

Foreo recently launched a new beauty tool called BEAR — a microcurrent facelift device that is available in the Kingdom. 

According to Saddik, the device is “the world’s first FDA-cleared medical microcurrent tool with an anti-shock system, which makes it the safest microcurrent device available.

“With Saudi Arabia being one of the key markets for us, it’s important to be available and on-hand to customers at all times,” Saddik said. “A facial workout with the much-loved microcurrent technology is one of the things in beauty that is for sure getting more and more attention.”


US actor Giancarlo Esposito to attend UAE Comic Con 

US actor Giancarlo Esposito to attend UAE Comic Con 
Updated 25 January 2022

US actor Giancarlo Esposito to attend UAE Comic Con 

US actor Giancarlo Esposito to attend UAE Comic Con 

DUBAI: US actor, director and producer Giancarlo Esposito is set to attend the 10th edition of Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC) in Abu Dhabi.

The festival, which is dedicated toward films, comic books and video games, will run from March 3-5 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

Esposito is famous for his roles in AMC’s award-winning TV show “Breaking Bad” and its prequel “Better Call Saul.” 

US actor Michael Rooker will attend the event. (AFP)

He is also known for playing Moff Gideon in the Disney+ Star Wars’ spinoff “The Mandalorian,” as well as for his role of Jorge in the blockbuster action franchise “The Maze Runner.”

The filmmaker will be part of a star-studded guest list that includes US stars Michael Rooker and Jon Bernthal, US voice actor Charles Martinet and “Game of Thrones” actress Nathalie Emmanuel. 

Now in its 10th year, the event will feature workshops, a theater experience, an Artists’ Alley and the ever popular cosplay competition.


Lebanese short film ‘Warsha’ premieres at Sundance Festival

Lebanese short film ‘Warsha’ premieres at Sundance Festival
Updated 24 January 2022

Lebanese short film ‘Warsha’ premieres at Sundance Festival

Lebanese short film ‘Warsha’ premieres at Sundance Festival

DUBAI:  “Warsha,” a short film written and directed by Lebanese filmmaker Dania Bdeir, had its global premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

The 15-minute-long film, which tells the story of a Syrian crane operator in Beirut named Mohamed (played by Lebanese singer Khamsa), is part of the annual festival’s online program until Jan. 30.

The film will be screened physically at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France, which runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 5, before it is set to make its Middle Eastern premiere later this year.

“Warsha” was also selected for the 2022 International Film Festival of Rotterdam.


‘A milestone for Arab cinema’ — director and stars discuss ‘Perfect Strangers’

 ‘A milestone for Arab cinema’ — director and stars discuss ‘Perfect Strangers’
The film is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied
Updated 25 January 2022

‘A milestone for Arab cinema’ — director and stars discuss ‘Perfect Strangers’

 ‘A milestone for Arab cinema’ — director and stars discuss ‘Perfect Strangers’
  • The first Arabic-language Netflix original movie has been a huge success both regionally and internationally thanks to stellar performances from the cast and its first-time director

DUBAI: It’s been a long time since an Arabic-language film has dominated conversation across the Arab world quite like “Perfect Strangers” currently is. The first original Arabic-language Netflix film — an adaptation of the award-winning Italian original of the same name — has been trending across the region since its launch on January 20, inspiring both overwhelming praise for its stellar performances and fierce debate over the questions it poses. 

“Perfect Strangers” was helmed by Lebanese director Wissam Smayra and features several of the region’s most-acclaimed actors, including Egypt’s Mona Zaki and Eyad Nassar alongside Lebanon’s Georges Khabbaz, Diamand Bou Abboud, Nadine Labaki, Adel Karam, and Fouad Yammine.

“Perfect Strangers” features several of the region’s most-acclaimed actors. (Netflix)

Set during a dinner party held by a group of Egyptian and Lebanese friends, the film revolves around a game in which each person puts their mobile phone on the table, exposing to the rest every call or message that they receive. What starts off as light fun quickly descends into dramatic chaos as painful truths come to light. 

The film has already stirred controversy on social media with some Twitter users accusing the movie of “moral degradation” and “putting Western ideas in a conservative society” — a claim the cast and crew thoroughly refute.

Much of the anger has originated in Egypt, according to the Hollywood Reporter, with one example being Egyptian lawyer Ayman Mahfouz who claimed that the movie is a “plot to disrupt Arab society.”

“The film touches on taboos, but it’s not about the taboos,” Zaki, the biggest star in Egyptian cinema, tells Arab News. “The main idea is about the privacy we hide in our phones, how we keep secrets from everyone around us, and how — for so many of us — even those who we are closest to know nothing about us.”

Bou Abboud defines the point of the film further: “It’s about exploring the exact limit to which we can reveal ourselves to the closest people around us and not be judged.” 

“We tackle each topic without (judgment),” adds Smayra. “We’re not trying to prove anything. We are just going into reality and focusing on the human interactions it inspires.” 

The film is a landmark in more ways than one, an eminently accessible mainstream drama that has immediately found a global audience, trending at the top of Netflix in countries including France and proving that Arab film is reaching a turning point both in terms of quality and widespread popularity, regionally and internationally. 

Lebanese director Wissam Smayra. (Netflix)

“Respect (for Arab film) is starting to really grow. And this is a milestone, I think,” says Labaki, the Oscar-nominated director of “Capernaum.” 

To achieve the naturalistic style of “Perfect Strangers,” Smayra approached the film much like a piece of theater, rehearsing the script from start to finish with his actors for weeks on end, and filming the entire project chronologically rather than out of order, as is the norm for most films.

During filming, Smayra and the cast would meet every day out of costume and without make up, running through that day’s 10-minute scene 20 to 30 times in a row for hours until it became second nature, before filming the scene that night.  

“This is when you know that you have amazing actors,” says Smayra. “It wasn’t normal — these were crazy, insane geniuses. I was witnessing something magic.

“We worked with two cameras. Each day, we would start shooting for three or four hours until it was done,” he continues. “It was insane. Afterwards I could see they were all drained.” 

“And that was even though we were all just sitting around a table!” says Zaki. “It was an emotional drain.”

Nadine Labaki and Georges Khabbaz on set. (Netflix)

“It was easy for me, though,” adds co-star Karam, who also starred in the Oscar-nominated film “The Insult,” with a smile. 

Part of the reason for most of the cast’s constant exhaustion was that, unlike most films, there were no breaks for the actors. Because of the multiple handheld cameras and the nature of the story, the troupe could never drop out of character.

“The way it was shot was very important. You had to be present the whole time — even if it's not your moment, even if you know you're not going to be talking for a while,” says Labaki. “We were present not only as characters but as ourselves, watching the performance of somebody else that is so real that you really feel you're in it, you really identify, and you start thinking about your own situation. It was really fascinating.”

Smayra, who, like Labaki, got his start directing music videos in Lebanon in the early 2000s, has worked with Labaki in the past, executive producing “Capernaum.” Though it was his first feature-length film, he was a soft-spoken but assured presence, and never leaned on his fellow director in the cast as others have. 

“I never felt I was working with a first-time director,” says Labaki. “I felt from the start that this was going to be great; I was in good hands. Because of that, my only concern became doing the best I can for the character, and for everybody else, because you feel like everybody's performing on such a high level. I felt like I needed to be up to the expectations, and up to the standard they were all setting. I really loved this whole adventure.” 

“Perfect Strangers” is an adaptation of the award-winning Italian original of the same name. (Netflix)

For Egyptian star Nassar, what was truly remarkable is how nothing was lost in translation, and all the power he felt in the moment remains on the screen in the final cut.

“I told Wissam, ‘You are a magician.’ As an actor, I knew the subtleties I had introduced while filming and I knew the best moments of the other actors,” he says. “Watching it, there are no missing moments. All the actors’ power was there, nothing lost in the editing. He was seeing everything. I’ve never seen that done so well.”

And Nassar says that, to his surprise, he left the set a changed performer. “After I finished ‘Perfect Strangers’ and got back to Egypt, I had a different style of acting,” he says. “Working with actors such as Georges Khabbaz allowed me to see other schools of acting.” 

Khabbaz, Lebanon’s most renowned stage actor, found the film uniquely challenging, though he ends up being the film’s quiet and soulful anchor and has received an outpouring of praise online for his performance.

“I am a man of the stage,” Khabbaz explains. “The stage has vast space, which allows you to express using all tools.  This role was different. It was difficult. To do it, I had to keep my emotions closer to my chest, and show them only in reactions. I tried to do this role as an Eastern man but maintaining the Western concept of the movie. For this performance, I became a man of reaction, not a man of action.”

The film is trending at the top of Netflix in countries including France. (Netflix)

While some of the discussion around the film has focused on why Arab cinema is producing remakes rather than crafting original stories, each cast member made sure that “Perfect Strangers” responded to that concern with gusto, crafting a true piece of art that stands as the best version of the concept — one possessed with a uniquely Arab spirit — rather than a lazy cash-in. 

“Throughout the filming, my inner question was: ‘Why are we making this movie?’ We constantly discussed how we could present this material as Eastern people for an Eastern audience,” says Nassar. “The answer lay in how the dilemma the film poses affects Eastern people uniquely. We ended up discovering during the whole filming process why we were doing the Arabic version of this movie. In the end, it was very clear to all of us, and it will be to audiences, as well.”