Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Huda’s Salon’ continues director’s tradition of challenging himself

Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Huda’s Salon’ continues director’s tradition of challenging himself
“Huda’s Salon” is a tense, spy drama. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 December 2021

Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Huda’s Salon’ continues director’s tradition of challenging himself

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

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.




“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. (Supplied)

“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. 




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. (Supplied) 

“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).




“Huda’s Salon” was suitably new, challenging and scary for Abu-Assad. (Supplied)

“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.




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“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.”


Saudi Arabia's NEOM advert among nominees for Art Directors Guild Awards in Hollywood

Saudi Arabia's NEOM advert among nominees for Art Directors Guild Awards in Hollywood
Updated 11 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's NEOM advert among nominees for Art Directors Guild Awards in Hollywood

Saudi Arabia's NEOM advert among nominees for Art Directors Guild Awards in Hollywood

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s “NEOM: ‘Made to Change’” advert is nominated for the 26th Art Directors Guild Awards, organizers announced on Monday. 

The live in-person event, scheduled to be held on March 5 in Los Angeles, honors production design in theatrical motion pictures, music videos, animated feature films, television shows and commercials.

The 90-second video shows how the $500 billion smart city in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia will accelerate the human drive for progress through technology, energy, sustainability, mobility and more. 

The commercial’s production designer is François Audouy.

Among the nominees for the commercials category is “Gucci: ‘Aria,’” “Apple Music: ‘Billie Eilish — Happier Than Ever,’” “Apple: Introducing iPhone 13 Pro” and more. 

“Dune,” the science-fiction epic shot in Abu Dhabi, earned recognition in the fantasy feature film category, alongside “Cruella,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “The Green Knight.”


Half-Algerian Loli Bahia takes PFW by storm

Half-Algerian Loli Bahia takes PFW by storm
Updated 42 min 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 16 min 20 sec ago

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.