Ithra announces 3 Saudi films, training programs to elevate local talent

Ithra announces 3 Saudi films, training programs to elevate local talent
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) discussed its three new films at a press conference at the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival on Wednesday. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Short Url
Updated 09 December 2021

Ithra announces 3 Saudi films, training programs to elevate local talent

Ithra announces 3 Saudi films, training programs to elevate local talent
  • ‘Sea of Sands’ and ‘Valley Road’ to release in 2023; ‘Anti-Cinema’ in post production and expected to hit international film fests soon

JEDDAH: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) discussed its three new films at a press conference at the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival on Wednesday.

The conference was attended by local and international press. The center was represented by Tariq Khawaji, Ithra’s chief librarian and the program’s cultural consultant and supervisor of the reading program, and Majed Samman, Ithra’s head of performing arts and cinema, who is also a Saudi filmmaker, producer, actor and editor.

The three movies under the Ithra production banner include a feature film, “Sea of Sands,” by celebrated Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy, a leading figure in the industry in the Middle East and Africa who has written, produced and co-produced nearly 40 feature films in Egypt, the US, the UK and the Arab world.

The second film is “Valley Road,” a Saudi film, including its cast, crew, and location. It will be filmed in Faifa and Soudah in the southern region of the Kingdom by the award-winning Saudi independent filmmaker Khalid Fahad.

The third is a feature documentary called “Anti-Cinema,” about the Kingdom’s cinematic heritage, directed by Ali Saeed and Hassan Saeed. “Sea of Sands” and “Valley Road” are both scheduled for release in 2023.

Samman, who is the producer of “Sea of Sands” and “Valley Road,” told Arab News about “Anti-Cinema,” a documentary that brings Saudi Arabia’s film history to the big screen and is a winner of the Ithra Content Commission Initiative, currently in post-production and expected to hit the international film festival circuit soon.

“Anti-Cinema will be the most controversial piece non-Saudi viewers will ever watch. It tells the history of cinema from the 1940s and 1950s all the way until the Red Sea Film Festival today. So, for us, and especially for our era, people will say, oh my god, I remember this, I remember that, it’s very nostalgic.”

He added: “But for the outside world, they would say that they had no idea they have cinemas in Saudi and I had no idea that they were making movies. It’s going to be an eye-opener for a lot of people. So it’s going to be very controversial.”

“The two films that we’re going to premiere in 2023 are the first of many films, and they’re going to be showing the world and Saudi Arabia how quality films are made. And I can’t wait for people to see it.”

We really want to give as much as possible the opportunity for these Saudi filmmakers to join an international film and expose them to the filmmaking process, and that would give them a push so they can decide if they want to be filmmakers or not.

Majed Samman, Ithra’s head of performing arts and cinema

During the conference, Ithra announced the opening of registration for a training program designed to take Saudi’s film industry to the next level.

The program aims to elevate local talent to a higher standard with international appeal. Samman told Arab News: “The program targets Saudi national talents aged 18-year-old and above. We put down eight different categories for them to join us. Participants need to submit their CV; they have to submit their previous work, their portfolio, and then we’re going to have to decide with judges.”

Samman added: “We really want to give as much as possible the opportunity for these Saudi filmmakers to join an international film and expose them to the filmmaking process, and that would give them a push so they can decide if they want to be filmmakers or not.”

The center has also opened registration for “Sea of Sands”’ shadowing program, linked to its strategic commitment to nurture and develop talent across the Kingdom’s creative industries.

Ithra Film Productions has helped dozens of filmmakers bring their dreams to life. One of the largest movie producers in the Kingdom, it has produced 20 films, 15 of which have received local, regional and international awards.

“We have produced more films in Saudi Arabia than any other entity, including 20 films to date for the past three years now, two feature films, and 18 short films. Most of these films are now on Netflix, Shahad and Saudi airlines. We want to continue making films, and mostly independent films, because like I said, we want to do the best-quality films that would cost a very good amount of money.”

Ithra is the Kingdom’s premier cultural and creative destination for talent development and cross-cultural experiences. It is an innovative and interactive public space for workshops, performances, events, exhibitions and experiences.


Cairo International Book Fair kicks off with Greece guest of honor 

Cairo International Book Fair kicks off with Greece guest of honor 
Updated 51 min 28 sec ago

Cairo International Book Fair kicks off with Greece guest of honor 

Cairo International Book Fair kicks off with Greece guest of honor 
  • Greece is the guest of honor via a rich cultural program that includes discussion of publications and translated works on the ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations
  • Saudi Arabia is participating via 39 publishing houses and in the fair’s cultural and artistic activities

CAIRO: The 53rd Cairo International Book Fair kicked off on Thursday, with Greece the guest of honor and 1,063 Egyptian, Arab and foreign publishers and agencies from 51 countries taking part.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly inaugurated the exhibition, which will continue until Feb. 7 under the slogan “Egypt’s identity: Culture and the question of the future.”

The late writer Yahya Haqqi is the main personality of this year’s book fair, which comprises five halls and 879 pavilions, and includes discussion sessions and workshops. 

Greece is the guest of honor via a rich cultural program that includes discussion of publications and translated works on the ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations.

Saudi Arabia is participating via 39 publishing houses and in the fair’s cultural and artistic activities.

Algeria’s Ministry of Culture and Arts said more than 600 books and publications by Algerian publishing houses are featuring in the exhibition, as are seven writers and poets.

Oman is participating with publications aimed at introducing the country’s culture and highlighting its intellectual production.

The exhibition has a hall dedicated to children’s books and activities, with the works of the late author, translator and publisher Abdel Tawab Youssef at the fore.

The Arab Publishers Association will hold its general assembly on the sidelines of the fair on Sunday, including the election of a new board of directors.

The exhibition had earlier announced the creation of an award for best Arab publisher, and the raising of the financial value of its annual awards in the fields of story, novel, poetry, literary criticism and human studies.


Grace Kelly's granddaughter appears on horseback for Chanel

Grace Kelly's granddaughter appears on horseback for Chanel
Charlotte Casiraghi, the granddaughter of Princess Grace Kelly, appear atop an actual racing horse. Getty
Updated 27 January 2022

Grace Kelly's granddaughter appears on horseback for Chanel

Grace Kelly's granddaughter appears on horseback for Chanel

PARIS: Huge spinning wheels, “floating” wooden blocks and suspended geometric shapes hovered over a surreal mini golf course Tuesday at Chanel’s remarkable couture show.
Even Pharrell Williams, who is no stranger to elaborate sets, had to take a moment to take stock, before posing beside a white, three-meter (yard) tire.
This sublime, avant-garde decor was the work of Xavier Veilhan and marked the first time in its history that Chanel has entrusted a contemporary artist for staging.
The equestrian photos handed out to guests as they filtered in were a hint of what was to come. But no one quite expected Charlotte Casiraghi, the daughter of Caroline of Monaco and the granddaughter of Princess Grace Kelly, to appear out of nowhere atop an actual racing horse.

Getty Images

The beautiful beast and its VIP rider, in a black Chanel tweed sequined jacket of course, began the show to a symphony of gasps and clopping hooves around the Grand Palais Ephemere’s auditorium as celebrity guests snapped pictures.
The horse seemed to enjoy its 15 minutes of fame, trotting by with ease, snaking in and out of the 1920s and 30s constructivist installations and by sand and imitation grass, before breaking out into a canter around the set.
Virginie Viard, Chanel's designer, said the art backdrop was not just decor, but the collection’s creative starting block.
“These geometric shapes made me want contrasts, a great lightness and a lot of freshness: ethereal dresses that float as if suspended,” she said.
Thus Chanel produced a relatively pared down aesthetic for spring with matching tweeds, minimalist touches, clean curved peplums and lots of white. A split leg on heavy three-quarter length skirts was this season’s big theme, creating a silhouette with lots of swag as the models walked.
A pink tweed jacket with white stripes possessed beautiful loose proportions, which perfectly captured the spirit of pared down femininity. It was the best piece in the show. Yet the 47-look collection at times seemed to fall victim to its own restraint, seeming to lack vibrancy.


International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces longlist for 2022 award

International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces longlist for 2022 award
Out of the 16 novels, six will be shortlisted with the titles revealed in March. File/Getty
Updated 27 January 2022

International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces longlist for 2022 award

International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces longlist for 2022 award

DUBAI: The International Prize for Arabic Fiction has announced the 16 longlisted authors competing to receive a $50,000 award when the winner is revealed in May.

Among the authors in contention for the 2022 award are Emirati author Reem Alkamali, Egyptian novelist Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, Eritrean writer Hajji Jabir, Nizar Aghri from Syria, Algerian novelist Boumediene Belkebir, Syrian author Yaa’rab Al-Eissa and Egyptian writer Tarek Imam.

Also competing for the prize are authors Bushra Khalfan from Oman, Morocco’s Mohsine Loukili, Khaled Nasrallah from Kuwait, Mohammed Al-Nu’as from Libya and Algerian Rouchdi Redouane.

Rounding out the longlist is Kuwaiti author Mona Al-Shammari, Syrian novelist Dima Al-Shukr and Egyptian writers Mohamed Tawfik and Belal Fadl.

Five judges, which include Tunisian novelist and previous IPAF winner Shukri Mabkhout and Libyan doctor, poet and translator Ashur Etwebi, chose the list from among 122 entries from nine countries across the Arab world.

Out of the 16 novels, six will be shortlisted with the titles revealed in March. All six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000 each.

Jordanian writer Jalal Barjas won the prize last year for his work “Notebooks of the Bookseller,” announced at an online ceremony in May. In addition to the $50,000 prize, the author also received funding toward securing an English translation of his novel.


‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’ gets release date

‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’ gets release date
Updated 27 January 2022

‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’ gets release date

‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’ gets release date

DUBAI: The Middle Eastern version of “Say Yes to the Dress” is premiering on Feb. 11 on Starzplay, the streaming service announced on Wednesday. 

The Arab program, which is the 25th spin-off of the popular US series, will feature 20 brides from various cultural backgrounds, ranging in age from 23 to 50, all in search for their dream wedding dress.

The nine-episode show, which is a partnership with US media company Discovery, is hosted by Lebanese celebrity stylist Khalil Zein, who has dressed stars from across the region including Haifa Wehbe, Rahma Riad, Nancy Ajram, Maya Diab and Nadine Nassib Njeim. 

The nine-episode show is hosted by Lebanese celebrity stylist Khalil Zein. (Supplied)

Shot at the Hazar Haute Couture in Dubai, the bridal boutique houses a collection of dresses ranging from $615 to $14,000. 

During a virtual event held on Wednesday, the organizers shared a sneak peak of the show, revealing some of the brides who will be part of the show. 

Among the women spotted is a part-Saudi bride, Sabrin, who appears on the show with her family. 

The series will also feature Egyptian beauty influencer and vitiligo advocate Logina Salah, Dubai-based fitness blogger Amy Fox and Iraqi-Polish radio presenter Eve Jaso. 

Fox and Jaso, who attended the press event, shared some of their favorite highlights from the show. 

The series will also feature Iraqi-Polish radio presenter Eve Jaso. (Supplied)

“(It is) definitely definitely putting the dress that I chose on and just feeling like I can be myself in this dress. It just fitted my whole personality, my whole vibe. I didn’t feel restricted. I felt like I could move . . . It was just the best moment,” Fox said.

For Jaso, her favorite memory of the show was “finding everyone in tears,” she said. “You think that being on a TV show, there is not going to be emotion, there is not going to be feelings, but I walked away from that show feeling like everyone was just crying. It was a shock.”

During the event, Zein expressed his gratitude at being part of the Starzplay original series.

“As everyone knows, your wedding day is one of the most monumental days of your life. So being able to take part in making sure the brides feel their best on their big day really means a lot to me,” he said.  


‘Dubai Hologram Universe’ launches with show dedicated to Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez

‘Dubai Hologram Universe’ launches with show dedicated to Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez
Updated 27 January 2022

‘Dubai Hologram Universe’ launches with show dedicated to Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez

‘Dubai Hologram Universe’ launches with show dedicated to Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez

DUBAI: It is never too late to attend a concert by legendary Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez — thanks to hologram technology — and organizers are marking the launch of the “Dubai Hologram Universe” at the Al Habtoor City Theatre with a show dedicated toward the late artist on Jan. 30.

“Dubai Hologram Universe” is a joint venture by the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE) in collaboration with New Dimension Productions (NDP) and will feature state-of-the-art hologram concerts by legendary singers and musicians twice a week at the Al Habtoor City venue.

The tribute concert, titled “Sawwah,” saw media guests enjoy a hologram of Hafez singing some of his most famous songs. (Supplied)

Arab News attended a press preview that took place earlier this week.  

The tribute concert, titled “Sawwah,” saw media guests enjoy a hologram of Hafez – who died in 1977 aged just 47 – singing some of his most famous songs. 

The 90-minute concert featured six backing vocalists who got a chance to sing alongside the star years after his passing. (Supplied)

With live musicians performing behind Hafez, the show kicked off with the star’s hit “Awel Marra,” which he sang in his 1957 movie “El-Wesada El-Khalya.” 

As ardent fans admired Hafez’s hologram figure, which replicated his body movements and facial expressions, a group of dancers joined the show for an immersive visual experience. 

With live musicians performing behind Hafez, the show kicked off with the star’s hit “Awel Marra.” (Supplied)

One song after the other, the eight performers wowed the audience with contemporary dance moves that hit every beat of Hafez’s music. 

The theater’s various special effects, ranging from water falls to haze, gave a modern twist to the music sensation’s show.  

The 90-minute concert featured six backing vocalists who got a chance to sing alongside the star years after his passing. 

One song after the other, the eight performers wowed the audience with contemporary dance moves that hit every beat of Hafez’s music. (Supplied)

Music fans also watched the celebrated singer, nicknamed the “Nightingale,” perform “Betlomooni Leh,” “Asmar Ya Asmarani,” “Balash Etab,” “Gana El-Hawa,” “Bahebek” and more. 

The show ended with a rendition of “Sawwah,” which he released in 1972.

The theater’s various special effects, ranging from water falls to haze, gave a modern twist to the music sensation’s show. (Supplied)

During his career, Hafez, who was also an actor, conductor, businessman, music teacher and movie producer, appeared in 15 films and produced more than 200 songs.

In 2019, fans of the singer were able to watch a similar light show in Jeddah.

Music fans also watched the celebrated singer perform “Betlomooni Leh,” “Asmar Ya Asmarani” and “Balash Etab.” (Supplied)

He is not the only late star who fans have been able to enjoy on stage. The late Egyptian songstress Umm Kulthum also appeared in 2019 at the Winter at Tantora festival and at the Dubai Opera in 2020. 

“Dubai Hologram Universe,” which, according to organizers is the world’s first regular hologram series to focus on immersive digital entertainment, will feature future concerts by holograms of Umm Kulthum, Warda Al-Jazairia and more.