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)
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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.


Review: Netflix’s ‘The House’ shows that home is where the art is

‘The House’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)
‘The House’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)
Updated 24 January 2022

Review: Netflix’s ‘The House’ shows that home is where the art is

‘The House’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)

LONDON: Netflix is going big on adult animation. Not only has the streaming giant built its own studio in Los Angeles, but it continues to partner with some of the biggest names in the business –its first animated anthology film, “The House,” sees Netflix link up with London’s Nexus Studios to tell a trio of stop-motion stories centered around the mysterious titular house.

In the first, a family makes a Faustian deal with a creepy architect — he will build them a wonderful home if they agree to leave their old house and their belongings behind. As the allure of the creepy building overwhelms the mother and father, only their eldest daughter seems suspicious, investigating the sprawling house in search of clues about their mysterious benefactor.

The second relocates the story to a more modern setting, in which a beleaguered developer (voiced by a charming Jarvis Cocker) struggles to complete the renovation of the same building. The anthropomorphized rat must land a buyer before the bank comes calling, but an interested couple could spell more trouble than the house is worth.

In the final chapter, landlord Rosa (a cat, this time) struggles to keep on top of maintenance, while her rent-shy tenants make plans to flee rising flood waters that edge ever-closer to the house’s front door.

Sure, the three stories feel a bit uneven – the first a gothic nightmare, the second a modern creep-fest, the third a dystopian surrealist study – and the thread that binds them all together, the house itself, shifts from a malevolent entity to an inanimate object and (eventually) a savior figure in a bewildering, meandering arc that is a little hard to decipher. But “The House” remains a stop-motion masterpiece. Even if the stories are unbalanced, and the tone ever shifting, this anthology is a rare, beautiful showcase of animation at its most beguiling and captivating.


Nora Attal stars in summer campaign for Weekend Max Mara

Nora Attal stars in summer campaign for Weekend Max Mara
The 21-year-old stars in the Weekend Max Mara Spring 2022 campaign. Instagram
Updated 23 January 2022

Nora Attal stars in summer campaign for Weekend Max Mara

Nora Attal stars in summer campaign for Weekend Max Mara

DUBAI: British-Moroccan model Nora Attal is starring in a new campaign for Weekend Max Mara, the sister brand of Max Mara’s mainline collections.

Lensed by Eddie Wrey, Attal features in a video and campaign images set along a rocky stretch of coast in Capo Malfatano, Italy.

The 21-year-old catwalk star features in the stunning video advertorial wearing key pieces from the label’s Spring 2022 collection.

She can be seen wearing a beige knit sweater with yarn tassels worn with matching cream-colored trousers paired with loafers and the brand’s Pasticcino bag.

In the 15-second-long clip, Attal can also be seen wearing a belted trench coat, a flowy shirt dress cinched at the waist with a belt and a matching pinstriped trousers and jacket combination.

According to the brand, the Spring 2022 advertising campaign “portrays the protagonist in the summer wardrobe you have always wished for.”

The collection boasts a wide range of summer-ready styles from reinvented classics and summer-ready essentials to cashmere sweaters emblazoned with butterflies and cotton trousers. Tweed miniskirts, leather pouches and linen blouses are among the other items that jostle for attention in the label’s new collection.

The model has been keeping quite busy. She recently appeared in the holiday campaign for German label Boss, alongside Australian actor Chris Hemsworth.

Attal has forged a position as one of the most in-demand models in the world at the moment — Models.com currently ranks her as one of the top 50 models worldwide.

Based in London and singed to Viva Model Management, Attal has walked for renowned fashion houses such as Prada, Fendi, Dior, Chanel and Versace, to name a few, in addition to appearing in the pages of publications such as Vogue magazine.

Born to Moroccan parents in the UK, the model was first discovered by Jonathan Anderson, founder of the J.W. Anderson label, and shot a campaign for the British fashion house in 2014, before making her runway debut three years later.

Attal is among the growing list of Arab models breaking ground in the industry, including Italian-Moroccan Malika El-Maslouhi, part-Palestinian sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, Moroccan-Egyptian Imaan Hammam and French-Algerian Loli Bahia, to name a few.

 


Meet the Saudi architect designing the metaverse

Digital artist and architect Sattom Alasad expresses and explores her Saudi heritage through her work. (AN Photo)
Digital artist and architect Sattom Alasad expresses and explores her Saudi heritage through her work. (AN Photo)
Updated 22 January 2022

Meet the Saudi architect designing the metaverse

Digital artist and architect Sattom Alasad expresses and explores her Saudi heritage through her work. (AN Photo)
  • Sattom Alasad wanted to use online spaces dominating people's lives to provide a tranquil, otherworldly escape
  • These digital spaces are also a way for Alasad to express and explore her Saudi heritage

LOS ANGELES: Saudi architect Sattom Alasad has expanded from designing physical buildings to virtual ones.

Collectively known as a metaverse, digital spaces like Alasad’s allow users online to immersively interact with the environment and each other, and the technology world is looking at them as the next big thing.

“A lot of big companies are investing millions of dollars to own digital land so it’s only natural that the digital real estate is also going to go up in value and is going to be in demand,” digital artist and architect Alasad said. “So as an architect, I am trying to actively participate in developing and designing that digital world for us.”

Metaverse development has been pushed forward due in part to the increased number of people working and interacting remotely during the pandemic.

Alasad wanted to use the online spaces dominating people's lives to provide a tranquil, otherworldly escape.

“A lot of what was going on in the world around us was weighing down on us, so I wanted to take that as an opportunity to start developing my dream world,” she told Arab News.

“I’m currently working on translating my designs to be sold as NFTs where the owner can choose to host the spaces in the metaverse or the digital world where they can be experienced fully and immersively through virtual reality.” 

These digital spaces are also a way for Alasad to express and explore her Saudi heritage, incorporating familiar design elements from her home.

Of all her projects, the one closest to her heart was a collaboration with the charitable collective of MENA region creators, Ya Habibi Market.

“Creating and sharing art is an incredible way to meet and connect with other creatives who live in LA whether they’re from Saudi or other parts of the Arab world.

“So in some ways I found it I would say more empowering to try to connect and understand my culture while being away from it.”


US social media star Brittany Xavier shows off Arab accessories label 

US social media star Brittany Xavier shows off Arab accessories label 
Updated 22 January 2022

US social media star Brittany Xavier shows off Arab accessories label 

US social media star Brittany Xavier shows off Arab accessories label 

DUBAI: US YouTuber Brittany Xavier has been spotted wearing a pair of sunglasses from Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen’s eponymous accessories line By Karen Wazen.

The social media star, who has over 1.7 million Instagram followers and more than 4.6 million TikTok supporters, opted for the Ellis shades, a pair of rectangular-frame sunglasses in black. 

The 34-year-old blogger, famous for her fashion, beauty and digital marketing-related blogs, wore a full leather suit, which she paired with a hot purple bag by Spanish luxury fashion house Loewe, as she strolled down the streets of Los Angeles.  

On her YouTube channel, which has around 443,000 subscribers, the full-time content creator documents her life with her husband, Anthony Xavier, and her two daughters, Jadyn and Poppy Xavier. 

She started her career in 2013. “I started my blog as a hobby in hopes of turning this into my full-time career,” she said in one of her YouTube videos. 

The mother recently welcomed her second child, Poppy, whom she gave birth to 14 years after her first girl. 

Meanwhile, Dubai-based entrepreneur and influencer Wazen launched her debut collection of eyewear in December 2018. The first line came in acetate and stainless steel and in an array of colors, from neon to tortoiseshell.

Less than a year after the official launch of her brand, her designs were picked up by major e-tailer Farfetch, which became the first online platform to offer her eyewear collection.

Now with a large collection of stylish shades, the label has gained the nod of approval from international celebrities including British-Albanian singer Dua Lipa, reality television star Kourtney Kardashian, French model Cindy Bruna, and American singer Becky G, along with a number of regional influencers and trendsetters such as Lebanese blogger Nathalie Fanj, Lebanese-Canadian actress Cynthia Samuel, and Iraqi influencer Deema Al-Asadi.

Among her loyal customers is US music sensation Demi Lovato, who championed the designer’s pieces multiple times. 

The two-time Grammy nominee owns Wazen’s Glamorous shades, a pair of cat-eye-shaped sunglasses in green lenses and a clear frame, and a pair of Kennys, which are rectangular-shaped with brown lenses and a transparent frame.


‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ singer Meat Loaf dead at 74

‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ singer Meat Loaf dead at 74
Updated 21 January 2022

‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ singer Meat Loaf dead at 74

‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ singer Meat Loaf dead at 74
  • The beefy Texas-born singer distinguished himself in the late 1970s with his soaring vocal range and lavish stage productions
  • After a career rut, Meat Loaf enjoyed a revival with his biggest success in 1993: the single "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)"

WASHINGTON: US singer Meat Loaf, famous for his “Bat Out of Hell” rock anthem, has died aged 74, after a career in which he sold more than 100 million albums and appeared in scores of movies.
“Our hearts are broken to announce that the incomparable Meat Loaf passed away tonight with his wife Deborah by his side,” read a statement on his Facebook page early on Friday.
“Daughters Pearl and Amanda and close friends have been with him throughout the last 24 hours.” No cause of death was given.
The beefy Texas-born singer distinguished himself in the late 1970s with his soaring vocal range and lavish stage productions.
His 1977 “Bat out of Hell” album, which reportedly sold some 43 million copies, is one of the highest-selling ever.
After a career rut, Meat Loaf enjoyed a revival with his biggest success in 1993: the single “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” topped the charts in 28 countries and won him a Grammy Award.
“We know how much he meant to so many of you and we truly appreciate all of the love and support as we move through this time of grief in losing such an inspiring artist and beautiful man,” it said.
“From his heart to your souls... don’t ever stop rocking!“
Tributes poured in, including from former US president Donald Trump, and stars such as Cher, who tweeting she was “Very Sorry For His Family, Friends, & Fans.”
“R.I.P Meatloaf. Love and prayers to all his family and close friends,” tweeted singer Boy George.
Adam Lambert, the lead singer for Queen since 2011, described Meat Loaf as “a gentle hearted powerhouse rockstar forever and ever.”
“You were so kind. Your music will always be iconic,” Lambert said on Twitter.
Born Marvin Lee Aday on September 27, 1947, Meat Loaf’s early years in Texas were rough.
“I’ve forgiven my father for trying to kill me with a butcher’s knife,” he once told The Telegraph.
But the bullying at school over his weight — the nickname Meat Loaf came early — was followed by the devastating loss of his mother to cancer while he was still a teenager.
Not long after, he was on his way to New York, looking for ways to channel the angst and histrionics into performance.
There, he teamed up with musician and playwright Jim Steinman, who provided the wild, theatrical backing music to accompany Meat Loaf’s bellowing voice.
Meat Loaf’s other hit singles include “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” (1977) and “I’m Gonna Love Her for Both of Us” (1981).
Meat Loaf had started off seeking acting work — winning parts in “Hair” and the original cast of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and its film adaptation.
Throughout his career, he also had several small parts in TV shows and films, including “Wayne’s World” (1992).
His role in the 1999 cult classic “Fight Club” highlighted his acting prowess in one of the decade’s most critically acclaimed films.
In 2016, he released a new album — his first since 2011 — and returned to a busy schedule after a two-year gap in touring, a string of health scares and speculation he would retire.
The singer had collapsed onstage at least three times since 2003, including once in Canada in 2016 after suffering from dehydration while singing “I’d Do Anything For Love.”
He was one of the few major US musicians outside of the country genre to support the Republican Party actively.
In the lead-up to the 2012 election that Barack Obama ended up winning, Meat Loaf campaigned for his challenger Mitt Romney.
Meat Loaf also became friends with Donald Trump after appearing on the latter’s reality television show “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
Trump described the singer as “smart, talented, open, and warm” in a statement Friday.