JEDDAH: The enthusiasm of Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute in Paris, is contagious as he shares his thoughts about the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival with Arab News en Francais.
Lang, who also served as minister of culture in his native France in the 1980s and 90s, said that even two years ago he could not have imagined an international film event such as this taking place in Jeddah.
“It was an absurd idea,” he said and yet now “a real cultural revolution is underway in Saudi Arabia” under the direction of the country’s leaders. “It is extraordinary,” he added. In particular, he praised the role Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan has played.
Since cinemas reopened almost three years ago there has been a major cultural renaissance in the Kingdom on all levels, Lang said. He praised the great developments in arts and culture, particularly in film through the launch of the Red Sea Film Festival, which began on Dec. 6 and continues until Dec. 15. Lang said it is an event designed “for Arab cinema” and for international filmmakers to make a breakthrough.
It is also a sign of the winds of change that have been blowing though Saudi Arabia in the past few years, and this is something that is not lost on Lang.
The authorities in the Kingdom understand that “culture, education, knowledge and science” represent the future, he said, and “a source of happiness as well as human and economic development for citizens.”
Support for culture and the arts, in their various forms, has been a significant driver of the longstanding relationship between France and Saudi Arabia. Lang said he is a member of the consultative council to the Royal Commission for AlUla, and that he appreciates the efforts Saudi authorities are making to preserve, renovate and develop this important historical and cultural site not only for Kingdom but for the entire world.
“France is very present (in projects in AlUla) and I, myself, am participating in the development of the splendid site” by helping to organize an exhibition on AlUla, he said. “We plan on making the exhibition international” by taking it to Russia, the US and other countries.
“Here in the Kingdom there is ambition, a vision,” Lang added, as he thanked and congratulated the Saudi authorities for all they have done to develop arts and culture.
“There is a freedom to meet one another and to share” in the Saudi Arabia of today, he said. “I am not saying everything is perfect but I have confidence in humanity and in the ability to invent a new society in Jeddah.”
Meet Saudi beauty guru Hessa Alajaji: The face behind Han Makeup
Updated 21 January 2022
DUBAI: Saudi makeup artist Hessa Alajaji’s beauty brand Han Makeup, which she has been working on since 2017, is finally here much to the delight of makeup aficionados.
“Our goal is to have a brand that covers all the products that anyone would need when doing their makeup,” said the content creator who co-founded the brand in an interview with Arab News. “We have started with makeup brushes as we have noticed a lack of sets that give you the requirements that you need.”
Alajaji first gained popularity on social media, where beauty lovers flocked to her Instagram account for creative shots of colorful, otherworldly makeup looks and sneak peaks of the artist’s life. With more than 35,000 followers on Instagram, it was time for the creative talent to translate her know-how into a business.
The pandemic slowed down the artist’s production plan, but she said it allowed her to test the brushes with several leading makeup artists and users who “all praised the quality” of her set.
The feedback on her release “exceeded” her expectations. “Clients loved the brush set and we have been receiving amazing feedback. We love that our brushes were a part of the most memorable moments of our clients like their wedding day, engagement party, New Year’s Eve, etc.,” she said.
The Riyadh-based entrepreneur, who has collaborated with international brands like Sephora, is currently working on developing three new products. “We want to venture into cosmetics in 2022 and launch a few products,” she teased.
As of now, her products are not manufactured in Saudi Arabia, but the beauty guru said she hopes to produce her brand in her home country one day.
“We secure different samples from factories across the world like Italy, Korea, China, etc., and we proceed with the best quality we get. Quality is the determining factor not location nor the “made in” label,” she added.
Alajaji said she has always had a passion for arts. “That passion grew with me as I got older and I started discovering makeup when I was in high school. I fell in love with it from the beginning as it allowed me to express my creativity and art,” she said.
LOS ANGELES: US actress Jessica Chastain’s “The 355” just hit theaters to mixed reviews and Arab News sat down with the star to hear more about the game-changing film.
In early 2018, Chastain pitched studios on a movie about an all-female team of spies — four years later, she’s starring in it.
Perhaps best known for her dramatic roles, the bombastic action of “The 355” is something of a departure for Chastain.
The story sees a team of spies from agencies around the world uniting to stop a dangerous enemy.
“It was never my intention even with making this film to be an action star or that kind of sarcastic one-liner character that you would see in all these genre movies,” the actress, who stars as spy Mace Brown, told Arab News. “I like playing all different kinds of parts as we see in ‘The Eyes Of Tammy Faye’ or in ‘Scenes From a Marriage’ and I just want to do everything.”
The film had a lacklustre showing at the American box office and with critics who cited a generic plot, flat characters and uninventive action. Chastain, however, believes the movie is being held to unfair standards.
“The industry tends to be more critical of a film that may be an ensemble of women or about a group of people that aren’t often celebrated by this industry,” she said.
“We’re living in a pandemic and there is no sense to anything that’s happening right now because people’s safety is the only thing that they care about. And we need to stop using the pandemic as a way to devalue the stories of others,” added Chastain.
Co-star Diane Kruger, who plays the role of spy Marie Schmidt, said her cast members helped her to overcome the physical and emotional stress of filming only six months after having a baby.
“It became exhilarating, week after week feeling I was able to kick higher, lift heavier just feeling my body coming back and becoming stronger again and taking control over myself again,” Kruger said. “It felt really empowering. It’s a little silly to say, but it did feel like this movie in a way helped me get back to me.”
‘I’m carried by passion’: Syrian actress Kinda Alloush says as she discusses upcoming projects
Updated 21 January 2022
DUBAI: It’s been five years since Kinda Alloush, one of the most popular actresses in the Arab world, decided to take a prolonged break for the first time in her career. She had dominated Syrian television in one decade and then Egyptian film and TV in the next, but Alloush had found, at the height of her fame, something that mattered more: The chance to start a family with her husband, Egyptian actor Amr Youssef.
Alloush, 39 and now the mother to a 3-year-old daughter named Hayat, has since returned to the screens both big and small, but while she is as popular as ever, the Syrian superstar is not the same person she was in the last phase of her acting journey. With each project she now takes, Alloush yearns for more, and she’s tired of playing it safe.
“For a long time, I played roles that were very similar to each other. I’m not sure why — maybe I fit a type. Maybe it’s my face,” Alloush, who has long played the ‘good girl’, tells Arab News.
“Now, I don't want to just add a new film to my archive, I don’t want to just say ‘I did a new movie, it’s so successful, I’m so happy.’ That’s not what I'm looking for. What I’m looking for is to learn. It’s about how to really make yourself richer on a human level, not just the acting level. I want to go back to my country and to feel that I am now a different person,” Alloush continues.
Each role that she has taken since her break from acting has pushed her in a different direction, stretching muscles — physical, mental, and spiritual — that she didn’t know she had. Currently, she’s filming “Yellow Bus” in Abu Dhabi, an OSN Original about an Indian girl who goes missing after falling asleep on a school bus, and her mother’s search to find out the truth. Alloush plays Mira, the missing girl’s school principal.
“I read maybe 10 pages of the script before I knew I had to be in this movie. It’s a human story that could have happened anywhere in the world. I assure you that if anyone watches this movie, they will feel the pain this family felt. And that is what happened to me; I felt the pain, I felt every detail written into this movie. And I felt that I wanted to be a part of this, no matter how busy my schedule was,” says Alloush.
The film also offers Alloush something none of her previous work has — the chance to act in a different language with a multi-cultural cast featuring Bollywood stars Tannishtha Chatterjee and Amit Sial along with an American director in Wendy Bednarz.
“It’s my first time acting in English. I’ve been doing this for more than 17 years in Syria and Egypt, but all my projects were in Arabic. I’ve spoken English for a long time, but it’s different to act in English rather than to just speak it. You need to be so real. I need to make you believe me, to make you feel what I’m feeling. And pushing myself to do that, opposite these amazing actors from different backgrounds and different styles, makes it such a rich and challenging experience,” says Alloush.
And with Mira, Alloush is finally playing against type, abandoning her ‘good girl’ persona.
“Mira is really different. She’s a bit controversial. You can’t really put your finger on her. You need to finish the movie before you have a full view of her many layers. At the beginning, you’ll wonder, ‘Why did she react like this? Why did she do that?’ And your curiosity pays off as you learn more about her story. She’s so unlike anyone I’ve ever inhabited.”
Alloush, who already boasts 10 million followers on Instagram, will also soon be introduced to a wider audience than ever before when she stars in the upcoming Netflix original film “The Swimmers,” based on the real-life story of Sara and Yusra Mardini, the famed Syrian refugees-turned-Olympians. The film was written by BAFTA-winner Jack Thorne and directed by Egyptian filmmaker Sally El-Hosaini.
“‘The Swimmers’ is so interesting, because every bit of it is true to life, with all the characters still living, including these two famous swimmers. Although my character is pure Syrian, working with German actor Matthias Schweighöfer, Ali Suliman from Palestine, and Ahmed Malek from Egypt also brought a real multicultural spirit to the project, which made for a rich experience as well,” says Alloush.
While Alloush moved to Egypt just as the Syrian civil war began, the actress has devoted much of her free time to the refugee cause ever since, becoming a ‘High Profile Supporter’ of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In another upcoming film, entitled “Nuzooh” (Displacement), Alloush will tackle the country’s trauma from the civil war, giving perhaps the most harrowing experience of her career.
“It’s about a Syrian family, and it’s a very difficult, sensitive subject. We filmed it in Turkey,” she says. “While I’m from Syria, I didn’t live through the war in Syria. With this movie that I’ve just finished, I felt like I was living the war in every small detail. It was a really difficult experience unlike any I’ve had.”
While Alloush is testing her limits as an actor, she’s also never been more fulfilled by her craft.
“I’m collecting experiences. When I enter a new project, I feel like I am empty, and I want to fill myself in some way — to learn, to hear, to talk to people from a different culture,” she says. “I’m carried by passion. Maybe other people have a different approach, but for me, it’s about love. I want this to make me richer on a human level. And it is working.”
With each of her three upcoming movies, she hopes that audiences can take away just as much as she did.
“With a great movie, you feel that you traveled to another civilization. With this craft, I can take you there. I can open your eyes to a new horizon, a new space, and new stories that you've never heard about, and people that you've never met,” says Alloush. “Each of these (films) can do that, I believe.”
Review: ‘Brazen’ — bizarre romantic murder mystery combines the worst of both genres
Netflix adaptation of Nora Roberts’ novel is a nonsensical mess
Updated 21 January 2022
LONDON: When Alyssa Milano was announced as the lead in Netflix’s adaptation of Nora Roberts’ novel, “Brazen Virtue,” the author reported that she was deluged with comments from fans infuriated that Milano’s liberal politics did not square with their own. Many even threatened to boycott the movie in retaliation. Roberts, to her credit, welcomed them to exercise their right to do so. As it turns out, giving “Brazen” a miss is absolutely the right thing to do — not because of Milano’s personal beliefs, but because it’s an awful film.
Milano stars as Grace, a bestselling crime-fiction author who receives a call from her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup), asking her to come visit. Kathleen has left her creepy husband, kicked her addiction to prescription meds, and retrained as a teacher in a bid to get sole custody of her son. Grace gives her the thumbs up, and concentrates on flirting with Kathleen’s hunky cop neighbor Ed (Sam Page). But when Kathleen is killed, and Ed inexplicably winds up heading the case, Grace focuses her problem-solving skillset on her late sister’s murder.
This is the jumping-off point for so many of the film’s inconceivable narrative contortions. Why is Ed, the victim’s neighbor, the only homicide cop available? Why are the police happy to let the victim’s (unqualified) sister be so heavily involved? Why does nobody have any issue with the fact that the lead cop and the victim’s sister are constantly making googly eyes at each other? It’s absolute nonsense.
Milano and Page at least have the good grace to attempt a serious take on this joke of a script, even as “Brazen” — written by David Golden and directed by Monika Mitchell — asks them to plough through an increasingly ludicrous series of plot ‘twists’ and villain reveals. “Brazen” definitely achieves what it sets out to do — take a romance novel and cross it with a convoluted murder-mystery. That might sound like something approaching a compliment; it definitely isn’t intended that way.
Indie, alternative rock come to Diriyah E-Prix as Script, Two Door Cinema Club announced
Rock legends The Script and Two Door Cinema Club to electrify fans on 29 January as Diriyah E-Prix adds to its star-studded line-up
Craig David announced as the third act to join James Blunt and Wyclef Jean on 28 January
Updated 20 January 2022
RIYADH: The Script and Two Door Cinema Club will bring the curtain down on the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix when they perform at the after-race concert on Jan. 29.
The Script, who are one of Ireland’s most celebrated rock bands and will be making their debut in Saudi Arabia, have a long list of achievements over the past decade that includes five previous platinum-selling albums, six billion streams, 30 million single sales, 11 million album sales, 13 million monthly Spotify listeners and two million tickets sold across headline shows globally.
Alongside The Script, Northern Irish Indie Rock band Two Door Cinema Club will be playing some of their biggest fan favourite tunes including “What You Know” and “Something Good Can Work.”
Multimillion record selling artist Craig David will also be appearing in the Kingdom for the first time, performing some of his biggest hits including “Walking Away”, “7 Days” and “Rise and Fall”, as he joins singer James Blunt and rapper Wyclef Jean on the Friday set-list on Jan. 28.
The Diriyah E-Prix kicks off the eighth season of ABB FIA Formula E Championship in style with a double header of back-to-back races across two days. It also features the opening of Allianz E-Village, which will host cultural festivities, food, and retail experiences for fans.
In accordance with the latest health and safety protocols, the organizers have said daily attendance will be limited to ensure all fans have a safe experience, and those interested in enjoying the events live are encouraged to purchase their tickets early.
General admission tickets start from SR150 and provide access to E-village, while Grandstand tickets grant access to the E-village and the after-race concerts, and can be bought at this link.