Review: Red Sea International Film Festival title ‘Farha’ is a devastating look at war

Review: Red Sea International Film Festival title ‘Farha’ is a devastating look at war
‘Farha’ is competing at the Red Sea International Film Festival. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 December 2021

Review: Red Sea International Film Festival title ‘Farha’ is a devastating look at war

Review: Red Sea International Film Festival title ‘Farha’ is a devastating look at war

JEDDAH: Jordanian film “Farha” is competing in the Red Sea International Film Festival’s Red Sea Competition section and saw its first screening at the event take place on Wednesday night. 

The film opens on a cheerful note that soon turns dark as it rolls along, bringing death, destruction and displacement to the silver screen. Penned and helmed by Darin J. Sallam, it is set in a small village in 1948, the year Israel declared its independence and the Nakba began as Palestinians were driven out of their homes en masse. 




Penned and helmed by Darin J. Sallam, the film is set in a small village in 1948. (Supplied)

It is in this atmosphere that 14-year-old bubbly Farha (Karam Taher) is making plans to begin school. She is certain she can convince her father, Abu Farha (Ashraf Barhom), to let her study, although he wants her to settle down and get married. This passion for education gripped me and the importance of encouraging young girls’ literacy is one of the most compelling themes of the film — even though it is not the main subject matter. 

Just when things seem to be going her way, Farha’s village is attacked and her father locks the girl in the family’s cellar saying he will be back soon. 




Farha’s village is attacked and her father locks the girl in the family’s cellar saying he will be back soon. (Supplied)

Inspired by real-life incidents, Sallam’s work portrays the violence taking place outside the cellar with Farha watching through a small opening. The film explores the brutality of the soldiers, and also depicts a microcosm of the human will to survive through Farha’s attempts to cling to life in the cellar with no water or food, all while in debilitating fear in this nail-biting film.  

We see the human cost of conflict and how emotionally and physically difficult it is to live through such events, all through the experience of one young girl. 




Inspired by real-life incidents, Sallam’s work portrays the violence taking place outside the cellar with Farha watching through a small opening. (Supplied)

First-time actress, Taher carries the work with dedicated brilliance conveying an amazing arc of hope and despair, suffering and joy. Her eyes light up as she watches the birth of a child outside her cellar and the joys of new motherhood, but she pales moments later with the arrival of soldiers. Against all this, Farha’s drive to survive is a lesson in sheer willpower. 

The frames are sparse but powerful, with production design by Nasser Zoubi and arresting photography by Rachelle Aoun.


Saudi pavilion launches Coffee Week at Dubai’s Expo 2020

Saudi pavilion launches Coffee Week at Dubai’s Expo 2020
Updated 26 January 2022

Saudi pavilion launches Coffee Week at Dubai’s Expo 2020

Saudi pavilion launches Coffee Week at Dubai’s Expo 2020

DUBAI: The Saudi pavilion at Dubai’s Expo 2020 Dubai on Tuesday launched Saudi Coffee Week, a five-day event to celebrate the country’s coffee culture.

Running until Jan. 29 from 3:00 to 9:00 p.m., the series features daily activities to inspire and educate visitors on the Kingdom’s coffee traditions that form an essential part of its culture. 

The event will also host two workshops at Sard Café to help guests learn the art of making Saudi coffee. (Supplied)

This includes showing casing a variety of coffee-making and brewing techniques, as well as tasting experiences.

The event will also host two workshops at Sard Café to help guests learn the art of making Saudi coffee.

The pavilion also features booths from Ethiopia, Colombia, Honduras, Panama, and Australia at the Open Square to familiarize visitors with traditions of other countries. 


Curator Maya Allison sheds light on the UAE’s color-filled pavilion at 2022 Venice Biennale

Curator Maya Allison sheds light on the UAE’s color-filled pavilion at 2022 Venice Biennale
Updated 26 January 2022

Curator Maya Allison sheds light on the UAE’s color-filled pavilion at 2022 Venice Biennale

Curator Maya Allison sheds light on the UAE’s color-filled pavilion at 2022 Venice Biennale

DUBAI: Nine years after the UAE gained its independence in 1971, the Emirates Fine Art Society was formed by the first generation of contemporary artists to pioneer cultural activities in the country. One of its experimental members is Emirati land artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, born in 1962, who will be the sole exhibiting artist at the Venice Biennale’s UAE pavilion in spring 2022.

“Between Sunrise and Sunset” is the title of the upcoming exhibition, which will reunite Ibrahim and Abu Dhabi-based curator Maya Allison in a fifth artistic collaboration. “He’s doing something that I really haven’t seen any other artist do,” Allison told Arab News. “He’s extremely rigorous in his practice as an artist. What looks like a very intuitive, childlike process has underneath it many years of reading and research and thinking about what the nature of art is.”

The exhibition is curator Maya Allison in a fifth artistic collaboration. Supplied

Opening April 23, the exhibition’s installation will take pavilion viewers through a visual journey of the artist’s human-sized and organic sculptural forms, made of paper mache and cardboard, transitioning from black and white to bright colors and vice-versa. It is inspired by Ibrahim’s personal experience of growing up in the Emirati port town of Khor Fakkan, where he encountered time and again a particular notion of light and color in the area’s rocky nature.

“He was born and raised in Khor Fakkan, which has Al-Hajar Mountains behind it,” explained Allison. “Those mountains block the sunset, so that when the sun rises over Khor Fakkan, it’s very colorful and bright. In the middle of the afternoon, the sun goes behind the mountains and there’s just a giant shadow cast across the town. You just move into shadow and the world starts to feel more black and white. That movement is what he’s kind of referring to what you’ll see in the exhibition: the movement from morning till afternoon is very dramatic.”

The installation will take pavilion viewers through a visual journey of the artist’s human-sized and organic sculptural forms. Supplied

Ibrahim is also known for his symbol-filled paintings, draped in vivid color. In his sculptural work, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to his use of colored material. “As a child, he would try to imagine what the sunset looked like from the other side of these mountains. Of course the sunset is very colorful, but he is not able to see it,” said Allison.

“This fascination with bright colors that you see in some of his work is in part related to this sense of depravation from the colors of sunset. I think it’s a very nice outcome — he made the colors that he was missing in that part of the day.”

This year’s iteration of the Venice Biennale is being held under the theme “The Milk of Dreams,” derived from a book by 20th century surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. “One of the core elements of the theme is metamorphosis and the human-landscape relationship. Those two elements are very crucial to his work,” said Allison. “His work is right in that intersection where I think of the moment where nature becomes culture.”


Lyna Khoudri lauds new film ‘Gagarine’ after awards sweep

Lyna Khoudri lauds new film ‘Gagarine’ after awards sweep
Lyna Khoudri gained international recognition for her role in ‘The French Dispatch.' File/AFP
Updated 26 January 2022

Lyna Khoudri lauds new film ‘Gagarine’ after awards sweep

Lyna Khoudri lauds new film ‘Gagarine’ after awards sweep

DUBAI: French-Algerian actress Lyna Khoudri took to social media to celebrate her latest film, which has been dominating awards ceremonies on the international film festival circuit as of late.

 “Gagarine,” starring Khoudri, most recently took home the Lumière prize for Best Debut Film at France’s Lumière Awards and the actress took to Instagram to celebrate on Tuesday.  

“Lumière for the best first film for @gagarinefilm,” wrote the actress on Instagram. “Thank you, my forever friends, for this perfect night,” she added, alongside a picture of herself and “Gagarine” co-star Alséni Bathily at the awards ceremony.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by lynakhoudri (@lynakhoudri)

Khoudri and Bathily accepted the prize on behalf of the film’s directors, Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh, who were unable to be present at the Jan. 18 event.

The film also won awards at the Athens International Film Festival, Philadelphia Film Festival and Mons International Film Festival.

The movie is a bittersweet French story of a housing complex on the outskirts of Paris. Inaugurated and named after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the complex is found to be in a state of disrepair and faces demolition.

The movie is a bittersweet French story of a housing complex on the outskirts of Paris. Supplied

 But 16-year-old Yuri (played by Bathily) refuses to leave. He has nowhere to go after his mother abandoned him. Yuri is a good handyman and with two friends, Houssam (Jamil McCraven) and Diana (Khoudri), tries to carry out repairs with second hand materials before the inspection. He fails, but is inspired to recreate a spaceship in the building’s basement.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 27th edition of the Lumiere Awards took place in the presence of a limited audience, which included Khoudri, who for the occasion donned a design from her go-to label.

The actress was a vision wearing a sheer slip dress from Parisian maison Chanel, for whom she serves as a muse.

She paired the logo-covered slip dress with a pair of eye-catching sparkling MaryJane pumps.

The actress also sat down with French television channel Canal+ to answer a series of questions.

She stated that she was “very happy and proud” that “Gagarine” won the Best Debut Film award because it is an “excellent film” and she finds it “well deserved.”

When asked what advice she would give to young, aspiring actors, Khoudri said to “believe in your dreams” and “work hard.”

“Gagarine” first screened at the Cannes Market on a virtual platform in June 2020.


Elton John positive for COVID-19, postpones Dallas shows

Elton John positive for COVID-19, postpones Dallas shows
Updated 26 January 2022

Elton John positive for COVID-19, postpones Dallas shows

Elton John positive for COVID-19, postpones Dallas shows
  • "I'm so sorry to anyone who's been inconvenienced by this but I want to keep myself and my team safe," said John
  • The concerts, part of John's "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" tour, were scheduled for January 25 and January 26

NEW YOTK: Pop megastar Elton John on Tuesday postponed two concerts in Dallas — part of what is expected to be a lengthy farewell tour — after testing positive for Covid-19.
“It’s always a massive disappointment to move shows and I’m so sorry to anyone who’s been inconvenienced by this but I want to keep myself and my team safe,” said the British musician, 74, in a statement on social media.
“Fortunately, I’m fully vaccinated and boosted and my symptoms are mild.”
The concerts, part of John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour, were scheduled for January 25 and January 26. Both John and the American Airlines Center, where the shows were to take place, said they will be rescheduled and fans should keep their tickets.
John said he expected to be healthy enough to play his show on January 29 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The tour, which is anticipated to be Sir Elton’s last, has run into pandemic-era cancelations and postponements, like many other performing arts events.
The pop legend also recently had a hip operation that forced him to push back several dates.
Last year, John released an album entitled “The Lockdown Sessions,” which was recorded entirely under Covid-19 restrictions.


Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban

Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban
Updated 25 January 2022

Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban

Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban
  • Afghanistan's rich musical culture is under threat as the Taliban have banned music since their return to power last year
  • "Right now we don't have music in Afghanistan," says Homayoun Sakhi

LONDON: Homayoun Sakhi closes his eyes and runs his fingers along the long neck of his wooden instrument encrusted with mother-of-pearl.
“I feel like I have my Afghanistan in my hand,” says Sakhi, one of the world’s most renowned performers on the country’s national instrument, the rubab.
He is jet-lagged after flying in from California to perform at London’s Barbican concert hall to raise funds for emergency medicine and education in his homeland.
Along with the growing humanitarian crisis, Afghanistan’s rich musical culture is under threat as the Taliban have banned music since their return to power last year.
Widely shared videos have shown them smashing and burning instruments. Musicians have fled the country.
“Right now we don’t have music in Afghanistan,” says Sakhi.
“It’s really difficult because there are no concerts, there’s no music, and (for musicians) it’s very difficult to be without any money and without a job.
“That’s why they’re trying to go somewhere to play.”
The Taliban clampdown is a repeat of the hard-liners’ previous time in power between 1996 and 2001, when they banned music as sinful, under a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The rubab dates back thousands of years and has enjoyed a revival thanks to Sakhi, who is known as a musical innovator and has developed a more modern playing style.
BBC Music Magazine called him “one of the greatest performers” on the instrument.
Born in Kabul, he left Afghanistan with his family in 1992, in the chaotic aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal, moving to Pakistan.
He later settled in Fremont, California, which is known for its large Afghan community, and has launched an academy teaching the rubab.
“Each time I’m playing, I’m home, I feel like I’m in Afghanistan,” he says.
Music including pop was allowed a free rein during the past two decades in Afghanistan, with local television even showing a “Pop Idol” talent contest equivalent.
But following the Taliban’s return to power, traditional Afghan music now relies on devotees overseas.
The “Songs of Hope” concert at the Barbican last Saturday was organized by Afghanistan International TV.
The London-based channel was set up by Volant media company, which also runs a Persian-language channel for Iranians.
It will screen a documentary about the concert in March.
In the first half, Sakhi plays classical Afghan pieces, followed by folk music that gets the audience clapping along.
He performs with UK-based virtuoso Shahbaz Hussain on tabla and Iranian musician Adib Rostami on the kamancheh, a bowed string instrument.
“I had the idea to do the concert — that was the only thing I can do as a musician,” said Rostami, one of the event’s organizers.
“As we know, now the music is banned in Afghanistan — they cannot ban this from the people around the world.”
“We have to try as musicians, as music lovers, to find a way to keep this cultural heritage for the future.”
The current situation for musicians under the Taliban is “back in the 1990s,” he says.
“Again, you cannot be a musician in Afghanistan.
“As far as I know, most of the musicians... are trying to get out of the country.”
A group of students and teachers from a national music school in Kabul arrived as refugees in Portugal in December, after the Taliban’s takeover earlier last year.
Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra, Zohra, set up in 2016 and named after a Persian goddess of music, has moved to Qatar.