Jordanian film director brings Amman neighborhood to life in ‘The Alleys’

Jordanian film director brings Amman neighborhood to life in ‘The Alleys’
“The Alleys” screened at the Red Sea International Film Festival. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 December 2021

Jordanian film director brings Amman neighborhood to life in ‘The Alleys’

Jordanian film director brings Amman neighborhood to life in ‘The Alleys’

LONDON: “I’ve come to realize that I’m attracted to particular worlds,” Jordanian filmmaker Bassel Ghandour told Arab News prior to the screening of his new movie “The Alleys” at the Red Sea International Film Festival.

“To these tight-knit neighborhoods that we have in the Middle East, and east Amman in particular. Where there’s an intimacy because of the closeness, but also a claustrophobia – a world where you have a sense of family on the one hand, but at the same time, judgment, and expectations. A mix of tension, and brotherhood. A world that was tight knit in a good way, and a bad way,” he said.

“The Alleys” marked his directorial feature debut and was shown as the Arab premiere at the Jeddah festival.

But while it was the first full-length project he had helmed, Ghandour is no stranger to the filmmaking process. A graduate of the University of Southern California, he has already built up an extensive portfolio of projects, not to mention co-writing and producing the Oscar-nominated, BAFTA-winning “Theeb.”




“The Alleys” marked his directorial feature debut. (Supplied)

And, while the claustrophobic world of eastern Amman’s labyrinth Jabal Al-Natheef neighborhoods might seem a daunting place to make your first film, he certainly knew how to prepare. Not only did he spend years researching and writing the flick, but the short film “Freekeh” also played an important role in the development of “The Alleys.”

“In doing research for ‘The Alleys’ I started to hear a lot of stories of violence in these tight-knit neighborhoods, and how that can come about from something that is sometimes petty and simple, but can escalate and snowball because of pride,” he added.

“Freekeh” included non-actors from the area – and introduced Ghandour to Mahmoud Abu Faha, who had a small role in the film. The two became close, and Abu Faha became an associate producer on “The Alleys,” helping his friend and colleague get to the real heart of the neighborhood and its inhabitants and fostering his belief that the production should become part of the world it was seeking to capture, rather than a mere, part-time observer that would vanish as quickly as it arrived.

Ghandour said: “I think in terms of anything in life, parachuting in and then exiting, thinking as an outsider that you know better, is just the wrong approach. I think it’s necessary to assimilate. You want the story, even though its dramatized and maybe a little exaggerated, to still be based on the truth, on something that’s authentic.”




“The Alleys” was shown as the Arab premiere at the Jeddah festival. (Supplied)

He pointed out that other movies he had worked on as part of the crew were “parachuting in and disturbing a community, which isn’t the best way to go about it. It’s always going to lead to trouble if you don’t have a good relationship with the local community,” he added.

To avoid such a situation, Ghandour and Abu Faha spent a huge amount of time walking through the neighborhood, sitting in on card games, staying up late with locals, in front of stores, or in people’s homes. And being entirely upfront about what they were doing there.

“They knew I wasn’t hiding anything. I asked questions whenever I thought I needed more, or Mahmoud and I would talk later about something we’d noticed.

“Maybe when I was younger, I would have felt awkward telling people that I was coming in with a film production, but I found that, actually, the easiest way was to just call it the way it is, tell them that I was unsure exactly what I was looking for,” he said.

Most of the people living in the world upon which “The Alleys” was based reacted with honesty.




Most of the people living in the world upon which “The Alleys” was based reacted with honesty. (Supplied)

“It’s a storytelling culture, don’t forget. People were amused by the idea that someone wanted to make a film about life in the neighborhood, and they enjoyed exchanging stories. But one thing you notice is the truth isn’t always clear among the gossip,” Ghandour added.

That important lesson is alluded to in the movie when audiences are told to believe half of what they hear, and two-thirds of what they see.

He said: “That, for me, was the hardest thing to accept in the beginning. All of this research, and you don’t know what’s true and what isn’t, what is an exaggeration and what is a lie. I started to embrace that as part of the gossip, the community, and used it as part of the voice, and the tone of the film – to embrace that lack of clarity.”

“The Alleys” is in stark contrast to Ghandour’s next project, a documentary series following five Syrian footballers recruited by a Brazilian academy from the Zaatari refugee camps. He has been following the players for four years, with a few more months still to go.

“It’s a nice approach to storytelling, with a whole lot of uncertainty. As opposed to ‘The Alleys’ where everything is very precisely constructed, this is something that was completely out of our hands.

“It was frightening at first, but now it’s nice to know you can trust the process. All you can do is try to make sure you put what is happening into a comprehensible story, but other than that, it’s completely out of your hands – it’s exciting,” he added.


Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022
Updated 15 August 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022
  • DJs, rappers, producers sign up to new advisory board
  • Innovation and diversity are key pillars of this year’s event, organizers say

RIYADH: XP Music Futures has created an advisory board of industry insiders to ensure maximum diversity and innovation when it stages its second festival in November.

Among those appointed to the so-called board of advocates and advisors are American rapper Kim Renard Nazel — better known as Arabian Prince — music producer and record label founder Saud Alturki, immersive audio specialist Marcela Rada, digital media expert Natasha Stambuli, and the regional head of A&R and marketing at Sony Music Middle East Karima Damir.

Mohammed Bajbaa, who founded Saudi clothing brand Proud Angeles and fashion consultancy Proud X, Saudi rapper Jara and DJ Space Boi, will also be on the board.

XP director Nada Alhelabi said: “83 percent of last year’s attendees loved XP because of its programming. Partnering with a diverse set of professionals means guests see representation they can identify with and relate to.

“Our trusted board of advocates and advisors serve as one way for us to stay connected to communities … and deliver another great edition of valuable cultural and music exchange, tangible progress and inspire unlimited innovation.”

With its Day and Nite program and focus on innovation through disruptive, forward-thinking methods, XP is the forerunner within the MENA region for the music and creative industries.

It will not only discover and discuss how new technology is the driver of change in the music ecosystem – exploring the fast-moving Web3, the new iteration on blockchain technology and Metaverse – but also bring technology for guests to experience in immersive installations.

Its other core pillars of talent, scene and impact will work to implement ways to flourish careers in the music industry, nurture the scene through workshops and panels, and initiate dialogue around music, mental health and well-being, and their role in creating a socially conscious industry.

“The ultimate objective of XP is to accelerate the development and transformation of the music landscape across the Middle East,” Alhelabi said. “We are grateful to be driving, crafting and optimizing wonders into our world.”

The festival runs from Nov. 28-30. Music professionals and enthusiasts can register at https://mdlbeast.com/events/xp-2022.


Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  
Updated 15 August 2022

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

DUBAI: Iraqi authorities announced this week that they found an original painting by the renowned Spanish painter Pablo Picasso in the Iraqi province of Diyala on Saturday, Iraqi News Agency reported.

The painting, said to be worth millions of dollars, was seized from a drug group after a raid late July. 

Director of the anti-narcotics media office Colonel Bilal Sobhi told the publication: “The Anti-Narcotics Directorate carried out an operation in Diyala governorate, in which a network of three defendants who were involved in the trade and transport of narcotic drugs were arrested, and a painting belonging to the international painter Picasso was seized in their possession, estimated at millions of dollars.”

“It is a major operation that is calculated for the anti-drugs General Directorate,” he added.

Details of the artwork have not been revealed yet. The Pablo Picasso Foundation, responsible for promoting and managing the artist’s work, did not issue a statement either. 


Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign
Updated 15 August 2022

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign

DUBAI: Dutch Moroccan Egyptian model Imaan Hammam has landed herself yet another global campaign.

The catwalk star fronted the latest Tiffany & Co. promotional video for the US luxury label’s Lock collection alongside American skateboarder Tyshawn Jones.

The new releases feature yellow, white and rose gold bangles with sparkly diamonds that symbolize “togetherness and inclusivity,” according to the brand’s website.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

In the video that the Netherlands-raised Hammam shared with her 1.4 million followers, she wore a white gold bracelet that looks like a padlock, with full pave diamonds, while Jones opted for a white gold bangle.

For the shoot, Hammam kept her look to a minimum.

She wore a black form-fitting dress and her makeup was soft and featured neutral shades — not to mention her iconic signature curly hair made for the look.

The model wore diamond jewelry in the video. (Instagram)

Hammam’s repertoire is growing day by day.

Last week, the model made headlines for starring in Romanian Jordanian designer Amina Muaddi’s latest campaign, which celebrated the duo’s Arab roots.

The short clips, shared on Muaddi and Hammam’s Instagram accounts, were shot in Cairo.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

In the video captured by British Egyptian filmmaker and photographer Dexter Navy, the 25-year-old catwalk star flaunted Muaddi’s new Drop 2/22 collection.

The videos and images featured Hammam in multiple scenarios, including standing alongside a white Arabian horse and posing atop intricately woven rugs.

She posed for pictures alongside women and men wearing traditional outfits and head and face covers decorated with jewelry.

Hammam is one of the most in-demand models in the industry. The now 25-year-old was scouted in Amsterdam’s Centraal Station before making her catwalk debut in 2013 by walking in Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture show.

Since then, she has appeared on the runway for major fashion houses, such as Burberry, Fendi, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Moschino, Balenciaga and Carolina Herrera, to name a few.

Hammam, who has been featured in leading fashion publications, such as Vogue and V Magazine, also starred in international campaigns for DKNY, Celine, Chanel, Versace, Givenchy, Giorgio Armani and many more. 


Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 

NEW YORK: The Brad Pitt action film “Bullet Train” led all movies in ticket sales for a second straight weekend, according to studio estimates this week, with Saudi Arabia continuing to earn a spot on the overseas play ranking.

David Leitch’s assassin-crowded film grossed $114.5 million globally in two weeks from 61 overseas markets. 

Saudi Arabia led the Middle East and North Africa market with $3.6 million and it ranked among the top five globally. 

Overseas play was led by France with $5.8 million. The UK is currently at $6 million. Mexico has grossed $5.4 million, followed by Australia’s $4.1 million and Saudi Arabia and Spain at $3.6 million each. 

The Sony Pictures film cost $90 million to make. 


REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense
Updated 15 August 2022

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense
  • Netflix vampire movie has little going for it

LONDON: Hitting screens in the Middle East and North Africa, Netflix’s latest horror action movie “Day Shift” could be about to disappoint.

What is it with Netflix and sucking the life out of interesting new IPs? If it is not “Bright” or “Project Power,” it is “Outside the Wire” or “Thunder Force” — seemingly fascinating and original science fiction and fantasy movie ideas that wind up less than the sum of their parts?

So it is with “Day Shift,” the streaming giants’ new horror-action caper starring Jamie Foxx as vampire hunter Bud, and Dave Franco as his nerdy union representative. The notion that vampire hunting could be a viable career path in the San Fernando Valley, with unionized payouts for turned-in fangs and a benefits package, is moderately entertaining. Unfortunately, stuntman JJ Perry’s directorial debut never gets beyond that initial premise, all-too-quickly devolving into a tonally nonsensical plot and script, one-note characters and wooden performances across the board — it says something when a cameo from Snoop Dogg is far from the worst performance in a movie.

The film stars US actor Jamie Foxx. (Supplied)

Even having watched it, it is hard to sum up what the movie’s plot is, or why Karla Souza’s rent-a-villain Audrey (a vampire real estate mogul … no joke) wants Bud and his family to suffer. In keeping with his stunt background, the only time Perry’s movie comes to life is during some of the more inventive action sequences. There are some interesting drone shots that keep one particular chase sequence zipping along, and the choreography of some of Foxx’s vampire slaying is suitably kinetic. But everything else feels depressingly derivative — this is every vampire movie you have ever seen before, only done worse, and stretched so thin that you can see where the script is playing for time before launching into the next predictably bombastic set piece.

Much like many of its characters, “Day Shift” is a movie that needs putting out of its misery. We can only hope that, despite Netflix’s obvious quest for a new family of franchises, this one stays dead.