Young Iraqi film students tell their own stories from Mosul

Young Iraqi film students tell their own stories from Mosul
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Makeup artists of a film school, prepare an actress dressed as a bride, before shooting a scene in the war-ravaged northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on December 15. (AFP)
Young Iraqi film students tell their own stories from Mosul
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Students of a film school, work on a scene with an actress dressed as a bride, in the war-ravaged northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on December 15. (AFP)
Young Iraqi film students tell their own stories from Mosul
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In a collaboration between Mosul fine arts academy, a Belgian theater company and UNESCO, 19 students are making their first short film, in Mosul that still bears the scars of the brutal reign of Daesh group. (AFP)
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Updated 24 December 2021

Young Iraqi film students tell their own stories from Mosul

Young Iraqi film students tell their own stories from Mosul
  • Mosul still bears the scars of the brutal reign of Daesh group
  • In collaboration between Mosul fine arts academy, a Belgian theatre company and UN cultural agency UNESCO, 19 students are getting a chance to make their first short films

MOSUL, Iraq: A budding Iraqi filmmaker yells “action!” as an actress clambers over rubble in Mosul’s Old City, proud students of a nascent film school in the former jihadist bastion.
Mosul still bears the scars of the brutal reign of Daesh group, who overran the northern Iraqi city in 2014 and imposed their ultraconservative interpretation of Islamic law.
They destroyed everything from centuries-old churches to musical instruments, before being routed in a devastating battle in 2017.
Now, in a collaboration between the Mosul fine arts academy, a Belgian theater company and UN cultural agency UNESCO, 19 students are getting a chance to make their first short films.
“We live in Mosul, we know everything that happened,” said 20-year-old theater student Mohammed Fawaz. “We want to show it all to the world through cinema.”
Over a four-month course, students get a taste of everything from writing and shooting to acting and editing, according to Milo Rau, artistic director of Belgian NTGent theater company who is behind the initiative.
Cameras and microphones in hand, the students are now hitting Mosul’s streets to tell stories from their wounded city.
An actress dressed as a bride searches for her husband, only to discover he has stepped on a land mine.
Children and other residents crowd around curiously, while a neighbor refuses to turn off a noisy generator.
“We’re losing the light,” one of the instructors reminds students, as the December sun goes down.
Studying at the fine arts academy after the IS defeat was a bit like “passing from the Stone Age to modernity,” said student Fawaz.
A fan of blockbuster movies like the Marvel and “Fast and Furious” franchises, Fawaz spent several of his teen years at home with no television or schooling under the extremists, learning English through books and thanks to a neighbor.
He and some classmates have already decided “to make films on Mosul and its war,” Fawaz said.
After a month-long intensive session in October, the students have been trying out different roles as they pair up to make their films, said Belgian instructor, cameraman and filmmaker Daniel Demoustier.
All the equipment like lenses and sound gear brought in from abroad will stay, he said, with the goal for the students to “pick it up again and start making their films on their own.”
Even if only three or four do so, “that will be a great success,” he said.
Tamara Jamal, 19, said the course was her “first experience” with cinema.
Her short film tells the story of a young girl whose father beats her mother, while others have looked at issues including early marriage.
“Most of the students prefer to talk about stories where children play the main role,” said Susana AbdulMajid, an Iraqi-German actress and teacher whose family is originally from Mosul.
Young people in the city “have gone through a lot of difficult and horrible things... there is a kind of longing for childhood, and also for a time of innocence,” she said.
The students’ nine works, each lasting up to five minutes, will be screened in Mosul in February before being presented to European festivals, said Rau.
His production of “Orestes in Mosul” — an adaptation of Aeschylus’s ancient Greek tragedy — was produced in 2018-2019 with the participation of local students.
The goal now is to secure funding to keep the cinema department running, he said.
The next step will be “to have a small Mosul film festival... continuing what we started.”


New independent cinema in Jeddah offers more choice for film lovers

The Hayy Cinema is located in the Hayy Jameel complex and has a 168-seat main theater and a 30-seat community screening room.
The Hayy Cinema is located in the Hayy Jameel complex and has a 168-seat main theater and a 30-seat community screening room.
Updated 06 December 2022

New independent cinema in Jeddah offers more choice for film lovers

The Hayy Cinema is located in the Hayy Jameel complex and has a 168-seat main theater and a 30-seat community screening room.
  • Opening honors Arab world’s most talented voices
  • Total of 198 seats in main and community sections

JEDDAH: The first Saudi independent cinema house has opened its doors to the public, offering further choice for the Kingdom’s film lovers.

The Hayy Cinema is located in the Hayy Jameel complex and has a 168-seat main theater and a 30-seat community screening room.

Among those who attended the opening ceremony on Dec. 5 were Hayy Jameel officials including Antonia Carver, director of art, and Sara Al-Omran, deputy director. Several representatives and participants from the Red Sea International Film Festival were also present including Antoine Khalife, director of Arab programs and film classics at the RSIFF, and famous Egyptian actor Hussain Fahmy.

The occasion was celebrated on Dec 5 and attended by officials of Hayy Jameel, Antonia Carver, director of art Hayy Jameel, Sara Al Omran, deputy director, Art Jameel, Red Sea International Film Festival representatives, Saudi and Egyptian film celebrities and guests, including Antoine Khalife, director of Arab programms and Film Classics at RSIFF and famous Egyptian actor Hussain Fahmy. (AN photo)

Carver told Arab News it was an important moment for Art Jameel because it provides a showcase and training platform for young Saudi filmmakers.

In a statement, she said: “There is no better way to celebrate Hayy Jameel’s first anniversary than with the launch of the much-anticipated Hayy Cinema. This is Saudi’s first bespoke independent picture house, developed with the intent to nurture the local film scene — not only filmmakers but also the audiences who appreciate them.”

FASTFACT

Hayy Cinema’s year-round programming will include Saudi, Arab and international features, shorts and documentaries and is set to host flagship film festivals for all tastes, including for children.

“We believe that Hayy Cinema’s focus on presenting and documenting the great breadth of global cinema, and in tracing the history of cinemas and films from the Gulf, complements the blockbusters of Saudi’s fast-growing commercial scene and government-led industry initiatives.

“With Hayy Arts being a museum space for the visual arts and Hayy Cinema for the moving image, both anchor Hayy Jameel, grounding the complex as Jeddah’s home for creative expression.”

Al-Omran said she was proud to be associated with the launch. “(It) demonstrates our commitment to supporting the Quality of Life Program by enhancing participation in cultural and entertainment activities.”

She said that Hayy Cinema would not only screen films but also provide a space for the training of young creators.

Raisa Lahcine, director of international relations at Louis Lumiere, the major French public higher education provider, who is in Jeddah to attend the RSIFF, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia was making promising infrastructure investments.

“It is nice for such an independent cinema to open here, and I am sure Saudi young filmmakers will benefit from it.”

Ruba Al-Sweel, communication manager at Art Jameel, said the cinema would promote dialogue between members of the local film community and provide opportunities for independent Saudi filmmakers.

Hayy Cinema’s year-round programming will include Saudi, Arab and international features, shorts and documentaries and is set to host flagship film festivals for all tastes, including for children.

The opening program has been co-developed with the RSIFF and celebrates visionaries of Arab cinema’s golden era. This includes a retrospective of five newly restored, groundbreaking films by Egyptian master Youssef Chahine, one of the Arab world’s most internationally celebrated filmmakers.

There is also a rare archival exhibition that highlights renowned photographer Gamal Fahmy’s contribution to filmmaking in the region.

 

 


US rapper Rapsody on inspiration ahead of Sole DXB in Dubai

US rapper Rapsody on inspiration ahead of Sole DXB in Dubai
Updated 06 December 2022

US rapper Rapsody on inspiration ahead of Sole DXB in Dubai

US rapper Rapsody on inspiration ahead of Sole DXB in Dubai

DUBAI: Grammy-nominated US rapper Rapsody has revealed the inspiration behind her stage name as she prepared to perform on Saturday at the Sole DXB event in Dubai.

The 39-year-old, whose real name is Marlanna Evans, told Arab News that American rapper Jay-Z was one of the many musical figures that had influenced her rise to stardom.

She said: “When Jay-Z was a kid, he wanted to expand his vocabulary, so he would read the dictionary. I was just getting into writing my first few raps and was like, I’m going to read the dictionary too.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rapsody (@rapsody)

“I was in the R section, and I came across rhapsody, meaning poetry spoken with great emotion. And that’s how I perceive music and hip hop: It’s poetry in rhythm. I was like, that’s how I’m going to call myself. I just took out the H and tried to make it my own.” 

Rapsody will be visiting Dubai and the UAE for the first time to take part in the Sole DXB lifestyle and street-culture festival.

“I’m always inspired when I hear music from different regions and countries, especially the culture of hip hop that’s travelled the world and how different people interpreted it and made it their own.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rapsody (@rapsody)

“I want to know their stories: What’s it like to live in Dubai, what does your everyday look like, how do you celebrate? That excites me,” she added.

When Rapsody was growing up, she enjoyed soul music and was introduced to hip hop through her older siblings. Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah, and MC Lyte were some of her favorite artists.

During her college years in North Carolina, she recorded her first song, in rap style, in a home studio. It was a turning point in her musical career when she decided to go fully into rap.

The lyrics of her music tap into personal and collective moments, from relationship heartbreak to police brutality.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rapsody (@rapsody)

She said: “I try to write from an honest perspective, whether it’s my story or stories around me. I live in a very present state. My inspiration is life.”

Her last record release was “Eve,” in 2019. Each track was named after influential black women, including tennis star Serena Williams, and former first lady of the US, Michelle Obama.

She is currently finishing up her new studio album, due for release in the new year.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rapsody (@rapsody)

Rapsody pointed out that there were several components that made up a memorable song.

“The beat must be good. You need hooks that people are drawn into … I think you need good lyrics that people can connect to,” she added. 


Industry insiders discuss Saudi Arabia as a production hub at Red Sea 360° 

Industry insiders discuss Saudi Arabia as a production hub at Red Sea 360° 
Updated 06 December 2022

Industry insiders discuss Saudi Arabia as a production hub at Red Sea 360° 

Industry insiders discuss Saudi Arabia as a production hub at Red Sea 360° 

DUBAI: International experts in the film industry this week discussed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to become a leading production hub at Red Sea 360° —a four-day industry event at Red Sea Souk during the Red Sea International Film Festival.  

The event hosts a series of talks on production, innovation and finance in the entertainment industry. It is welcoming over 50 panellists from all over the world for the 2022 edition. 

“It’s a new market for us and it’s quickly expanding, and it’s very young when compared to European audiences,” said Livia Van Der Staay, who is in charge of business development at France’s Wild Bunch Intl., during a panel at the event.  

“It’s also interesting from a talent’s perspective because with new audiences comes an emergence of new talent. We’ve worked with Middle Eastern directors many times but never a Saudi, so we are really looking forward to discovering their talent,” he added. 

Van Der Staay also talked about the tax incentives, including the 40 percent cash rebate established this year by the Saudi Film Commission.  

“Everybody knows about the incentives and it’s great to see people taking these opportunities. I am in the middle of a Saudi production where we applied for the rebate, and it’s looking like it will be an efficient system,” he said. 

The panel centered on the importance of creating local productions instead of replicating work done in Western countries.  

“The idea is not to adapt to other standards, is to see the perception the audiences here have of the films and how we can adapt to the specificities of a region,” added Van Der Staay. “The idea is not to renounce a culture, so it fits in a sort of mold.” 

US producer, publisher and media consultant David Uslan said that he is interested in producing stories from the region. “I spend a lot of time in places like Saudi looking for content we can build off from. I have been surprised with the quality of what has been created in this region, so that is what we have been hunting down, the next IP to adapt into franchises,” he said. 


Saudi director Mahmoud Sabbagh announces new film during RSIFF  

Saudi director Mahmoud Sabbagh announces new film during RSIFF  
Updated 06 December 2022

Saudi director Mahmoud Sabbagh announces new film during RSIFF  

Saudi director Mahmoud Sabbagh announces new film during RSIFF  

DUBAI: Saudi director and producer Mahmoud Sabbagh revealed this week at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival that he is working on his third film, “Last Party in Rumah Desert,” in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter.   

Sabbagh is the filmmaker behind the 2016 film “Barakah Meets Barakah,” which was the second Saudi title to be submitted for Oscars consideration.   

The movie is produced by Jeddah-based indie label El-Housh Productions established by Sabbagh. (Getty Images)

“Last Party in Rumah Desert,” which comes six years after Sabbagh’s feature “Amra and the Second Marriage,” is set in contemporary Saudi Arabia. 

The film centers on a cash-driven local impresario who wanders through nightlife venues and the entertainment circuit with his music troupe in their struggle to stay afloat amid professional strife. 

The movie, produced by Jeddah-based indie label El-Housh Productions established by Sabbagh, stars actors Abdullah Albarrak, Sami Hanafi, Radwan Jifri and singer Marwa Salem.  

Shooting is now underway in the desert area between Jeddah and Riyadh. 


Film AlUla begins construction of studio complex

Film AlUla begins construction of studio complex
Updated 05 December 2022

Film AlUla begins construction of studio complex

Film AlUla begins construction of studio complex
  • Film AlUla has hosted 694 production days since opening in 2020

JEDDAH: Film AlUla, the film agency of the Royal Commission for AlUla, has started construction on the first phase of its studio complex.

The finished complex will cover around 30,000 square meters and is set to be up and running by the end of next year.

The first phase will include two world-class soundstages, production support buildings, workshops, a pyro/sfx building, a sound recording studio, catering and administration buildings and a 6,500 square meter backlot.

HIGHLIGHT

The first phase will include two world-class soundstages, production support buildings, workshops, a pyro/sfx building, a sound recording studio, catering and administration buildings and a 6,500 square meter backlot. It is located near 12 sq. km of outdoor shooting locations showcasing the beauty and ancient heritage of AlUla, making it the best suitable for on-location filming and set construction.

It is located near 12 sq. km of outdoor shooting locations showcasing the beauty and ancient heritage of AlUla, making it the best suitable for on-location filming and set construction.

“AlUla is a thriving center for arts, culture and heritage. With the film and screen sector of central focus the first phase of this studio complex is carefully planned and part of a much larger program of infrastructure development,” said Charlene Deleon-Jones, executive director of Film AlUla.

“This complex will satisfy the growing demand from regional and international producers to shoot at AlUla, while also supplying an epicenter for our production ecosystem. The studio complex will diversify AlUla’s economy, in line with the objectives of RCU, as we build a home to nurture Saudi talent in the screen sector for generations to come,” he added.

Film AlUla worked with the US-based company Tait to ensure that work in AlUla would be uncluttered and comfortable, including during summer.

The studio complex will be 14 minutes from the Film AlUla Residence, which has 300 rooms, restaurants, recreational facilities and office space for industry professionals, and 20 minutes from AlUla International Airport, which recently opened a hangar for private jets. It lies outside the airport’s flightpath.

Phase two will be announced in the second quarter of 2023.

The project aims to attract local and international productions is bolstered by Saudi Arabia’s offer of a cashback rebate of up to 40 percent for international and local feature films, television series and documentaries.

The studio complex is also meeting rigorous environmental standards. Film AlUla contracted environmental agencies to conduct a 10-month impact assessment on the new location and will build it under continuous environmental monitoring.

Film AlUla has hosted 694 production days since opening in 2020. Movies include Kandahar, directed by Ric Roman Waugh and starring Gerard Butler, which was the first major Hollywood feature to shoot almost entirely in AlUla, and the Iraq war story Cherry, starring Tom Holland and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.

Additionally, Norah was the first Saudi feature film to shoot at AlUla entirely and featured an all-Saudi cast and more than 40 percent Saudi crew.

A number of TV productions have been filmed in AlUla including the British series Expedition with Steve Backshall and Nat Geo documentaries, along with commercials, promotions, photo-shoots and short films.