The best movies of 2021 from the Arab world

The best movies of 2021 from the Arab world
‘Souad’ by Ayten Amin. Supplied
Short Url
Updated 03 January 2022

The best movies of 2021 from the Arab world

The best movies of 2021 from the Arab world

Dubai: From award-winning magical realism to a hard-hitting refugee thriller, read on for the films from Arab directors that grabbed our attention last year.

“Feathers”

Director: Omar El-Zohairy

Starring: Samy Bassouny, Mohamed Abd El-Hady, Fady Mina Fawszy

A woman’s husband is turned into a chicken, forcing her to take care of his family. When he comes back, she kills him. The story of Omar El-Zohairy’s award-winning debut feature feels ripped from a classic fairy tale — the Grimm kind that would keep you awake long after reading. It is not the premise of El-Zohairy’s hotly-debated masterpiece that has caused a stir, but what that premise allows him to do; depicting the suffering of women in rural parts of Egypt in excruciating reality, all stunningly shot by a visionary stylist with talent to spare. 

“Casablanca Beats”

Director: Nabil Ayouch

Starring: Anas Basbousi, Ismail Adouab, Zineb Boujemaa, Meryem Nekkach

In a working-class neighborhood of Casablanca, Morocco, sits a cultural center called the Positive School of Hip Hop. Many young Moroccans struggling with poverty and the myriad oppressive realities of modern society go there each day to create music, find their voice, and forge a pathway to happiness. Ayouch’s fictional film goes inside that real-life refuge to tell the story of a teacher named Anas who gives his students the space to pursue their dreams and express themselves freely. While the film does explore the sad and violent world the students inhabit, this is ultimately a hopeful, often joyous, affirmation of the power of music. 

“Souad”

Director: Ayten Amin

Starring: Bassant Ahmed, Basmala Elghaiesh, Hussein Ghanem, Hagar Mahmoud

For many young women in small cities in the Arab world, the only way that they can truly express themselves, communicate with the outside world, and discover their passions is through social media. Amin’s film explores the dual lives that those girls lead: The face they show their parents to meet the expectations put upon them, and the face they choose for themselves in the anonymous world of the internet. Shot with non-actors, the film feels both deeply considered and absolutely at ease, with Amin’s soft touch leaving a strong imprint. 

“Europa”

Director: Haiden Rashid

Starring: Adam Ali, Erfan Rashid, Gassid Mohammed

On the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, a young Iraqi refugee named Kamal (Adam Ali) thinks he is approaching freedom. As he gets close, his guides turn on him, forcing him to escape into the Bulgarian forest, where he is pursued by ruthless mercenaries known as ‘Migrant Hunters.’ Shot like a classic pulse-pounding thriller, with tight camera work, break-neck editing and sound, and an above-and-beyond performance from Ali, Rashid’s film is simple but effective as a thriller, and all the more haunting because of the disturbing reality that it depicts, leading viewers to imagine how many stories like it the world ignores each day. 

“The Man Who Sold His Skin”

Director: Kaouther Ben Hania

Starring: Yahya Mahayni, Dea Liane, Koen De Bouw, Monica Bellucci

The Tunisian director’s Oscar-nominated film enraptured audiences across the world, and it’s easy to see why. It follows Sam Ali (Yahya Mahayni), a Syrian man forced to flee his country to Lebanon, where he meets a contemporary artist who pays him to become his next art piece, tattooing a Schengen visa on his back and then exhibiting him a museum in Brussels. Mahyani is electric throughout, and while the film’s final act undoes some of Ben Hania’s good work, the commentary on the dehumanizing nature of modern art and the global refugee crisis will haunt you. 

“Gaza Mon Amour”

Director: Tarzan Nasser

Starring: Salim Daw, Hiam Abbas, Maisa Abd Elhadi

Powerhouse actors Hiam Abbas (“Succession,” “Ramy”) and Salim Daw (“Tyrant,” “The Crown”) play two lonely people who fall in love. Daw plays Issa, a 60-year-old fisherman who is secretly in love with a woman who works at the market named Siham, whom he eventually works up the courage to pursue. What makes Nasser’s love story so affecting, beyond the stirring performances, is its setting — Gaza is front and center, with all the dystopic struggles its inhabitants endure, making a love that rises up through the cracks all the more touching. 

“Farha”

Director: Darin Sallam

Starring: Karam Taher, Ashraf Barhom, Ali Suliman

Sallam’s powerful debut feature is set in Palestine in 1948 — during the horrors of the Nakba. Fourteen-year-old Farha’s dreams of attending a school in the city and escaping her small village are dashed when bombs start to fall and the life her family had known for generations begins to fall apart before her eyes. An instantly essential film in the Palestinian canon, Sallam’s haunting, gorgeous, devastating calling card signals great things to come. 

“Ghodwa”

Director: Dhafer L’Abidine

Starring: Dhafer L’Abidine, Ahmed Berrhouma, Najla Ben Abdallah

The hugely popular Tunisian actor Dhafer L’Aibidine may have left his homeland decades ago, but his heart, and his mind, never strayed beyond its borders. With his directorial debut, L’Aibidine goes both in front of and behind the camera to tell the story of a man named Habib who is haunted by the unhealed wounds of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution 10 years on, demanding justice for the victims of the previous regime in a country that would prefer to move on and forget. In some ways, he’s barely holding onto his sanity. In others, he’s the only one still sane. Carried by a knockout performance by L’Abidine, the film comes alive most in the relationship between Habib and his son, whose enduring concern for his father’s mental health is deeply affecting. 

“Captains of Zaatari”

Director: Ali El-Arabi

Starring: Mahmoud Dagher, Fawzi Qatleesh

In the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, two best friends dream of becoming professional footballers. El-Arabi’s documentary follows them as they are offered a life-changing opportunity: Places at a top football academy in the Gulf. The film reverberates with the heart of Mahmoud and Fawzi — with both their highs and lows, whether on the pitch or in the camp. especially as it remains unclear if they will be able to leave Zaatari for good.


Tunisian model Ameni Esseibi shows off sleek style at Paris Fashion Week 

Tunisian model Ameni Esseibi shows off sleek style at Paris Fashion Week 
Updated 10 sec ago

Tunisian model Ameni Esseibi shows off sleek style at Paris Fashion Week 

Tunisian model Ameni Esseibi shows off sleek style at Paris Fashion Week 
  • The 24-year-old, considered the first plus-size model in the Middle East, is a staunch advocate for inclusivity and diversity in the fashion industry

DUBAI: Tunisian model Ameni Esseibi made her international runway debut this week by walking for French label Victor Weinsanto at Paris Fashion Week. 

“Mama, I made it to Paris Fashion week,” she wrote on Instagram, sharing a picture of herself on the runway. “This is just the beginning.” 

Esseibi, who was the only Arab model participating in the fashion show, went on to thank the Arab Fashion Council, a non-profit organization representing the fashion industry in the Middle East and North Africa that named the Dubai-based model as its new ambassador earlier this year.

“Thank you so much Arab Fashion Council for helping make my dream come true and Victor Weinsanto for believing in me,” she wrote. 

Esseibi walked down the runway in a multi-colored dress which she paired with pearl white satin gloves. 

The 24-year-old, considered the first plus-size model in the Middle East, is a staunch advocate for inclusivity and diversity in the fashion industry.

Esseibi has worked with a number of esteemed brands including Jean Paul Gautier and H&M and has featured in the pages of multiple publications. 


French Algerian model Loli Bahia hits the runway in Paris 

French Algerian model Loli Bahia hits the runway in Paris 
Updated 31 min 6 sec ago

French Algerian model Loli Bahia hits the runway in Paris 

French Algerian model Loli Bahia hits the runway in Paris 

DUBAI: From Milan to Paris, French Algerian model Loli Bahia has been gracing the runways for renowned luxury labels this month. 

This week, the catwalk star modeled for French luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent at Paris Fashion Week in a show set against the backdrop of a twinkling Eiffel Tower.

Guests, including K-Pop star Rose of Blackpink, trickled into the venue under brooding clouds as night began to fall, stopping for selfies in front of a huge, flowing water fountain, while crowds lined up on the esplanade overlooking the venue, The Associated Press reported.

Designer Anthony Vaccarello presented the summer collection of sleek evening wear that featured dramatic 80s shoulders, column silhouettes and hoods.

The model shared a close up of her Yves Saint Laurent look on social media. (Instagram)

Bahia emerged from the dark, wearing a sheer floor-length black dress with a turtleneck as she made her way slowly down a broad set of stairs before marching around the fountain. 

Her look was accessorized with chunky gold bangles, large earrings and one-toed heels. 

Other looks in the fashion show included 90s designs infused with the glaringly 80s capuches that came in muted or caramel tones — hues also reminiscent of that era. 

Hoods formed the base silhouette of many pared-down ensembles, which contrasted with statement gold earrings or large wooden bracelets, just like the ones Bahia wore. 

Heavy open wool coats and regal trenches, which caressed the floor, created a rectangular window frame through which to see the pants in some clever fashion theater.

The house founder turned the capuche into one of his most iconic styles – originally inspired by the tubular sheath donned by dancer Martha Graham for her 1930 choreography “Lamentation.”

Paris Fashion Week kicked off on Tuesday. Saint Laurent and Dior are among some 107 brands showcasing Spring-Summer 2023 collections.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by (@runway.icons)

Last week, Bahia modeled for Italian luxury label Versace during Milan Fashion Week alongside part-Arab models Gigi and Bella Hadid, Imaan Hammam and Nora Attal. Emily Ratajkowski, Paris Hilton and Irina Shayk were also among the models who walked the runway. 

Bahia wore a hot-pink dress with a short bridal veil.

Bahia, who is signed to Women Management Paris, made her runway debut in 2020 at Louis Vuitton’s Fall 2021 show. She would go on to star in the Parisian luxury house’s advertising campaign for Fall 2021.

She has also featured in campaigns for Saint Laurent, Courreges and Max Mara in addition to starring on the cover of Vogue Italia.


Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah to curate the 2023 National Pavilion UAE in Venice

Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah to curate the 2023 National Pavilion UAE in Venice
Updated 8 min 40 sec ago

Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah to curate the 2023 National Pavilion UAE in Venice

Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah to curate the 2023 National Pavilion UAE in Venice
  • Designer explores world’s growing aridity with local materials, practices
  • Theme of next year’s event is ‘The Laboratory of the Future’

DUBAI: Syrian architect Faysal Tabbarah is set to curate the National Pavilion UAE exhibition at the 18th Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia), organizers announced this week.

The selected research proposal by Tabbarah, who is an associate dean and associate professor of architecture at the American University of Sharjah, aims to explore the relationship between architecture and dry landscapes in the country.

“My approach will rely on integrating technology with land-based materials practices and knowledge found in arid landscapes in the UAE,” said the Aleppo-born curator in a released statement.

“I am honored to have been selected as the curator for the National Pavilion UAE … Aridity is a fast-approaching future condition for many regions, and through this exhibition, we’ll explore their potential as spaces of abundance and productivity,” he added.

The selected research proposal by Tabbarah aims to explore the relationship between architecture and dry landscapes in the country. (Supplied)

This exhibition will mark Tabbarah’s first participation as a curator of a national pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia, and his second participation in the Architecture Biennale as a whole.

He has previously collaborated with the Kuwait Pavilion’s curators in 2021 for their presentation at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, or IAE, of the Venice Architecture Biennale, titled “Space Wars.”

Tabbarah was selected following the National Pavilion UAE’s open call which invited designers around the world to develop proposals for the 2023 architecture exhibition.

The applicants were tasked with exploring an intriguing aspect of the UAE’s architecture or built environment that contributes to the discourse around architectural practice locally, regionally and internationally.

Research findings by Tabbarah, to be exhibited in Venice and supplemented with an accompanying publication, aim to respond to the Architecture Biennale 2023’s theme “The Laboratory of the Future,” which is being curated by Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, educator and best-selling novelist, Lesley Lokko.

The National Pavilion UAE will present its exhibition from May 20 to Nov. 26, 2023, with the pre-opening on May 18 and 19.

Next year will mark the UAE’s 12th exhibition at the Art and Architecture International Exhibitions organized by La Biennale di Venezia since 2009 and its fifth participation in the IAE. The pavilion won the Golden Lion award for the best national participation in the 17th IAE La Biennale di Venezia in 2021 for its exhibition “Wetland.”


Director Bassam Tariq exits Marvel’s ‘Blade’ over schedule conflicts  

Director Bassam Tariq exits Marvel’s ‘Blade’ over schedule conflicts  
Updated 28 September 2022

Director Bassam Tariq exits Marvel’s ‘Blade’ over schedule conflicts  

Director Bassam Tariq exits Marvel’s ‘Blade’ over schedule conflicts  

DUBAI: US Pakistani filmmaker Bassam Tariq has exited his role as director of Marvel Studios’ “Blade” due to shifts in production schedule, according to a report by Variety.

Tariq’s departure comes before production was set to commence in November on Marvel’s upcoming feature about the iconic comic book vampire slayer. The film stars Mahershala Ali in the title role, alongside a cast that includes Delroy Lindo and Aaron Pierre.

“It’s been an honor working with the wonderful folks at Marvel. We were able to put together a killer cast and crew. Eager to see where the next director takes the film,” Tariq said in a statement, confirming his exit as director.


Saudi Arabia’s Nasiba Hafiz designs new line with US feminine care giant Always

Saudi Arabia’s Nasiba Hafiz designs new line with US feminine care giant Always
Updated 28 September 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Nasiba Hafiz designs new line with US feminine care giant Always

Saudi Arabia’s Nasiba Hafiz designs new line with US feminine care giant Always
  • Not Hot Collection for women to stave off heat, humidity
  • ‘Biggest appeal was hi-tech material to keep cool and dry’

DUBAI: In a bid to beat the heat in style, Saudi fashion designer Nasiba Hafiz has teamed up with US feminine care giant Always, distributed by Procter & Gamble, to launch a new heat-resistant fashion collection.

The Not Hot Collection — dubbed the world’s first designer period wear by the brand — was inspired by Always Cool & Dry, a sanitary pad that was created to keep women feeling cool during their period. “When Always first approached me, I thought it was a great opportunity to explore the idea of working with this type of technology. It was also a challenge to work with plain yet very bright fabrics. Usually, I mostly work with prints. Also, as a woman who’s been brought up in Saudi (Arabia), Always was probably the most trusted brand out there, so I did not hesitate,” said Hafiz.

The Not Hot Collection features pops of color, breezy and comfortable shapes, and lightweight layers. (Supplied)

The designer, who likes to work with out-of-the-box fabrics and vibrant colors, is looking to change the way the world sees Saudi fashion. With comfort a priority, her clothes are created with the region’s intense heat and humidity in mind. “I’d say color and prints are always two main factors for my process when I design, but the biggest appeal to me was the technology of the material which keeps you cool and dry,” said Hafiz.

The Not Hot Collection features pops of color, breezy and comfortable shapes, and lightweight layers, “marrying style with function.” Think features like pockets, bike shorts that sit beneath a flowy dress, driving gloves and car seats that protect against searing-hot steering wheels — basically pieces that women in the Gulf need to stay cool.

Going into more detail about how she created the collection, Hafiz continued: “The design process took place during the hottest month of the year in Saudi (Arabia), and if I can even say this, I got inspired by the heat. I started thinking of the colors and materials that would bring me joy and make me feel a little better. Flowy silhouettes were a big part of the design, and at the same time, it had to be cool and active.”

“My favorite piece is the patched top that has a 90s feel to it: It’s on trend and it also allowed me to work with extra materials and not waste fabric,” she added.

Always x Nasiba Hafiz’s Not Hot Collection is now selling via a pop-up concept store in Jeddah and via https://nasibahafiz.com.