Review: Despite flaws, ‘Sharaf’ serves as a telling look at prison corruption

Review: Despite flaws, ‘Sharaf’ serves as a telling look at prison corruption
The film is an adaptation of Egyptian novelist Sonallah Ibrahim’s fictional work. Supplied
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Updated 03 January 2022

Review: Despite flaws, ‘Sharaf’ serves as a telling look at prison corruption

Review: Despite flaws, ‘Sharaf’ serves as a telling look at prison corruption

CHENNAI: “Sharaf,” directed by Egypt’s Samir Nasr, is set almost entirely inside a prison where the titular character essayed by Ahmed Al-Munirawi is doing time for murder.

The Red Sea International Film Festival title sees it lead character meet a motley group, some who have been incarcerated for their political beliefs which run contrary to the administration’s. The most fascinating among them is Dr. Ramzy (Fadi Abi Samra), who keeps meticulous notes on what is happening outside the prison’s walls.




The film is set almost entirely inside a prison where the titular character essayed by Ahmed Al-Munirawi is doing time for murder. Supplied

Nasr was supposed to have set his film in Egypt, but due to the political climate he shifted filming to Tunisia and broadened his story to talk generally about conditions in some Arab jails. The movie serves as a microcosm of the complexities in Arab societies struggling under dictatorships, poverty and class conflicts. Nasr conveys this by showing a divide between rich “royal prisoners,” with their facilities and perks, and poor “government inmates,” who are denied even the most basic needs and are treated no better than slaves. 

An adaptation of Egyptian novelist and short story writer Sonallah Ibrahim’s fictional work that emerged from years of research on life in some Egyptian jails, “Sharaf” treads on eggshells as it avoids mentioning any one country in particular. The director even ensured he had a pan-Arab cast in a bid to avoid backlash.




“Sharaf” exposes the corruption inside incarceration centers and the way truth is manipulated to serve prison officials and privileged prisoners. Supplied

“It’s a very challenging movie because it’s about Egyptian society and the prison system. For years we thought we could finance it with Egyptian producers and Egyptian funding but it didn’t happen. People were afraid about this film and they thought it couldn’t be successful,” he told filmfestivals.com ahead of the movie’s screening in Jeddah.

“Sharaf” may be lazily edited with a monotonous flow, but it does expose the corruption inside incarceration centers and the way truth is manipulated to serve prison officials and privileged prisoners. Drugs are freely sold and bought, food fit for royalty is served to those who pamper the egos of wardens and act as their eyes and ears. It is a very bold comment on an important issue and kudos must go to the director and the film festival for its creation and screening.


Netflix releases trailer for star-studded Arab remake of ‘Perfect Strangers’

Netflix releases trailer for star-studded Arab remake of ‘Perfect Strangers’
Updated 13 January 2022

Netflix releases trailer for star-studded Arab remake of ‘Perfect Strangers’

Netflix releases trailer for star-studded Arab remake of ‘Perfect Strangers’

DUBAI: Netflix released the trailer for the Arabic adaption of the hit Italian feature “Perfect Strangers,” set for release on Jan. 20, on Thursday.

The trailer shows seven close friends who get together for dinner, and decide to play a game that involves placing their cell phones on the dinner table and agreeing to share every call, text and voice message as it comes.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Netflix MENA (@netflixmena)

What starts out as fun quickly unravels as untold secrets reveal more than expected. 

The Arabic version, titled “As-hab wala A’az,” features a pan-Arab cast, including Lebanese award-winning director and actor Nadine Labaki, Egyptian star Mona Zaki, Jordanian-Egyptian icon Eyad Nassar, and Lebanese actors Georges Khabbaz and Adel Karam, Fouad Yammine and Diamand Abou Abboud.

The stars of the movie, which is filmmaker Wissam Smayra’s directorial debut, quickly took to Instagram to tease fans with the trailer on their profiles. 

“I wonder what this moon is hiding,” wrote Nassar on his Instagram, while Yammine said: “In one week!”

“Perfect Stangers” has had 18 remakes around the world, including France, Germany, Spain, Greece and South Korea. 


The home front: 2022’s most-anticipated TV shows

The home front: 2022’s most-anticipated TV shows
Updated 13 January 2022

The home front: 2022’s most-anticipated TV shows

The home front: 2022’s most-anticipated TV shows
  • From fantasy epics to huge finales, here’s what we’ll be watching this year

‘House of the Dragon’

OK, so “Game of Thrones” ended with a whimper, rather than a bang, but HBO’s prequel series still has plenty of people geeking out, and will likely still dominate TV talk this year. The show is set 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones” and tells the story of the House Targaryen dynasty — you know, the ones whose reign ultimately ended with a mad king. Oh, and the ones who were able to command dragons. The excellent Paddy Considine will play King Viserys, who is described as a “warm, kind, and decent man,” on the show’s site, which then warns: “but, as we’ve learned from ‘Game of Thrones,’ good men do not necessarily make for great kings.”

‘Lord of the Rings’

Amazon will be running the main challenger to “House of the Dragon” for the title of this year’s most-epic show. Despite the name, the show’s creators are (wisely) not rehashing the ground covered by Peter Jackson’s incredible film trilogy from the early Noughties. Instead, it will cover the Second Age of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, before the events of the movies, just as the evil that will dominate those stories is emerging. With Amazon making a five-series commitment worth a reported minimum of $1 billion, this will be the most expensive series ever made. 

‘After Life’

Ricky Gervais’ bittersweet comedy-drama returns for a third and final season this week on Netflix. The show — in which Gervais plays Tony, a middle-aged journalist on his local paper struggling to face up to life without his late beloved wife — is its creators best work since “Extras.” Sometimes uproariously funny, often heartbreakingly affecting, it’s a show with a lot of heart and an excellent ensemble cast.  

‘Better Call Saul’ 

When this “Breaking Bad” spinoff — focusing on the life of crooked lawyer Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill prior to the events of that series — first aired, few would have anticipated that it would end up being as acclaimed as its much-lauded parent show. But, as its sixth and final season approaches, “Better Call Saul” has surpassed all expectations in all areas — the writing, acting, direction and cinematography are unfailingly excellent. Bob Odenkirk is spellbinding as the lead character, digging beneath the sleazy exterior to reveal a man for whom you can’t help rooting, even when he’s at his worst.

‘Peaky Blinders’

This period crime drama, set in the aftermath of the First World War, will also wind up this year with its sixth season following the exploits of the titular organized crime gang in Birmingham, England. Gang leader Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy) will face the threat of the UK’s rising fascist movement and the series will reportedly pick up directly from the last scene of season five, which saw Tommy putting a gun to his own head and screaming.

‘The Crown’

Netflix’s dramatization of the reign of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II enters its fifth season, and it’s time for another change of lead actress as we head into the Nineties. It’s Imelda Staunton’s turn to play the queen, and the always-excellent Leslie Manville will take over from Helena Bonham-Carter as Princess Margaret, while Princess Diana will be played by Elizabeth Debicki.

‘Killing Eve’ 

After the runaway success of its first season, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s tale of a psychopathic female assassin (Jodie Comer in the title role) and her love-hate/kill relationship/obsession with the British intelligence investigator chasing her (played by Sandra Oh) lost some momentum in its second outing. Here’s hoping the fourth and final season, set for release late in February, will be a return to the dizzy heights of the first. 

‘Stranger Things’

The fourth season of Netflix’s enormously successful Eighties-themed sci-fi horror series will see the teen gang reunited in the small town of Hawkins during spring break following Eleven’s move to California with the Byers family. Not much else has yet been revealed about season four, but we do know, thankfully, that police chief Jim Hopper will be returning, despite the others believing him to be dead. 

‘Atlanta’

Donald Glover’s superbly inventive comedy-drama about music manager Earnest Marks (Glover) and rapper Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) is back for a third season, which will, we think (it’s hard to be certain about anything with this show), see the pair — along with Paper Boi’s eccentric best friend Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) — head to Europe for the tour they were about to embark on at the end of season three. Throwing in a fish-out-of-water element to this already often-surreal show should make for irresistible viewing.


German pianist performs in Saudi Arabia for first time

German pianist performs in Saudi Arabia for first time
Updated 13 January 2022

German pianist performs in Saudi Arabia for first time

German pianist performs in Saudi Arabia for first time
  • Simon regularly hosts master classes at internationally renowned music academies

RIYADH: German pianist Corinna Simon performed in Saudi Arabia in an event hosted by German Ambassador to the Kingdom Dieter Lamle.

A Saudi audience enjoyed a diverse musical program which included compositions by Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Martini and Albeniz.

Simon received a standing ovation from the audience at the end of the concert.

The Berlin-based pianist received her first piano lesson at the age of five. By age 12, she began training as a junior student at the Julius-Stern-Institut in Berlin.

Engagements have taken her to many countries in Europe, the US, Latin America, Asia and Africa. In Berlin, she leads a private training class for highly gifted young people and aspiring musicians.

Simon regularly hosts master classes at internationally renowned music academies.

The German ambassador marked Simon’s visit to the Kingdom as part of an ongoing cultural program at the German embassy.

It includes art exhibitions, music concerts and cinema evenings, bringing the Saudi and the German communities together in Riyadh and Jeddah in support of cultural exchange between both countries.


‘Four to Dinner’: A clumsy questioning of love, soulmates

‘Four to Dinner’: A clumsy questioning of love, soulmates
Updated 12 January 2022

‘Four to Dinner’: A clumsy questioning of love, soulmates

‘Four to Dinner’: A clumsy questioning of love, soulmates

CHENNAI: Netflix’s latest rom-com, “Four to Dinner,” is the epitome of confusion. Written by Martino Coli and directed by Alessio Maria Federici, the Italian film plays like a jigsaw puzzle galloping through timelines and what is more frustrating is that the pieces do not seem to fit, although the concept it is built on is interesting.

“Four to Dinner,” dubbed well in English, explores how minor squabbles and misunderstandings can drive a wedge between a man and woman who may be in a relationship that seems like love. But even fairly decent performances do not lift the film, which gets more and more convoluted as it traverses the lives of the protagonists. 

At a dinner, a couple try and play matchmakers to two men and two women. Dario (Giuseppe Maggio) is a lawyer who gets attracted to Giulia (Matilde Gioli), a cynical mathematician. The other man, Matteo (Matteo Martari), falls for Chiara (Illenia Pastorelli). 

“Four to Dinner,” dubbed well in English, explores how minor squabbles and misunderstandings can drive a wedge between a man and woman who may be in a relationship that seems like love. (YouTube)

Federici questions the relevance of true love and the concept of a soulmate. His inferences converge on four probable outcomes with ego and the lack of courage to talk about feelings as underlying obstacles. By the end of 90 minutes, it is quite possible that some may begin to wonder about the idea of a soulmate and destiny, and the makers may bask in the thought that their work has achieved its target — but that’s a big if.  

The movie could have been more interesting if the writer and director had made a greater effort to flesh out the characters and establish a credible relationship among them. But, instead, they go in for hasty editing, weakening the narrative. 

Other aspects of production, like settings, are clumsy. The apartments of the characters look as cluttered as the screenplay. Photographed carelessly with little feel for light and shade, the night shots are jarringly contrasted while daytime appears too bright for any modicum of aesthetics. 

Although conceived as a light-hearted comedy, it is hardly that. Rather, it seems like an exercise in digging for answers that never come. 


Algerian-Italian Luca Guadagnino to direct new Audrey Hepburn biopic

Algerian-Italian Luca Guadagnino to direct new Audrey Hepburn biopic
Luca Guadagnino directed “Call Me by Your Name” and “Suspiria.” File/AFP
Updated 11 January 2022

Algerian-Italian Luca Guadagnino to direct new Audrey Hepburn biopic

Algerian-Italian Luca Guadagnino to direct new Audrey Hepburn biopic

DUBAI: Oscar-nominated director Luca Guadagnino is set to direct a new biopic on the late Hollywood star Audrey Hepburn, it has been announced.

The “Call Me by Your Name” and “Suspiria” filmmaker, who was born in Palermo to an Algerian mother and a Sicilian father, will direct the film for Apple Studios, while Michael Mitnick will write the screenplay.

“Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” actress Rooney Mara will portray the iconic Brussels-born cinema star.

Rooney Mara. (AFP)

Two-time Oscar nominated Mara is also set to help produce the upcoming film that will explore the actress, humanitarian and fashion icon’s life and work.

It isn’t the only project about the screen legend currently in development. In April 2021, it was reported that television producer Jacqueline Hoyt would be writing a TV series, “Audrey,” based on Hepburn’s formative years.