Egyptian-American filmmaker Dina Amer discusses her debut feature ‘You Resemble Me’

Egyptian-American filmmaker Dina Amer discusses her debut feature ‘You Resemble Me’
Dina Amer attended the Red Sea Film Festival. (AFP)
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Updated 11 March 2022

Egyptian-American filmmaker Dina Amer discusses her debut feature ‘You Resemble Me’

Egyptian-American filmmaker Dina Amer discusses her debut feature ‘You Resemble Me’

DUBAI: “To be honest, I never thought this film would be screened in Saudi Arabia,” admits the Egyptian-American filmmaker Dina Amer. “For this film, which deals with Islamic radicalization, to be seen and embraced in Saudi Arabia at its first film festival in my lifetime almost felt unbelievable. I felt like I was witnessing this cultural opening in Saudi Arabia and it makes me very proud as a Muslim woman. Because it makes me feel like it’s going to vibrate to the rest of the Muslim world and allow for greater freedoms.”

“You Resemble Me,” which had its Arab premiere at the Red Sea International Film Festival in December, is an adaptation of the life of Hasna Aït Boulahcen and an exploration of the roots of Islamic radicalization. A troubled young woman of Moroccan descent, Boulahcen came from an underprivileged suburb of Paris and endured poverty and abuse throughout her short life. She died with her cousin Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the ringleaders of the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, during a police raid in Saint-Denis.




Dina Amer, director of You Resemble Me (Tu Me Ressembles). (Photo credit: Kevin Scanlon)

Such is the sensitivity of the film’s subject matter that, despite positive reviews, Amer was nervous prior to the movie’s regional debut in Jeddah.

“I was very concerned because it’s the other polarity,” she says. “In the West, some people might be offended that I even dare to make a film that ‘humanizes a terrorist.’ And meanwhile, she never set off a bomb and she never killed anyone. That was fake news. But here there could be a backlash of, ‘Well, don’t even touch our religion, don’t even weigh in on anything that has to do with our faith, because it’s too sensitive, it’s too touchy.’

“But people came up to me after the film and were like, ‘Thank you so much, I feel inspired to one day make a film or write a script.’ That’s the power of film and storytelling,” she continues. “It can actually inspire others to say ‘I want to do that, too, I have a story to tell.’ And I feel like the power of art is that it offers the opportunity for transformation, for healing, for catharsis — for yourself and for an audience.”




“You Resemble Me” had its Arab premiere at the Red Sea International Film Festival in December. (Supplied)

“You Resemble Me” had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival last September and stars Mouna Soualem and Sabrina Ouazani. Even Amer herself appears as a version of Boulahcen, with three actors portraying the adult Hasna at different points throughout the film. Such is its emotional intensity that Amer’s directorial debut attracted the support of a host of executive producers, including Spike Lee and Riz Ahmed, and won the Audience Award at the Red Sea International Film Festival.

One of the most striking aspects of the film, however, is the performance of the two girls who play Hasna and her sister Mariam as children. Portrayed by sisters Lorenza Grimaudo and Ilonna Grimaudo respectively, they have a raw energy that is mesmerizing to watch.

“I was very fortunate that I met them on the very first day of casting,” recalls Amer. “They were the last kids to show up and I knew instantly that they were my kids. Because they’re kids from the hood, you know what I mean? They have this kinetic energy and there’s a deep love between them. They lost their father at a young age and so they understand tragedy and they also understand perseverance. They’re like young warriors.”




“You Resemble Me” stars Mouna Soualem and Sabrina Ouazani. (Supplied)

Amer worked with them both extensively during rehearsals, helping to channel their natural talent. “For me, these two sisters are the real Mariam and Hasna of France today: They’re young, they’re sisters, they love each other, they’re wildly talented. But will France actually make use of their talent? Will they be cast in other projects or will they be told, ‘No, you’re not quite what we’re looking for. You don’t quite belong in this industry’? That would be a shame for France because, internationally, the one unifying comment is ‘Who are those kids?’”

Amer didn’t choose to tell the story of Boulahcen, it chose her, she says. As a journalist working for Vice News, she arrived in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis a few hours after the explosion that killed Boulahcen. Covering the developing story live on air, she, like everybody else, would report that Boulahcen was Europe’s first female suicide bomber — information that later turned out to be untrue. Amer felt so terrible that she went in search of Boulahcen’s mother, eventually securing the only interview she would give.




Amer co-wrote the film with Omar Mullick following over 300 hours of recorded interviews with Hasna’s family and friends. (Supplied)

“She said I reminded her of her daughter,” says Amer, who co-wrote the film with Omar Mullick following over 300 hours of recorded interviews with Hasna’s family and friends. “And she showed me a picture of Hasna as a child and said ‘This is my child, this is my daughter, not the woman with the niqab who looks scary on the news and is being called a terrorist.’ The family kept on saying ‘You remind us of Hasna,’ and I started to see similarities and parallels to this woman. I understood what it’s like, to a lesser degree, but there’s the same internal conflict that I share with Hasna, which is: How do I, as a Muslim woman living in the West, reconcile my identity?

“I am proud to be Muslim. I am also born and raised in the US and heavily influenced by Western culture. But I’m also Egyptian. There are these pieces and sometimes they feel conflicting, because you’re told that you can’t be Muslim and modern. Or to be Muslim in the West, how do I navigate that as a woman and feel like I’m emancipated? So it’s a tricky thing to traverse and, in the end, when you are unable to reconcile your identity as a third-culture kid, I feel like that leads to that devastating headline in some cases. So I could relate. I spent my whole life actually distancing myself from people like Hasna and feeling like these people are a shame to us; they don’t belong to us. They go down in all the glory saying ‘We’re Muslim’ and they tarnish our identity, you know? And we have to go around saying ‘No, Islam is a religion of peace’ and all the rest.”

It wasn’t until Amer spent time at Rikers Island, one of the largest prisons in the US, that she began to realize that she could not define people by their worst actions. She also realized that every human is worthy of redemption.

“I love that statement that says as soon as you know someone’s story and where they come from, you fall in love with them, because you can see yourself in them,” Amer says. “I don’t believe that people are born pure evil. I believe that things happen to people and that even though we’re not here to justify, we can’t afford not to understand. Because we reap the repercussions of not understanding.”


1309 Studios founder Ghada Al-Subaey talks Arab representation, dressing Georgina Rodriguez

1309 Studios founder Ghada Al-Subaey talks Arab representation, dressing Georgina Rodriguez
Updated 51 min 12 sec ago

1309 Studios founder Ghada Al-Subaey talks Arab representation, dressing Georgina Rodriguez

1309 Studios founder Ghada Al-Subaey talks Arab representation, dressing Georgina Rodriguez

DUBAI: Qatar-based ready-to-wear label 1309 Studios, founded by entrepreneur Ghada Al-Subaey, has been garnering the attention of international stars, including Argentinian model Georgina Rodriguez.

The star, who now lives in Saudi Arabia with her boyfriend Portuguese football player Cristiano Ronaldo, wore one of Al-Subaey’s abayas during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha.

Al-Subaey told Arab News that one of her brand’s key goals was to modernize the traditional abaya and “make it accessible to every woman around the world.

“Having Georgina walk into a boutique and pick our abaya off the rack and wear it for such an important event means that we have managed to reach that goal in making the abaya versatile and wearable. She picked one of our signature abayas the palm sage green,” she said.

Rodriguez wore the design with a figure-hugging black dress, silver heels, and a white Chanel bag.

1309 Studios is grounded in a contemporary bohemian aesthetic. At the heart of the brand is a minimalist, feminine look that merges seasonal trends with traditional Qatari elements.

Drop 8, “Eternal Unfolding,” look 1. (Supplied)

Clean silhouettes, bold colors, artful prints, and carefully considered details are hallmarks of the brand. The designer draws inspiration from art, nature, and global culture to create pieces with a contemporary edge.

“When I was a teenager, I found myself exploring fabrics and creating styles that weren’t available in Qatar at the time. I began designing kaftans for family and friends during college and that’s where it all started,” Al-Subaey added.

Before she launched her brand in 2015, she ran her small business from home and relied on word of mouth to increase the hype around her designs.

Drop 8, “Eternal Unfolding,” look 2. (Supplied)

She said: “That was when I conceptualized and worked on launching my own brand. I saw that there was a gap, there was a need to create a community in Qatar where women can turn to take care of their emotional wellbeing and leave no stone unturned to make it into a reality.”

The brand name 1309 is a nod to Al-Subaey’s mother.

“13/09 is my mother’s birthday. The name is dedicated to my mother, as I got my fashion sense from her. I used to watch her stitch and cut when I was younger, I learned all about fabrics and stitching from my mother,” she added.

Drop 8, “Eternal Unfolding,” look 3. (Supplied)

Al-Subaey’s designs, which are shipped worldwide and are available in stores in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and Qatar, are tailored in Qatar. She uses sustainable, natural, and vegan fabrics, as well as biodegradable packaging.

She said: “We also recycle scrap fabric and turn it into furniture. We rely on human skills and avoid the use of machinery as much as possible.”

And her designs are not just sketches that she brings to life, she puts thought into the design process to understand how the pieces she is creating will emotionally affect the person wearing it.

Drop 8, “Eternal Unfolding,” look 4. (Supplied)

“I want people to feel relaxed and most like themselves while wearing a 1309 piece of clothing. A lot of times when people are not comfortable in their clothes, they are not themselves.

“The idea behind the 1309 studio woman is to create a safe place for women. A place where women come together to empower and uplift each other professionally and otherwise; to develop a platform where women feel free to speak up and support and take a moment to heal from the daily challenges of life in today’s fast-paced technological world.

Drop 8, “Eternal Unfolding,” look 5. (Supplied)

“The clothes they wear should not be a restraint. The fabrics, colors, and cuts that I choose make the girls feel fun and alive. It should feel like an outfit, rather than a covering for an outfit.

“The fabric we use at 1309 is meant to complement various body types and shapes,” she added.

Al-Subaey is working to grow her brand globally.

Drop 8, “Eternal Unfolding,” look 6. (Supplied)

She said: “I want to change this stigma around abayas. I want abayas to become as respected globally as kimonos and to see everyone around the world wearing them; not necessarily to cover the body, but instead as a fashion statement.

“I would love for my ideas and inspiration to create change. Whether it is about applying sustainable approaches in our work or utilizing environmentally friendly packaging, I want the brand to continue to make a positive impact toward the community.

“I would like to expand globally and represent the Arab world in a global fashion space,” she added.


Model Ubah Hassan shows off a custom-made gown at New York event  

Model Ubah Hassan shows off a custom-made gown at New York event  
Updated 07 February 2023

Model Ubah Hassan shows off a custom-made gown at New York event  

Model Ubah Hassan shows off a custom-made gown at New York event  

DUBAI: Somali Canadian model Ubah Hassan took to Instagram on Tuesday morning to show off her head-turning gown from an event that took place in New York.  

The TV star, who is set to star in season 14 of “The Real Housewives of New York,” posted a video of her form-fitting lilac dress with cut out detailing around the chest that she wore to the 15 Percent Pledge gala. The gown featured voluminous sleeves that were attached to a cape with a long train.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by UBAH (@ubah)

Her dress was custom made by Harbison Studio, which was founded by New York-based designer Chales Elliot Harbison. 

“Warning to my future wedding guests: We are having rice and beans on my wedding as the entire wedding budget will go into dress and the diamonds,” Hassan joked in the second of two  Instagram posts. 

“Here is me and my team manifesting to be in a Disney princess movie,” she added, referencing her fairy-tale gown.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by UBAH (@ubah)

“THANK YOU for having us at @15percentpledge gala. You guys are doing amazing work supporting black business, black designers (sic),” she captioned her first post.  

The 15 Percent Pledge is an American non-profit organization that encourages retailers to pledge at least 15 percent of their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses. The foundation conducts audits, shares its database of Black-owned businesses, and offers business development strategies to participating companies. 

Dutch Moroccan Egyptian model Imaan Hammam was also in attendance. She wore a black gown with a long train by Italian brand Maximilian and had her hair tied in hip-grazing braids.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

“Thank you @aurorajames and the entire @15percentpledge team for such a well-curated event and for bringing everyone together for such a great cause,” she wrote on Instagram.  

The gala dinner was also attended by Ashley Graham, Lori Harvey, Ryan Destiny and more.  

To celebrate the achievements of Black entrepreneurs, the Fifteen Percent Pledge awarded three founders with grants. The first-place winner, beauty brand 54 Thrones, received the first-ever Achievement Award, a $200,000 grant presented by Shop with Google. The second runner-up, Sergio Hudson, received $35,000, and the third runner-up, Puzzles of Color, received $20,000.  

The winners all received a physical award created by designer Jameel Mohammed, founder and director of Khiry, the luxury brand best known for its afro-futurist jewelry. 


Bollywood comes to the UAE at Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibit 

Bollywood comes to the UAE at Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibit 
Updated 07 February 2023

Bollywood comes to the UAE at Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibit 

Bollywood comes to the UAE at Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibit 

ABU DHABI: Bollywood has come to the UAE as the Louvre Abu Dhabi unveiled its newest art exhibition, on the history of Indian cinema.  

Home to one of the world’s largest film industries, India reportedly releases more than 1,500 genre-varying movies in 20 languages per year.  

“Bollywood Superstars” features a wide selection of paintings, photographs, costumes, tapestries and photographic objects. (Supplied)

Running until June 4, “Bollywood Superstars” features a wide selection of paintings, photographs, costumes, tapestries and photographic objects. A significant number of the displayed items are on loan from the Musee du Quai Branly — Jacques Chirac in Paris, which specializes in indigenous art.  

Indian cinema was developed in the 20th century, but as the exhibition demonstrates, narration and moving images have been present long before the modern era. In a way, the nation’s vibrant visual culture, folk performing arts, shadow puppetry, ancient epics and mythologies — dating back to 2,000 years — led to the birth of Bollywood. Some of the displayed objects represent the celebration and revival of religious, cultural figures, and heroes.   

significant number of the displayed items are on loan from the Musee du Quai Branly — Jacques Chirac in Paris, which specializes in indigenous art. (Supplied)

In the early days, traveling story-tellers roamed around, narrating scenes of important epics. A showcased mid-20th century wooden altar, resembling a toy box, shows on its detailed panels painted characters and scenes from the battle-themed “Ramayana” epic. It almost looks like a contemporary film set, where movement, costume, and staging are in action. 

Other objects reveal deities, taking them out of their temples and closer to worshippers. There is a colorful wooden bioscope that projects with light images of a deity. “Like a music box, a hand crank slides images for viewers to see peering through small peepholes,” reads a label next to the device.  

India reportedly releases more than 1,500 genre-varying movies in 20 languages per year. (Supplied)

Movies arrived in India via the revolutionary French Lumiere brothers, who invented photographic equipment, in 1896. As the years advanced, filmmaking became a weapon against colonial rule, asserting identity. Modern pioneering directors, such as the late Dadasaheb Phalke (dubbed “the Father of Indian Cinema”), were inspired by their own literature and culture, manifesting in their creations.     

The exhibition ends with a presentation of popular Hindi cinema today, witnessing a boom from the 1970s onwards with luminaries Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, and Shah Rukh Khan on the rise. Whether in old or modern times, “Bollywood Superstars” is a reminder of a human need to tell stories. 


American multinational bank JPMorgan recommends Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure

American multinational bank JPMorgan recommends Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure
Updated 06 February 2023

American multinational bank JPMorgan recommends Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure

American multinational bank JPMorgan recommends Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure
  • The bank’s annual brochure lists suggested recreational, artistic, and cultural activities to enjoy during holidays
  • The brochure mentions that the museum of ancient Egyptian civilization will display the complete collection of the boy king Tutankhamun

CAIRO: JPMorgan Bank is directing its clients toward the Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure.

The publication is distributed to the organization’s distinguished clients around the world.

It lists suggested recreational, artistic, and cultural activities to enjoy during holidays, while highlighting the most important attractions and places around the world.

This year’s brochure includes many locations, and among them is a picture of the soon-to-be-opened Grand Egyptian Museum, accompanied by some information about the attraction.

It says that the museum of ancient Egyptian civilization will display the complete collection of the boy king Tutankhamun.

Ahmed Issa, Egyptian minister of tourism and antiquities, appreciated the bank’s gesture in recommending the museum to its clients.

The museum’s opening is eagerly awaited and it will be considered one of the most important establishments of its kind in the world.

The minister said that its opening date will be decided as soon as possible, adding that kings, presidents, and senior officials from around the world will attend its inauguration.

Soha Ali, CEO of JPMorgan Bank in Egypt and North Africa, held a meeting with Issa recently, and thanked the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities for its cooperation, and for providing information on the museum, as well as photographs.

JPMorgan Bank, the largest in the US and one of the biggest in the world, issues its booklet on an annual basis.


Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates birthday in Saudi Arabia with friends and family 

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates birthday in Saudi Arabia with friends and family 
Updated 06 February 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates birthday in Saudi Arabia with friends and family 

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates birthday in Saudi Arabia with friends and family 

DUBAI: Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo turned 38 on Feb. 5 and celebrated his birthday with family and close friends in an intimate gathering in Saudi Arabia. 

His longtime partner Georgina Rodriguez and oldest son Cristiano Jr. were also present for the celebrations.  

Among the attendees were his oldest friends Miguel Paixao and Jose Semedo. Ronaldo also invited Madrid-based reporter Edu Aguirre and wife Julia Salmean, along with his new personal manager and agent Ricky Regufe and personal wealth manager Miguel Marques.

Ronaldo took to Instagram to share a few snapshots from the day, captioning the post: “Thank you everyone for all the birthday messages. Grateful to have spent the day with my family and friends.” 

In the photos, the football superstar can be seen posing in front of a table laden with multiple birthday cakes. Another photo shared in the carousel of images shows Ronaldo taking advantage of the winter weather on what appears to be a trip to the desert, complete with a roaring bonfire and traditional tents.  

 

 

Rodriguez also took to social media to post a loving message for Ronaldo’s birthday. “Happy days to the love of my life. In love with you and what we are together,” wrote the Argentine model. 

After scoring his first goal for Al-Nassr last week, Ronaldo will be next seen in action on Thursday against Al-Wehda in a Saudi Pro League match.