Filmmaker Mohamed Diab discusses ‘Moon Knight’ — the first Marvel project to have an Arab director

Filmmaker Mohamed Diab discusses ‘Moon Knight’ — the first Marvel project to have an Arab director
“Moon Knight” is a show full of outsiders who, in partnership Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and many others, lent their creative voices to make this a Marvel project like no other. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 April 2022

Filmmaker Mohamed Diab discusses ‘Moon Knight’ — the first Marvel project to have an Arab director

Filmmaker Mohamed Diab discusses ‘Moon Knight’ — the first Marvel project to have an Arab director
  • ‘I definitely have a different voice,’ says the Egyptian filmmaker

DUBAI: Representation matters. Not just representation of ethnic background, but of personal experience. As Egyptian director Mohamed Diab becomes the first Arab to direct a Marvel project with the eagerly awaited limited series “Moon Knight,” it’s a landmark moment not only because of his nationality, but also because he was born, raised, thrived and suffered in Egypt, living through his country’s revolution and painful rebuild, and ultimately becoming one of its most important chroniclers.

“Part of my voice is what happened to me over the last 10 years. Everything that happened in Egypt, everything that happened to me in that experience, is who I am today,” Diab tells Arab News. “It affects how I handle every scene. I definitely have a different voice because of all that I’ve been through — all that we as a people have been through — and you’re going to feel that voice in the show.

“I’m not someone who is obsessed with firsts, but I will say that what is unique about me getting the Marvel job is that I’m coming directly from the Arab world,” Diab — who previously helmed the award-winning films “Cairo 678” (2010), “Clash” (2016), and “Amira” (2021) — continues.




Egyptian director Mohamed Diab is the first Arab to direct a Marvel project with the eagerly awaited limited series “Moon Knight.” (Supplied)

That Diab is applying that experience specifically to “Moon Knight” is particularly fitting. The character, who debuted in the 1975 comic “Werewolf by Night” #32, received his powers as the result of a curse from an ancient Egyptian deity.

There was a major reason that Diab’s voice was so necessary to the project. While many of the Marvel comic books from the 60s and 70s drew from cultures and mythologies from across the world, they were written and drawn from a perspective foreign to the cultures they were influenced by, leading to limited — sometimes offensive — potrayals of those people, places and histories.

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe has reintroduced those characters to a new generation over the last 14 years, there’s been an increasing focus on getting it right this time — making partners like Diab invaluable.




Hawke, who in addition to acting has been twice nominated for an Academy Award for writing, signed on after Diab’s pitch without even reading a script. (Supplied)

“I think it was very important for ‘Moon Knight’ to be overseen by an Egyptian director. It portrays both a modern Egypt and an ancient one, and usually the two of them are portrayed in an orientalist way, as something exotic and ‘other,’ which to me is dehumanizing,” says Diab. “I think Marvel did everything they can to do this right, and I think people that watch the show have never seen Egypt portrayed as authentically as it is here, in the past or in the present.”

Part of Diab’s mission was not just to apply his own voice to the show, but to include the creative voices of as many Egyptians and Arabs as he could. Each Egyptian character on the show is portrayed by an actual Egyptian — something rarely, if ever, done in Hollywood — including the ancient deity that plagues Moon Knight himself. Behind the scenes, Diab recruited previous collaborator Ahmed Hafez as one of the series’ editors, and the great Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih to write the series’ score.

“I think all of that added to the show’s authenticity, because they each excelled at their job in a way no one else could have. I hope that opens doors for others,” says Diab. “To me, this had to be a success story, because that’s what would inspire Hollywood to bring in more from Egypt and the Arab world. And it’s working so far — Marvel loved Hesham and Ahmed, for example, and I’m sure they’re going to work with them both again.”




“Moon Knight” debuts internationally on Disney+ on March 30 and will premiere in the region this summer. (Supplied)

Diab — as the show’s key creative voice along with creator Jeremy Slater — was integral in far more than capturing the Egyptian aspects of the show; he helped shape its entire aesthetic, so the show embraces elements that no Marvel project has before in terms of tone, style, and themes. He also personally convinced two actors who had long resisted becoming part of a superhero project — Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke — to come aboard.

“The first guy we went to was Oscar, and the first thing he asked me when he saw my films was, ‘What the heck are you doing here, man?’ Oscar was just coming out of big franchises, and I think he wanted to take a break, he wanted to do intimate films,” Diab says. “I tried to convince him that intimate films are not exclusive to budgets. You can make your intimate film at any scale.”

Diab ultimately earned Isaac’s faith in him, and then some.

“Through conversations with Mohamed and the trust that I had in him, it really felt like there was space to actually do something really truthful, unique and thrilling as an actor,” Isaac says. “And it ended up being that way for me.”

Hawke, who in addition to acting has been twice nominated for an Academy Award for writing, signed on after Diab’s pitch without even reading a script.




Diab ultimately earned Oscar Isaac’s faith in him, and then some. (Supplied)

“The wonderful idea of hiring Mohamed to be our quarterback, to guide this ship, is that the movies he’s made in Egypt are incredible,” says Hawke. “He’s not looking at this with the eyes of an American, he’s looking at this — and these deities, and this world — from a vantage point of growing up in Egypt and having a lot to say about it. It’s exciting to be around him in that way.”

Diab also recruited the Egyptian-Palestinian actress May Calamawy, best known for her role in the Golden Globe-winning sitcom “Ramy,” as one of the show’s leads.

“The character wasn't written as an Egyptian at the beginning. During development, I called her and I asked her if she was free for a Marvel project. Well… to be honest, my wife actually contacted her on Instagram,” Diab says with a laugh. “She didn’t believe it at first — she even asked her agent if it was true.

 

 

“When the time came, she auditioned with Oscar, and that audition was fantastic. They loved her. She was a tremendous addition. She’s intellectual, eager, down to earth, and proud of her heritage. She knows who she is. She stood up for her character in the room, and, as an Egyptian, she knew more about her character than anyone else,” says Diab. “I have a feeling the character is going to be very popular with people across the world because of what she brought to it.”

Ultimately, “Moon Knight” — which debuts internationally on Disney+ on March 30 and will premiere in the region this summer — is a show full of outsiders who, in partnership Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and many others, lent their creative voices to make this a Marvel project like no other.

“I think all of us together being put into a blender made the show a lot better,” says Diab.


Qatar Creates, CR Runway announce fashion show at FIFA World Cup

Qatar Creates, CR Runway announce fashion show at FIFA World Cup
Updated 28 November 2022

Qatar Creates, CR Runway announce fashion show at FIFA World Cup

Qatar Creates, CR Runway announce fashion show at FIFA World Cup

DUBAI: Qatar Creates and CR Runway announced a fashion show, featuring more than 150 designers from 50 countries, set to take place on Dec. 16 at the FIFA World Cup.

The event will feature performances by the likes of DJ Snake, Kadim Al-Sahir, Khaled, Nancy Ajram, Ozuna, Zakes Bantwini and more with the proceeds going to Education Above All, a Qatari charity that aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for vulnerable and marginalized people, with a focus on the developing world.

A poster for the event. (Supplied)

Twenty-one Qatari brands will take part in the show, which will be made up of four choreographed runway presentations.

The show will feature an opening act with national ambassadors representing the 32 countries in the World Cup, all sporting customized jerseys. Then, two local Qatari brands — Aliya Al-Obaidly and Harlienz — will put on a performance entitled “Where the Sand Touches the Sea,” inspired by Qatar’s traditional practices of pearl diving.

The second act, titled “The Fashion World Tour,” will showcase works from designers from six continents. The third and final act, “One Night in Qatar,” will showcase haute couture and eveningwear created exclusively by international designers and brands for Qatar Fashion United by CR Runway.

The Qatar-based brands participating in the event are 1309, Al-Dukan, Aliya Al-Obaidly, Tamader Al-Sultan, Drizzle, Ghada Al-Buainain, Hairaat, Hamadis, Harlienz, Kaltham’s Pavilion, Lorenaa Michelle, Maryam Al-Darwish, Mhefhef, Muna Saad, Naila Al-Thani, Trzi, TIIYA, WAAD Designs, WADHA, Wit Noiz and Yasmin Mansour.


Bella Hadid shares behind-the-scenes snaps from Swarovski shoot

Bella Hadid shares behind-the-scenes snaps from Swarovski shoot
Updated 28 November 2022

Bella Hadid shares behind-the-scenes snaps from Swarovski shoot

Bella Hadid shares behind-the-scenes snaps from Swarovski shoot

DUBAI: US Palestinian Dutch supermodel Bella Hadid has given fans a behind-the-scenes look at her latest campaign for Austrian jewelry label Swarovski.

Hadid, who was announced as the label’s brand ambassador in May, took to Instagram to share photographs from the set of her latest shoot. In the snaps, the model is dressed as a bedazzled fairy, complete with a set of delicate wings.

The model shared behind-the-scenes shots from her latest shoot for Swarovski. (Instagram)

The 26-year-old catwalk star took to Instagram earlier this year to share the news of her brand ambassadorship with her 56.4 million followers, writing: “Extremely honored and excited to be the new face of the iconic Swarovski.”

“Bella Hadid sums up the individualistic and transformative attitude of a new global generation,” said Engelbert in a statement at the time. “She is a multifaceted character who evades the boxes of rules and conformity. She goes from sporty to glamorous while remaining the same girl — the same Bella — with confidence and authority.

“Today, crystals are a dynamic part of our everyday wardrobe: A way of accentuating your individual style in a way that can be as casual as it can be elaborate. Bella is the poster girl for this state of mind,” added Engelbert.

Meanwhile, Hadid said she was “very familiar” with the “timeless and iconic brand” before the partnership.

“I love the new collections and what the brand has been doing, especially these past two years under the creative vision of Giovanna, and I really see Swarovski as the contemporary jewelry brand of the future,” she said- in a released statement. “Jewelry is about expression and celebrating individuality — Swarovski celebrates all people and the idea of modern glamour, and I love that.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SWAROVSKI (@swarovski)

 

Hadid was recently named British GQ magazine’s “most stylish person on the planet” for 2023 in a statement that mirrored Swarovski’s sentiments regarding the model’s ability to traverse various fashion styles and pull them off with aplomb.

The magazine commended Hadid for her  “ability to make menswear, womenswear, smartwear and even wavywear work.

“Hadid does menswear better than most men — and she can still wear everything and anything else. Tailoring. Prada loafers. Big denim jackets. There was even a tie at one point. It’s wavy, classic and uncomplicated all at once,” the magazine added.


The Bicester Collection launches MENA edition of Unlock Her Future entrepreneurship prize

The Bicester Collection launches MENA edition of Unlock Her Future entrepreneurship prize
Desiree Bollier in the Chair and Global Chief Merchant of The Bicester Collection. (Getty Images)
Updated 29 November 2022

The Bicester Collection launches MENA edition of Unlock Her Future entrepreneurship prize

The Bicester Collection launches MENA edition of Unlock Her Future entrepreneurship prize

DUBAI: An international retail firm has launched the MENA edition of a prize for first-time women entrepreneurs that would allow them to set up or develop their startup businesses.

The Middle East and North Africa edition of The Bicester Collection’s “Unlock her Future Prize” was announced for enterprises that drive positive environmental, social and economic change, according to the company.

The Bicester Collection is a group of 11 open-air shopping destinations across Europe and China, which includes Bicester Village in Oxfordshire, UK. They launched the initiative in 2021 as part of their DO GOOD platform and have now expanded to the Middle East. 

“We’re delighted that in its inaugural year, the Unlock Her Future Prize will launch in MENA with the support of our partner Ashoka Arab World,” Chantal Khoueiry, chief culture officer for The Bicester Village, told Arab News.

“As an Arab woman, I believe I can speak for all when I say how committed we are to driving women’s empowerment and cultural progress. We recognize that if you have diverse voices, you can transcend anything. This is the essence of what we hope the Unlock Her Future Prize MENA edition 2023 will provide on behalf of Arab Women — the voice and support to build a progressive and sustainable future for people and the planet.”

Khoueiry added that applicants with an innovative idea, and those who have been operating for under five years, are invited to apply between Dec. 5 and Jan. 31, 2023.

An international committee of experts will review the applications and shortlist eight finalists who will be invited to pitch their ideas in Bicester Village, UK, to a panel of judges from the MENA region. Three winners will be announced on International Women’s Day next year.

“The winners will each receive a financial grant of up to $100,000 plus human capital support from a fantastic assembly of global experts.” They will also have access to an education and knowledge program with the prize’s regional academic partner, New York University Abu Dhabi, said Khoueiry.

  


Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU

Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU
Updated 28 November 2022

Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU

Review: ‘The Guardians of Galaxy Holiday Special’ brings festive cheer to MCU

LONDON: Viewers over a certain age may find that the phrase “Holiday Special” sends a shiver down their spine, but fear not — James Gunn and the Marvel factory are here to cleanse your palette. Gunn, recently announced as the new head of the DC cinematic universe, still has one more Marvel movie on the horizon, but before “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3” hits cinemas in 2023, the director has reunited with the ragtag group of heroes for a seasonal one-shot on the Disney+ streaming platform — the latest in Marvel’s series of Special Presentations after October’s “Werewolf by Night.”

In an attempt to cheer up fellow Guardian Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Mantis and Drax (Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista) set out to give their friend an Earth-style Christmas, complete with lights, decorations and gifts. Except that their idea for a gift is to journey to Earth and kidnap actor Kevin Bacon, star of Quill’s favorite childhood movie, “Footloose.” Cue a series of comic interactions between the superhero Guardians and Earth’s population as they chase down and abduct Bacon and whisk him into space.

Unlike the now infamous 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special,” this festive “Guardians” installment is as slick as the wider cinematic universe. For starters, it has excellent production values, appearances from all the Guardians (including Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Vin Diesel as Groot, Sean Gunn as Kraglin, and Maria Bakalova as new member Cosmo), and a story that, while light and throwaway, still fits into the wider MCU narrative. If anything, this is more of a scene-setting exercise for “Volume 3” than a seasonal cash-in. Gunn, and his ensemble cast, have clearly grown to love these characters as much as anyone, so there’s a feeling of playful reverence about this “Holiday Special” — not to mention a welcome sense that, while it’s silly and festive, this is as important to the Marvel timeline as any of the big-screen movies.


Concert calendar: This week’s major concerts at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 

Concert calendar: This week’s major concerts at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 
Lil Baby will perform in Qatar on Dec. 3. (File/ AFP)
Updated 28 November 2022

Concert calendar: This week’s major concerts at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 

Concert calendar: This week’s major concerts at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 

DUBAI: For fans making their way to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, here are this week’s major concerts set to take place alongside the football festivities.  

Monday, Nov. 28: The ARAVIA festival will feature performances by Scooter, Vegie and Sokkary. The Arcadia Music Festival will kick off with Hernan Cattaneo, Miss Monique, Argy, Jonas Saalbach, Alfa Romero, Mark Knight, Tita Lau, Ferry Corsten, Nervo, ATB, Martin Jensen, Cedric Gervais, Burak Yeter and Joselito.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MDLBEAST (@mdlbeast)

Tuesday, Nov. 29: Rae Sremmurd, Dabous and Laymoon will take to the turntables at the ARAVIA festival, while the Arcadia festival will host Gorgon City, Argy, Jonas Saalbach, Alfa Romero, Citizen Kain, Vidal Rodriguez, ATB, Nervo, Burak Yeter, Ferry Corsten, Cedric Gervais, Martin Jensen, Burak Yeter and Mark Knight. British DJ Pete Tong will meet his fans at Bud World Club, while Canadian singer Nora Fatehi will perform at the FIFA Fan Festival.

Wednesday, Nov. 30: Gordo, Dabous and Laymoon will perform at the ARAVIA festival as the Arcadia Music Festival hosts Sebastien Leger, Argy, Citizen Kain, Jonas Saalbach, Alfa Romero, Vidal Rodriguez, Nervo, Ferry Corsten, ATB, Cedric Gervais, Mark Knight, Burak Yeter, Martin Jensen, and Block & Crown. Spanish singer Omar Montes will meet his fans at the FIFA Fan Festival as Colombian singer Ryan Castro opens the Qetaifan Beach Festival on Qetaifan Island North in Lusail.

Thursday, Dec. 1: Sebastian Ingrosso, Against Celebrities and DJ Leen will take to the stage at ARAVIA, while Dmitri Vegas & Like Mike, Nervo, Ferry Corsten, Gorgon City, ATB, Cedric Gervais, Mark Knight, Burak Yeter and Block & Crown perform at Daydream Festival in the Doha Golf Club, Al-Egla. Brazilian singer Ludmilla meet her fans at Bud World Cup and US singer Trinidad Cardona’s gig will be at the FIFA Fan Festival.

Friday, Dec. 2: Against Celebrities and DJ Leen will perform again at ARAVIA along with US rapper Tyga. The Daydream Festival will feature performances by Armin Van Buuren, Sam Feldt, Ferry Corsten, ATB, Mark Knight and Burak Yeter. DJ Aseel will be at the FIFA Fan Festival.

Saturday, Dec. 3: ARAVIA will feature Benny Benassi, Sin Tek and Sheiq. Arcadia will host Sebastien Leger, Ae:ther, Armonica, Vidal Rodriguez, Joselito, ATB, Ferry Corsten, Cedric Gervais, Burak Yeter and Mark Knight. Lil Baby will perform at the Bud World Cup zone, while Gims will hit the stage at the FIFA Fan Festival.