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.


Arab Men’s Fashion Week kicks off with innovative designs 

Arab Men’s Fashion Week kicks off with innovative designs 
Updated 29 June 2022

Arab Men’s Fashion Week kicks off with innovative designs 

Arab Men’s Fashion Week kicks off with innovative designs 

DUBAI: Arab Men’s Fashion Week kicked off on Tuesday with five designers from around the world presenting their latest drops to fashion lovers in Dubai Design District.

Lebanese brand Maison du Mec, London-based label Permu, Filipino creative Rian Fernandez and Emirati streetwear label KA-1 showcased their Spring/Summer 2023 collections. 

The opening show, a collaboration between Swiss tech accessories brand Ferronato and Maison du Mec, was a mash up between fashion and technology.

Award-winning magicians and mentalists James Harrington and Marina Liani opened the show with a 10-minute mind-reading and magical-effects performance.

The collaboration featured soft leather backpacks, micro smartphone cases, multi-functional clutches and slouchy drawstring bags in shades of blue and burgundy. 

A life size robotic dog, representing Ferronato’s innovative accessories, closed the show.

For Maison du Mec’s solo show, Lebanon-based designer Joseph Achajian presented the traditional pillars of suiting – jackets, crisp white shirts and trousers – with a modern twist.

For Permu, designers Heyun Pan and Jing Qian presented daily ensembles and occasion wear that featured skin-tight tops, bucket hats, backwards-facing blazers and jackets with cut slits, puffed sleeves and exaggerated shoulder pads. 

Filipino designer Fernandez is known for his couture looks that are driven by his love for traditional artisanal craft. He constructed thae wardrobe full of crystals and elaborate beading made by local craftspeople. 

KA-1’s show featured streetwear with multifunctional pockets, quirky straps and elastic tapering on trousers in desert tones of ecru, khaki and olive green. 


Model Bella Hadid supports Arab creatives on social media

Bella Hadid took to Instagram to spotlight Arab talent. (File/ AFP)
Bella Hadid took to Instagram to spotlight Arab talent. (File/ AFP)
Updated 29 June 2022

Model Bella Hadid supports Arab creatives on social media

Bella Hadid took to Instagram to spotlight Arab talent. (File/ AFP)

DUBAI: US Dutch Palestinian supermodel Bella Hadid this week took to Instagram Stories to spotlight some of the Arab world’s on-screen talents. 

The catwalk star republished a post shared on the non-profit advocacy organization Institute for Middle East Understanding’s account that shines light on Palestinian creatives that have been making headlines internationally, including Josie Totah, Michael Karim Malarkey and May Calamawy. 

Totah, a Palestinian Lebanese talent who has been nominated for the Critics Choice Awards in the past, is taking a lead role in Apple TV+’s upcoming drama series “The Buccaneers.” 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by josie totah (@josietotah)

It is an eight-episode series inspired by the unfinished novel “The Buccaneers” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton. 

Hadid’s post also paid tribute to Malarkey, who plays Enzo in the hit series “The Vampire Diaries.” 

Born in Beirut, the Palestinian actor and musician also stars in season 4 of HBO’s “Westworld” that premiered this week. He features alongside a star-studded, award-winning cast including Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton and Jeffrey Wright. 

Among the stars that Hadid told fans to look out for are Palestinian actresses Leem Lubany and Hiam Abbass. 

Lubany is famous for her role in the 2013 film “Omar,” and Abbass, a European Film Award nominee, stars in Hulu’s thriller “The Old Man” that premiered on June 16. 

The series, in its second season, is based on the award-winning novel with the same name by US novelist Thomas Perry. 

Another leading Arab star lauded by Hadid is Calamawy, the Egyptian-Palestinian actress who recently starred alongside Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke in Marvel’s miniseries “Moon Knight.” 

Calamawy, who is best known for her role in the Golden Globe-winning sitcom “Ramy,” is one of the show’s leads, Layla El-Faouly.

Hadid has always been vocal about her support for Palestine and its creatives. 

She uses her social media accounts to show her support for the diaspora and to raise awareness about military violence toward Palestinians. 

Last year, she joined demonstrations in New York to protest Israeli attacks on Palestinians living in Gaza.

She frequently calls out Instagram for “shadow banning” her Palestine-related posts. “Are we not allowed to be Palestinian on Instagram? This, to me, is bullying,” she previously wrote on Instagram. “I am proud to be Palestinian.” 


Louvre Abu Dhabi displays Filipino artifacts for first time

The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. (Supplied)
The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. (Supplied)
Updated 29 June 2022

Louvre Abu Dhabi displays Filipino artifacts for first time

The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. (Supplied)

DUBAI: The UAE’s Louvre Abu Dhabi unveiled on Wednesday two loans from the Philippines’ Ayala Museum in the first-ever showcase of artifacts from the country.  

In celebration of the touristic attraction’s fifth anniversary, these Filipino artifacts are on display until June 2023. 

The historical items date back to the 10th-13th century. 

The first loan is a gold cup that was recovered from Nabua in the Camarines Sur province of the Philippines. It highlights the striking similarity of Filipino works to the Chinese gold and silverware acquired by Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2019.

(Supplied)

The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. It places emphasis on immortality being the universal hope of mankind when faced with death, according to a released statement. This artifact is currently showcased alongside other historical items from the Levant and South America that exemplify this shared tradition.


Gigi, Bella Hadid step out in bold looks for Marc Jacobs’ NYC show  

Gigi, Bella Hadid step out in bold looks for Marc Jacobs’ NYC show  
Updated 28 June 2022

Gigi, Bella Hadid step out in bold looks for Marc Jacobs’ NYC show  

Gigi, Bella Hadid step out in bold looks for Marc Jacobs’ NYC show  

DUBAI: From French Algerian model Loli Bahia to US Dutch Palestinian sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, Arab models are turning heads on the runway this week. 

The Hadid sisters on Monday walked the runway for US fashion label Marc Jacobs in New York.

The show, which took place in the lobby of the New York Public Library, presented the New York-born designer’s fall 2022 collection. 

Instagram/@gigihadid

Oversized is the key word that represents the show. The models wore colorful large knitwear pieces tied around their heads and waists, voluminous gowns, puffy coats, huge jackets and high platform boots. 

Gigi and Bella stepped out with bleached eyebrows, dark hair and blunt micro bangs. 

On Instagram, Gigi shared a video of her turn around the catwalk as she showed off two oversized knit sweaters with a grey skirt and white platform heels. 

Meanwhile, Bella wore a sheen-heavy black dress that was voluminous and multi-layered. Her look was accessorized with white gloves and chunky heels. 

For her part, Bahia walked the runway for French fashion label Jacquemus that took place in Southern France’s Camargue Park during Paris Men’s Fashion Week. 

The models, including Bahia, presented the brand’s fall 2022 collection on large mounds of salt. 


Part-Algerian model Loli Bahia walks the runway for Jacquemus in France 

Part-Algerian model Loli Bahia walks the runway for Jacquemus in France 
Updated 28 June 2022

Part-Algerian model Loli Bahia walks the runway for Jacquemus in France 

Part-Algerian model Loli Bahia walks the runway for Jacquemus in France 

DUBAI: French-Algerian model Loli Bahia walked the runway for French fashion label Jacquemus in Camargue Park, on France's Mediterranean coast, during Paris Men’s Fashion Week. 

The models, including Bahia, presented the brand’s fall 2022 collection on large mounds of salt set against a breathtaking natural backdrop.

The event was attended by a veritable who’s who of the fashion world, including  Jordanian Romanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi, British designer Victoria Beckham, French actor Vincent Cassel and his wife Tina Kunakey, Nigerian singer BurnaBoy, British actress Simone Ashley, Cristiano Ronaldo’s partner Georgina Rodríguez and British singer Jorja Smith.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by hadigi (@_hadigi_)

The A-list guests sat on a front row bench that was made out of salt crystal as they watched the models show off a collection marked by monochrome tones and neutral hues.  

Nineteen-year-old Bahia, who is taking the industry by storm, wore a set of bulky beige overalls with large pockets at the waist as she, and the other models, descended from the top of a salt mountain. A white, floor-length tulle was attached to her suit from the back.

“Walking on the moon,” the model wrote on Instagram Stories after the show, referring to the extraterrestrial feel of the unexpected runway with its salt structures, clear pools of water and bright sky.

The show, titled “Le Papier,” featured fluffy coats, puffer vests and cargo pants along with feminine and innovative bridal looks using voluminous tulle, asymmetric cuts and sheer dresses. 

Bahia is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand models in the industry having become a runway fixture in just a couple of months after a breakthrough spring 2022 fashion month, where she walked in 65 shows.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @lolibahiaa

The teenager has taken to the catwalk for a multitude of prestigious fashion houses, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Valentino.

Signed to Women Management Paris, she made her runway debut in 2020 at the Louis Vuitton fall 2021 show and went on to star in the Parisian fashion luxury house’s fall campaign last year.

She has also featured in numerous campaigns for high-end fashion labels, including Saint Laurent, and Max Mara, and has appeared in prestigious fashion publications such as Vogue Italia.