Palestinian poet Farah Chamma’s mix of music, verse is finding fans around the world

Palestinian poet Farah Chamma’s mix of music, verse is finding fans around the world
Farah Chamma is a UAE-based Palestinian poet. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 April 2022

Palestinian poet Farah Chamma’s mix of music, verse is finding fans around the world

Palestinian poet Farah Chamma’s mix of music, verse is finding fans around the world
  • Farah Chamma: ‘My work is about freedom in all its forms’

DUBAI: It’s going to be a busy year for the young UAE-based Palestinian poet Farah Chamma. Chamæleon — a poetry and electronic music project Chamma founded with the Brazilian producer Liev — is set to perform at festivals in Portugal and Holland, while her solo show, “Poems without Bread,” is to launch in Dubai before the summer. She’s also recording a second season of “Maqsouda,” a Sowt-produced podcast with the Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck. And, if that’s not enough, she’s also performing at the Festival Poésie Moteur in Belgium on April 9.

“It’s too much,” Chamma says with a laugh. “This is why I’m overwhelmed. But I’m trying to go with the flow and find the right time for everything.” That means working remotely with Liev, who is based in São Paulo, and trying to imagine how Chamæleon’s debut EP, “Uncanny Valley (Vol 1),” will work on stage. It also means balancing her full-time job at Sharjah’s House of Wisdom with a spoken-word career that has been integral to her life since she was a teenager.

Chamma first burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old at The Poeticians, a Dubai-based poetry group founded by the Palestinian filmmaker and writer Hind Shoufani. It was her online performances of “How Must I Believe?” and “The Nationality,” however, that catapulted the then-19-year-old onto the global stage and set the tone for much of what would follow. Now her new solo show, “Poems without Bread,” will bring together much of Chamma’s colloquial work in a single performance. The show will feature 10 pieces, including her latest, “Falastini Ana,” which was released as an animated video on YouTube last October.




Music is playing an increasingly important role in Chamma’s work. (Supplied)

Created by the Palestinian artist Ahmed Khalidi and accompanied by music written and performed by Maruan and Ismael Betawi, “Falastini Ana” was originally commissioned by Action for Hope and is in many ways indicative of how Chamma’s poetry about Palestine has changed.

“It feels more like my story now,” she says. “It feels more like the Palestine in my daily life. And one of the shifts has been that the nostalgia has changed. The nostalgia is becoming more tangible.”

Although the bulk of her poetry has focused on Palestine, the themes of Chamma’s work are broad. Sexuality, emotions and social justice all feature strongly, while a perpetual questioning drives much of her writing. “It’s not just Palestine — but Palestine is core because it happens to be where I’m from. I miss it, I talk about it, I have family from there, it just comes up more. But I really think it’s about freedom in all its forms. How do you free yourself from everything? Even sexuality is about freedom. It’s always about people being well in their bodies, in their minds, in their land and I just filter out all that other noise, you know?”




Chamæleon is a poetry and electronic music project Chamma founded with the Brazilian producer Live. (Supplied)

Music is playing an increasingly important role in Chamma’s work. With Chamæleon, which explores the intersections between spoken word and musical textures, the sounds are electronic and ambient. With the Betawi brothers, they are more traditional — the poetry is performed in the Palestinian dialect and set largely to oud and violin. Both projects have added elements of visuals or animation.

“It was never intentional,” explains Chamma, who was born in Dubai and lives in Sharjah. “The poetry was not written to be set to music, but I think it started with the most obvious instrument in Arabic poetry — the oud. But that wasn’t enough, so we started experimenting. I think rap really helped me understand rhythm, poetry and music. Music works because it enhances the experience. And I don’t think it’s about poetry set to music. I’m starting to see it as a genre in itself. It’s a musical experience.

“This is why it’s enjoyable, because it doesn’t give more weight to one element over the other, unless you really want to give weight to the words at a particular moment,” she continues. “It’s about how the whole thing sounds and it’s so much more freeing to enjoy the sound of everything, rather than thinking of it as a poem set to music. I don’t think it’s an accompaniment any more. It feels like a marriage of both elements.”

Chamæleon’s debut EP was released in February and an album with the Betawi brothers is currently being cooked. “There’s momentum now and I’m very content with what’s happening,” says Chamma with a smile. “With these two groups I’m completely comfortable and safe. And we’re thriving together.”


British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi Arabian film industry

British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi Arabian film industry
Updated 02 December 2022

British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi Arabian film industry

British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi Arabian film industry

RIYADH: British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, most famous for his hit gangster films, the "Sherlock Holmes" franchise and his live-action "Aladdin" adaptation, said that Saudi Arabia is ripe for building a successful film industry, at the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

The director was speaking to Arab News on day two of the film festival in Jeddah.

Guy Ritchie at the photocall at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Friday. (Getty Images)

"What's interesting about (Saudi Arabia) is that there's such an explosion of enthusiasm. It's young and it's creative. And there's a high desire to express creativity. That makes it very interesting. So it's trying to couple the inexperience with the enthusiasm, because you have the enthusiasm and the means. And now you've just got to develop some form of experience and sub-structure," said Ritchie about the developing and nascent film industry in Saudi Arabia.

"I don't like making movies in the UK anyway. So I'd rather make movies outside of the UK. We worked in Jordan for 'Aladdin.' And that worked very well for us. We were in Spain for the last film and in Turkey for the film before that. There's no need to get out of the UK but I'd much rather work in in new and exciting environments. And for that really you just need a sub-structure in order to facilitate the ability of making movies. And I'm sure that will happen," added the filmmaker, who is attending the film festival along with his actress-wife Jacqui Ainsley.

Ritchie with his wife Jacqui Ainsley at the opening gala of the Red Sea International Film Festival on Thursday. (Getty Images)

In a separate 'In Conversation' segment on Friday, Ritchie address this topic again and said, "I think I'm very interested in this part of the world. And I think creativity should find its way into this part of the world. That's why I'm here. Really, what we're after is a fusion and the integration of cultural collaboration."

Ritchie went on to explain that for a healthy film industry to be built, incentives and subsidies for film productions are the way to go. "I can't shoot in the UK anymore because it's too busy to shoot there. That's how busy it is. And they've been able to do that because of incentives. So once you have incentives, then the other thing you need is to make a few movies here in Saudi Arabia. So other filmmakers look at the filmmakers that have gone before and then they just trust that," said Ritchie. 

Ritchie first made headlines and found international acclaim with the 1998 British black comedy crime film "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," which he wrote and directed. In an In Conversation panel at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Friday, Ritchie talked about how the film almost didn't get made. 

"This was the hardest film. I mean, it's not coal mining. So you've got relativize it within the world of how hard it is to scratch a living. But the film fell down a 1000 times before it was resurrected. And even when it came to a redistribution, you know, it was out and in and then it was out. And then it came down to, suddenly, there was one particular guy called Chris Evans, in the UK, who saw it and he loved it. And at the time, his show was the most watched show in the UK. And he pulled me on for the next week. That's really what made it a hit. He made a fuss about it, then everyone else would come," said Ritchie.


Sharon Stone gets emotional during Saudi Arabia visit

Sharon Stone gets emotional during Saudi Arabia visit
Updated 02 December 2022

Sharon Stone gets emotional during Saudi Arabia visit

Sharon Stone gets emotional during Saudi Arabia visit
  • ‘Basic Instinct’ star is attending Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah

DUBAI: Hollywood star Sharon Stone was visibly emotional during an In Conversation panel discussion at the Red Sea Film Festival on Friday.

Talking about why she decided to visit Saudi Arabia, the star of “Basic Instinct” and “Catwoman” said: “I’m an envelope breaker, my success is to break the envelope, just like coming here. Everyone said to me, aren’t you afraid? And I said, ‘I’m afraid not to know. So why don’t I go, see how it really is and I’ll tell you?’

Sharon Stone at the opening gala on the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah. (AFP)

“What I’ve learned is that what everybody tells you isn’t always the way it is.”

Stone added that it meant the world to her to be at the festival.

“I’m just a kid from Pennsylvania. I grew up with Amish people who drove into my driveway in their horse and buggy. There was no possibility for me to come to Saudi Arabia to meet you.”

Meanwhile, a clip of her awestruck reaction to being seated next to Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan at the opening night of the festival on Thursday has been doing the rounds on social media.
 


VOX Cinemas reveals series of homegrown Arabic films

VOX Cinemas reveals series of homegrown Arabic films
Updated 02 December 2022

VOX Cinemas reveals series of homegrown Arabic films

VOX Cinemas reveals series of homegrown Arabic films
  • Announcement “reaffirms committment to produce 25 films in 5 years”

DUBAI: Plans are afoot to create a series of Arabic films, VOX Cinemas, the movie arm of Majid Al Futtaim announced on Friday at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah. Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment & Cinemas CEO, Ignace Lahoud said the announcement reaffirmed the company’s commitment to the production of 25 Arabic films in five years.

In a line-up that features titles from new and established filmmakers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Lebanon, VOX Cinemas is “reaffirming its commitment to become a major player in Arabic film production” Lahoud said.

 

 

“It is an exciting time for Arabic film, which has been gaining plaudits and audiences in the region and beyond, and tends to outperform foreign films,” he added.

“Distinctly local productions, particularly in a nascent market like Saudi Arabia, offer an untapped and real opportunity.”

 

 

Lahoud said VOX Cinemas would be working with a number of production companies In the ongoing push to growing a “sustainable film industry”.

“Storytelling is deeply rooted in Arabic culture,” he added, saying “VOX Cinemas is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of regional filmmakers and empowering them to use the language of film to tell their stories.”

The movies will be produced through collaborations with the likes of Image Nation Abu Dhabi and MBC Studios, as well as Film Clinic and Sirb Productions.

Currently under production are a number of titles including ‘HWJN (Hawjen)’, directed by Yasir Al Yasiri and due for release next year; other titles include “King of the Ring,” a Saudi remake of the South Korean comedy drama hit “The Foul King,” and “Voy! Voy! Voy!,” which is also slated for 2023.


REVIEW: ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ makes for a disappointing rom-com, despite splendid performances from stars

REVIEW: ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ makes for a disappointing rom-com, despite splendid performances from stars
Updated 02 December 2022

REVIEW: ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ makes for a disappointing rom-com, despite splendid performances from stars

REVIEW: ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ makes for a disappointing rom-com, despite splendid performances from stars
  • Shekhar Kapur's rom-com, starring Shazad Latif and Lily James in lead roles, opened the Red Sea International Film Festival on Thursday night

JEDDAH: Renowned Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur's "What's Love Got To Do With It," which opened the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah on Thursday night, is a bit of a disappointment despite its distinguished cast. Coming from someone who gave us solid movies like an extremely likeable "Masoom" ("Innocent"), "Bandit Queen" (on the life of the notorious outlaw, Phoolan Devi) and "Elizebeth," his attempt at a rom-com falls flat. 

To start with, the premise of "What's Love Got To Do With It" hinges on the outdated concept of arranged marriages, which has been fancifully renamed here as an “assisted match.” This is, at best, whitewashing of a concept popular in India where the parents choose their children's partners, and that was that. However, in 21st century London, this idea appears ludicrous, and no amount of dressing up the plot with exquisite locales from the city makes the concept work. 

Taking off from a script written by London-born Jemima Goldsmith, who was once married to the former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, and her experiences there have reportedly been worked into the movie, Kapur tells us about two childhood friends, who grew up on the same street in London. 

Zoe (Lily James) is a successful documentary film-maker, but the serious subjects she chooses have made finding funding for her projects difficult. When Kazim (Shazad Latif) , whom she secretly pines for, says he has begun the process of looking for a partner through an arranged marriage, because of his mother, played by Shabana Azmi, Zoe feels that this could be an excellent idea for her next work. Yes, this would also lead to a lot of heartache for her. 

Kapur's movie travels between Lahore and London with a practiced ease but is also peppered with loud garishness. However, the idea of a fairytale, which Zoe hoped to lace her documentary with, falls flat. 

Adding to the silliness is Emma Thomson, who plays Zoe's mother and is quite splendid as a woman trying desperately to match her daughter with Kazim.

James is remarkable as well, and helps to get a message across quite convincingly – that love can happen anytime, anywhere! True, but we already knew that. 


Saudi designers spotlighted at opening night of the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah

Saudi designers spotlighted at opening night of the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah
Updated 02 December 2022

Saudi designers spotlighted at opening night of the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah

Saudi designers spotlighted at opening night of the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah

DUBAI: The second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival kicked off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday night with stars from across the world descending on the red carpet. 

While stars like Sharon Stone, Shah Rukh Khan, Oliver Stone, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and many more graced the red carpet in striking fashion looks, Saudi designers also had their moment to shine at the prestigious event. 

Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio wore a creation by Jeddah-based designer Yousef Akbar. (AFP)

Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio dazzled in a blue jumpsuit from Jeddah-based designer Yousef Akbar. She completed the look with with a gold bangle and matching stud earrings. The model has often sported creations from Arab designers. Last month, she wore a lime gown by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad to a holiday brunch in Mexico.  

Jomana Al-Rashed (right) on the red carpet with Red Sea CEO Mohammed Al-Turki (left) and Hollywood star Sharon Stone (centre). (Getty Images)

Jomana Al-Rashed, the first Saudi Arabian woman to be appointed CEO of the Saudi Research and Media Group, was spotted posing alongside Hollywood star Sharon Stone, wearing Saudi label Loodyana.

Filmmaker Guy Ritchie with actress-wife Jacqui Ainsley. (Getty Images)

British actress Jacqui Ainsley, known for her role in the 2017 film "King Arthur: legend of the Sword," took to the red carpet wearing US-based label Dazluq, founded by Saudi designer Salma Zahran. Ashley is married to British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, who was also in attendance. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HONAYDA (@honaydaofficial)

Honayda Serafi, founder of the Saudi label Honayda, represented her own brand in a striking green ensemble. "Delighted to be attending the opening ceremony of the second edition of the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, surrounded by successful talents from around the world, and celebrating Arab artists. A grand event bridging cultures from West to East, bursting creativity and beauty," she posted on Instagram, along with shots of her outfit. 

Sofia Guellaty, the founder and editor of Mille World, also took to the red carpet in an elegant gown from Honayda.

Lebanese influencer Nathalie Fanj was seen wearing an ethereal mermaid black gown from designer Tima Abed. She completed the look with dangling, heart-shaped earring from Chopard.

Saudi Arabian actress Mila Al-Zahrani looked stylish in a sleek black-and-white gown from label Mashael Al Faris. She was styled by Rawan Kattoa and wore jewelry from French label Boucheron. 

The opening night film was Shekhar Kapur’s film, "What’s Love Got to Do with It?," starring Lily James and Emma Thompson, written by Jemima Khan, and produced by StudioCanal and Working Title.