CHENNAI: Netflix’s latest young romance is celebrating what seems like the end of dark times, the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a film based around sun, sand and surf.
Although titled a little clumsily, “Along for the Ride,” is like a breath of springtime breeze in what has been a gloomy swag of films that spoke of death and unrequited love among teens and somewhat older girls and boys. We have seen this in “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Five Feet Apart” and “The Last Song” — among several others that left us with longing and pain.
In welcome contrast, Sofia Alvarez, who wrote the critically lauded “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” creates a teen love story with distress and a dilemma leading to, in the end, a lovely and heartening resolution. It is elevating and optimistic, just the right kind of work to get us flying. Yes, it is a bit of a hotchpotch, the writing is not always focussed, but it is fun nonetheless.
Based on Sarah Dessen’s novel of the same title, “Along for the Ride” takes us on a rollercoaster journey with high-school graduate, Auden (played with the right degree of high and low by Emma Pasarow). She decides to spend her summer break with her father and young stepmother, who has her own struggles with a new baby. Auden is determined to bridge the gulf with her father, novelist Robert (Dermot Mulroney), who walked out on his wife, Victoria, portrayed by a marvellous Andie MacDowell. Victoria always calls the shots, loves to be in command of every situation and hates the idea of her daughter meeting a man who she feels is no good.
Her mother’s overbearing attitude has not allowed Auden to blossom; she is shy, diffident and a hopeless introvert. But a change of place, in this case the sleepy town of Colby by the sea, works wonders. And when she meets Eli (played with charming ease by Belmont Cameli), there is instant chemistry. They both have their demons to grapple with. He hides a terrible truth, holding himself responsible for a death. She is fighting hard to break out of her shell, to move away from the nest her mother had been feathering.
Alvarez creates an idyllic atmosphere with Auden working in her stepmother’s beachwear boutique with three other girls, and their camaraderie after an initial period of unease and discomfort nudges her to gravitate toward Eli, helping him to get over his sorrow. The movie sets up a climate of sweet fantasy, and there is one scene straight out of a fairy tale. He is in a tuxedo, she in an alluring yellow dress, and when they dance on the beach on a dark night, it is all silver and sparkle. Their sexual tension is confined to only two passionate kisses, and they lack fire, but the couple’s night swim, splashing water on each other, just about turns the tide. The music helps, and the soundtrack, “Along for the Ride,” is reportedly one of the best in years, with cinematographer Luca Del Puppo crafting splendid imagery to run along with it.
Newly launched website gives Islamic art global exposure
islamicart.me was launched to promote Orthodox Christian artists Hilda and Lena Kelekian, who create artwork with verses from the Qur’an
‘I thought it would be a good idea to finally get her very unique art pieces (out there),’ founder Anthony Azoury said
Updated 29 September 2022
DUBAI: A Lebanese patron has launched a website to give Islamic art made by creatives Hilda and Lena Kelekian, who are of Armenian, Cypriot and Lebanese descent, international exposure.
Anthony Azoury launched islamicart.me to expose new clients to the Orthodox Christian creatives who create artwork with verses from the Qur’an.
“Hilda has been getting a lot of interest worldwide,” Azoury told Arab News. “She has a lot of clients from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf region – and even in Europe. So, I thought it would be a good idea to finally get her very unique art pieces (out there).”
Hilda paints on goat and cow skin, while Lena is a ceramicist.
In an interview with Arab News, Hilda, who has been painting for over 30 years, said that she contacts imams to make sure that her writing, her art and her techniques are correct.
“I find melody in Arabic letters. When I write, I don’t follow the schools of Arabic letters like the school of Kufi. I have my own (style) in the way I write,” she said, referring to a style of Arabic calligraphy. “I know all the rules and I am in touch with multiple sheikhs so that when I am drawing I obey the rules of the Islamic sect.”
“When I open the Qur’an to copy a verse, I have to obey the style. There are little details that I must obey. I must be clean when I am painting,” she added.
Yemeni oud player and social media star Ahmed Alshaiba dies in New York
Ahmed Alshaiba previously performed for US politician Hillary Clinton
The YouTube star was most famous for his covers of international hits, including tracks by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber
Updated 29 September 2022
DUBAI: Yemeni oud player and social media star Ahmed Alshaiba, who performed for the likes of US politician Hillary Clinton, has died following a traffic accident in New York.
The musician shot to fame for his oud renditions of hit international songs such as Ed Sheeran's “Shape of You,” Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” and the theme songs of popular franchises such as “Game of Thrones” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Aside from covers, however, Alshaiba also worked on creating original music, releasing his latest album “Malahide” in August.
With nearly 800,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, Alshaiba’s videos amassed millions of views due to his mash-up of Arab and Western styles.
At the time of posting, the late musician's family had not released an official statement as yet.
REVIEW: ‘Sidney’ on Apple TV+ is a gripping biopic on a black actor’s rise during the civil rights movement
Updated 29 September 2022
CHENNAI: Many years ago, when I interviewed Sidney Poitier at the Montreal International Film Festival, what struck me most was his humility, graciousness and empathy. He addressed those traits in a new documentary “Sidney,” out now on Apple TV+.
Produced by Oprah Winfrey and directed by Reginald Hudlin, the nearly two-hour film delves deep into the Hollywood icon’s psyche and is an endearing biopic that tells us so much about his struggles to get to where he did.
Poitier died in early 2022, but the film features a telling interview with the star, who speaks about learning humility and empathy from his parents, and also shares the traumatic story of his birth.
He was in his 90s when he died, but he was not supposed to live so long. Born two months premature to tomato farming parents on Cat Island in the Bahamas in the 1920s, his father had brought a shoebox to serve as a makeshift coffin. But his mother would have none of it — she walked around the island weeping when she chanced upon a soothsayer, who predicted that the child would go places and reach the pinnacle of glory.
“I achieved most of it,” Poitier tells us in the documentary, which has been narrated in the form of a lilting story.
Although much of the biography comes from the man himself, there are invaluable inputs from Winfrey, Halle Berry and Morgan Freeman, who says at one point that Sidney never played a subservient part – something so common in Hollywood before race relations became a huge debate in the 1960s. Earlier, Black actors could only be janitors or dishwashers or nannies on the silver screen, but Poitier changed all this. His 1963 film “Lilies of Field” earned him an Oscar and he became the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
What caused even more of a stir was 1967 film “In the Heat of the Night” in which Poitier’s Detective Virgil Tibbs slapped an actor playing a white plantation owner on screen. It was electrifying, especially given the ongoing civil rights movement.
The biopic dives into all this and more, but does not shy away from the actor’s failings in his personal life — his long affair with actress Diahann Carroll triggered a divorce which split his family, for example.
What viewers will undoubtedly take away is a picture of a man who paved the way for actors of color to shine on the big screen and emerge from the shadows of their white contemporaries.
For this week’s edition of our series on Arab icons, we profile one of the Arab world’s most popular stars
The Egyptian actor’s remarkable longevity is down to his talent and integrity
Updated 29 September 2022
DUBAI: There are not many lives as full as Adel Emam’s. Put it this way: The Dubai International Film Festival has given him a Lifetime Achievement Award twice. A legend of stage and screen — both big and small — Emam is the crown prince of Egyptian pop-culture, a comic and dramatic actor who has appeared in 103 movies and more than a dozen TV series over an astounding career that has lasted more than 60 years.
At 82, Emam may have taken a slight step back from the public eye, but the love the Arab world continues to show for him, and his influence on the generations of talent who grew up idolizing him, is as immense as it has ever been.
“Everything in the world changes. The rhythm of speech changes. Life becomes fast too. And believe me, you can fool some people all the time, and you can fool all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” Emam told Kuwait’s Zaman TV in the 1970s. “It is honesty that determines career longevity, and an actor’s esteem from his fans determines his continuation or his end.”
While Emam was waxing philosophical about another actor at the time, by his own metric it is his sincerity that has helped earn his following — both from those that watch his work, and those that have worked with him directly.
His straightforward nature and honesty have long been the key to his comedic voice, too, allowing him to tackle hot-button issues such as gender roles in society (1966’s “My Wife, The Director General”); terrorism and religious extremism (1979’s “We are the Bus People,” 1992’s “Terrorism and Kebab,” 2006’s “Hassan and Marcus”); political corruption (2006’s “The Yacoubian Building”) and more, only come out the other side (mostly) unscathed. (Like many Egyptian celebrities, he has stirred controversy with his indelible satire, but no charges against him have ever stuck.)
For Marwan Hamed, Egypt’s top modern director and the man behind Egypt’s current all-time box-office champion “Kira & El Gin,” there’s simply no competition — there has been no bigger moment for him than collaborating on “The Yacoubian Building” with the man known as “Al Zaeem” (The Big Boss).
“Working with the Egyptian legend Adel Emam has been the greatest privilege I’ve had in my career,” Hamed tells Arab News. “Adel Emam is my childhood, teenage, and all-time, hero. Working with him was a great moment, and to work with such a great man and artist in my first film was an exceptional honor for me.
“His humanity, generosity and love were the highlight of this experience, and personally I learned a lot from him, whether from observing him or from the words of advice that he gave me,” he continues. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that the whole experience is the most memorable I’ve had, and every shooting day was full of value and true art.
In “The Yacoubian Building,” which became the most popular film in Egyptian history up to that point (a theme throughout Hamed’s career) and the best-received performance of Emam’s dramatic career, Emam cemented himself as Egypt’s biggest star, regardless of genre. He also helped launch the career of his own son, Mohamed Emam, his co-star in the film and now one of the biggest stars in Egypt in his own right.
“I love him so much. I admire him so much. He's my idol,” Mohamed told Arab News earlier this year, while admitting that it hadn’t always been easy trying to build his own career. “It’s very difficult to become an actor when your father is the biggest actor in the world,” he said. “It was a big, big struggle at first. Slowly people grew to understand that I love cinema, that I don’t do this just because my father is a big actor.”
As a public figure, Emam has long been humble in nature, rarely pointing to himself as a leader.
“I am not a superstar, or a leader of any kind. There are no leaders in art. All I want is to use my talents to make people's lives better, if only in a small way,” he once said.
That, of course, is likely why people trust his opinions. Interviewers have often found themselves asking for his thoughts on political or social issues, looking to him for guidance in the debates of the day. And he invariably answers candidly — and often bravely.
In those conversations, however, he does not see himself as anything more than a voice in the crowd.
“The masses are the ones who move politics, and the problems of the masses are the things that move politics. It is not an individual who moves politics,” he told Zaman TV.
Born in 1940 in the city of Mansoura in Egypt, Emam studied agriculture at Cairo University, where he lost interest in his studies and became intrigued by the art, literature and theater that his friends were introducing him to.
“I feel (acting is) in my blood,” he said to Kuwait’s Zaman TV. “I love it, and my connection is always with people in the audience. In film, the camera enters the heart through the eyes. The more heart you see, the more honest the artist.”
As popular as Emam is, there are many sides to him that are not common public knowledge. Compared to his contemporaries and co-stars such as Omar Sharif and Soad Hosny, his private life has remained relatively private. But those are the sides that his own son hopes to portray on screen someday, Mohamed told Arab News.
“There’s another side to him that people don’t see: The father. The man that I know best,” he said. “I would love to be able to tell that story myself someday.”
While Emam may have slowed down, his career is still going strong. He last starred in the 2021 film “Bodyguard,” and is set to star once again with his son in “El Wad W Aboh” in the near future.
As for persistent rumors of his ill health or retirement, The Big Boss himself is here to put them to rest.
“Honestly, it’s a great feeling for a man to read his own obituary while he is well,” Eman joked to ET Bil Arabi last month.
London Halal Food Festival opens its gates to 18,000 visitors
With 150 vendors, festival showcases 25 cuisines from around the world
Festival’s mission is to help support halal SMES
Updated 28 September 2022
LONDON: The Halal Food Festival returned to the UK capital this year for its sixth edition with 25 cuisines on offer at more than 150 stalls.
At least 18,000 people attended the two-day event, which ran from Sept. 24-25 at London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The scale and scope of the festival mean London now hosts one of the largest specifically halal food gatherings in the world, according to organizers.
Kevin Jackson, director of Algebra Festivals, launched the festival with his partner Waleed Jahangia seven years ago.
“We created an event that would put food at the heart of the community. There’s no better way of sharing culture than through food,” he said.
After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers have invested heavily in infrastructure, transforming the festival into an experience that goes beyond food.
The event featured a VIP lounge, shopping stalls, live entertainment, cookery theater, picnic area, kids play area, mechanical bull and fun competitions.
One of the highlights was a live demonstration by NHS doctor and former “MasterChef” winner Dr. Saliha Mahmood Ahmed.
Using bread dough to teach women how to examine themselves for early signs of breast cancer, Ahmed aimed to overcome cultural taboos that contribute to low cancer awareness among the Muslim community in the UK.
The new additions reflect the growing view that halal is more than just about food but is a lifestyle, too.
Jackson recalled that when he and Jahangia launched the festival, most Muslim events in London were held in community centers or school halls.
But the London Stadium event shows the Muslim community now has access to some of the most renowned venues in the capital.
The festival has also evolved into a cultural melting pot, with both its cuisine and its foodies coming from around the globe.
“We’ve got people from Manchester, Birmingham, people who came on a day trip from Paris yesterday. We’ve got people from Spain. We’ve got people from Scotland. This is such a big event for the Muslim community that they travel for miles to come to it,” Jackson said.
Chef Fatima El-Rify of Mama Hayam reported positive feedback from visitors tasting her Egyptian cuisine.
“They didn’t know what it was completely. They knew a little about kosheri, but now they have a really strong idea. They’re coming back for more. They’re bringing their friends. They really love kosheri and mahshi, so that’s really good.”
She added: “I think there is nowhere else in London that you can try all these different cuisines and just have this ease of it all being halal.”
The festival also features the timeless and the contemporary, from Jordan’s traditional Anabtawi Sweets to London’s Lola’s Cupcakes.
Apart from catering to Muslim visitors, it aims to provide an international platform for the halal economy, while helping to nurture halal small and medium enterprises.
“We’re building business relationships. The traders all trade with one another. The suppliers, our partners here, Tariq Halal, are providing products for our exhibitors,” Jackson said.
Founder Shahin Bharwani of Mocktail Company, which sells non-alcoholic beverages, said that she was fortunate to have been able to exhibit at the Halal Food Festival in 2016 within months of launching her business.
“It was brilliant in terms of being a startup to get the brand exposure needed at this type of event.”
Festival vendors reflected on the halal industry’s growth in the past decade.
Bharwani said: “There’s so many variations of businesses here, particularly the food. Years ago you could never imagine halal tacos hell or gourmet burgers, that type of thing, so to have those kinds of halal options now is amazing.”
Co-partner Abid Haider of Proper Burgers said that the event “just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
With the industry now worth billions, the London festival is part of a growing movement placing halal on high street.