DJ Big Hass launches new radio show and other pop culture highlights from the region

DJ Big Hass launches new radio show and other pop culture highlights from the region
Portrait of DJ Big Hass. Supplied
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Updated 12 May 2022

DJ Big Hass launches new radio show and other pop culture highlights from the region

DJ Big Hass launches new radio show and other pop culture highlights from the region

Read on to discover some of the regional pop culture highlights you might have missed.

‘Catch A Vibe’

Saudi producer, broadcaster and DJ Big Hass launched this new weekly radio show, which highlights regional acts, on the UAE’s Pulse 95 (based in Sharjah) over Ramadan. “Catch A Vibe” is one of the few shows on mainstream radio in the region to focus on alternative acts based in or originating from the Arab world. It airs on Saturdays at 9 p.m. UAE time. 

“It showcases local, original artists,” Hass says of the show. “Now, those artists can’t say that there’s no home for their songs to be played on the radio and listeners can discover the diversity of talent in the region, whether they perform in English, Arabic, or any other language.”

The presenter hopes the show will promote a better understanding of the Arab region, particularly in the UAE, where the population is reportedly made up of more than 200 nationalities. 

“The Arab region can’t be summed up in one country, or one area. Whether it’s from North Africa, to the Levant, to the GCC, to the diaspora, that’s what the show’s all about,” he says. “So for an hour, once a week, there’s no Justin Bieber, there’s no The Weeknd, there’s no Adele. With all due respect to those artists, the whole point is to expose the world to the sounds coming out of the Arab region, which are just incredible.”

Comedy Bizarre

As part of the Dubai Comedy Festival, Comedy Bizarre will be hosted at beach club Bla Bla Dubai, with an early show and a late show every day from May 14-20. The early shows run from 8 p.m. with a different theme every day. Highlights include “Beat The Gong” on May 17, when 12 up-and-coming comics will attempt to complete their short sets before being ‘gonged’ off stage, and “She-Larious Show” on May 15, with an all-female lineup of comedians including Sameera Khan, Eman Khalouf and Imah Dumagay.

The late shows begin at 10 every night and feature more-established names, including Axis of Evil co-founder Ahmed Ahmed, Dubomedy founders Mina Liccione and Ali Al-Sayed, Palestinian-American comedian and author Nina Kharoufeh (pictured), Iraqi-American comic Paul Elia, British-Somali stand-up Prince Abdi, and UAE-based American comedian Simeon Goodson. 

Ashekman

The acclaimed Lebanese street artist created this mural, “Homage to Ziad Rahbani,” as part of “Abyat Bayn Al-Bouyout” (Verses Between Houses) — a short-film project conceived by singer-songwriter and visual artist Tania Saleh, for which this piece formed the pilot episode. 

Rahbani is one of the Arab world’s most-influential composers and writers and comes from perhaps the most significant family in the Lebanese cultural scene — his father, Assi, is considered one of the founders of modern Arabic music, while his mother, Fayrouz, is perhaps the only Arab diva who could challenge Umm Kulthum’s status as the greatest of all time.

According to a statement, Saleh’s project aims to “honor the legacy of our Arab poets, writers and thinkers and at the same time empower our youth to express themselves through drawing, painting, and Arabic calligraphy to create beautiful street art paintings on the walls of the Arab world.”

Raheed Allaf

The Saudi artist is one of eight young creatives chosen to participate in the “Youth Takeover” at Dubai’s Jameel Arts Center. The group will put on an exhibition, titled “smol,” from May 18 to June 5. The show “taps into the curiosities and transformations of being and coming of age, invoking carefree possibilities, nostalgia, new adventures, as well as feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability in today’s world,” according to a statement from the artists. Allaf contributes this installation, entitled “Shoofeeni.”

Ÿuma

The Tunisian duo — Ramy Zoghlami and Sabrine Jenhani — dropped their latest single, “Sucre,” recently. It’s the opening track from their new album “Hannet Lekloub,” and is the perfect introduction to the duo’s melancholy, evocative acoustic music. Think alt-folk with hints of traditional Arabic music. The understated vocals work beautifully with the sparse instrumentation. 


Must-see movies from the Arab world at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival  

Updated 19 sec ago

Must-see movies from the Arab world at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival  

Must-see movies from the Arab world at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival  

DUBAI: Here are just a few of the features from Arab filmmakers showing at this week’s Red Sea International Film Festival, which runs from Dec. 1-10 in Jeddah. 

‘A Gaza Weekend’ 

Director: Basil Khalil 

Cast: Stephen Mangan, Loai Noufi, Mouna Hawa, Adam Bakri 

British-Palestinian filmmaker Basil Khalil’s debut feature has been eagerly awaited by cinema lovers following the success of his smart, satirical short “Ave Maria,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 2016. Judging by early reviews, Khalil has delivered. The film is set during a viral pandemic unleashed on Israel after a security lapse at an infectious-disease lab, but was reportedly in development before COVID-19 brought unwelcome topicality to the subject. Michael, an English journalist, is trapped in the country, but is offered an escape route into Gaza — ironically now the safest place in the area, as no one can officially get in or out — by two Palestinians, Waleed and Emad, who are aspiring, though untalented, people smugglers. But Michael refuses to leave without his girlfriend, the uptight Keren. That complicates things, since Keren is an Israeli whose presence could get them all killed. While the couple hide in Waleed’s basement, Keren’s incessant complaining drives Waleed’s wife Nuhad — clearly smarter than her bumbling husband — to assist their escape, against her better judgment, all while evading the scrutiny of Hamas.  

‘Raven Song’ 

Director: Mohammed Al-Salman 

Cast: Asem Alawad, Ibrahim Khairallah, Abdullah Aljafal 

Al-Salman’s debut feature has been selected as Saudi Arabia’s entry to next year’s Oscars. It’s a comedy-drama about 30-year-old Nasser — a young man who feels his life is drifting and who struggles to connect with his father. But when Nasser is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and scheduled to undergo a potentially fatal operation, he finds new purpose — particularly when he becomes enthralled by a beautiful but mysterious woman. Determined to win her heart, he turns to his friends for advice. That advice is generally terrible, but Nasser accepts a challenge to woo her by singing her a love poem. 

‘Nezouh’ 

Director: Soudade Kaadan 

Cast: Kinda Alloush, Hala Zein, Samer Al-Masri, Nizar Alani 

The acclaimed Syrian filmmaker’s latest feature picked up the Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival for its moving portrayal of a 14-year-old girl and her family torn between leaving their home in Damascus and becoming refugees, or staying where they ‘belong’ (as Zeina’s father Motaz argues). Zeina’s mother is concerned not only about the family’s physical safety, but also the prospect of Zeina being married off to a soldier. The family’s worries only increase when a missile rips a hole in their roof, but when a rope is mysteriously lowered into the hole, Zeina is introduced to a world of new possibilities. “Most of the refugee films about Syria were either trying to present us as victims or heroes, in a black-and-white narrative,” Kaadan said in promotional material for the movie. “But of course, we are neither one nor the other, like any human being. In all my films, I want the audience to feel that Syrian refugees are their equals. (This) could be any family around the world who is facing a dilemma of whether to stay or leave everything behind.” 

‘Harka’ 

Director: Lofty Nathan 

Cast: Adam Bessa, Salima Maatoug, Najib Allagui, Ikbal Harbi 

Billed as “an impassioned plea for social justice,” Nathan’s debut feature wowed critics at Cannes, with Adam Bessa picking up a Best Performance award in the festival’s Un Certain Regard section. Bessa plays Ali, a street vendor in Sidi Bouzid, the Tunisian city where another street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in 2010 and started the Jasmine Revolution. Ali continually risks his life heading into the desert to buy the gasoline he sells on the black market, only for the police to extort most of his profits. Already in debt since the death of his father, and with his two younger sisters to provide for, Ali turns to his emotionally distant brother for help. 

‘Dounia and the Princess of Aleppo’ 

Directors: Marya Zarif, André Kadi 

Voice cast: Rachaf Ataya, Elsa Mardorissian, Manuel Tadros, Raïa Haidar 

Zarif and Kadi’s feature is clearly designed to appeal to kids with its simple-but-striking animation, but will, as Screen Daily noted in its review, likely “prove to be a disarmingly potent proposition for adult animation fans also.” Six-year-old Dounia is forced to leave her home in Aleppo when her father is arrested in the middle of the night. Her mother died when Dounia was a baby, so the girl is accompanied by her grandparents. Through them, she connects to her homeland’s culture, particularly music and cooking, and through the five nigella seeds her grandma gives her as her journey as a refugee begins, her imagination runs free, connecting her with a character from stories her father used to tell her. 

‘The Blue Caftan’ 

Director: Maryam Touzani 

Starring: Saleh Bakri, Lubna Azabal, Ayoub Messioui 

The Moroccan filmmaker’s latest feature focuses on husband and wife Halim (Saleh Bakri) and Mina (Lubna Azabal), a middle-aged couple who run a traditional caftan store in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. Struggling to maintain their livelihood, they hire a talented young man named Youssef to help out. His arrival has a profound effect on the couple’s relationship, with Halim, in particular, forced to confront, and accept, his true self. The British Film Institute hailed the movie as “an emotionally complex, richly empathetic depiction of a partnership sustained through storms and challenges.” 

‘Ashkal’ 

Director: Youssef Chebbi 

Cast: Fatma Oussaifi, Mohamed Grayaa, Rami Harrabi 

Chebbi’s first solo feature starts out as a police procedural, but develops into something much weirder with supernatural elements. Set in Tunis’ Gardens of Carthage — a development project put on hold during the 2011 revolution and still unfinished — it focuses on detectives Fatma and Batal as they investigate the discovery of the burned corpse of a caretaker, under pressure from their bosses to label the case a suicide. When a similarly burned body — this time of a young maid — is found, witnesses tell them that a man with a “burning hand” is responsible.  


Two Egyptian Coptic festivals added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list

Two Egyptian Coptic festivals added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list
Updated 16 min 51 sec ago

Two Egyptian Coptic festivals added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list

Two Egyptian Coptic festivals added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list
  • Muslims in Egypt often join their Coptic Christian countrymen to celebrate the two festivals

DUBAI: Two annual festivals held in Egypt to commemorate the journey of Jesus, Joseph and Mary from Bethlehem to Egypt in order to flee King Herod have been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, it was announced on Wednesday.

Muslims in Egypt often join their Coptic Christian countrymen to celebrate the two festivals, called the Festival of the Advent of the Holy Family and the Nativity of the Virgin. The former is held at the start of June, while the latter is marked between May and August each year.

Meanwhile, the French baguette — “250 grams of magic and perfection,” in the words of President Emmanuel Macron, and one of the abiding symbols of the nation — was also given UNESCO heritage status on Wednesday.

The bread, with its crusty exterior and soft middle, has remained a quintessential part of French life long after other stereotypes like berets and strings of garlic have fallen by the wayside.

More than six billion are baked every year in France, according to the National Federation of French Bakeries, and the UN agency's “intangible cultural heritage status” honors the tradition.

“It celebrates a whole culture: the daily ritual, a structural element of a meal, synonymous with sharing and conviviality,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

Speaking from Washington during a visit to the US, Macron praised the UNESCO recognition of French “know-how.”

“This is something inimitable,” he said.


Take two: Eyes of the global film industry are on Jeddah for Red Sea festival

Take two: Eyes of the global film industry are on Jeddah for Red Sea festival
Updated 33 min 53 sec ago

Take two: Eyes of the global film industry are on Jeddah for Red Sea festival

Take two: Eyes of the global film industry are on Jeddah for Red Sea festival
  • The second Red Sea International Film Festival promises to be bigger and better than the first, with international stars flocking to the Kingdom’s cinematic spectacular

JEDDAH: The second Red Sea International Film Festival begins on Thursday in Jeddah and the red carpet has been rolled out at the glitzy Ritz Carlton hotel to welcome international movie stars and filmmakers from East and West.

Under the slogan “Film is Everything,” the event, which continues until Dec. 10, will showcase 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries, in 41 languages, made by established and emerging talents, including seven feature films and 24 shorts from Saudi Arabia.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, RSIFF CEO Mohammed Al-Turki said: “This year, we have a very proud moment as we are closing the film festival with a Saudi film. This is a clear indicator of where Saudi cinema is at.

“Our programmers, especially Antoine Khalife, are very picky when it comes to films. So, for the Red Sea International Film Festival to accept a Saudi film means that it is of a quality to showcase at an international festival.

“So we are very proud and happy to show a home-bred film, “Valley Road” — with a Saudi cast, Saudi director and Saudi writer — as our closing film. It just tells you that Saudi cinema is booming at a fast pace.”

Al-Turki said that the popularity of film has soared in the Kingdom in the five years since a decades-long ban on cinemas was lifted.

“There is a hunger for film and you see that when you look at the numbers of the box office tickets — we have exceeded all neighboring countries,” he said. “We have a bigger box office revenue than the UAE, than Egypt, in just the short time since we lifted the cinema ban in 2017.”

Far from simply playing catch-up with the global cinema industry after the long ban, Saudi Arabia is already excelling in its own right, according to Al-Turki.

“I think we are on the right path … you see a lot of people trying to excel and we’re trying to catch up from the 35 years that cinema was not present,” he said.

“So everybody is trying their best and I’m sure in the next few years we will have Saudi films on a global scale and, hopefully, we can open our film festival in coming years with a Saudi film.”

This year’s opening film “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” is a cross-cultural British romantic comedy directed by Shekhar Kapur and starring Lily James, Emma Thompson, Shazad Latif, Rob Brydon, Shabana Azmi, Sajal Aly, and Asim Chaudhry. It won the Best Comedy award at the Rome Film Festival last month.

The festival schedule includes 34 international premieres, 17 Arab premieres, and 47 films from the Middle East and North Africa. It will also welcome many of the talents, on both sides of the camera, involved in the making of the films.

The festival also features an official competition, the Yusr Awards, in which 26 shorts and 16 features from Asia, Africa and the Arab world will compete in a number of categories, including Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress. The winners will be announced on Dec. 8.

The Saudi Film Commission has chosen the film “Raven Song” as the Kingdom’s entry for the Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category. It will have its world premiere at RSIFF on Dec. 3 and is one of the seven films competing for the Golden Yusr for Best Feature Film.

Last year, the Golden Yusr went to the drama “Brighton 4th” by Georgian director Levan Koguashvili, while the top short film award went to “Tala’Vision,” directed by Murad Abu Eisheh from Jordan.

This year, acclaimed US filmmaker Oliver Stone, the recipient of three Academy Awards and director of films such as “JFK,” “Platoon,” “Snowden” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” will head the awards jury.

The festival aims to help open the doors to the film industry for a generation of young Saudis by enriching their knowledge of the industry and providing access to expertise from around the world through a number of initiatives, including competitions that offer funding awards, and filmmaking masterclasses and workshops.

To support and help the fledgling local film industry flourish, RSIFF has its own educational program, Red Sea Labs, and has formed partnerships with TorinoFilmLab in Italy and US film institutions to teach filmmakers from Saudi Arabia and the wider region.

The RSIFF film fund also supports young Saudi and regional filmmakers during preproduction, production and postproduction, said Al-Turki, and “we have the platform, the film festival, to showcase their films. So it comes full circle.”

One of the most significant RSIFF initiatives is the Red Sea Souk, the festival’s industry market platform, which includes a wide-ranging program of curated events designed to foster agreements for coproductions and international distribution, and encourage new business opportunities.

Representatives from 46 countries will take part in the Souk, which runs from Dec. 3 to 6 and offers a chance to network and access key players in the emerging Saudi industry, along with some of the best from the wider Arab and African scenes.

This year, more than 350 distributors, producers, financiers, sales agents and festival representatives will take part in the Souk and participate in face-to-face meetings and sessions with project developers.

During last year’s festival, the Red Sea Souk hosted more than 560 meetings and welcomed more than 3,115 film and media professionals. It was credited with playing a significant role in connecting a new generation of emerging talent with established figures in the cinema industry.

Last year’s marketplace was managed by Saudi artist Zain Zedan, who told Arab News after the festival: “This year was a great first start and we are ready to work on the second edition. The energy is great and the possibilities are endless. We are creating history here.”

This year, cash awards will be provided by the Red Sea Fund and awarded by two juries. The Project Market jury will choose the recipients of Jury Special Mention awards for development ($35,000) and production ($100,000). All selected projects will be eligible for additional awards funded by Red Sea Souk sponsors and partners totaling $670,000.

Also as part of Red Sea Souk, the second Talent Days initiative will take place on Dec. 7 and 8. It will feature sessions designed to nurture the next generation of filmmakers and effectively offers an initiation into the cinema industry for aspiring filmmakers through inspirational talks and individual meetings. Acclaimed Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania will lead this year’s Talent Days.

The manager of the inaugural Talent Days last year was Rana Jarbou, a Saudi director who said that the aim was “to encourage up-and-coming young Saudi filmmakers and grow the local film industry.”

Alongside the Red Sea Souk, the competitions, the red-carpet galas, outdoor screenings, and other special presentations, the festival will also host a range of themed film programs such as Festival Favorites, New Saudi/New Cinema, Red Sea: Treasures, Red Sea: Arab and International Spectacular, Red Sea: Family and Children, Red Sea: Virtual Reality, and Red Sea: Series. In addition, Red Sea: New Vision is a new strand dedicated to filmmakers who push the boundaries of creativity with a style of genre-defining filmmaking that challenges audiences.

Kaleem Aftab, director of international programming for the festival, told Arab News about the vibrant scene within the Saudi film industry, especially after the success of the first RSIFF last year.

“The Saudi film industry is incredible, considering where it was just five years ago,” he said. “There's a lot of movement forward and a big shift in the right direction. We’re still at the beginning but it’s making a mark in the International Festival space.

“I think the success of the Red Sea Film Festival, the inaugural edition, really gave a positive feeling to Saudi people and I had the sense that cinema was being celebrated, cinema was a possibility as a career, cinema is something to be proud of rather than something to be scared of, to hide away. I think we’re seeing a change in the perception of the way people want to tell stories.”

Last week, RSIFF organizers announced that this year’s Yusr Honorary Awards would be presented to veteran Egyptian actor Yousra, acclaimed British director Guy Ritchie and Indian actor and producer Shah Rukh Khan, in recognition of their exceptional contributions to film.

Yousra was among the stars who attended the festival last year, during which she advised young Saudi filmmakers to “be patient. Do not rush to stardom, and love your career for what it is. Try and fail, and learn how to choose the right time and career circumstances. Remember, no one jumps to success.”

She added: “I want to see Saudi films that speak to the world, not to a certain region, so the world understands what and who you are.”


Review: Syrian story ‘The Swimmers’ portrays the determination of the human spirit

Review: Syrian story ‘The Swimmers’ portrays the determination of the human spirit
Updated 30 November 2022

Review: Syrian story ‘The Swimmers’ portrays the determination of the human spirit

Review: Syrian story ‘The Swimmers’ portrays the determination of the human spirit

DUBAI: It is reportedly estimated that 5.7 million Syrians have become refugees since war erupted in their country back in 2011. Fleeing the conflict, many attempted to cross the Mediterranean in unseaworthy boats, and if they were lucky, reached European shores.

Among the many asylum seekers who fled were Syrian sisters and swimmers Sara and Yusra Mardini, whose real-life story has been turned into a much-talked-about film, “The Swimmers,” currently streaming on Netflix.

Directed by Welsh Egyptian filmmaker Sally El-Hosaini, “The Swimmers” follows teenagers Sara and Yusra (portrayed by Manal and Nathalie Issa respectively), who are skilled swimmers, thanks to the professional training of their father and coach (Ali Suliman).

Sara is the cool, rebellious and tough sister, who does not believe she will achieve big things in life. Yusra is soft, sensitive, but disciplined with her eyes on the prize. She wants to compete at the Rio Olympics in 2016. “Swimming is where I belong,” she says in one scene.

Initially, their life in Damascus carries on, despite distant bombings, power cuts, and harassment from security officials. As the environment becomes increasingly dangerous, the Mardini family decides that Sara and Yusra should leave for Berlin with their DJ cousin, Nizar (Ahmed Malek), with the hope that the rest of the family would follow.

The journey is long, arduous and humiliating. They join other refugees, including children, departing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. They are packed onto a boat for the journey. But trouble arises where the engine dies in the midst of choppy waters.

With the boat sinking, the people begin throwing their possessions overboard. There is a heartbreaking moment when Yusra has to drop her medals into the water. Will she ever achieve her dream? The pivotal moment of the film happens with Sara and Yusra bravely jumping into the water and leading the boat and fellow passengers all the way to the island.

With a cast of new faces, the film is gripping, well-paced, and at times, quite intense. There are tearjerking moments of despair, as well as hope and kindness, found in the camaraderie of the refugees. Later they would receive similar help and support from Sven (Matthias Schweighofer), who trains Yusra for the Olympics at a swimming club in Berlin.

Visually, the film features several powerful and memorable shots, taken from above and below, that emphasize the magnitude of the conditions which the sisters had to overcome.

If there is a film to watch before the year ends, “The Swimmers” is it. It is a reminder of the determination of the human spirit, and that sometimes in life, with its twists and turns, achieving things may eventually occur, but in a way one could never imagine.


Palestine’s Nadeen Ayoub nabs runner up title at Miss Earth beauty pageant

Palestine’s Nadeen Ayoub nabs runner up title at Miss Earth beauty pageant
Palestinian contestant Nadeen Ayoub has been named Miss Earth Water. (AFP)
Updated 30 November 2022

Palestine’s Nadeen Ayoub nabs runner up title at Miss Earth beauty pageant

Palestine’s Nadeen Ayoub nabs runner up title at Miss Earth beauty pageant

DUBAI: Palestinian contestant Nadeen Ayoub has been named Miss Earth Water at the Miss Earth beauty pageant, which was held in Manila on Nov. 29.

Mina Sue Choi, a communications student from South Korea, won the Miss Earth crown, while three other hopefuls nabbed the elemental titles of Miss Fire, Miss Water and Miss Air.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Miss Earth (@missearth)

Columbia’s Andrea Aguilera was named Miss Earth Fire, while Australian hopeful Sheridan Mortlock scored the Miss Earth Air tiara.

Ayoub is the first woman to represent Palestine at the event, which was launched in 2001 and is recognized as one of four main international beauty pageants. Miss World, Miss Universe and Miss International round out the list.

Ayoub is a fitness coach and nutrition consultant and was one of two Arabs to compete — the other hopeful was Jihan Majid from Iraq.  

This year, 86 women competed in the pageant.