Fashion, politics go hand in hand as Cannes Film Festival opens

Fashion, politics go hand in hand as Cannes Film Festival opens
Tuesday’s opening took place at the Grand Théâtre Lumiére. (AFP)
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Updated 18 May 2022

Fashion, politics go hand in hand as Cannes Film Festival opens

Fashion, politics go hand in hand as Cannes Film Festival opens

CANNES: The 75th Cannes Film Festival kicked off Tuesday with an eye turned to Russia’s war in Ukraine and a live satellite video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called on a new generation of filmmakers to confront dictators as Charlie Chaplin satirized Adolf Hitler.

After tributes and musical numbers, Zelenskyy was streamed live for the formally attired audience who had gathered for the premiere of Michel Hazanavicius’ zombie comedy “Final Cut.”

Zelenskyy, dressed in his signature olive green shirt, drew a thunderous standing ovation and and spoke at length about the connection between cinema and reality. He referenced films like Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” as not unlike Ukraine’s present circumstances.

Zelenskyy quoted Chaplin's final speech in “The Great Dictator,” which was released in 1940, in the early days of World War II: “The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.”

“We need a new Chaplin who will demonstrate that the cinema of our time is not silent,” implored Zelenskyy.

French actor and President of the Jury of the 75th Cannes Film Festival Vincent Lindon (6thL) attends a press conference with jury members (from 2ndL) US film director Jeff Nichols, Italian actress Jasmine Trinca, Norwegian film director Joachim Trier, Indian actress Deepika Padukone, British actress Rebecca Hall, French director Ladj Ly, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace and Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes. (AFP)

The Ukrainian president pushed filmmakers not to “stay silent” while hundreds continue to die in Ukraine, the largest war in Europe since WWII, and show that cinema “is always on the side of freedom.”

The war is to be a regular presence in Cannes, where the festival has barred Russians with ties to the government from attending this year. Set to screen are several films from prominent Ukrainian filmmakers, including Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary “The Natural History of Destruction.” Footage shot by Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius before he was killed in Mariupol in April will also be shown by his fiancée, Hanna Bilobrova.

Even “Final Cut,” the latest film from “The Artist” filmmaker Hazanavicius, was renamed from its original title, “Z,” after Ukrainian protesters noted that the letter Z to some symbolizes support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Formally attired stars including Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Bérénice Bejo and “No Time to Die” star Lashana Lynch were among those who streamed down Cannes’ famous red carpet Tuesday. More star-studded premieres — “Top Gun: Maverick!” “Elvis!" — await over the next 12 days, during which 21 films will vie for the festival's prestigious top award, the Palme d'Or.

But Tuesday’s opening and the carefully choreographed red-carpet parade leading up the steps to the Grand Théâtre Lumiére again restored one of the movies' grandest pageants after two years of pandemic that have challenged the exalted stature Cannes annually showers on cinema.

“Dear friends, let’s come out of this dark together,” said opening ceremony host Virginie Efira.

After last year requiring regular COVID-19 testing and masks in theaters — and no kisses on the red carpet — Cannes has largely done away with pandemic protocols. Masks are recommended inside but are rarely worn.

French actor and President of the Jury of the 75th Cannes Film Festival Vincent Lindon (R) pose with jury members (from L) French director Ladj Ly, Indian actress Deepika Padukone, Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi and British actress Rebecca Hall as they arrive to attend the screening of “Final Cut (Coupez !)” ahead of the opening ceremony of the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes. (AFP)

Cannes presented an honorary Palme d’Or to Forest Whitaker, who received a standing ovation. Whitaker, who won best actor at Cannes 34 years ago for his performance as Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood’s “Bird,” said that while ascending the steps to the Palais des Festivals on Tuesday, he could still hear chants of “Clint! Clint!” ringing in his ears. Eastwood is one of few others who have been awarded an honorary Palme.

On Tuesday, Cannes also unveiled the jury that will award the Palme d'Or. French actor Vincent Lindon is leading a jury that includes Deepika Padukone, Rebecca Hall, Asghar Farhadi, Trinca, Ladj Ly, Noomi Rapace, Jeff Nichols and Joachim Trier.

Questions of gender equality have long surrounded the Cannes Film Festival, where no more than five female filmmakers have ever been a part of the Palme competition lineup and only two women directors have won it. On Monday, Fremaux defended the festival, arguing that it selects films purely on the basis of quality. Hall, who last year made her directorial debut with the film “Passing,” was asked about her opinion on Cannes' record.

“I believe that it is a work in progress. I mean for the whole film industry, not just the Cannes Film Festival,” replied Hall. “The way of dealing with these things needs to be addressed on a grassroots level as well. It’s not just the festivals or public-facing situations. It’s about all the minutiae of what goes into the industry at large."

Farhadi, the Oscar-winning Iranian director, also spoke for the first time about an ongoing plagiarism suit regarding his previous film, “A Hero,” which won the Grand Prix in Cannes last year. A former film student of Farhadi's, Azadeh Masihzadeh, has accused him of stealing the idea of the film from a 2018 documentary she made in a workshop taught by Farhadi.

Speaking at length, Farhadi said “A Hero” was not based on the documentary.

“It was based on a current event so this documentary and this film are based on an event that happened two years prior to the workshop,” said Farhadi. “When an event takes place and is covered by the press, then it becomes public knowledge and you can do what you like about the event. You can write a story or make a film about the event. You can look up the information on this event. ‘A Hero’ is just one interpretation of this event.”

At the tradition-upholding Cannes, the world's largest and most glitzy temple to film, cinema, controversy and glamour swirl together in a 12-day spectacle of red carpet premieres and rampant movie deal-making up and down the Croisette. Theatrical release is a requirement of any film vying for the Palme, which has prevented streaming services from playing a big role at Cannes.

But this year, one new festival partner — TikTok — has raised some eyebrows. The festival is hosting TikTok creators from around the world and holding a separate contest for best (very short) videos created during the festival. Thierry Fremaux, artistic director of Cannes, granted TikTok wasn't the future of cinema.

“The cinema remains the final art,” said Fremaux.

Review: Keira Knightley shines as dogged reporter in ‘Boston Strangler’  

Review: Keira Knightley shines as dogged reporter in ‘Boston Strangler’  
Updated 18 sec ago

Review: Keira Knightley shines as dogged reporter in ‘Boston Strangler’  

Review: Keira Knightley shines as dogged reporter in ‘Boston Strangler’  

CHENNAI: Although the term “serial killer” wasn’t coined until about a decade after the events of new film “Boston Strangler,” out now on Disney+ in the Middle East, the Keira Knightley-starring thriller delves into the case of one of the US’s most notorious serial killers, who police say killed 13 women between 1962-64.  

Writer-director Matt Ruskin weaves this true-crime tale into a film following two female reporters who charted the case for local newspaper the Record American at the time.  

What is great about Ruskin’s work is its novel approach — it has a significant splash of gender politics (which is crucial considering all the killer’s victims were women) as we see how reporters Loretta McLaughlin (played with compelling ease by Knightley) and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) fight a male-dominated police force and to help trap the Boston Strangler.  

Besides the police, McLaughlin — who begins by begrudgingly working as a Lifestyle reporter, testing out new toasters — also faces hurdles from her editor, who is reluctant to let her onto the male-dominated crime beat. But after her first front page story draws the ire of Boston Police Commissioner McNamara (Bill Camp), the editor asks another reporter, Cole, to help McLaughlin and there is no stopping the two dogged journalists, whose passion and dedication finally help get the Strangler (well, sort of — real life events saw  Albert DeSalvo fail to be convicted of any of the murders, although he did confess to them, before a posthumous DNA test in 2013 revealed he did in fact murder the last victim, Mary Sullivan).  

There are dramatic liberties taken as anyone who dives deeper into the real story will realize after a quick Google search, but the film is riveting.  

Interestingly, 30 years after the murders, McLaughlin wrote an article in the Boston Globe about what egged her on to chase the case. 

“An editor disputed the worth of a series on the four dead women, noting that they were ‘nobodies,’” she wrote. “That was it exactly, I felt. Why should anyone murder four obscure women. That was what made them so interesting… sisters in anonymity, like all of us.”  

Paul Leonard-Morgan’s score is creepy enough to get our hair to stand up on end, though Ruskin wisely avoids showing gore, relying instead on lighting and cinematic tension to instill a sense of horror. 

The restaurants in Saudi cities offering a taste of Persia on a plate

Alshaya's kabab plate. (Supplied)
Alshaya's kabab plate. (Supplied)
Updated 21 March 2023

The restaurants in Saudi cities offering a taste of Persia on a plate

Alshaya's kabab plate. (Supplied)
  • Restaurants in the Kingdom offer flavor-packed Persian dishes, including the national dish of Iran
  • Launched in 1999, the Persian restaurant Alshaya has expanded to nine locations around the Kingdom

RIYADH: Persian cuisine is popular around the world for its healthy, hearty and luxurious dishes.

The aromatic and flavorful cuisine includes perfectly cooked fluffy rice, grilled or stewed meat such as chicken, lamb, goat or fish, and vegetables that are enhanced by a variety of nuts, fruits, herbs and rich spices like cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, cloves, sultanas, berries and dried rose petals, among others.

Bordered by Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman and Turkemenistan, Iran comprises diverse ethnicities, with neighboring countries having a huge influence on its food.

Popular Persian dishes include ghormeh sabzi, chelo kabab, dizi, kabab koobideh, khoresht gheymeh, zereshk polo, tahdig, faloodeh and tulumba, among others.

Isfahani's most popular dish, chelo kabab. (Supplied)

Renowned Saudi food blogger Hisham Baeshen is known for his cooking videos on Instagram. With about 4 million followers, Baeshen makes dishes from around the world, including Saudi Arabia.

Baeshen said that he has cooked Persian food, with his favorite being the national dish of Iran — ghormeh sabzi, a stew prepared with meat and kidney beans with a side dish of zereshk polo, a mixture of white and saffron flavored basmati rice topped with barberries.

“I consider sabzi as the king of Persian foods. With a side order of zereshk rice, which I consider one of the staple dishes in Persian food,” Baeshen told Arab News.

Drawing similarities between Saudi and Persian cuisine, the blogger said: “I would absolutely recommend Saudis cook Persian food at home, because all the materials that you need for the Persian kitchen are available in the Saudi kitchen and the techniques used in cooking Persian food are not very different than the Saudi cuisine.

“Many people have tried Persian recipes and loved them. Honestly — very beautiful and delicious.”

Here are some restaurants in the Kingdom offering a taste of Persia on a plate.

Founded in 1990 in Bahrain, Isfahani has expanded its presence to eight locations across Bahrain and in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, with branches in Dhahran and Alkhobar.

Ahmed Alqaseer, vice president of Isfahani group, said that Isfahani started when his uncle, Elias, gave his father, Jalil Alqaseer, the business.

Ahmed’s father took it upon himself to learn more about Persian culture from top Persian chefs by visiting Iran and Lebanon.

“The most important thing for us is to explore and share is the quality of the food. We keep on tracking, developing and adding more dishes,” Ahmed said.

With many great options to choose from, chelo kabab remains by far the the most popular choice among diners.

“Chelo kabab is the dish that gets the most recommendations and gets sold out the quickest in Isfahani locations and food delivery applications like Talabat,” Alqaseer said.

Isfahani’s target for 2023 is to expand to new locations and focus on its design, ambience and food.

“I want the customers to have a great restaurant experience and taste, as if they are in another world. We keep on developing the food and getting new recipes all while maintaining the quality of the food. The new restaurant will have customers will feel like they are in a very modern Persian restaurant,” Alqaseer added.

Mohammed Abduljabar is the owner of Zahra Zad, one of the only Persian restaurants in Al-Qatif.

Saffron tea served at Zahra Zad in Al- Qatif. (Supplied)

“We decided to open a Persian restaurant because we saw that there weren’t any in the city of Qatif. The people of the city love Persian food and we wanted to give them something to indulge in,” said Abduljabar.

The soft opening of the restaurant, which is adorned with paintings highlighting Persian culture, architectural style and clothing, took place in February this year.

“We try to capture the true essence and atmosphere of a traditional Persian restaurant through these paintings and decorations. We have all sorts of paintings that symbolize Persian society and dress. Additionally, we added Persian music to add to the ambience.

“I think before starting any project, it is very important for us to study the culture thoroughly so that project truly succeeds,” Abduljabar said.

He added that the most popular dishes are mixed Persian grills — a mixture of beef and chicken kabab — and kashk bademjan, a Persian eggplant dip.

To satisfy one’s sweet tooth, Zahra Zad offers saffron cake and bastani sonati, a rich pistachio ice cream with saffron and rose water.

Bostani ice cream served at Zahra Zad in Al-Qatif. (Supplied)

Taking accessibility and inclusivity into consideration, Abduljabar has kept its ground floor exclusive to people who are unable to climb stairs.

To make the restaurant attractive for customers of all ages, Zahra Zad also contains a shisha cafe.

Alshaya is another Persian restaurant with branches in Riyadh and the Eastern Province. Started in 1999, Alshaya has expanded to nine locations around the Kingdom. The restaurant offers traditional Persian dishes such as kabab, sultani steak and morgh chicken kabab, among others.

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Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad creates custom look for Taylor Swift on Eras Tour

Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad creates custom look for Taylor Swift on Eras Tour
Updated 20 March 2023

Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad creates custom look for Taylor Swift on Eras Tour

Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad creates custom look for Taylor Swift on Eras Tour

DUBAI: US pop superstar Taylor Swift showed off a glittering ballgown by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad during a tour concert in Glendale, Arizona, this week.

The Grammy-winning singer donned a custom-made gown by Murad in a peachy hue with starburst sequin work across the length of the creation.

“@TaylorSwift wore for her Night 2 of The Eras Tour a custom #ZMCouture pink tulle ball gown, with a starburst bodice and cross strap back (sic),” the fashion house posted on Instagram, referring to the look that was styled by Joseph Cassell Falconer.

Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” kicked off on Friday night in Glendale. She performed a three-hour show that ran through hits from every era of her 17-year career and followed it up with a second show in the city.

Boucheron celebrates the Middle East in new campaign starring Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani

Boucheron celebrates the Middle East in new campaign starring Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani
Updated 20 March 2023

Boucheron celebrates the Middle East in new campaign starring Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani

Boucheron celebrates the Middle East in new campaign starring Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani

DUBAI: Luxury French jewelry label Boucheron has released a new campaign celebrating the Middle East featuring its regional ambassador, Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani. 

The “Invent The Future, Honour The Past” campaign features three short clips, as well as a series of photographs, that pay tribute to the region’s roots, progress and future. 

The first episode of the series, “Roots,” features Al-Zahrani and a mother figure, portraying the bond between mother and child. In the clip and the images, both women wear the brand’s Serpent Bohème jewellery. 

Created in 1968, Serpent Bohème was the first of Boucheron’s iconic collections. It is reimagined yearly and the new campaign sees Al-Zahrani show off the newest white gold Serpent Bohème Solarité earrings paved with diamonds. 

“Evolution,” the second episode in the campaign, features the Saudi actress and a sister figure.  The two women wear jewels from the Quatre collection. 

Finally, the third video, “Future,” transports viewers to a modern metropolis where Al-Zahrani is seen wearing pieces from the new Quatre Double White Edition. 

Frédéric Boucheron founded the label in 1858 and it has grown from its traditional home on Place Vendôme in Paris to more than 85 boutiques worldwide.  

Riyadh-born actress Al-Zahrani was unveiled as the label’s Middle East ambassador in November 2022. 

The announcement was made at a Boucheron brand experience in Riyadh in November, titled “La Maison,” which was hosted to showcase their Carte Blanche Ailleurs High Jewelry collection for the first time in the Middle East.  

The collection was first presented during Paris Haute Couture week in July. 

“The Middle East is a historic and crucial region for Boucheron from a business standpoint, as it still holds tremendous potential,” said Helene Poulit-Duquesne, CEO of Boucheron, in a released statement at the time.  

“In Saudi Arabia, as in the rest of the region, we operate at the very top of the market, selling to highly educated and savvy collectors. This is something I am proud of, which is why Boucheron returned to Riyadh to host the second edition of our ‘La Maison’ event,” she added. 

‘Put it on your must-see list,’ Oprah Winfrey says after Jordan visit

‘Put it on your must-see list,’ Oprah Winfrey says after Jordan visit
Updated 20 March 2023

‘Put it on your must-see list,’ Oprah Winfrey says after Jordan visit

‘Put it on your must-see list,’ Oprah Winfrey says after Jordan visit

DUBAI: US TV personality Oprah Winfrey explored Jordan with US TV show host Gayle King this week and the former took to Instagram to encourage her followers to visit the Middle Eastern country.


A post shared by Oprah (@oprah)

“Put it on your must-see list if you haven’t already” Winfrey posted on Instagram on Sunday about her recent trip to Jordan’s “Rose City,” Petra.

The show host shared a carousel of photos in which she can be seen riding a camel in Petra and visiting religious sites in the country.

“Visited Jordan this week and there was so much to see and experience! We visited the site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, Petra and all its fascinations, camels, and the spot where the big boulder comes rolling out of Indiana Jones. So much history there in the ‘Rose City,’ voted one of the 7 new wonders of the world. It takes 3 days to really see it all we only spent 3 hours. Put it on your must see list if you haven’t already!” she posted on Instagram.