Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom

Special Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom
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Italian Ambassador Roberto Cantone, left, Giacomo Mazzariol, Tania Mehanna, ambassador’s wife, and Italian diplomat Tommaso Claudi at The Esplanade VOX Cinema in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Special Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom
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Giacomo Mazzariol’s movie, My Brother Chases Dinosaurs, was screened as part of the inaugural European Film Festival, which saw 14 European films shown at The Esplanade VOX Cinema in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Special Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom
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Giacomo Mazzariol’s movie, My Brother Chases Dinosaurs, was screened as part of the inaugural European Film Festival, which saw 14 European films shown at The Esplanade VOX Cinema in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 June 2022

Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom

Italian screenwriter wows cinemagoers on first visit to the Kingdom
  • Giacomo Mazzariol’s movie screened as part of weeklong European Film Festival
  • 25-year-old says he plans to return and hopes to mentor young Saudi talent

RIYADH: An Italian screenwriter has described Saudi Arabia as having “amazing culture and traditions” after delighting cinemagoers with his very first screening in the Kingdom.

But 25-year-old Giacomo Mazzariol said he was nervous about how people might react to his film, “My Brother Chases Dinosaurs.”

“While sitting and watching your movie from another country, your mind is full of fears and doubts,” he told Arab News.

“‘Will my film be welcomed well? Does everything make sense?’ I then relaxed because I realized that people who watched the film were really satisfied and they had a warmhearted reaction. They felt that it was an honest film, full of true emotions.”

Directed by countryman Stefano Cipani, the movie was screened on June 17 as part of the inaugural European Film Festival, which saw 14 European films shown at The Esplanade VOX Cinema in Riyadh.

Mazzariol said the audience was intrigued with the movie and asked him many questions after the screening.

“The people laughed a lot because the film is full of lightness and humor, but also they took it seriously and they were fulfilled by the dramatic and touching parts.

“The story is about the emotional coming of age of my character (Gio), that goes from the incomprehension of the inner world of Gio to the complete acceptance and understanding of his diversity. The journey goes through rage and shame, surprise and courage, fraternity and solitude, and it starts from the birth of Gio till he grows up and becomes a teenager.”

While in Saudi Arabia, Mazzariol and a delegation from the EU were also set to hold a workshop for local talent in collaboration with the Alkhobar-based Arabia Pictures Group, but the event had to be postponed.

“The Kingdom has amazing culture and traditions that should be communicated more to people all over the world, not only with tourism but also through sharing local stories, through art based on nowadays life and perspectives,” he said.

“Arabia Pictures proposed to me to hold it (the workshop) during this edition of the festival, but we didn’t manage to make it happen this time. That is why I am supposed to come back to the Kingdom, during the next edition of the festival.”

Mazzariol said that on his return he hopes to be able to mentor young Saudis who are interested in the film and screenwriting business.

“I think the second edition will be in the late winter or beginning of spring. The main theme will be the relationship between books and movies based on my experience of creating the script of the movie based on my novel.”

He said he hoped to teach Saudi students how to analyze and compare the two arts of writing and film.

“This can be achieved through watching scenes of movies based on books and comparing them with the scenes of a book — Kafka’s works adapted, Dostoevsky works adapted, etc. — and also obtaining the knowledge to distinguish the unicity of those two forms of art.

“Some books are almost impossible to be shot, like ‘Ulysses’ by (James) Joyce, or the work of Proust. Not just for the number of pages, but because they reach a literary high peak which is very specific to literature,” he said.

Mazzariol said he had always had a passion for writing and loved literature classes in school.

“When I was in high school, with all the imagination and ideas that a teenager can have, I began writing for myself and tried to publish some articles.”

His career as a screenwriting began when he published a short film with his brother Gio on YouTube.

“My brother (Gio) with Down syndrome was in the film. It became viral and the person who would become my future editor contacted me to do a book on the video and my story.”

Speaking about the two days he spent in the Kingdom during the film festival, Mazzariol said: “What impressed me the most were the modern buildings, the skyscrapers, the entertainment areas, because it seems futuristic.

“It was the first time for me to visit Saudi Arabia. I love traveling and discovering new countries and thanks to the festival’s organizers and the embassy of Italy, I could get in touch with Saudis that know Saudi Arabia well.

“In the markets of the old town, I got a sensation of being at the door of another world, because there were incredible products from all over the Middle East and Asia.”

The writer said he spent some time studying in King Fahad National Library before exploring some of the natural desert landscapes the Kingdom has to offer.

“I loved the hot winds, sand as far as the eye can see. It was very inspiring because I have always read books from that scenario, for example, ‘One Thousand and One Nights,’ but never experienced it.

“The hospitality of the European Film Festival was very high standard and well done, I thank them a lot. I hope the festival will have great success also in the next editions. I know for sure it is going to be bigger and bigger.”


Filmmaker Jordan Peele talks ‘Nope,’ ahead of the sci-fi thriller’s Mideast release

Filmmaker Jordan Peele talks ‘Nope,’ ahead of the sci-fi thriller’s Mideast release
Updated 18 August 2022

Filmmaker Jordan Peele talks ‘Nope,’ ahead of the sci-fi thriller’s Mideast release

Filmmaker Jordan Peele talks ‘Nope,’ ahead of the sci-fi thriller’s Mideast release
  • ‘Get Out’ director says his toughest project to date
  • Social commentary expected with horror, comedy elements

DUBAI: Filmmaker Jordan Peele, who broke out with his directorial debut “Get Out,” is pushing his own limits with his latest film, “Nope.”

The director says his goal with the sci-fi thriller was to write a movie that was impossible to make. The stars are calling the result a spectacular, mind-bending production and connecting Peele’s talent for horror with his background in comedy.

“This was one of, if not, the greatest challenge of my life — making this film. I think what started as a movie that was all about a certain dark notion, as I was making it and writing it, I had this feeling that it also had to represent joy and had to represent Black joy,” said Peele to Arab News.

The movie follows a brother and sister (played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) who, after their father’s unexplainable death, try to capture proof that a flying saucer is menacing their town.

The film has been confirmed as Peele’s most expensive production, with Forbes speculating a $40 million cost, nearly 10 times that of his debut, “Get Out.”

Kaluuya, who was the lead star of “Get Out” and plays O.J. Haywood in “Nope,” said: “It’s just bigger and he’s grown as a filmmaker, so it’s just amazing to see that.”

“He can understand what’s happening and make choices and make decisions and troubleshoot. Yeah, but there’s always this part of him that’s wide open to letting the film surprise him,” said actor Steven Yeun, who plays Ricky “Jupe" Park, in the film.

Story details are being kept secret, but audiences can expect layers of social commentary between the thrills and chills, with Peele already hinting that “Nope” explores themes of commercial exploitation and the increased visibility of people of color in Hollywood.

“Putting people of color in the leads and the subject matter not always having to do with black versus oppression. It’s just black leads, black perspective, stories and culture,” said Palmer, who stars as Emerald Haywood in “Nope.”

“I want something that’s going to give you a fun experience and an adventure. And at the end, I want you to have to talk about it,” said Peele.


Inside ‘House of the Dragon,’ this year’s most eagerly anticipated show

Inside ‘House of the Dragon,’ this year’s most eagerly anticipated show
Updated 18 August 2022

Inside ‘House of the Dragon,’ this year’s most eagerly anticipated show

Inside ‘House of the Dragon,’ this year’s most eagerly anticipated show
  • Can the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel emulate its extraordinary success?

DUBAI: Few television shows (or films, or any other kind of media) have had as great a cultural impact as “Game of Thrones.” Throughout its eight-year run, which began in 2011, the sprawling fantasy series based on George R.R. Martin’s books gripped audiences across the globe (for reasons both positive and negative) and its influence is still felt across television and film. Now, just over three years after its last episode aired, HBO has finally readied a follow up its most-popular series: “House of the Dragon” — a prequel set hundreds of years earlier, which premieres on OSN in the Middle East on August 22.

The world has changed, however. When “Game of Thrones” debuted, there was nothing like it. For many, the series was the first piece of fantasy that enraptured them — propulsive, riveting and uncompromising storytelling that eased viewers into the existence of ice monsters and dragons. A decade on, there has been a litany of direct imitators, none of which has come close to emulating its success. So why should this one?

Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith. (Supplied)

“There have been many attempts to capture the ‘Game of Thrones’ magic,” says “House of the Dragon” co-creator and co-showrunner Ryan J Condal. “And many shows that have done only one or two seasons, and that’s it. There’s clearly a pattern of people wanting something like ‘Game of Thrones,’ but [the imitators] had to make it different. We’re lucky in the respect that we don’t have that problem. The more ‘Game of Thrones’ we are, the better.”

“House of the Dragon” should not be seen simply as a carbon copy of its predecessor, though. “Game of Thrones” had dozens of major characters, with the two major ones — Daenerys Targaryen and Aegon Targaryen (who believed himself to be Jon Snow for most of it) — not even meeting until near the end. “House of the Dragon” is far more zoomed in, centering on four characters from that same Targaryen family — a mercurial bunch with pale white hair and dragon’s blood in their veins — 200 years prior to the birth of Daenerys.

The central conceit is, however, pure “GoT.” A peacetime king — Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) — is unable to produce a male heir, leaving his hot-headed and unpredictable brother Prince Daemon as his most likely successor. Viserys, however, has other plans, thinking that perhaps his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra (played by Emma D’Arcy as an adult, Milly Alcock as a child) could become the kingdom’s first queen. Her best friend, Lady Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke as an adult, Emily Carey as a child), however, seems to have her eyes on the king herself.

Olivia Cooke. (Supplied)

“I think the thing that made it so interesting to us is the idea that you get to explore the Targaryens as a dynasty and as a family instead of basically just one person. (We) get to show you what Westeros was like when the Targaryens were at height of their power and influence, when they had 17 dragons to discourage other houses from raising a challenge to the throne. And we see a broad spectrum of different Targaryen people — princes and princesses, firstborns and second-borns — who all have their own internal life and wants and needs and identity,” says co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik.

“What you realize is: This is just like any other family,” he continues. “It’s made up of a complex range of people who will all react to things in a different way. There isn’t a Targaryen archetype. There’s nature and nurture involved — how they develop as people and how they react to different things. They’re all real, complex people with gray in their souls, and that’s why people tune in from week to week, to follow these, hopefully, deeply interesting and compelling characters.”

Leading the pack is Paddy Considine, an actor who has put in some of the finest, if under-heralded, performances in recent history, including 2003’s “In America,” 2004’s “Dead Man’s Shoes” and 2010’s “Submarine,” and is finally given the major role he’s always deserved — something that the creators of the show saw before he did.

Paddy Considine. (Supplied)

“I was the first actor cast in it, which was a massive leap of faith on the part of Miguel and Ryan and HBO. The fact that I didn’t even have to audition was a big gamble, really. Because I’ve a cynical side, my first question was, ‘Well, who’s turned it down? Who doesn’t want to do it?’ And they said, ‘Nobody. It’s yours. We’re coming straight to you.’ And that’s a good way to get me in, because I was very flattered by that, I was really honored. Truthfully, I was,” says Considine.

Matt Smith, who has already found huge success for his runs as both the lead in BBC stalwart “Doctor Who” and Prince Philip in the first two seasons of Netflix smash “The Crown,” comes in as the show’s most recognizable star, with his trademark charisma on full display as the brash and brilliant Daemon.

“I loved his unpredictability,” Smith says. “That was one of the things that really drew me to Daemon in the first place. You never quite know where he’s going to go, even as an actor. That affords you a great deal of invention and allows you to play. It’s nice when you’re an actor and you don’t quite know where the scene’s going to take you. I really loved it. I had such a good time.”

Ryan J Condal is the co-creator and co-showrunner of “House of the Dragon.” (Supplied)

Smith may have been having fun, but the shoot was grueling. It began in April 2021 and didn’t wrap until February 2022, filming across the UK, Spain and California.

“Nothing prepares you for the shooting. I walked in with my shoulders back and head high. A year later, I crawled out on my belly,” says Considine.

“Game of Thrones,” of course, was a show with massively popular female characters, an aspect that kept it relevant as the cultural paradigm shifted, with Danaerys Targaryen becoming a symbol of empowered women the world over. “House of the Dragon” takes that baton and runs with it, focusing first and foremost on its lead women characters, Princess Rhaenyra and Lady Alicent.

For the show’s female stars, getting on the same page with the showrunners over how women would be portrayed in the violent and sexist world in which it’s set was of paramount importance from day one.

Milly Alcock (left) and Emily Carey. (Supplied)

“Both Olivia and I started speaking with Miguel Sapochnik really early,” says D’Arcy. “One of the questions that I came into the show with was: ‘How do you make sure you are telling a story from their point of view, when we are in a world that doesn’t afford them space?’”

The conversations went better than they expected, the two stars reveal.

“Miguel was incredibly receptive and really generous on all of that. He gave us the space to explore these characters,” Cooke says.

“Fundamentally, Miguel is really aware that he’s not a woman,” D’Arcy adds. “He was very willing to defer to us, if something came up in the text. If you have a question, you have every right to interrogate that. It’s been a collaborative process.”


6 pop-culture highlights from across the region

6 pop-culture highlights from across the region
Updated 18 August 2022

6 pop-culture highlights from across the region

6 pop-culture highlights from across the region

DUBAI: From resin earrings and a vibrant Moroccan wedding celebration to a Lebanese pop anthem and a stripped-back jazz-infused improvisation, here are six pop-culture highlights from around the region. 

Manal

‘Makhelaw Magalou’

The Moroccan singer-songwriter’s latest single and its accompanying video (which has racked up over 19 million views on YouTube) are a tribute to the culture of her homeland, with the clip — directed by Farid Malki — covering several rituals of a traditional wedding, including the aamaria (a decorated chair on which the bride is carried), henna application, the bride’s Berber jewelry, the sharing of a meal, and a joyful, incense-drenched lila dance ceremony. Sonically, the track shows influences of the deeply spiritual gnawa music beloved in Morocco, with modern, electronic flourishes and a pop vibe.

Amir Fallah

‘An Anthem for Uncertain Times’

The acclaimed artist brings his enigmatic portraits and installations to Vancouver, Canada, in his new show. “(Fallah’s) subjects are most often veiled, masked or absent, represented by specific objects, cultural motifs and artifacts which point to who they are rather than their visual identity,” a press release for the show explains. Fallah’s family left Iran after the 1979 revolution, moving to Turkey and Italy before settling in America. “His work embraces how his journey has shaped his variety of identities,” the release states. “Each work encapsulates the perceived randomness of how our life experiences all fit together.” Artist and curator Sanaz Mazinani says of Fallah’s work: “For many of us living far from our ancestral lands, Fallah’s paintings model the ideas, beliefs, and fears that many immigrant bodies face daily. But through the work’s relentless beauty and tenacity … the offering of possibility comes in the joy of evolving difference.”

Adib Yassine El Khazen

‘Heliopolis’

The first release from a new trio — Syrian singer-songwriter Lynn Adib, Lebanese drummer Khaled Yassine, and Lebanese guitarist Raed El-Khazen — is an ambitious six-and-a-half-minute improvisation on Adib’s “Heliopolis,” built around a jazz-y drum line and sparse guitar (save for a solo midway through) that create a space for Adib’s stunning vocal trickery. According to El-Khazen, Adib wrote the track “following a heartbreak in Cairo” and the title refers to the ancient Egyptian city “where the sun god Ra was once worshipped as the ultimate source of light and justice in the cosmos.”

Son Savage

‘Just Keep Dancing’

Having topped Anghami’s charts with “The River” last year, the Dubai-based Lebanese producer (real name Charbel Ghanime) is enjoying similar success with his latest release — a funky, radio-friendly pop track called “Just Keep Dancing,” which, Ghanime says, “serves as an anthem that celebrates people in all their differences and quirks.” Added polish comes from producer Sleiman Damien, whose previous collaborators include Carole Samaha and Haifa Wehbe. “I’ve been a big fan of Sleiman since I met him around six years ago. We’ve always admired each other’s work and have always listened to and learned from each other,” Ghanime says in a press release. “In a recent trip I made to Dubai, I was showing Sleiman some projects I was working on and ‘Just Keep Dancing’ struck a chord with him. The rest is history.” The video meanwhile, “shows that — just like hate — love and dance can also be infectious,” he says.

Jude Benhalim

‘Electric Harmony’

The Egyptian jewelry brand’s annual summer capsule collection this year is made entirely from resin (actually, resin and translucent pearl that have been melted together) and “celebrates the harmony of marrying opposites,” according to a press release. “Electric Harmony” consists of three styles of earrings. “With dreamy spirals seamlessly merging with edgy studs, the motifs of the Greek-inspired pieces strive for a delicate balance of youth and sophistication,” the release states.

Ahmed Santa

‘Santa El Gded’

The Egyptian MC’s latest album pairs his trademark wit and lyricism with trap and drill sounds — a departure from his previous styles. “I’ve been authentic in my process of creating each song,” he says in a press release. “All of the emotions are true to that moment in the process.” The 10-track record feature collaborations with some of Egyptian hip-hop’s biggest names, including Desso and Abo El-Anwar, and could well be the release that makes Santa a star outside of his homeland.


REVIEW: ‘Fall’ gets the adrenaline pumping, but fails to reach the heights

REVIEW: ‘Fall’ gets the adrenaline pumping, but fails to reach the heights
Updated 18 August 2022

REVIEW: ‘Fall’ gets the adrenaline pumping, but fails to reach the heights

REVIEW: ‘Fall’ gets the adrenaline pumping, but fails to reach the heights
  • Survival thriller’s set pieces enthral, but weak script lets actors down

DUBAI: Scott Mann’s survival film ‘Fall,’ currently in theaters in the Middle East, is undeniably thrilling. It would be almost impossible for any competent filmmaker not to make it so because of its premise: Two young female climbers stuck 2,000 feet above the ground on a small platform at the top of a rickety, remote TV tower in the middle of the desert, allowing for genuinely stomach-churning, vertigo-inducing aerial shots.

The two women, Hunter (Virginia Gardner) and Becky (Grace Caroline Curry), are there to scatter the ashes of Becky’s late husband Dan, who died one year previously — a year that Becky has mostly spent drowning her sorrows in a bottle and ruining her relationship with her father James (Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a cameo that must have him questioning his agent’s competence) — when the three of them were climbing a mountain. That’s the scene that opens the movie, giving Mann another location for majestic, sweeping shots that maybe this overlong movie could have done without. Most of the flimsy backstory could have been covered as the two best friends walk through the desert to, and climb, the tower and little would have been lost.

They’re also at the tower to drum up further content for Hunter’s social-media fans — she’s made a name for herself online as a danger junkie with a devil-may-care attitude that Becky’s lines in the clunky script make clear isn’t the ‘real’ Hunter.

Once they’re up on the platform after a disastrous ladder collapse, we learn that maybe the ‘real’ Hunter wasn’t such a good friend to Becky after all, as Mann and co-writer Jonathan Frank introduce the first of their not-that-clever twists. There are a couple more of these and all of them are unoriginal.

As the lack of cell-phone coverage, food, and foresight takes its toll (not to mention hungry buzzards attracted by the gash in Becky’s leg), the climbers’ situation becomes increasingly dire. As does the script. No one can question Gardner and Curry’s physical commitment to the shoot, but, in acting terms, there just isn’t enough for them to work with. The lack of drama in their reactions just doesn’t ring true.

There’s another gripping set-piece when Hunter attempts to retrieve their water from a satellite dish just over 50 feet below their platform and it’s these scenes that — maybe — make “Fall” worth seeing on the big screen. You’ll definitely be entertained, or at least panicked. But whether the other 80 minutes or so are worth the payoff is up for debate.


Actress Jameela Jamil talks about her supervillain character at ‘She-Hulk’ premiere

Actress Jameela Jamil talks about her supervillain character at ‘She-Hulk’ premiere
Updated 17 August 2022

Actress Jameela Jamil talks about her supervillain character at ‘She-Hulk’ premiere

Actress Jameela Jamil talks about her supervillain character at ‘She-Hulk’ premiere

DUBAI: Actress Jameela Jamil — who shot to fame for her fan-favorite role as Tahani on “The Good Place” — was all smiles at the Los Angeles premiere of Marvel’s latest Disney+ entry, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” set to premiere worldwide on Aug. 18.

The British Pakistani actress took to social media to give fans front-row seats to all the action at the star-packed event. Also present were Tatiana Maslany, who plays the fourth-wall-breaking titular character who is a lawyer/superhero, and the actor who plays her onscreen cousin, Mark Ruffalo, reprising his more recent Professor Hulk iteration.

Jamil wore a custom Monique Vee low-cut dress with a high slit, paired glamorously with black Christian Louboutin pumps. The gown itself was an homage to comic books with action words like “BANG,” “ZAP” and “WAM.”

In “She-Hulk,” Jamil plays supervillain Titania, whom she has herself dubbed “the most annoying MCU character ever.”

In the trailer that was released as part of Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con panel, Jamil’s Titania is shown bursting through a courtroom wall. Like She-Hulk, Titania possesses super strength, durability and stamina, but the character obtained her powers differently in the comics, having been exposed to alien technology.

Among the many snapshots from the premiere, Jamil posted a clip from the red carpet on her Instagram Stories, in which she gives some insight into her character. “She’s just very messy, very chaotic, very mean, very annoying, very easy for me to play. And she’s deeply insecure and just out to destroy She-Hulk’s life, out to destroy everyone’s life actually,” she said.



“And in order to make her more accessible to the modern world, [creator and writer] Jessica Gao has fully redone her storyline from the comics. And so, she’s more of a modern-day fitness influencer online and everything about her is fake…And I got to play just a funny, tongue-in-cheek caricature of an influencer, who can also just beat the (expletive) out of you,” Jamil added.

The series also marks the return of Charlie Cox (of Netflix’s “Daredevil” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home”) as Matt Murdock — better known as Daredevil — a fellow lawyer and superhero. The cast of characters also features Tim Roth as Abomination, Renée Elise Goldsberry (of “Hamilton” fame) as Mallory Book and Ginger Gonzaga (from TV series "Kidding") as Nikki Ramos.

“She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” premieres worldwide on Disney+ on Aug. 18.