CHENNAI: Movies mean magic, leading us through a fantastic array of special effects that have become an integral part of story-telling.
“Visual effects create the magic which makes people want to go to the movies,” filmmaker George Lucas says in the new Disney+ docuseries, “Light & Magic.”
Written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan (“Darling Companion,” “French Kiss“), the six-part series does not side-step the limitations with auteur Steven Spielberg, quipping: “When the effects become the story, we’ve lost our way.”
I would go a bit further; too many of them rob a movie of its very soul.
But Kasdan does not dwell on this flip-side. Instead, he chronicles the origin and growth of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), the visual effects company founded by Lucas when he was making “Star Wars: A New Hope.”
The docuseries explores how miniature models and matte paintings created in the 1970s paved the way for compelling computer-generated images. We watch Lucas’ early struggle to transform his imagination into imagery that finally saw the production of films such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “Jurassic Park” are also highlighted.
The progression to computer-generated visual spectacles is amazing, and we get to meet the brilliant minds behind them. John Dykstra, Ken Ralson, Dennis Muren, Joe Johnston and Phil Tippett, among others, present interesting titbits enriching the series, and they present their narratives about many iconic movies with ease.
Kasdan shows how the impossible became possible with ILM.
Although the series may seem like a hagiography of ILM, there is no denying that Lucas and his team made special effects into a fine art. And Kasdan keeps up the tempo by ending each episode on a cliffhanger. A must-watch for film lovers.
“Light & Magic” is now available to stream on Disney+.
Versace taps Arab models Bella, Gigi Hadid for Milan show
Updated 24 September 2022
DUBAI: Italian luxury label Versace’s runway at Milan Fashion Week was packed with Arab models including Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Imaan Hammam, Nora Attal and Loli Bahia.
Donatella Versace’s collection conveyed female power in a way that only the label can.
“I have always loved a rebel,’’ Versace said in show notes. “A woman who is confidence, smart and a little bit of a diva.”
The show conveyed a strong sense of female ritual as models traversed a runway lit by dark candles and lined with stained-glass windows with the Versace medusa head, before exiting through glass-enclosed spaces where bathrobe-clad men lounged on gilded chairs amid purple columns, underlining a shift in the power dynamic.
Gigi, who is of Palestinian-Dutch descent, wore a dark hoodie dress with a high slink factor, while her sister, Bella, was an unblushing bride in deep purple lace corset and crinkled satin skirt.
Hammam, who is Dutch-Moroccan-Egyptian, wore a shiny black mini dress that featured a hood and a plunging neckline. She also wore a furry coat.
British-Moroccan Attal stepped out in a form-fitting purple dress with fringe details at the hips, while Bahia, who is French-Algerian, graced the runway in a hot-pink dress with a short bridal veil.
The color palette was decidedly dark, rooted in purples and blacks, with some flashes of red, lime and fuchsia.
Emily Ratajkowski, Paris Hilton and Irina Shayk were among the models who walked the runway.
Ratajkowski wore a leather micro-mini with a tough biker jacket and studded handbag.
Hilton closed the spring summer 2023 show in a tropical-pink Swarovski-crystal mesh bridal dress with lace degradé finishes and a deep-cowl neckline. A veil was secured by a tiara, a re-make of that worn by Madonna in the 1995 Atelier Versace campaign.
Hammam and Attal also walked the runway for Italian fashion label Max Mara.
Hammam wore a black turtleneck crop top and a beige floor-length skirt. Her hair was in a slicked-back bun.
Attal wore a beige floor-length dress with a brown floral print.
Dubai-based influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen, who was seated on the front row at the show, wrote: “I love you Zainab.” Iraqi content creator Deema Al-Asadi told Al-Eqabi on Instagram: “This just made my day.”
The brand presented a neutral color for next season, which ranges from gray to khaki and was set off by shades of yellow, green and blue. Shoes are platform sandals while hats feature oversized brims.
Hammam also featured at the Moschino Fashion Show, looking bold in a colorful mermaid-style dress with printed cartoon characters. She brought the beach to the runway by wearing a blow-up floaty around her shoulders.
Recipe for Success: Saudi chef Rakan Al-Oraifi shares a dessert recipe for Saudi National Day
The Saudi chef mastered his culinary skills in California and is now in Paris to perfect his pastry techniques
Rakan Al-Oraifi shares a special dessert recipe for Saudi National Day
Updated 23 September 2022
Shyama Krishna Kumar
DUBAI: Rising Saudi culinary star and TV presenter Rakan Al-Oraifi was one semester into getting his masters degree in marketing when he decided he wanted to pursue his lifelong love of food more seriously. A culinary diploma from California later, Al-Oraifi returned to Saudi Arabia to take the local food scene by storm.
Among the many accolades he has received, Al-Oraifi was hailed “Best Saudi Chef” at the 2018 Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards and has worked in several international restaurants over the years. He has also taken part in several international cooking competitions, including “Top Chef Middle East” season two.
In his work, Al-Oraifi especially likes to explore traditional Saudi cuisine, but infused with modern elements. His earliest memory of cooking goes back to making dolma with his mother. “It is a dish I have been preparing since I was six. It was challenging to prepare it as a young kid, but I would always prepare it with my mom over the years and eventually learned to prepare it on my own,” said Al-Oraifi in an interview with Arab News.
While he was last executive chef at Maiz in Diryah Gate, the 33-year-old is now in Paris to perfect the art of making pastries.
To celebrate Saudi National Day, Al-Oraifi will feature in an online cooking series for Fatafeat where he will use his experience with Middle Eastern cuisines to share recipes with Saudi flavours at their heart.
Here, Al-Oraifi talks to Arab News about his favorite cuisines, his go-to quick-dinner fix and restaurant faux pas.
When you started out as a professional, what was the most common mistake you made when preparing/cooking a dish?
A common mistake is copying the techniques of other chefs, which could get confusing at some point. You can get inspired, but it is important to find your own culinary style and technique.
What’s your top tip for amateur chefs cooking at home?
It is important for every chef to have a sharp knife. Aside from making the cooking preparation process easier and smoother, it is less likely to injure you. Dull knives are actually more dangerous.
What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
Salt is a fundamental ingredient because it enhances and elevates the flavour of any dish.
When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food? What’s the most common mistake/issue that you find in other restaurants?
I am usually critical of food temperature because it also indicates the efficiency of the service. For me, the most important thing is getting my food warm and freshly made. I do not like it when I receive the food cold.
When you go out to eat, what’s your favorite cuisine/dish to order?
Usually, I like French and Japanese cuisine, and some restaurants do a fusion of both, which is even better. French cuisine involves a certain technique while Japanese cuisine requires a particular skill, and I think these just mesh well together.
What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home, say in 20 minutes?
Pasta is a go-to for me. Even when you create the sauce and pasta dough from scratch, it normally doesn’t take more than 30 minutes. It also offers flexibility and versatility, you can customise it as you want, with your choice of creams and cheese, for example.
What request/behavior by customers most annoys you?
Because I know the amount of time and effort that goes into every dish, I’m not a fan of customers who dine hastily and do not take the time to enjoy the food. In my opinion, you need at least 60 minutes to appreciate and enjoy your meal, especially if it’s a three-course dining experience.
As a head chef, what are you like? Are you a disciplinarian? Do you shout a lot? Or are you more laidback?
I’m cool 80 percent of the time. Keeping a level head is important in managing a kitchen properly and dealing with customers. You’ll just have better judgment overall.
What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right (whether on your current menu or not)?
Pastry is actually tricky for me. Unlike cooking dishes where you can be spontaneous and rely on your own senses and feelings, pastries require specific measurements and strictly following techniques. Because of this, I am currently in France to study the art of French pastry and improve my skills.
1. In a dough mixer, add the dry ingredients with wheat flour and salt, then mix gently.
2. Pour room temperature water. Keep mixing until thoroughly combined.
3. In a hot pan or flat grill, melt ghee, then pour the mixture using a 200 ml ladle.
4. Let it cook for a few minutes until the front side bubbles.
5. Flip the dough and cook it for a few minutes; the texture must be very soft.
6. Mix the bread in a dough mixer until you reach a hard, smooth texture.
7. Shape them using your hand, then stuff them with date paste.
8. Melt ghee and honey, then pour it over the bread.
9. Garnish with a small piece of honeycomb then serve.
London’s Wireless Festival to come to Middle East for first time
Updated 23 September 2022
ABU DHABI: London’s Wireless Festival is coming to Abu Dhabi for the first time in March 2023.
The popular rap and urban music festival, which debuted in London in 2005, is heading to Abu Dhabi on March 4, President of Live Nation MENA James Craven announced during a TV talk show-style launch event on Thursday.
“With more than 200 nationalities living in the UAE, it is important we constantly track changing music tastes that are reflective of such a diverse population,” he said. “Hip hop remains one of the most popular genres throughout the region and the launch of Wireless Festival in Abu Dhabi next March will be a huge draw to urban music fans throughout the region.
“The festival will showcase some of the biggest international hip hop stars but will also provide a platform for local artists too,” he said, but did not reveal the names to perform at the event.
During the press conference, the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi announced its line-up of events for the 2022/2023 winter season.
Another first in the region is Blippi: The Musical. The popular children’s entertainer and educator is bringing a live musical show for young children and families on Feb. 18 and 19 to the Etihad Arena.
John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment, said: “As an entertainment industry leader, we pay great attention to what audiences want to see and experience. Flash Entertainment has a long track-record of bringing the best global performers and events to audiences in the UAE and the region.”
“We have paid close attention to the growth of Blippi’s following, so it is a special moment to bring this exciting show to young fans in Abu Dhabi as we continue to diversify our offering and develop the regional entertainment landscape,” he said.
The new Abu Dhabi calendar spans 180 days and features concerts by regional and international artists, sporting and e-sports action, immersive cultural festivals, live interactive family shows and theater, and opera and dance performances.
Here are four other events taking place during the 2022/2023 winter season.
Middle East Film & Comic Con
The world-famous festival will unite movie, TV and comic lovers with the region’s largest pop-culture festival in March 2023.
The 17-time Grammy Award winner will arrive at Etihad Arena on Jan. 27, 2023 as part of his critically acclaimed “My Songs” tour. Tickets are now on sale.
The Lion King
Etihad Arena will host a month-long run of the landmark Broadway musical from Nov. 16 to Dec. 10.
Top DJs and singing sensations of the Arab world will perform in Abu Dhabi in a series of concerts from Oct. 14 to Dec. 21, including Nancy Ajram, George Wassouf, Ahmed Saad, Melhem Zein, Wael Kfoury, DJ Aseel, Aziz Maraka, and Siilawy.
The Blue House: International experts join hands to rebuild a symbol of hope for Beirut
UK-based Honor Frost Foundation and the Beirut Heritage Initiative have restored an iconic building near the Beirut Port
Updated 23 September 2022
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: The explosion that ripped through Beirut Port on August 4, 2020, devastated the Lebanese capital. Two years later, the city has not yet recovered from the damage and deaths caused that day.
The blast wrecked hundreds of heritage buildings located in the city’s historic neighborhoods of Mar Mikhaël and Gemmayzeh, many of which were already in a state of disrepair. The government has shown little interest in repairing them. The buildings that have been restored have relied largely on privately funded initiatives.
One such building is Medawar 479, also known as The Blue House. Situated on Beirut’s waterfront, close to what was the epicenter of the explosion, and previously a restaurant, this charming and significant site was one of the original shoreline’s cluster of more than 25 heritage buildings, many of which were destroyed in the explosion.
The Beirut Heritage Initiative was launched in the aftermath of the explosion to act as an independent and inclusive collective for the restoration of the city’s built cultural heritage. The BHI approached The Honor Frost Foundation, a maritime archaeology charity, in 2020 to collaborate on restoring The Blue House. Work began in November 2021.
“We launched BHI a few days after the blast. It was founded by architects, heritage experts, and activists that wanted to fundraise for the heritage buildings, mainly in Beirut, which were affected by the blast,” architect Yasmine Dagher of the BHI told Arab News. “In late 2020 we contacted the Honor Frost Foundation and proposed to them several buildings that used to be on the shoreline to have funding for the renovation of the buildings and HFF selected one out of the two buildings that we proposed.
“The funding for the renovation comes in exchange for the usage of the space for a certain number of years,” she continued.
The owner of the building is now returning to the top floor of The Blue House, while the Honor Frost Foundation will occupy the first floor, she explained.
The late Honor Frost was an early pioneer of marine archaeology, and had a special connection with Lebanon, so it is fitting that the charity will now have an office in Beirut. The country was a key site of exploration for Frost from 1957 onwards, after she had completed her training under Jacques Cousteau’s diving partner, Frédéric Dumas.
Her work led her to the ancient harbors of Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre, where she researched and documented coastal landscapes, harbor archaeology, site-formation processes, and anchors.
It was at these ancient sites that Frost’s interest in stone anchors began. In Byblos she spotted a series of them built into the Bronze Age temple and discovered similar anchors off the nearby coast, thus improving our knowledge of ancient maritime trade patterns.
Since its launch in 2010, the HFF has invested $3.3m in Lebanese projects, including creating an underwater archaeology course— the first of its kind — at the American University of Beirut, in addition to the granting of scholarships and the Beirut Port Project, a survey of the port area that provides an important overview of the city’s maritime cultural landscape.
“She never thought of herself as a (female pioneer),” chair of HFF trustees, Alison Cathie, told Arab News of Frost. “She simply thought of herself as someone who was doing something for the world.”
And the charity that shares her name is carrying on that work, with the restoration of The Blue House. Once the home of an important merchant, but most recently a restaurant, The Blue House was erected in 1890. It is a fine example of the style of Beirut houses of the late 19th century. Its north façade would once have offered stunning, expansive views out over the Mediterranean Sea.
The restoration work was carried out over the course of a year and included structural consolidation and reconstruction of the pitched roof and the north façade, as well as interior work. Architect-restorer Joe Kallas, supported by Distruct Solutions, Awaida for Construction and Engineering, and Yasmine El-Majzoub from the BHI team led the restoration process, which has actually revealed numerous previously unknown — or perhaps forgotten — features of the building.
Restoration work included the reinstation of a set of previously capped triple arches that formed the principal bay window overlooking the harbor. During the work, it was discovered that the central span had been vaulted and made into a rectangular shape during the 20th century.
The team have now reinstated the original façade design, reusing materials found on site and employing traditional craft techniques to preserve the identity of the building. Among the highlights of the restoration work are the windows, which have been renovated, and rebuilt where necessary, in Lebanese cedar wood, using historic archives to recreate the original design and murals, which had lain hidden for decades, in delicate blue stenciling. These were uncovered and restored in the central halls on the first and second floors.
The restoration work is now fully complete. The next phase, the BHI team say, involves furnishing the home for occupation in spring 2023.
The Blue House was chosen as a focus for the HFF’s work chiefly for its commanding position on the former shoreline. But it will also provide a fitting office for the charity in Lebanon on completion, an office that will double as both a workspace and occasional exhibition space.
“We have also done a complete assessment of the maritime archaeology at the port of Beirut for Lebanon’s director of antiquities,” Cathie said. “When it comes to rebuilding, they will know what goes where.”
“We hope this restoration project will encourage more people to visit the house and appreciate its heritage,” Dagher added. “Before the blast, heritage buildings were very private; not a lot of people had access to these kinds of buildings. The owner of The Blue House wants people to have awareness of it, and for Lebanon’s heritage to be accessible to citizens and to visitors.”