Lebanese actress Razane Jammal climbs new heights with Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’

Lebanese actress Razane Jammal climbs new heights with Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’
Razane Jammal in Paris in 2017. (AFP)
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Updated 04 August 2022

Lebanese actress Razane Jammal climbs new heights with Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’

Lebanese actress Razane Jammal climbs new heights with Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’

DUBAI: In the spring of 2021, Lebanese actress Razane Jammal filmed the most difficult scene of her career. She was shooting “The Sandman,” a blockbuster Netflix series more than 30 years in the making, and in it, her character was saying goodbye to her husband Hector for the last time, as her beloved slipped away into the afterlife. 

As the director yelled cut, tears ran down Jammal’s face. She didn’t want to distract her collaborators, so only she and her co-star Vanesu Samunyai knew the truth — that her tears were real. That same day, Jammal had learned that her mother, the woman who had helped shape her into the cross-cultural success she is today, was slipping away from her, too.

Razane Jammal as Lyta Hall and Lloyd Everitt as Hector Hall in ‘The Sandman.’ (Supplied)

“It was that day that I found out that my mom had entered a coma. I was filming a scene that was the epitome of grief, and I didn’t know what had happened to my mom. I didn’t know if I’d lost her already,” Jammal tells Arab News. 

Samunyai, standing across from her in that scene, was in awe of the strength her collaborator, and now her friend, showed that day. 

“She was amazing. She was carrying so much emotion. And she was able to bring that out. It was a sight to see. It was painful, but it was also beautiful the way she was able to harness that,” Samunyai says. “That sticks out to me the most with this show, and as just a moment in my life. I will never forget that.”

What was undoubtably a turning point in her life, could also, in turn, become a turning point of Jammal’s career. After all, “The Sandman,” based on the legendary graphic novels written by award-winning British author Neil Gaiman, is one that has long enchanted the many communities that have felt represented by it. When the series finally releases on Netflix on August 5, it could very well take the franchise to “Stranger Things” and “Squid Game”-levels of cultural ubiquity — and Jammal to a new level of stardom. 

“The Sandman” follows Morpheus, the King of Dreams, an age-old concept made manifest in flesh. Jammal plays Lyta Hall, a woman who dreams of her dead husband each night, slowly realizing that he is not a figment of her imagination but is hiding out in the dream world to be with his wife, unwilling to cross over and leave her behind. 



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It’s a part that Jammal manages to play truthfully with tremendous subtlety — a subtlety that Jammal credits her mother with teaching her to harness. 

“I’ve always been extra, and my mom was far more subtle than I am. I had to fine tune myself to vibrate on her frequency, a frequency that was very sweet and very raw and vulnerable and nurturing. I took that from her. She helped me hone my empathy and acting is where an empath belongs — if they know how to protect themselves from that precious place that my mother taught me to reach,” says Jammal.

“My mom didn’t necessarily know how to protect herself from that place,” she adds. 

Razane Jammal with her mother. (Supplied)

Jammal was raised in Beirut, Lebanon, a place of both beauty and pain — a place that nurtured Jammal but also put her through some of the hardest experiences of her life.

“I grew up having a simple, community-based life in a place where you have 500 mothers and everyone feeds you and you feel safe — even if it’s not safe at all. At the same time, we went through so many traumas, from civil wars to assassinations to losing all our money in another financial crisis,” says Jammal.

But she learned during the hardest times to both give to and lean on the people around her, from those closest to her to those that are seemingly strangers.

“It gives you strength. It made me enjoy the little things in my life; it made me smile at my neighbor and say ‘Hi’ every morning to the man who sells vegetables, remembering the day that he told me that if I didn’t have money I could come back and pay later. It opened me up to others, and made me a sociable person, and it deepened me in ways I’m still discovering,” Jammal says. 

Becoming an actor was the basis of her own personal dream world — an idea she used to escape the hardships in her country and in her home too, as her parents’ marriage fell apart in front of her eyes. She used her imagination to escape, the same tools that she uses now each day.

But acting, of course, is not quite what she imagined it to be.

“I idealized it in my head,” she says. “You don’t think about the behind the scenes. You don’t think about the 14-hour days and six-day work weeks. When you’re six years old, you think, ‘I’m going to be an actor. I’m going to be on stage and everyone’s going to love me.’” 

Razane Jammal (right) in ‘Kira & El Gin.’ (Supplied)

Because of the work that Jammal has put in, her dream is well on its way to being achieved, as her star continues to rise. It began when she moved to London when she was 18, quickly booking roles with French director Olivier Assayas and Kanye West, among others.

Over the next decade, Jammal continued to venture back to the Middle East, too, oscillating between starring opposite legends such as Liam Neeson in Hollywood and Youssra in Egypt. She has now reached a point where she is starring not only in “The Sandman,” but in regional blockbusters including Marwan Hamed’s latest Arab epic “Kira & El Gin,” already the fourth highest-grossing Egyptian film of all time just weeks after its release.

“I started dreaming of Hollywood and wanting to go abroad, because the trauma of war caused people to tell me to leave and escape the pain of the region. I’m so happy that I was pulled back to the Middle East, because these are my roots — I wasn’t in touch with them the same way back then. I had to lose myself in order to find myself again,” says Jammal.

“Now I can not only work on beautiful projects with talented people here in the region, but also work internationally to help contribute positively to the way Arabs are perceived across the world. I will always do that to the best of my ability,” she continues.

Jammal now has to do so without her mother, who died in the summer of 2021. While Jammal cannot call her for support in the same way she once did, as she celebrates her current successes and works on those to come, she knows she never has to fully say goodbye as long as she continues to live in a way that honors her. 

“I’m going to live my life to the fullest, because I owe that to her — to carry her lessons with me and spread whatever she taught me,” Jammal says. “I guess that’s my way of keeping her alive.”

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022
Updated 15 August 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022
  • DJs, rappers, producers sign up to new advisory board
  • Innovation and diversity are key pillars of this year’s event, organizers say

RIYADH: XP Music Futures has created an advisory board of industry insiders to ensure maximum diversity and innovation when it stages its second festival in November.

Among those appointed to the so-called board of advocates and advisors are American rapper Kim Renard Nazel — better known as Arabian Prince — music producer and record label founder Saud Alturki, immersive audio specialist Marcela Rada, digital media expert Natasha Stambuli, and the regional head of A&R and marketing at Sony Music Middle East Karima Damir.

Mohammed Bajbaa, who founded Saudi clothing brand Proud Angeles and fashion consultancy Proud X, Saudi rapper Jara and DJ Space Boi, will also be on the board.

XP director Nada Alhelabi said: “83 percent of last year’s attendees loved XP because of its programming. Partnering with a diverse set of professionals means guests see representation they can identify with and relate to.

“Our trusted board of advocates and advisors serve as one way for us to stay connected to communities … and deliver another great edition of valuable cultural and music exchange, tangible progress and inspire unlimited innovation.”

With its Day and Nite program and focus on innovation through disruptive, forward-thinking methods, XP is the forerunner within the MENA region for the music and creative industries.

It will not only discover and discuss how new technology is the driver of change in the music ecosystem – exploring the fast-moving Web3, the new iteration on blockchain technology and Metaverse – but also bring technology for guests to experience in immersive installations.

Its other core pillars of talent, scene and impact will work to implement ways to flourish careers in the music industry, nurture the scene through workshops and panels, and initiate dialogue around music, mental health and well-being, and their role in creating a socially conscious industry.

“The ultimate objective of XP is to accelerate the development and transformation of the music landscape across the Middle East,” Alhelabi said. “We are grateful to be driving, crafting and optimizing wonders into our world.”

The festival runs from Nov. 28-30. Music professionals and enthusiasts can register at https://mdlbeast.com/events/xp-2022.

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  
Updated 15 August 2022

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

DUBAI: Iraqi authorities announced this week that they found an original painting by the renowned Spanish painter Pablo Picasso in the Iraqi province of Diyala on Saturday, Iraqi News Agency reported.

The painting, said to be worth millions of dollars, was seized from a drug group after a raid late July. 

Director of the anti-narcotics media office Colonel Bilal Sobhi told the publication: “The Anti-Narcotics Directorate carried out an operation in Diyala governorate, in which a network of three defendants who were involved in the trade and transport of narcotic drugs were arrested, and a painting belonging to the international painter Picasso was seized in their possession, estimated at millions of dollars.”

“It is a major operation that is calculated for the anti-drugs General Directorate,” he added.

Details of the artwork have not been revealed yet. The Pablo Picasso Foundation, responsible for promoting and managing the artist’s work, did not issue a statement either. 

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign
Updated 15 August 2022

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign

Part-Arab model Imaan Hammam stuns in Tiffany & Co. global campaign

DUBAI: Dutch Moroccan Egyptian model Imaan Hammam has landed herself yet another global campaign.

The catwalk star fronted the latest Tiffany & Co. promotional video for the US luxury label’s Lock collection alongside American skateboarder Tyshawn Jones.

The new releases feature yellow, white and rose gold bangles with sparkly diamonds that symbolize “togetherness and inclusivity,” according to the brand’s website.


A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

In the video that the Netherlands-raised Hammam shared with her 1.4 million followers, she wore a white gold bracelet that looks like a padlock, with full pave diamonds, while Jones opted for a white gold bangle.

For the shoot, Hammam kept her look to a minimum.

She wore a black form-fitting dress and her makeup was soft and featured neutral shades — not to mention her iconic signature curly hair made for the look.

The model wore diamond jewelry in the video. (Instagram)

Hammam’s repertoire is growing day by day.

Last week, the model made headlines for starring in Romanian Jordanian designer Amina Muaddi’s latest campaign, which celebrated the duo’s Arab roots.

The short clips, shared on Muaddi and Hammam’s Instagram accounts, were shot in Cairo.



A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

In the video captured by British Egyptian filmmaker and photographer Dexter Navy, the 25-year-old catwalk star flaunted Muaddi’s new Drop 2/22 collection.

The videos and images featured Hammam in multiple scenarios, including standing alongside a white Arabian horse and posing atop intricately woven rugs.

She posed for pictures alongside women and men wearing traditional outfits and head and face covers decorated with jewelry.

Hammam is one of the most in-demand models in the industry. The now 25-year-old was scouted in Amsterdam’s Centraal Station before making her catwalk debut in 2013 by walking in Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture show.

Since then, she has appeared on the runway for major fashion houses, such as Burberry, Fendi, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Moschino, Balenciaga and Carolina Herrera, to name a few.

Hammam, who has been featured in leading fashion publications, such as Vogue and V Magazine, also starred in international campaigns for DKNY, Celine, Chanel, Versace, Givenchy, Giorgio Armani and many more. 

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 

Saudi Arabia continues to rank among top 5 overseas markets for ‘Bullet Train’ 

NEW YORK: The Brad Pitt action film “Bullet Train” led all movies in ticket sales for a second straight weekend, according to studio estimates this week, with Saudi Arabia continuing to earn a spot on the overseas play ranking.

David Leitch’s assassin-crowded film grossed $114.5 million globally in two weeks from 61 overseas markets. 

Saudi Arabia led the Middle East and North Africa market with $3.6 million and it ranked among the top five globally. 

Overseas play was led by France with $5.8 million. The UK is currently at $6 million. Mexico has grossed $5.4 million, followed by Australia’s $4.1 million and Saudi Arabia and Spain at $3.6 million each. 

The Sony Pictures film cost $90 million to make. 

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense
Updated 15 August 2022

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense

REVIEW: ‘Day Shift’ is a horror show in the worst possible sense
  • Netflix vampire movie has little going for it

LONDON: Hitting screens in the Middle East and North Africa, Netflix’s latest horror action movie “Day Shift” could be about to disappoint.

What is it with Netflix and sucking the life out of interesting new IPs? If it is not “Bright” or “Project Power,” it is “Outside the Wire” or “Thunder Force” — seemingly fascinating and original science fiction and fantasy movie ideas that wind up less than the sum of their parts?

So it is with “Day Shift,” the streaming giants’ new horror-action caper starring Jamie Foxx as vampire hunter Bud, and Dave Franco as his nerdy union representative. The notion that vampire hunting could be a viable career path in the San Fernando Valley, with unionized payouts for turned-in fangs and a benefits package, is moderately entertaining. Unfortunately, stuntman JJ Perry’s directorial debut never gets beyond that initial premise, all-too-quickly devolving into a tonally nonsensical plot and script, one-note characters and wooden performances across the board — it says something when a cameo from Snoop Dogg is far from the worst performance in a movie.

The film stars US actor Jamie Foxx. (Supplied)

Even having watched it, it is hard to sum up what the movie’s plot is, or why Karla Souza’s rent-a-villain Audrey (a vampire real estate mogul … no joke) wants Bud and his family to suffer. In keeping with his stunt background, the only time Perry’s movie comes to life is during some of the more inventive action sequences. There are some interesting drone shots that keep one particular chase sequence zipping along, and the choreography of some of Foxx’s vampire slaying is suitably kinetic. But everything else feels depressingly derivative — this is every vampire movie you have ever seen before, only done worse, and stretched so thin that you can see where the script is playing for time before launching into the next predictably bombastic set piece.

Much like many of its characters, “Day Shift” is a movie that needs putting out of its misery. We can only hope that, despite Netflix’s obvious quest for a new family of franchises, this one stays dead.