Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ pays tribute to real-world heroics of Thai rescue mission

Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ pays tribute to real-world heroics of Thai rescue mission
The movie adaptation of the daring rescue of a Thai football team is tense and claustrophobic. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 August 2022

Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ pays tribute to real-world heroics of Thai rescue mission

Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ pays tribute to real-world heroics of Thai rescue mission

LONDON: When details began to emerge of the daring rescue of a Thai football team from flooded caves in Tham Luang Nang Non, it seemed only a matter of time before Hollywood swooped in to buff the real-life drama with the polish of a big-budget movie adaptation. Happily, “Thirteen Lives” is more than a shameless cash in. Director Ron Howard treads carefully, telling the story of a truly monumental international rescue effort which eventually expanded to include more than 10,000 people. Rather than attempting to only superficially capture that sense of scale, however, Howard focuses in on a few crucial players — the British dive team who first located the boys, the small group who planned and orchestrated the rescue of the 12 young players and their coach, the local governor tasked with bringing everybody home, the Thai engineer working with locals to divert the floodwaters, and the Thai Navy SEALs who spearheaded the initial response.

 

 

For the most part, this focused approach works well. Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell (questionable English accents aside) are excellent as divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, as are co-stars Joel Edgerton (as Australian Richard Harris) and Sahajak Boonthanakit as Governor Narongsak. Though the famous faces inevitably get the lion’s share of the screentime, Howard does his best to tell more than just the tale of the Western saviors – taking a few beats to flesh out characters such as the parents of the boys, local farmers and the frustrated SEALs. 

In order to do so, Howard also had to be a little ruthless with his 150 minutes — so there is no mention of Elon Musk’s contentious contributions to the rescue effort, and no time to find out much about any of the innumerous supporting volunteers. Instead, “Thirteen Lives” is a tense, taut drama, claustrophobically shot and scored. It’s perhaps impossible to accurately recreate the sheer terror that must have gripped the rescuers and rescued alike, but Howard goes some way towards acknowledging their magnificence.


Behind the scenes of ‘The Woman King’ with Hollywood superstar Viola Davis

Behind the scenes of ‘The Woman King’ with Hollywood superstar Viola Davis
Oscar, Emmy and Tony-winning actress Viola Davis stars in ‘The Woman King.’ (AFP)
Updated 06 October 2022

Behind the scenes of ‘The Woman King’ with Hollywood superstar Viola Davis

Behind the scenes of ‘The Woman King’ with Hollywood superstar Viola Davis
  • Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, Viola Davis and other stars discuss their groundbreaking historical epic
  • The film is set to be released in Gulf cinemas on Oct. 6

DUBAI: In the 26 years since she debuted on the screen, 57-year-old American actress Viola Davis has become the only Black American to win the Triple Crown of acting — an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony, had her star included on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and has even been named by the New York Times as one of the top 10 actors of the century. Never, though, has she been prouder of a film than she is of “The Woman King.”

“For the first time in my career, I had agency — agency to be able to control the narrative for myself, to have a character that reflected me,” Davis tells Arab News. “It’s a story in which I don’t have to make my blackness disappear in order to make the role work. It meant freedom — that’s what it’s meant.” 

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball,” “The Secret Life of Bees”), “The Woman King” is the sort of film that many have called for for decades — a historical epic in the style of “Braveheart” or “Gladiator” that centers on the story of African leaders. It is set in the real-life West African kingdom of Dahomey in 1823 and focuses on General Nanisca (Davis), the woman who would become Dahomey’s ‘king.’ 

For Bythewood, it’s the film she had been dreaming of making all her career. “‘Braveheart’ is one of my favorite movies, and I’ve always wanted to make our ‘Braveheart.’ So when the script came, I thought this might be the chance to do it,” says Bythewood.

Julius Tennon and Viola Davis attend a special screening of ‘The Woman King’ at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. (AFP)

Getting it made, however, was anything but easy. Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, fought for seven years, with Bythewood coming in during the last year to help assemble a cast that was worthy of such an ambitious project. 

“To get from that desire to a green light is a lot. It’s a lot of fight. It’s a lot of moving parts. It’s a lot of casting. But I feel like it just happened at the right time. And certainly, I feel like all my work up until this point got me to a position to be able to do this story and tell it the right way,” Bythewood says.

Viola Davis and John Boyega in ‘The Woman King.’ (Supplied)

The team assembled an all-star cast of up-and-coming talent, including Lashana Lynch (“Doctor Strange 2,” “No Time to Die”), John Boyega (the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy), and Thuso Mbedu (“The Underground Railroad”), each of whom took on different historical figures that showed the complicated nature of 19th-century Africa, in which prominent West African kingdoms worked with European slavers to sell those they defeated in battle, a practice they later rejected. 

“I really had to learn about this history, and once I did I had a responsibility in portraying this man to not shy away from his conflicts, especially the conflicts that are quite negative,” Boyega says. “I had to be open to the reality of the wrong, for the sake of good portrayal.”

Viola Davis in ‘The Woman King.’ (Supplied)

At the center of it all is Davis herself, giving perhaps the best performance of her career. 

“This movie wouldn’t have gotten made without Viola. No one else can be Nanisca, and she’s everything she is off the screen as she is on the screen. She’s so powerful,” says Bythewood.

“She wants collaboration, and we had a great time building this character. She wasn’t familiar with fighting and stunts because she hadn’t done it before, but I have, so I brought my athlete mentality to her and let her know what it really feels like to be in a ring, to hit or be hit, to swing a weapon. Once we had that, we could really build her from there, and once we had Viola’s performance, we had our key ingredient,” Bythewood continues.

For Lynch, this was not just about telling the story of an African kingdom — it was the story of a Black woman-led society, one that has never been explored on screen before, and she and the crew felt a huge responsibility to do it correctly.

“For these women, this is the first time that we’re telling their story. We have to do right by them. These are our ancestors. These women are the reason why we are here on this earth,” says Lynch.


Lisbon museum showcases Arab influence on Portuguese cultural heritage

Lisbon museum showcases Arab influence on Portuguese cultural heritage
Updated 06 October 2022

Lisbon museum showcases Arab influence on Portuguese cultural heritage

Lisbon museum showcases Arab influence on Portuguese cultural heritage

MARBELLAA: One striking aspect of the Portuguese language is its historical link with the Arabic tongue. Along the country’s southern coast, for instance, one encounters small towns with names such as Almancil (meaning ‘the house’ in Arabic) in a region called Algarve, derived from ‘Al-gharb’ or ‘the West.’ In the 8th century, Moors from North Africa occupied Portugal for nearly 500 years, leaving a lasting effect on its culture. 

That effect is clearly seen in the ceramic square tiles that pepper the streets of Lisbon. Tiles are locally known as ‘azulejos’ and to understand their history, a visit to the capital’s National Azulejo Museum, which opened in the 1960s is a must. It is housed in a former convent that was founded by Queen Eleanor of Viseu in the 1500s. 

Home to more than 50,000 azulejos, the museum hosts a massive panel showing a panoramic view of ancient Lisbon; a gilded church; and a chapel studded with blue-and-white tiles, surprising visitors with its architectural splendor and diversity. 

“When people come to the museum, the reactions are very good,” the museum’s director, Alexandre Pais, told Arab News. “They don’t know what to expect and we are trying to make each area different, to create a variety of experiences.”

The term ‘azulejo’ comes from the Arabic word ‘zellig,’ a patterned type of mosaic tile work found in North Africa and Andalusia, Spain. “It started with the Arabs,” explained Pais. “We received azulejos in the beginning from Andalusia. The Arab heritage in Portuguese azulejos can be seen today in several aspects, including technique. For instance, we have the tradition of cutting the azulejos, which is very Arabic in terms of work.” 

Originally depicting scenes from the bible, mythology and everyday life, azulejos — which were also influenced by Dutch and Chinese porcelain — were a status symbol and reserved for private spaces, such as churches. They were only externalized to the facades of buildings by the bourgeoisie in the mid-19th century, becoming a national symbol. 

“The city became like a theatrical set,” said Pais. “Azulejos have a story of more than 500 years and it’s always changing. . . If you look at azulejos, you can understand the Portuguese, not just as a society but part of our soul — what it means to be Portuguese.”


Lebanese British actress Razane Jammal unveiled as Dior’s Middle East ambassador

Lebanese British actress Razane Jammal unveiled as Dior’s Middle East ambassador
Razane Jammal most recently starred in blockbuster Netflix series “The Sandman.” (AFP)
Updated 05 October 2022

Lebanese British actress Razane Jammal unveiled as Dior’s Middle East ambassador

Lebanese British actress Razane Jammal unveiled as Dior’s Middle East ambassador

DUBAI: Lebanese British actress Razane Jammal has been unveiled as the Middle East’s brand ambassador for French luxury label Dior.

“I’m so unbelievably excited to finally announce that I will be joining Dior as a brand ambassador in the Middle East!” Jammal posted on Instagram on Wednesday.

“Ever since I joined the fashion community, I wanted to collaborate with people I can truly grow with, to join a family that I value as much as it values me. It’s been a long journey but I can confidently say I’ve found my home! The ME Dior team you have been so incredible. An extra special thank you to @sandrasawaya for believing in me and making this happen. This is the start of a wonderful collaboration. I cannot wait to embody the timeless creations of @mariagraziachiuri,” she added, referring to Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri and the Head of PR & Communications Middle East for Christian Dior Couture Sandra Sawaya Nehme.

Jammal most recently starred in blockbuster Netflix series “The Sandman,” based on the legendary graphic novels written by award-winning British author Neil Gaiman.


How time flies at Riyadh ‘nostalgia’ exhibition

How time flies at Riyadh ‘nostalgia’ exhibition
Updated 05 October 2022

How time flies at Riyadh ‘nostalgia’ exhibition

How time flies at Riyadh ‘nostalgia’ exhibition
  • Misk Art Institute’s ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ opened at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Fine Arts Hall on Oct. 2 to showcase conceptual artworks by creators from Europe and the Middle East
  • ‘Cold Flux’ by London-based Ben Cullen Williams, explores the effects of global warming on the Larsen-B ice shelf, which splintered and almost entirely collapsed 20 years ago

RIYADH: A Riyadh art gallery has opened an exhibition exploring time, the mind and the changing world through installations by a dozen local and international artists.

Misk Art Institute’s “Tales of Nostalgia” opened at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Fine Arts Hall on Oct. 2 to showcase conceptual artworks by creators from Europe and the Middle East.

“Cold Flux” by London-based Ben Cullen Williams, explores the effects of global warming on the Larsen-B ice shelf, which splintered and almost entirely collapsed 20 years ago. The artist’s installation uses video taken during his own trip to Antarctica, and comparisons with later satellite imagery. 

His footage was passed through an AI algorithm that distorts and morphs the images as the shelf changes and disappears over time.

“I thought it’d be interesting to kind of potentially rebuild these landscapes through the use of technology, a thing that kind of destroyed it,” Williams told Arab News. “Fundamentally, it talks about our changing planet, how our planet is constantly moving and morphing. But it also kind of brings the question, is technology the solution to our current problems?”

“Novae”, an audio-visuel work by the French art collective Lab212, uses a recreated star field to explore the constellations and the history of astronomy, while sounds of nature and a poem by Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen, “Khouf wa Sikat,” plays.

Saudi artist Abeer Sultan’s work, “An Imagined Perpetual Past” focuses on Medini marital traditions, and the bride’s anonymity and the extravagance of her clothing.

Daniah Alsaleh’s “Rewind, Play, Glitch” explores nostalgia and the distortion of memory by time through the use of digital photos on a living room wall that change and morph.

The MAI also exhibits various works from artists Muhannad Shono, Ayman Zedani, Asma Belhamar, Sultan bin Fahad, Zimoun, Fuse, Katie Paterson, and Laurent Grasso.

Nawaf Al-Harbi, MAI’s acting strategy & development director, told Arab News that he hoped the exhibition could also be used as a platform for cultural exchange opportunities.

“The aim is to continue the conversations, to get artists, especially the international ones, to run some workshops and master classes, so it's also part of the connection,” 

The exhibition runs until January 15, and is open to the public from 4 pm to 10 pm.


Italian designer Gaia Repossi to join Fashion Trust Arabia’s 2022 advisory board

Italian designer Gaia Repossi to join Fashion Trust Arabia’s 2022 advisory board
Updated 05 October 2022

Italian designer Gaia Repossi to join Fashion Trust Arabia’s 2022 advisory board

Italian designer Gaia Repossi to join Fashion Trust Arabia’s 2022 advisory board

DUBAI: Gaia Repossi, the creative director of contemporary Italian jewelry brand Repossi, has been appointed as a member of Fashion Trust Arabia’s 2022 advisory board.

Fashion Trust Arabia was established in 2018 as a prize to support up-and-coming fashion designers from the Middle East and North Africa region. The organization’s mission is to support local creatives by providing them with global opportunities and by creating a network in which they can participate in important conversations and the exchange of ideas.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by GAIA repossi (@gaiarepossi)

The advisory board is responsible for selecting 24 finalists who will then get the chance to showcase their work before the jury. The ceremony itself will take place during the week of Oct. 24, 2022 through a series of local activations in Doha, Qatar.

"The Turin-born,cult-favorite jewelry designer was a natural fit for the FTA advisory board, who assumed her role at the family business at the young age of 21 and has helped turn Repossi into a brand beloved for its luxe minimalism and contemporary aesthetic. Gaia’s extensive involvement and networks in the world of fashion make her the perfect member to provide expertise and guidance for the up-and-coming regional talents in the competition (sic)," read a released statement.