6 pop-culture highlights from across the region

6 pop-culture highlights from across the region
Jude Benhalim’s annual summer capsule collection this year is made entirely from resin. (Supplied)
Short Url
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.


‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi
Updated 02 February 2023

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi

‘Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis confirmed to attend MEFCC in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: British actor, writer, filmmaker and producer Andy Serkis – most known for his motion-capture performances in blockbuster films – has been confirmed as one of the celebrity guests at the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Abu Dhabi, running from March 3 – 5.  

The actor, who will be in attendance on March 4 and 5, has brought to life several iconic computer-generated characters, including Gollum in “Lord of the Rngs” franchise, Caesar the ape in the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy, Captain Haddock in “The Adventures of Tintin” and Supreme Leader Snoke in the “Star Wars” films.  

The actor also most recently portrayed Kino Loy in the Star Wars DIsney+ series “Andor,” streaming in the Middle East on OSN.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Andrew Serkis (@andyserkis)

In an upcoming role, Serkis will play millionaire villain David Robey in “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” the movie sequel to the popular Idris Elba-led TV series, “Luther.”  

Speaking with Total Film, Serkis said of the role, “I don’t think I’ve come across anything quite as dark for a long time.”  

The script forced him to ask, “do I really actually at this point in the world and time and my life, want to go down this particular rabbit hole of something that’s so hard to fathom in humanity?” 

Meanwhile, at MEFCC, fans can also expect to meet “House of the Dragon” and “Doctor Who” star Matt Smith as well as “Star Wars” veteran Anthony Daniels, who played android C3PO in all 10 films.  


Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 
Updated 02 February 2023

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 

Review: Up for an Oscar, ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is a heart-warming joy to watch 

CHENNAI: Short documentary “The Elephant Whisperers” is in the running for the Best Documentary Short Film at the upcoming Academy Awards and after watching the Indian Netflix offering, you may well find yourself wondering how Academy voters are going to resist the extremely moving documentary about two adorable baby elephants and their warm-hearted caretakers, Bomman and Bellie.  

They live in the lush and delightfully picturesque terrain of Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. With its myriad colors, varied vegetation and fantastic species – captured vividly by Karan Thapliyal and others — the film kept me absorbed for all of its 41 minutes.  

Helmed by Kartiki Gonsalves with narration penned by Priscilla Gonsalves, “The Elephant Whisperers” is crisp and refreshing. As one writer put it, it is this year’s “My Octopus Teacher” — the 2020 Oscar-winning documentary tracing the bond between a filmmaker and an octopus. 

The core story here is about two elephant calves, Raghu and Ammu, who are treated like their own children by the couple. 

When Raghu's mother is killed, forest officials hand the baby to Bomman and Bellie. There are some moving visuals of how the “parents” take care of the calf. There is more joy to come when another calf, Ammu, is also handed over the couple. The two babies hit it off, and it is lovely to watch them play and tussle with eachother. 

Scenes of Bomman giving the animals a bath and later playing football with them remain etched in my memory. The couple feed them just like they would their own children and the feeling of affection is captivating and wonderfully translated on screen. 

As the environment becomes a buzzword in the media, it is especially touching when Bomman says we live off the forest, but we should also protect it. And despite the fact that Bellie's husband was killed by a tiger, she gets over her fear of the forest and begins to mingle with it. Later, when Bomman and Bellie get married, it seems like they have forged a perfect union not just with each other, but also with the rich forest that they call their home.  


Review: ‘Shotgun Wedding’ is a rom-com action flick that is big, dumb – and lots of fun

Review: ‘Shotgun Wedding’ is a rom-com action flick that is big, dumb – and lots of fun
Updated 02 February 2023

Review: ‘Shotgun Wedding’ is a rom-com action flick that is big, dumb – and lots of fun

Review: ‘Shotgun Wedding’ is a rom-com action flick that is big, dumb – and lots of fun

LONDON: Cinema, in its purest form, is about escapism. And what could be more escapist than a rom-com starring Jennifer Lopez as a bride whose extravagant beach wedding is gatecrashed by a group of pirates?

Throw in Josh Duhamel as her slightly dopey husband, Lenny Kravitz as a handsome ex-boyfriend and Jennifer Coolidge as her future mother-in-law and you have got just about everything you need for a couple of hours of mindless entertainment.

Just as Darcy (Lopez) and Tom (Duhamel) are having doubts about their imminent nuptials, they find themselves the only ones not taken hostage by a band of fearsome brigands. Sneaking around their luxury destination wedding, the feuding couple must put aside their doubts and team up to save their family and friends.

High art this is not – but that is no bad thing. “Shotgun Wedding,” directed by “Pitch Perfect” and “Sisters” helmer Jason Moore, is a goofy, lovable riot. It flips a bunch of rom-com tropes on their head, has a charismatic lead in Lopez and – most importantly – does not take itself too seriously.

It also has a secret weapon in Coolidge, who is finally getting the plaudits her stellar comedic talents have long deserved, and who absolutely runs away with the movie as Tom’s mother, Carol.

It is not all seamless, for sure. There are some hinky effects work on the set pieces, a few narrative leaps that are telegraphed about an hour in advance, and some rather plodding exposition right around the time the action starts to ramp up.

But “Shotgun Wedding” is such dumb fun it is hard to hold a grudge. It won’t alter your perceptions, and it won’t make you reassess your life choices, but it will make you laugh. And, let’s face it, watching J-Lo whoop a bunch of terrorists is a decent way to spend a couple of hours.


Saudi social media star Osama Marwah nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award 

Saudi social media star Osama Marwah nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award 
Updated 02 February 2023

Saudi social media star Osama Marwah nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award 

Saudi social media star Osama Marwah nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award 

DUBAI: Saudi social media star and YouTuber Osama Marwah has been nominated for the Favorite Arab Star prize at the 2023 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award, it was announced on Wednesday.  

“When we were younger, we watched Nickelodeon. Today, we are among the nominees,” he wrote to his 4.2 million followers on Instagram. “Thank God. If it wasn’t for God and you, we wouldn’t be anything. Good luck to my creative friends who are also nominated.” 

Best known for his vlogs and prank videos, Marwah is competing with Syrian comedian and social media personality Amro Maskoun, Jordanian YouTuber Raghda Kouyoumdjian – famous for her short comedy skits and lip sync videos; and Rozzah, a 19-year-old Jordanian content creator with more than 4.2 million followers.  

The Favorite Arab Star award honors talents from the Middle East and North Africa. 

The awards ceremony will take place on March 4 and will air in the Middle East on March 7 at 4:00 p.m. (Saudi time). The event will also be available to watch on OSN+ from March 8 onwards.  

CBS Sports Analyst Nate Burleson and social media star Charli D’Amelio host the event.  

Jordanian YouTuber Raghda Kouyoumdjian is famous for her short comedy skits and lip sync videos. (Supplied)

D’Amelio said in a released statement: “I got slimed at the KCAs in 2021, saw my sister get slimed at last year’s show and now, no one is safe with me as co-host!” 

“Nate and I will make sure this year’s show is full of unexpected slime shots, impressive dances and surprise tricks along the way,” she added.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rozzah :D (@rozzah)

First-time nominees for this year’s edition include Jenna Ortega, Jack Harlow, GAYLE, Joji, Nicky Youre and Letitia Wright, among others.  

“Stranger Things” leads the pack with six nominations, followed by “That Girl Lay Lay,” “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and “The Fairly OddParents: Fairly Odder” with four nominations each.  

Fans around the world can now cast their votes across 31 categories on the official Kids’ Choice Awards website, with an additional 32 international categories available in regions around the world.  


Review: ‘Extraordinary’ shows there’s still life in the superhero genre  

Review: ‘Extraordinary’ shows there’s still life in the superhero genre  
Updated 02 February 2023

Review: ‘Extraordinary’ shows there’s still life in the superhero genre  

Review: ‘Extraordinary’ shows there’s still life in the superhero genre  
  • New British comedy series is as clever as it is risqué  

LONDON: Shows such as “The Boys” and “Invincible” have shown that, though the superhero genre can often feel a mite overcrowded, there remains some scope for creative (albeit alternative) freedom.  

Into that space steps “Extraordinary” — a UK comedy series that’s part of the first wave of British content commissioned by Disney+ under its Star banner.  

“Extraordinary” is set in a world where everybody gets a superpower when they turn 18 years old. (Supplied)

Created and written by Emma Moran, “Extraordinary” is set in a world where everybody gets a superpower when they turn 18 years old. Everybody except Jen (Mairead Tyers), that is, who is about to turn 25 and still doesn’t appear to be gifted in any way whatsoever. Jen lives with her flatmate and best friend Carrie (who channels the deceased in her job at a solicitors), Carrie’s feckless boyfriend Kash (who can turn back time and dreams of being a vigilante), and their cat (who may not even be a cat at all). 

Given that starting premise, you might expect a narrative arc of loving self-discovery and acceptance — not least because Disney is behind the show. And while there is an air of predictable familiarity about this eight-episode first season, “Extraordinary” carves out an identity all its own with a charming blend of risqué humor and observational affirmation. 

Without giving too much away, Jen is such a likable lead character because Tyers makes her so wonderfully, fallibly human. Sure, there might be flying delivery drivers and invisible muggers, but people still go on awkward first dates, still humiliate themselves during job interviews, and still get let down by their lazy boyfriends, even if said boyfriend has the ability to reverse his mistakes by squeezing his eyes shut. 

There are some missteps, certainly — a few of the gags feel overused, for example, and some of the supporting characters feel a little flimsy and cartoonish — but “Extraordinary” has a novel concept, an exciting young creator with bags of ideas, a talented bunch of actors who buy into the silliness of it all, and enough energy and pep to live up to its name.