Why Arab fans are loving ‘House of the Dragon,’ despite ‘horrific’ ‘Game of Thrones’ finale season 

Why Arab fans are loving ‘House of the Dragon,’ despite ‘horrific’ ‘Game of Thrones’ finale season 
Emma D’Arcy and Matt Smith in ‘House of the Dragon.’ (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 01 September 2022

Why Arab fans are loving ‘House of the Dragon,’ despite ‘horrific’ ‘Game of Thrones’ finale season 

Why Arab fans are loving ‘House of the Dragon,’ despite ‘horrific’ ‘Game of Thrones’ finale season 

DUBAI: It is the comeback no one could have predicted. Having disappointed fans with its lackluster final season only three years ago, many were skeptical about HBO’s highly publicized “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon,” streaming in the region now on OSN+.

But the dragons have returned and so have the fans — and with gusto.




Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen in ‘House of the Dragon.’ (Supplied) 

Award-winning filmmaker, movie reviewer, and head of film at the SAE Institute in Dubai, Razan Takash, aka Razz Reviews, is not surprised that fans have returned despite previous disappointment, revealing that she herself tuned in despite a fair bit of cynicism.

She said: “I think people are coming back because the world that was established in the beginning (of ‘Game of Thrones’) was so fantastic. The horrific, horrific ending of GoT bothered a lot of people not just because it was bad. It was also because it was so bad compared to something that was so wonderful.

“Trying to remember the good times after a breakup is very tough. So (‘House of the Dragon’) is more like, ‘oh, this is why we were together in the first place.’ And that world is just so wonderful and immersive and even cinematic. It feels like a giant movie and is very engrossing and engaging. And I think people gravitate toward that, especially if the story is told well,” Takash added.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by OSN+ (@osn)

For some fans, the lure of discovering more back story and lore to George R.R. Martin’s immersive world was too enticing to ignore.

UAE-based comedian and social media personality, Maha Jaafar, said: “I definitely loved ‘House of the Dragon’ a lot because I have always been curious about the back story of ‘Game of Thrones’ and the original story of where everything started. So, this answers a lot of questions, and it is very satisfying to a huge GoT fan.

“What I loved is reliving the GoT feeling again and having the same feeling. The magnificent locations and scenes in the show and all the details. Also, the thrill and excitement,” she added.

Ashley Rite, vice president of marketing and growth at OSN+, noted the relief many fans felt when they sat down to watch the show, episode two of which aired on Sunday.

“As a ‘Game of Thrones’ fan myself, I am pleased to see the series exceed all expectations. ‘House of the Dragon’ is the fantasy series we’ve all been waiting for since our last excursion into Westeros nearly three years ago.

“Alongside some of the best storytelling on screen today, the series presents a strong cast, amazing sets, and incredible cinematic visual effects, making for pure anticipated viewing each week,” Rite said.




Paddy Considine in ‘House of the Dragon.’ (Supplied)

It is a narrative that runs through many of the fan comments online, with social media users breathing a sigh of relief that the new show was staying true to what made the initial seasons of “Game of Thrones” so addictive.

In a tweet, Saudi Arabia-based designer and series fan Mohanad, said: “I feel like I’m going back to the old ‘Game of Thrones’ atmosphere.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by OSN+ (@osn)

Series fan Saeed Arjumand told Arab News he was happy to be pulled back into the world of “Game of Thrones” despite the letdown that was the final season.

The Emirati illustrator and owner of Dubai-based comic books store Comic Stop said: “Originally, I had no hopes for the show. Most spin-offs or shows that try to follow in another’s footsteps seem to fall flat or fail. I think especially with this one, the end of ‘Game of Thrones’ left a sour taste in a lot of fans’ mouths. But I was happy to be proven wrong by the plot as it got me interested right away.

“So far, Prince Daemon is my favorite character, I love a good villain and (actor) Matt Smith is great. Matt Smith doesn’t take light roles and I feel lately he’s been branching out more to types of characters we haven’t seen him play. Everyone knows him from ‘Doctor Who’ as the good guy but it’s nice to see him play the uncle who just wants the crown,” Arjumand added.

UAE-based marketing specialist Manar Al-Harthi, said the prequel show filled a void left by “Game of Thrones.”

“Westors is filled with stories and legends yet to be told. After ‘Game of Thrones,’ I am just glad we have ‘House of the Dragon’ to fill that void. So far it did not disappoint, and I am looking forward to the seasons to come.”

Having read the book “House of the Dragon” is based on, reviewer Takash said she was excited to experience a series of “Red Weddings” in the coming episodes, referring to one of the most brutal and shocking episodes in “Game of Thrones” history.




Episode two of ‘House of the Dragon’ drew in 10.2 million viewers across HBO and HBO Max. (Supplied)

“It’s going to be very, very brutal, and very personal, more personal than it ever got on ‘Game of Thrones’ because it’s family members that are turning against each other. And it’s basically the beginning of the collapse of one of the strongest families in the mythology of ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’”

Episode two of “House of the Dragon,” drew in 10.2 million viewers across HBO and HBO Max, which is available in 61 countries, according to Warner Bros. Discovery. This marks a 2 percent increase from the premiere episode, which was viewed by nearly 10 million people on those platforms, not including viewers who watched both episodes on international platforms licensed to air the show – such as OSN+ in the Middle East.


Saudi Arabia’s NEOM attracts first Bollywood shoot with ‘Dunki’

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM attracts first Bollywood shoot with ‘Dunki’
‘Dunki’ stars Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2022

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM attracts first Bollywood shoot with ‘Dunki’

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM attracts first Bollywood shoot with ‘Dunki’

DUBAI: NEOM has attracted its first Bollywood shoot, with “Dunki,” starring Shah Rukh Khan, having filmed at the location.

The announcement was made at the second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah on Sunday, with Wayne Borg, the managing director of NEOM, adding that 200-episode-a-year Saudi soap opera “Exceptional,” produced by MBC, would also be shot at one of the region’s new sound stages.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk)

Borg also addressed nearby competitor Abu Dhabi, which has turned into a hotspot for Hollywood shoots in recent years, saying: “I think our ambitions are much greater than theirs,” according to Variety.

Neom has hosted an estimated 26 productions over the past 18 months, including “Desert Warrior,” which stars US actor Anthony Mackie and is directed by Rupert Wyatt.


Saudi director highlights mental health struggles in ‘Lucky You Are Mine’ at RSIFF

Saudi director highlights mental health struggles in ‘Lucky You Are Mine’ at RSIFF
The film, inspired by true events, is a love story between a newlywed Saudi couple. (Supplied)
Updated 04 December 2022

Saudi director highlights mental health struggles in ‘Lucky You Are Mine’ at RSIFF

Saudi director highlights mental health struggles in ‘Lucky You Are Mine’ at RSIFF

JEDDAH: Saudi director Nora Aboushousha’s film “Lucky You Are Mine,” which sheds light on mental illness in Saudi Arabia, is screening at the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

The film, inspired by true events, is a love story between a newlywed Saudi couple who are working through their struggles to keep their bond alive and thriving. 

Aboushousha chose to represent mental health in her film because of the tremendous struggle the person affected, and people around them, go through. 

“Let alone if they lack the knowledge. As I watched more people around me and loved ones suffer from mental breakdowns, depression and anxiety, I started to notice how big of an impact it has not only on the lives of those suffering but their loved ones too. I witnessed a few relationships come to an end because of mental health issues,” she said. 

“Then I saw two (people) who decided to weather the storm ... it touched me and inspired me,” she added. 

Aboushousha said that stories in general have always been a means of escape and comfort for her. She has been touched by many writers; some films and books have helped her through tough times while others have shaped her personality. “Maybe my film can do the same to others,” the director said. 

The film's poster. (Supplied)

Aboushousha said that the challenges she faced were not gender specific, and her being a woman in the field did not make a difference. “The biggest challenge we faced was filming during Ramadan when most of talent and crew were booked with bigger projects.”

While making the film, Aboushousha enjoyed the support of her cast and crew, friends and family, and even some of the professionals in the industry whom she had never worked with offered help and advice when needed. 

“Raghad Al-Faisand and Hasan Qudus were generous with their time. We rehearsed daily for almost a month, in which Hasan would travel from Makkah to do the rehearsals,” she said. 

Speaking about some of the challenges, Aboushousha said that the “editor who was going to edit the film found himself stuck in Ramadan season, and my friend Ali Al-Attas volunteered to edit.”


Riyadh’s Hia Hub 2022 looking to go bigger and better, says editor-in-chief

Riyadh’s Hia Hub 2022 looking to go bigger and better, says editor-in-chief
The 3-day program will take place in Riyadh’s historic Ad-Diriyah from Dec. 8-10. (Supplied)
Updated 04 December 2022

Riyadh’s Hia Hub 2022 looking to go bigger and better, says editor-in-chief

Riyadh’s Hia Hub 2022 looking to go bigger and better, says editor-in-chief
  • Magazine’s annual conference is back with 2nd edition
  • 3-day program in Riyadh’s historic Ad-Diriyah to take place from Dec. 8-10

DUBAI: Expanding on a successful platform built in 2021, Hia magazine’s Hia Hub 2022 will offer more interactive experiences and celebrity talks at the event’s second edition in Riyadh, editor-in-chief Mia Badr told Arab News.

“Since its inception, Hia magazine has been in the service of representing and catering to the Arab woman, particularly the Saudi woman who is sophisticated, discerning, complex and multi-dimensional. Throughout our journey, we have always championed her voice, told her stories, engaged and inspired her with insightful and thought-provoking writing and exciting fashion trends. That said, Hia Hub was envisioned as a platform to bridge international and regional audiences," said Mia Badr, editor-in-chief of Hia Magazine, in an interview with Arab News.

“We are celebrating our 30-year anniversary this year, along with our second season of Hia Hub, and there is no other place that would be better suited than to host the event where it all started, and where it will continue to flourish and grow — here in Saudi Arabia,” she added.

Badr said that the event is meant to reshape the boundaries of “leadership, entrepreneurship and creativity for the Hia fashion community.”

With the fashion industry exploding and growing at an exponential rate in Saudi Arabia, Badr is excited for Hia Hub to be at the center of the conversation.

“Local designers are gaining traction with brands and designers such as Mohammed Ashi gaining critical acclaim from global media; Hindamme; Mohammad Khoja’s brand currently has pieces on display in London’s V&A Museum; you’ve got young trailblazers like Arwa Al-Banawi, known for her fresh and contemporary RTW namesake brand who has collaborated with Adidas and Levi’s; all of them are making an impact on their home turf and gaining recognition on a wider scale,” said Badr.

When asked about her favorite speakers from this edition’s lineup, Badr refused to play favorites. “They are all exceptional in their respective fields, so it really comes down to what particular topic you are interested in. We’ve covered all topics of interest and relevance from female leadership, to how to build a beauty brand, sustainability, the rise of craftsmanship in culture, the new generation of creatives impacting the fashion sphere, styling and make up workshops and so much … there’s really something for everyone, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that they are all great!”

Some of the big-name speakers expected to attend the event include US fashion designer Zac Posen, iconic Hollywood stylist Law Roach, Emirati singer Balqees Fathi, French Moroccan fashion designer Charaf Tajer, celebrity stylist Cedric Haddad and Iraqi US beauty mogul Mona Kattan.

The speakers and topics were chosen with the cultural resonance in the region in mind. “We made it a point to have representation and diversity, inviting professional candidates from the region as well as from abroad to ensure a broad spectrum and different points of view for candid and thought-provoking conversations,” said Badr.

Guests can learn more about Hia Hub by visiting hiahub.com.


‘The Last Queen’ director talks pandemic delays, Red Sea premiere

‘The Last Queen’ director talks pandemic delays, Red Sea premiere
A still from the film. (Supplied)
Updated 04 December 2022

‘The Last Queen’ director talks pandemic delays, Red Sea premiere

‘The Last Queen’ director talks pandemic delays, Red Sea premiere

DUBAI: When French Algerian director Damien Ounouri was in his late teens, he knew he wanted to go into filmmaking. It was the 1990s and Ounouri consumed films by major Western directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and Brian De Palma.  

“For me, a new world opened in front of my eyes,” Ounouri told Arab News. “I felt that it was what I wanted to do in my life — to express my point of view, to tell stories and try to create emotions.” 

Fast-forward to 2022 and he is showcasing his latest directorial effort, “The Last Queen” — co-directed with lead star Adila Bendimerad — at Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival, which partly funded the project.  

The film has already been screened at film festivals in Venice, Montpellier and Hamburg, but the Dec. 5 screening marks its MENA region premiere.  

“The Red Sea Film Festival is quite important because it’s the MENA premiere,” Ounouri said. “We didn't screen it in Algeria yet. . . It's a new, natural market.”  

Set in 1516, “The Last Queen” is a historical drama, narrating the story of the legendary Queen Zaphira (played by Bendimerad), wife of the last king of Algiers, who defends her people against the arrival of the conquering pirate Barbarossa. 

“We don't know if she existed,” says Ounouri. “In Algiers, her story is well-known. . . Adila told me about her story, saying that this queen was fighting Barbarossa. Zaphira existed in books since the 17th century. With Adila, we worked a lot with a film that has a feminine angle. For me, it's not feminism, it's just humanism.”  

To properly capture this ancient era on film, shooting took place in Algeria's museums, mosques and palaces in the cities of Algiers and Tlemcen. The film is full of sumptuous costumes — around 2,000 outfits were made for the production.

The film was shot in Algeria's historic locations. (Supplied)
​​​​

Shooting began in March 2020, but everything ground to a halt due to the pandemic and filming resumed in October 2021. “There was a lot of pressure,” said Ounouri on the intervening period. “But we used this time to push the details and the quality. During one year-and-a-half, we worked a lot more on the set design and costumes and the film is better now.” 


Dior Men presents Celestial collection in Cairo  

Dior Men presents Celestial collection in Cairo  
The showcase was set against the majestic backdrop of Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2022

Dior Men presents Celestial collection in Cairo  

Dior Men presents Celestial collection in Cairo  

DUBAI: Hollywood star and Dior global ambassador Robert Pattinson was on the front row as the label presented its Celestial collection on Saturday, set against the majestic backdrop of Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Dior Official (@dior)

Kim Jones, the creative director of Dior Men, had 75 models present new looks from the French fashion house. 

Other famous faces spotted at the event included South Korean rapper Sehun, South Korean singer, actor and model Cha Eun-woo, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, Scottish actor Thomas Doherty and British supermodel Naomi Campbell. 

The show took place in front of the Pyramids of Giza. (AFP)

Stars from the Middle East included Tunisian actor and filmmaker Dhafer L’Abidine, Egyptian actor Amr Youssef and Egyptian Canadian “Aladdin” actor Mena Massoud. 

A model hits the runway in Dior Men's latest collection. (AFP)