VENICE: US actress-director Olivia Wilde’s second feature “Don't Worry Darling,” which screened at the 79th edition of the Venice Film Festival, is stirring up controversy in the media due to rumored tensions between the cast and director.
But, in all fairness, I must say that it is a decent work and deserves headlines for its strengths rather that the endless memes and commentary videos it has generated online. Written with sincerity by Katie Silberman and designed brilliantly by Katie Byron, Wilde herself has nicely set the mood for her uncomfortable dream-to-nightmare story. Its luscious visuals and pop superstar Harry Styles in his first lead performance are scintillating factors, but somewhere en route the film stutters.
It is the 1950s and Florence Pugh is Alice in a seemingly happy marriage to Jack (Styles) — who has drop dead gorgeous looks and is hugely successful. The pair recently moved to Victory, a middle-class area bang in the middle of the remote Southern California desert. Jack works for Victory Project, a company that deals with “top secret affairs,” but Alice is blissfully unaware of this — she believes that her husband is an engineer focusing on development projects. But when one of the wives, Margaret (Kiki Layne), begins to find out the truth, Alice is shaken out of her reverie and she begins to view the company's charismatic leader, Frank (Chris Pine), and his glacial wife, played by Gemma Chan, with suspicion.
Pine plays a fascinating cult leader-type character and the sinister goings on begin to unfold when the happy couple attend a party at Frank’s house.
The movie resonates with much of what is happening today: Frank resembles some of our de facto cult leaders and the kind of authoritarianism he deploys is glaringly similar to what we are witnessing in the world now.
Wilde is trying to say something, though in a very covert fashion that lacks originality. However, it is an interesting plot as “Don't Worry Darling” gives the viewer everything to worry about, with Alice — a superb performance by Pugh — pushing the narrative forward. Shaken out of her romantic reverie, she faces one shock after another as she is shaken to her core.
Artist Amira Nazer celebrates Jeddah women through mermaid-inspired exhibition
Home city of Jeddah provides inspiration for Amira Nazer showcase
Artist hopes to inspire conversation about physicality and experience through artwork
Updated 27 November 2022
JEDDAH: Artist Amira Nazer is showcasing her first solo exhibition at Hafez Gallery in Jeddah until Dec. 24.
“Huriyyat Jeddah,” which is curated by Basma Harasani, presents a series of photo sculptures that explores the tension, freedom, and beauty present in women’s lives through the use of fabric and the metaphor of the mermaid.
Nazer, who was born and raised in the historic port city, says she is proud of her roots.
She told Arab News: “It’s the biggest influence on how I conceive the world. Everything I experience is coming through the eyes of a Saudi woman.”
Nazer’s artistic journey began while she was a student at Columbia University in New York. Her passion for art prompted her to pursue a double major in political science and the visual arts.
She became aware of the stereotypes that surround Arab women while photographing friends.
She said: “It was always associated very negatively, like there was this imposition of coverage.
“I’ve always been drawn to material, and growing up while expressing myself in clothes was how I chose to differentiate myself and be creative.
“It was weird for a white man to tell me I’m oppressed. No, this is my choice. And it got me thinking of fabric.”
Nazer’s dream of a beautiful mermaid emerging from the sea, the debate over freedom or restriction and its parallels with Arab women and their garments, heavily influenced her work.
And the 23-year-old draws on this visual concept to communicate the individual’s experience of being comfortable in one’s physicality in relation to the environment felt by her subjects in her photographs.
It was important to the artist not to dictate the experience of the girls, all of whom lived in Jeddah but came from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Encouraging them to choose how they wanted to cover their body, Nazer captures various physical narratives while, working with stylist and childhood friend Latifa Bint Saad, she chose fabrics that represented her youth and the Saudi home, such as shalki and gingham.
The earthy tones emphasize the natural environment, which is central to the series, while the use of pink introduces femininity.
The images were printed onto the fabrics in which the women were photographed to reinforce the message.
Nazer experiments with the use and meaning of “material” to represent the composition of existence and the idea of materializing photographs into reality.
“Hurriyat Jeddah,” which means “The Mermaids of Jeddah,” is an exhibition that reflects Nazer’s journey as a Saudi woman, and those of many around the world who are subjected to others dictating their reality.
Nazer said: “What I hope to evoke is a conversation, exactly like I had with myself when I had the dream.
“This is what this piece is about: the voices of the women of Jeddah and the beauty of the experience in all its complexity.
“Diversity within the framework is what unifies it. There’s no one way; there’s no wrong way or right way. The differences in the experience are what unites it.”
French Tunisian actress Sonia Ben Ammar to star in ‘The Equalizer 3’
Updated 27 November 2022
DUBAI: French Tunisian actress Sonia Ben Ammar is set to star in “The Equalizer 3” alongside lead stars Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning.
The film’s plot is being kept under wraps, but it is the third in an action series centered on Washington’s vigilante character Robert McCall. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the first film in the series was released in 2014 and earned more than $194 million worldwide, spurring a 2018 sequel that grossed over $190 million worldwide.
On Saturday, Deadline reported that Ben Ammar was among six new stars set to join the ensemble cast, including Eugenio Mastrandrea (“From Scratch”), Remo Girone (“Ford v. Ferrari”), Daniele Perrone (“Baaria”), Andrea Scarduzio (“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”) and Andrea Dodero (“Blocco 181”). Italian actress Gaia Scodellaro will also star in the film, as previously announced.
Ben Ammar has joined the ever-growing list of rising Arab stars working their way up the ladder in Hollywood.
She said that “Scream” was a new experience for her because, unlike the film’s loyal fanbase, she does not like scary movies.
“Doing something that scares me and being a part of that was interesting,” she said, adding “But I think being part of the behind-the-scenes process of being in it really takes a lot of the scary elements out of it. When I saw the movie (at) the screening for the first time, I was jumping up from my seat.”
Although “Scream” marked Ben Ammar’s first high-profile Hollywood gig as an actress, it is not the Paris-born actress’s first foray into the film industry.
Ben Ammar, who is the daughter of Tunisian film director Tarek Ben Ammar and Polish-born actress Beata, previously starred in Guillaume Canet’s French-language film “Jappeloup,” as well as the stage musical “1789: Les Amants de la Bastille.”
Before following in the footsteps of her parents, the multi-hyphenate made headway in the fashion world as a model, fronting campaigns for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu and Chanel.
Mathew Knowles keen to explore Arab music at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures
Updated 27 November 2022
Shyama Krishna Kumar
DUBAI: Mathew Knowles, the architect of Destiny’s Child and his daughters Beyonce and Solange Knowles’ early solo careers, is more than ready to give his keynote speech at the second edition of Saudi Arabia's XP Music Futures music conference.
“I’m like a sponge ready to embrace and take in the local culture, food, the streets, art and the people. I want to listen to their music, I want to talk to the talent, I want to understand what moves the community and what impact music has on their lives and their economy,” said Knowles in an interview with Arab News.
This will be Knowles’ first visit to Saudi Arabia and he says he has been hard at work researching the country. “It seems like there’s a lot of growth and inspiration currently taking place which I’m really looking forward to experiencing. I want to be able to walk to different places – whether live events or restaurants – and understand the role that music plays within the Saudi community,” said Knowles.
“I’m also looking forward to the music conference to be able to meet and engage with policymakers and government representatives and understand the strategy for Saudi Arabia from a cultural and entertainment standpoint,” he added.
Titled “Reinvention & Relevance: Building Longevity in Your Career with Mathew Knowles,” Knowles keynote speech will feature tips for Saudi and regional talent on how to breathe life into their music and entertainment career.
“The music industry worldwide is a very tough one. It’s not easy to be an artist and stand out amongst a pool of talent, but with passion, artists are able to fuel their love for building a successful music career. It helps develop those essential traits needed to put in the hard work required for success and reflects in the work ethic and level of patience,” said Knowles when asking what musicians need to do in order to stand out.
“In Saudi Arabia, there’s a huge opportunity to tear down walls and build bridges to establish those foundations required for a successful music industry so talent can excel and shine on stages, which is what I’m most excited about being part of,” he added.
Knowles is also keen to understand the scope of Arab music when he visits Riyadh. “I’ve been researching and listening to all types of Arabic music but to me, I couldn’t really define what it meant. I hear a lot of traditional tunes, but is that the direction Arabic music is going in, or is that considered for an older audience? I’ve learnt that half of the population is of 25 years and younger so I’m eager to understand what appeals to them,” he said.
“I also wonder would (Arab) music be defined by the beats, or the sounds of the instruments, the lyrics or overall melody? For instance, African music has approached the marketplace with new sounds that have excited crowds worldwide: Afro beats or afro pop. From everything I’ve read and seen, I believe there’s huge potential to unlock those unique Arab sounds, if not done so already, which would help local artists connect with global audiences,” he added.
XP Music Futures is set to take place in Riyadh from Nov. 28-30.
Dutch Moroccan model Imaan Hammam stars in charitable zine
Updated 27 November 2022
DUBAI: Dutch Moroccan Egyptian model Imaan Hammam was photographed for a 36-page zine by Australian photographer Max Papendieck, with all proceeds from the sale of the self-published work going to the She’s The First (STF) organization.
Hammam is an ambassador for the grassroots organization that helps empower young women through education around the world.
She was photographed by New York-based Papendieck for an image-based zine that comes with a displayable plexiglass case.
Hammam first teamed up with STF in 2019, when she brought her Instagram followers along on a learning trip to visit young girls in The Gambia.
“The girls and boys were getting ready for the talent show that was taking place that day. I was so excited to see what they were working on, from dancing to poetry to singing. My role for the day was to accompany them and offer any advice that I might have,” she later explained of the “life changing trip” on Instagram.
The 26-year-old model previously opened up about her involvement with the non-profit organization and how she hopes to champion young women in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar US.
“Being a woman and having this type of career and this job, I just felt like at some point I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I have to help women like me, or girls like me, to tell them and show them that you’re able to dream big and be able to pursue any kind of dream you have,’ she said of her partnership with She’s the First.
During the conversation, the model also revealed that her mother, who immigrated to the Netherlands aged 19, is a huge source of inspiration for her.
“I just have so much respect for her and for her journey that she had,” she said. “My mom didn't always have it very easy, and I feel like I did. And that's why I think I'm so strong about helping women like my mom, or some girls like me that have always had a dream.”
Hammam is one of the most in-demand models in the industry. She 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 icon Mohammed Abdu — ‘The Artist of the Arabs’
In our latest Arab Icons feature, we profile the Saudi singer, oud player and composer who remains one of Khaleeji music’s biggest draws
Updated 26 November 2022
DUBAI: With a career spanning 60 years, Saudi singer and oudist Mohammed Abdu, dubbed ‘The Artist of the Arabs,’ has been an inspiration to many — and not just for his music.
Abdu was born in Asir province, Saudi Arabia, on June 12, 1949. His father, a fisherman, died when Abdu was just three years old, leaving behind his wife and five other children.
Unable to provide for her children, Abdu’s mother surrendered her children to Ribat Abu-Zinadah — a local Yemenite hospital for orphaned families. She then petitioned King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to find her children places at an orphanage, which he did. Abdu spent the remainder of his childhood in an orphanage in Jeddah.
“This was really the actual struggle,” Abdu once said in an interview on Rotana’s “Ya Hala” show. “I remember every moment and every detail in my life. God gave me a memory that helps me remember things from when I was one. My struggles were of a child who wanted to be like the rest of the children in his neighborhood. They were all rich. I would see this and dream of reaching this level one day.”
This was Abdu’s motive to work hard and build a name for himself. His got his first job when he was only seven, as an assistant to a mailman. He also raised money by helping housewives with their shopping and selling fruit and vegetables on the street.
While he was interested in music as a kid, Abdu’s dream was to be involved with sailing or seamanship, like his father. He even joined a shipbuilding institute. But eventually, he abandoned the idea of becoming a sailor and turned to his true calling: music.
Abdu began his music career in the 1960s when Saudi presenter Abbas Faiq Ghazzawi invited him to sing on the radio show “Baba Abbas.” Two songs in particular — “Al-Rasayel” and “Ab’ad” — became extremely popular. Both remain part of his live sets today.
“Ab’ad” was a hit around the world, with Iranian and Indian translations both garnering airplay, and even European bands performing covers of the track.
With his strong voice and distinctive style of oud playing — reminiscent of the Syrian-Egyptian virtuoso Farid Al-Atrash, Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, and fellow Saudi Talal Maddah — Abdu toured the world. It was at a concert in Tunisia in the 1980s that he first received the soubriquet “The Artist of the Arabs,” from then-Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba.
At the end of the Eighties, Abdu took an abrupt sabbatical from music after the death of his beloved mother. It would be eight years before he performed or released another track.
Aside from being an acclaimed performer, Abdu is also a talented composer in his own right. He wrote several of his own tracks, including “Al Remsh Al Taweel,” “Ya Shoog” and “Ya Sherouq Al Shams,” but has also written for other stars, including the Egyptian singer Carmen Soliman, who partnered with Abdu after winning the first season of “Arab Idol,” releasing the 2014 Khaleeji track “Akhbari.”
Soliman told Arab News that composer Abdul Latif Al-Sheikh was the driving force behind this perhaps unexpected partnership. “He wished for a collaboration like that to happen, and he worked a lot until he made it happen,” she said. “I would like to thank him for choosing me. I could not believe it at the time. I felt like I would have a song in my history that would never be forgotten. And everyone would know that this song was composed by Mohammed Abdu.
“He was my favorite singer to listen to,” she continued. “To me, Mohammed Abdu is a legend (whose like we will not see again). I love his voice. He has an amazing, strong voice. Through it, he can reach the hearts of the audience. I love his music.”
Soliman cited “Ma’ad Badri,” “Ala El-Bal” and “Shebeeh El-Reeh” as some of her favorite Abdu songs. “His performance in these songs is non-replicable,” she said.
Soliman also praised Abdu’s humility, which she said is not common among artists these days. “That, and his humor,” she said. “You feel like you are sitting with someone from your family. He is very down-to-earth and close to the heart.”
Soliman is not the only singer who hails Abdu as an icon. Saudi artist Hassan Eskandarani, who is also a researcher of Saudi songs, told Arab News: “Mohammed Abdu is an independent school. He sang to all categories.
“I can’t give my opinion on an artist who has (such a long) career,” he added. “Mohammed Abdu lives through three generations from the beginning of the Sixties. He played a pivotal role in expanding Khaleeji music outside of the Kingdom. I hope he keeps singing until he decides to stop.”
Eskandarani says Abdu is “a stage master,” who has had a major influence on his own live performances.
“Not everyone who sings a song on stage is a (real) singer,” he said. “Mohammed knows how to choose (songs) the fans like, so they engage with him.”
Abdu remains a vital and relevant musician. Only this month, he reportedly broke the record for the biggest acquisition of an artist’s back catalog (which includes an astonishing 122 albums) in the Middle East when Rotana announced on Nov. 8 that it had bought the rights to his works.
“Rotana signed the largest deal of its kind in the Middle East – the agreement to purchase the full artistic content of Arab artist Mohammed Abdu,” the label announced on Instagram.
Chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority Turki Al-Sheikh said at the event: “It is a courageous move from Mohammed Abdu to give up (these precious) works that he worked hard on for 60 years. It is similar to someone giving away one of his children.
“We at the General Entertainment Authority support the archiving of the artistic history of Saudi artists,” he added. “However, Mohamed Abdu remains ahead of the rest of the artists.”