Review: ‘The Son’ at the Venice Film Festival is powerful and award worthy 

Review: ‘The Son’ at the Venice Film Festival is powerful and award worthy 
“The Son” underlines in bold the importance of the relationship between children and their parents. (YouTube)
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Updated 09 September 2022

Review: ‘The Son’ at the Venice Film Festival is powerful and award worthy 

Review: ‘The Son’ at the Venice Film Festival is powerful and award worthy 

VENICE: One of the most gripping offerings at the 79th edition of the Venice Film Festival, “The Son” underlines in bold the importance of the relationship between children and their parents. 

The immensely gifted French playwright Florian Zeller’s trilogy on mental health issues ends with “The Son,” following the hugely successful “The Mother” and “The Father,” for which lead star Anthony Hopkins walked away with an Oscar in 2021.

He appears again in “The Son,” but it is more of a cameo appearance even though his name appears at the top of the credits. It is, however, a superb cameo. 

“The Son” deals with a teenager experiencing suicidal thoughts. In the film, he focuses his camera on 17-year-old New Yorker Nicholas (a memorable performance by newcomer Zen McGrath). 

“I am in pain. All the time,” he declares in a pained cry for help that will resonate with viewers long after the credits roll.

One night, Nicolas’s mother, Kate (Laura Dern), walks into her ex-husband, Peter’s (Hugh Jackman) home to say “he scares me.” Peter is a big shot planning to enter politics, but takes time off from work and his present wife, Beth (Vanessa Kirby), and their new-born child to talk to Nicolas, who insists he would like to live with his dad. 

The father has no clue what needs to be done, which is not uncommon for family members dealing with teenagers with depression. This uncertainty infuses the movie with a disturbing feeling. You know what could happen, and yet are not sure how to prevent it. The viewer becomes as torn as the teenager’s parents over whether to follow the doctor’s advice or Nicolas’s emotional plea to take him out of the psychiatric hospital.

A workaholic, Peter is desperately trying to be a good father, fighting off his experience with his own father (Hopkins), and there is a telling and terse confrontation between the two when the older man says “it was 40 years ago, get over it and move on.” It is a powerful commentary on the role of fathers in the household — a relationship that is only recently being explored on the big screen.  

The sets have been deliberately scaled down and the ambient noise of New York is toned down, perhaps to ensure our attention remains laser focused on the core of the narrative. Zeller wants audiences to think about how mentally ill the world is today — in a state of intense anxiety — something that has been accentuated by the pandemic. Jackman’s excellent performance as a man thoroughly perplexed helps push the plot, and the dialogue imaginatively adapted into English from the original French play by Christopher Hampton makes “The Son” a worthy contender for the Golden Lion award in Venice — and possibly even the Academy Awards. 


US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival  

US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival  
Updated 03 December 2022

US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival  

US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival  

JEDDAH: Lauded US director Oliver Stone took part in a roundtable discussion at the ongoing Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.  

When asked by Arab News if he would consider filming in Saudi Arabia, he said: “My time is limited, I’m 76 years old. What do you want me to do, come down here and learn a whole different culture? No, I don’t think that’s possible. I have one project in mind, which I can’t tell you because nobody knows about it and if I can get that done, I would be very happy.” 

 

 

“The Middle East has tremendous potential, economically too. People are putting money here, no question,” he added.  

When commenting on film’s ability to act as a cultural bridge, he said “I imagine cinema has played a huge role, but on the other hand cinema is also very violent and revenge-motivated — those stories always seem to work — so you could say that’s not a good example for the world… so it’s double-edged, it depends on the movie.” 

 

 

Stone’s latest documentary “Nuclear” is screening at the festival on Sunday.  

Prior to his private discussion, the “Scarface” director and RSIFF jury president took to the stage at the opening ceremony of the festival on Thursday to share his views on Saudi Arabia.  

Stone said the country is “much misunderstood in the present world – people who have judged too harshly should come and visit to see for themselves.” He also noted “changes” and “reforms” taking place in the Kingdom, which he said make it worth a visit.  

Commenting on the 15-strong competition slate, the Oscar-winning director said: “These films stick to very basic ideas of survival, migration, suffering. There’s a real spirit here, which is growing,” according to Variety.  

The event will continue until Dec. 10 under the slogan “Film is Everything.”  

The festival is set to showcase 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries, in 41 languages, made by established and emerging talents. Seven feature films and 24 shorts from Saudi Arabia will also be shown. 


Review: Red Sea title ‘Shimoni’ is both devastating and meaningful  

Review: Red Sea title ‘Shimoni’ is both devastating and meaningful  
Updated 03 December 2022

Review: Red Sea title ‘Shimoni’ is both devastating and meaningful  

Review: Red Sea title ‘Shimoni’ is both devastating and meaningful  

JEDDAH: “Shimoni (The Pit)” — part of the ongoing Red Sea International Film Festival — was written and directed with a lot of feeling by Kenya’s Angela Wamai. It is a devastating look at what happens when a community fails to care for a fallen man. Wamai's ability to tell a story through long silences add to the tension, aided by some wonderfully neat editing. The use of light and shade to take us through the moods of the moment to create a fantastic feeling, and our hearts go out to Geoffrey (Justin Mirichii), who suffers through a childhood trauma and a punishingly long jail term.  

Wamai's writing presents an authentic picture of this deeply religious churchgoing village, where the pastor's word is the law. (Supplied)

Released from prison seven years after being charged with homicide, Geoffrey shudders when he is asked to live in the village where he grew up and where horrifying memories torment him. Once a brilliant English teacher, the former convict is uneasy when he is asked to do farm work. His boss is a talkative woman, Martha (Muthoni Gathecha), who is displeased with him.  

The village priest has his own agenda — he wants Geoffrey to repent for his sins and gives the fallen man a sermon every night. But when the pastor insists that the young man meet with the victim's family, the uneasiness is excruciating.   

What ultimately proves to be a tipping point is when village gossip becomes unbearable for him. Beatrice (Vivian Wambui), just about to get out of her teen years, is another source of irritation for him, when her curiosity pushes her to play with fire. 

Wamai's writing presents an authentic picture of this deeply religious churchgoing village, where the pastor's word is the law. The only person who appears outside this circle is Martha, who loves playing the sleuth. Interestingly, the script offers a lovely view of the relationship between her and Geoffrey — their meetings are both tense and witty and the movie, set in the Kenyan countryside, goes to underline the trauma of an individual when he has had a run in with the law.  


Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jessica Alba among chic guests at RSIFF 2022- Women in Cinema gala  

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jessica Alba among chic guests at RSIFF 2022- Women in Cinema gala  
Updated 03 December 2022

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jessica Alba among chic guests at RSIFF 2022- Women in Cinema gala  

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jessica Alba among chic guests at RSIFF 2022- Women in Cinema gala  

JEDDAH: International movie and TV star Priyanka Chopra Jonas made a glittering entrance at the Women in Cinema gala at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah on Friday night. Other glamorous guests included the likes of Jessica Alba, Frieda Pinto, Tara Emad, Lucy Hale, Sharon Stone, Gurinder Chadha, Salma Abu Deif, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and more. 

“Quantico” star Chopra Jonas looked resplendent in a lavish gold gown by Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran. Hollywood actress Alba — famously seen in movies like “Sin City” and “Fantastic Four” — also supported Middle East labels by opting for an elegant, embellished gown from Lebanese couturier Elie Saab. 

Meanwhile, on the opening night of the film festival, stars took to the red carpet and shone a light on Saudi designers. While stars like Sharon Stone, Shah Rukh Khan, Oliver Stone, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and many more graced the red carpet in striking fashion looks, Saudi designers also had their moment to shine at the event. 

Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio dazzled in a blue jumpsuit from Jeddah-based designer Yousef Akbar. She completed the look with a gold bangle and matching stud earrings. The model has often sported creations from Arab designers. Last month, she wore a lime gown by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad to a holiday brunch in Mexico.  

Jomana Al-Rashed, the first Saudi woman to be appointed CEO of the Saudi Research and Media Group, was spotted posing alongside Hollywood star Sharon Stone, wearing Saudi label Loodyana. 

British actress Jacqui Ainsley, known for her role in the 2017 film “King Arthur: legend of the Sword,” took to the red carpet wearing US-based label Dazluq, founded by Saudi designer Salma Zahran. Ashley is married to British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, who was also in attendance. 

Julianne Hough at the Women in Cinema gala dinner. (Getty Images)

Honayda Serafi, founder of the Saudi label Honayda, represented her own brand in a striking green ensemble. “Delighted to be attending the opening ceremony of the second edition of the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, surrounded by successful talents from around the world and celebrating Arab artists. A grand event bridging cultures from West to East, bursting (with) creativity and beauty,” she posted on Instagram, along with shots of her outfit. 

Lebanese influencer Nathalie Fanj was seen wearing an ethereal mermaid black gown from designer Tima Abed. She completed the look with dangling, heart-shaped earrings from Chopard. 


British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi film industry

British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi film industry
Updated 03 December 2022

British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi film industry

British filmmaker Guy Ritchie envisions bright future for Saudi film industry

RIYADH: British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, most famous for his hit gangster films, the "Sherlock Holmes" franchise and his live-action "Aladdin" adaptation, said that Saudi Arabia is ripe for building a successful film industry, at the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

The director was speaking to Arab News on day two of the film festival in Jeddah.

Guy Ritchie at the photocall at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Friday. (Getty Images)

"What's interesting about (Saudi Arabia) is that there's such an explosion of enthusiasm. It's young and it's creative. And there's a high desire to express creativity. That makes it very interesting. So it's trying to couple the inexperience with the enthusiasm, because you have the enthusiasm and the means. And now you've just got to develop some form of experience and sub-structure," said Ritchie about the developing and nascent film industry in Saudi Arabia.

"I don't like making movies in the UK anyway. So I'd rather make movies outside of the UK. We worked in Jordan for 'Aladdin.' And that worked very well for us. We were in Spain for the last film and in Turkey for the film before that. There's no need to get out of the UK but I'd much rather work in in new and exciting environments. And for that really you just need a sub-structure in order to facilitate the ability of making movies. And I'm sure that will happen," added the filmmaker, who is attending the film festival along with his actress-wife Jacqui Ainsley.

Ritchie with his wife Jacqui Ainsley at the opening gala of the Red Sea International Film Festival on Thursday. (Getty Images)

In a separate 'In Conversation' segment on Friday, Ritchie address this topic again and said, "I think I'm very interested in this part of the world. And I think creativity should find its way into this part of the world. That's why I'm here. Really, what we're after is a fusion and the integration of cultural collaboration."

Ritchie went on to explain that for a healthy film industry to be built, incentives and subsidies for film productions are the way to go. "I can't shoot in the UK anymore because it's too busy to shoot there. That's how busy it is. And they've been able to do that because of incentives. So once you have incentives, then the other thing you need is to make a few movies here in Saudi Arabia. So other filmmakers look at the filmmakers that have gone before and then they just trust that," said Ritchie. 

Ritchie first made headlines and found international acclaim with the 1998 British black comedy crime film "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," which he wrote and directed. In an In Conversation panel at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Friday, Ritchie talked about how the film almost didn't get made. 

"This was the hardest film. I mean, it's not coal mining. So you've got relativize it within the world of how hard it is to scratch a living. But the film fell down a 1000 times before it was resurrected. And even when it came to a redistribution, you know, it was out and in and then it was out. And then it came down to, suddenly, there was one particular guy called Chris Evans, in the UK, who saw it and he loved it. And at the time, his show was the most watched show in the UK. And he pulled me on for the next week. That's really what made it a hit. He made a fuss about it, then everyone else would come," said Ritchie.


Sharon Stone gets emotional during Saudi Arabia visit

Sharon Stone gets emotional during Saudi Arabia visit
Updated 02 December 2022

Sharon Stone gets emotional during Saudi Arabia visit

Sharon Stone gets emotional during Saudi Arabia visit
  • ‘Basic Instinct’ star is attending Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah

DUBAI: Hollywood star Sharon Stone was visibly emotional during an In Conversation panel discussion at the Red Sea Film Festival on Friday.

Talking about why she decided to visit Saudi Arabia, the star of “Basic Instinct” and “Catwoman” said: “I’m an envelope breaker, my success is to break the envelope, just like coming here. Everyone said to me, aren’t you afraid? And I said, ‘I’m afraid not to know. So why don’t I go, see how it really is and I’ll tell you?’

Sharon Stone at the opening gala on the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah. (AFP)

“What I’ve learned is that what everybody tells you isn’t always the way it is.”

Stone added that it meant the world to her to be at the festival.

“I’m just a kid from Pennsylvania. I grew up with Amish people who drove into my driveway in their horse and buggy. There was no possibility for me to come to Saudi Arabia to meet you.”

Meanwhile, a clip of her awestruck reaction to being seated next to Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan at the opening night of the festival on Thursday has been doing the rounds on social media.