Arab director Sally El-Hosaini’s ‘The Swimmers’ gets world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival

Arab director Sally El-Hosaini’s ‘The Swimmers’ gets world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival
Jordan Davis, David Kosse, Racheline Benveniste, Manal Issa, Nathalie Issa, Sven Spannekrebs, Sara Mardini, Yusra Mardini, Sally El-Hosaini, James Krishna Floyd and Matthias Schweighöfer attend “The Swimmers” world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. (AFP)
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Updated 10 September 2022

Arab director Sally El-Hosaini’s ‘The Swimmers’ gets world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival

Arab director Sally El-Hosaini’s ‘The Swimmers’ gets world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival

TORONTO: The stars and real-life inspiration for Egyptian Welsh director Sally El-Hosaini’s drama “The Swimmers” strutted along the red carpet this week at the 47th annual Toronto International Film Festival – the first in-person version of Toronto’s celebration of film since the pandemic.

“The Swimmers,” a Netflix film that premieres in some theaters Nov. 23, is a dramatization of Syrian refugee sisters Sarah and Yusra Mardini, played by real-life sisters Nathalie Issa and Manal Issa, who fled their war-torn country by boat and had to swim part of the way to keep the vessel moving.

Yusra was selected to compete for the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and competed again in 2020. Her sister Sara, meanwhile, became active helping refugees.




Sally El-Hosaini is an Egyptian Welsh director. (AFP)

According to the International Organization for Migration, 24,598 people have gone missing in the Mediterranean since 2014.

This reality was driven home when film crews saw dinghies with real-life migrants as they shot the film’s dinghy scene, El-Hosaini told Reuters.

“We saw the dinghies crossing when we were filming. And it just reminds you of how important this story is.”




Manal Issa and Nathalie Issa attend Netflix “The Swimmers” post reception at the Toronto International Film Festival. (AFP)

She said she used handmade lenses with imperfections to portray scenes in a way far removed from news images to keep people from tuning out.

Manal, who plays Sara in the film, said the discourse around refugees and asylum-seekers needs to change in both fiction and news coverage, highlighting what she said was a different approach to refugees fleeing war in Ukraine from those from outside of Europe.

“You know what happened this year with Ukraine: ‘It’s not Afghanistan. It’s not Syria’ ... This is what people believe.”

It was “crazy” to see her life translated to the big screen, Yusra said. Standing beside her sister on the red carpet in a glittering silver sequined dress in front of a series of microphones, she said she knows she and her sister are now uniquely placed to have a strong voice on this issue.

“Obviously this movie is going to put the conversation on the table again, speaking about refugees, speaking about the crisis.”


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

Saudi director highlights mental health struggles in ‘Lucky You Are Mine’ 
The film, inspired by true events, is a love story between a newlywed Saudi couple. (Supplied)
Updated 9 sec ago

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

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

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. 

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 4 min 48 sec ago

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)
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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)

 


Actresses Tara Emad, Ruba Zarour shine at Red Sea premiere of ‘All Roads Lead to Rome’

Actresses Tara Emad, Ruba Zarour shine at Red Sea premiere of ‘All Roads Lead to Rome’
Updated 04 December 2022

Actresses Tara Emad, Ruba Zarour shine at Red Sea premiere of ‘All Roads Lead to Rome’

Actresses Tara Emad, Ruba Zarour shine at Red Sea premiere of ‘All Roads Lead to Rome’

JEDDAH: Egyptian Montenegrin actress Tara Emad and Lebanese American actress Ruba Zarour took over the red carpet ahead of the screening of Lebanese filmmaker Lara Saba’s “All Roads Lead to Rome,” at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah. 

Styled by Cedric Haddad, Emad wore a glittering embellished jumpsuit by Lebanese couturier Elie Saab, paired with jewelry by Cartier. 

Zarour, the leading lady of “All Roads Lead To Rome,” wore a stylish jacket dress from French luxury fashion house Chanel. 

Also attending the screening was popular Egyptian actress-singer Bushra Rozza, wearing a pearlescent green suit from Dubai-based label Lili Blanc, founded by Lebanese designer Sabrina Mouhiedin. 

Ruba Zarour, the leading lady of “All Roads Lead To Rome,” wore a stylish jacket dress from French luxury fashion house Chanel. (Getty Images) 

After the screening, Emad took to Instagram Stories to congratulate Zarour on her performance. “You’re a star. Mabrook @rubazarour. Truly enjoyed this light-hearted and beautiful film. Congrats to the whole incredibly talented cast.” 

The film, produced by Lara and Chadi Haddad, tells the story of Hady (played by Haddad), a famous actor who is shortlisted for the role of the young pope in an international production. 

In preparation for the role, he escapes his hectic life to Qannoubin, where four nuns and a young woman lead him to undergo a transformation. 

The romantic comedy also stars Julia Kassar, Betty Taoutel, Myrna Moukarzel and Cynthia Karam. 

Meanwhile, Saudi actress Fay Fouad attended the screening of “Sattar” and “Hanging Gardens” on Saturday. Also at the star-studded red carpet was Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar, who also took part in an In Conversation segment at the film festival on Saturday. 

Saudi actress Khairiah Abulaban was also spotted on the red carpet ahead of the two screenings. 

Adding to the jam-packed day, Lebanese actor, director and writer Nadine Labaki — who enjoyed breakout success with Oscar-nominated and Cannes Jury Prize-winning third feature “Capernaum” in 2018 — was presented with the Variety International Filmmaker Vanguard award as she addressed the audience in an hour-long In Conversation panel. 

The Red Sea International Film Festival runs until Dec. 10.