DUBAI: A debutant filmmaker is using the metaverse as a platform to share the harrowing story of the 2020 Beirut port blast and its aftermath.
Fahed Abu Salah, who witnessed the tragedy first hand, told Arab News: “I saw the whole thing and all the damage and confusion that happened on that day. No one understood what was going on; it was such a shock for everyone.”
At least 218 people were killed when ammonium nitrate stored at a port facility in the Lebanese capital exploded on Aug. 4, 2020. The deadly blast caused $15 billion in property damage and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless.
Abu Salah’s documentary “Beirut After the Blast” held its metaverse premiere in Dubai at the Waldorf Astoria DIFC this month ahead of its release online. It is now available to stream on the MContent app, one of the first Watch2earn content ecosystems and proponents of Web3 cinema.
“This is a next-generation platform for cinema, I totally believe in it. The app has amazing plug-ins and they provided technical support for everything we asked for,” Abu Salah said.
Umair Masoom, MContent founder and CEO, said in a statement: “One of the key strengths of a Web3 content company and streamer like MContent is our ability to pick up any story that our community wants to shed light on despite any power center disliking the underlying narrative. This premiere further highlights the unique independence of our content empowering filmmakers like Fahed with limited resources to create and widely distribute an incredibly important story.”
Before the explosions, Abu Salah was already dabbling in short videos online, but “Beirut After the Blast” is his first full-length documentary.
“I had two goals when I made the documentary. First of all, I didn’t want anyone to forget what happened. I wanted everything that happened to be documented properly, so people can watch over and over again and more people can know this story,” he said.
“Second, people are suffering as we speak. They want answers and they want closure. Nobody even knows how many people really died. I wanted to look for answers.”
Making the documentary was no walk in the park either. “I had a lot of challenges. Since the explosion is an ongoing investigation, it was hard to get statements from people who are close to the investigation. A lot of the victims also refused to talk because they didn’t want to really remember what happened that day because of the trauma.”
He added: “We were shooting really close to the date of the memorial of the blast, so it was chaotic. There were a lot of protests as we tried to cover everything on that day and that was the closure of the shoot as well. It was hard to get a statement. It was hard to shoot.”
The second look was a black flowy mini dress with cut-out detailing across the chest, which the model styled with a tasseled bag casually slung on her shoulder.
The fashion show featured an array of unique outfits — including sheer tops, oversized jumpers, floral dresses, jeans and crochet items — which British Moroccan model Nora Attal championed.
Attal wore a yacht-perfect crochet bodysuit and a matching bag with fringe detailing.
French Algerian catwalk star Loli Bahia was also part of the star-studded show.
She put on an eye-catching display in an outfit similar to Bella’s all-white look, sporting leather trousers and a cut-out red top.
Bahia also wore reflective silver pants with a white chiffon top featuring a sleeveless neckline.
The part-Arab models all opted for loose hair with natural make-up looks in a bronze pallet.
Another star-studded event at Paris Fashion Week was French jewelry label Messika’s show, which was inspired by ancient Egypt.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell opened the runway on Thursday wearing the new Akh-Ba-Ka set, which was designed by Valérie Messika and is part of the brand’s new jewelry collection titled “Beyond the Light.”
The necklace, which Italian Moroccan model Malika El-Maslouhi wore in the campaign images, is made of white gold with 15 diamonds totaling 71 carats. The entire set is composed of a pair of asymmetrical earrings and a transformable ring that can be worn in three different ways.
Among the guests who watched the show were Gigi, Lebanese singer Maya Diab, Saudi TV presenter Lojain Omran, Egyptian actresses Mai Omar and Enjy Kiwan and Lebanese presenter Diala Makki.
Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood
Updated 30 September 2022
DUBAI: Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai addressed the lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood films during Variety’s recent Power of Women event in the US.
Yousafzai, who was honored at the event, said: “I’ve been doing activism for more than a decade now, and I’ve realized that we shouldn’t limit activism to the work of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) only: There’s also the element of changing people’s minds and perspectives — and that requires a bit more work.”
The 25-year-old, in her new role as a content producer, pointed out that despite Muslims making up 25 percent of the population, there was “only 1 percent of characters in popular TV series.”
Addressing A-list guests including American politician Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, US actress Elizabeth Olsen, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, and the American former actress, and wife of British Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, she added: “You’re often told in Hollywood, implicitly or explicitly, that the characters are too young, too brown, or too Muslim, or that if one show about a person of color is made, then that’s it — you don’t need to make another one. That needs to change.
“I’m a woman, a Muslim, a Pashtun, a Pakistani, and a person of color. And I watched ‘Succession,’ ‘Ted Lasso,’ and ‘Severance,’ where the leads are white people — and especially a lot of white men.
“If we can watch those shows, then I think audiences should be able to watch shows that are made by people of color, and produced and directed by people of color, with people of color in the lead. That is possible, and I’m going to make it happen,” Yousafzai said.
Rapper Post Malone to perform in the UAE in December
Updated 30 September 2022
DUBAI: Nine-time Grammy Award nominee Post Malone is set to perform on Dec. 3 at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Park in celebration of the UAE’s National Day.
The rapper, who sold 95 million singles and 13 million albums in the US alone, is expected to sing a selection of hits from his catalogue, including “Rockstar,” “Psycho,” “Sunflower” and “Better Now,” as well as new tracks from his latest album “Twelve Carat Toothache.”
“I’m excited to be returning to Abu Dhabi and performing for the incredible audience there again,” said Malone, whose real name is Austin Richard Post, in a released statement. “The crowd for my last show there were electric and I can’t wait to take to the stage and perform for my fans in the Middle East. Together, we’re going to enjoy a fantastic weekend.”
The 27-year-old singing sensation performed in Abu Dhabi in 2018 for the Formula 1 Yasalam After-Race concerts.
Malone, who is the eighth best-selling digital artist of all time, rose to fame for his unique blend of hip hop, pop, R&B and trap genres and subgenres.
REVIEW: ‘Andor’ might test ‘Star Wars’ fans patience, but it could just be worth it
New show is short on lightsabers and spaceships, but big on color and atmosphere
Updated 30 September 2022
LONDON: For all the “Star Wars” universe’s recent movie missteps, its TV storytelling has never been in a better place — recent shows such as “The Mandalorian,” “Visions” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” have been some of the most enjoyable material to slot into the galaxy far, far away since George Lucas originally put pen to paper in the 1970s.
But that comes with an added layer of pressure too, like that hanging over “Andor” — the latest show to be added to the growing pantheon of “Star Wars” small-screen entries. The series is a prequel to a prequel, in fact: “Andor” charts the origins of Cassian Andor, the (then) haunted Rebel soldier who sacrificed his life to help steal the plans to the Empire’s first Death Star in “Rogue One.”
In “Andor”, Cassian — played again by Diego Luna — is a wayward soul, angry at the universe for reasons (presumably) yet to be revealed, and desperate to find a way to fight back against the growing tyranny sweeping across the galaxy. That is, until he meets Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), a member of the Rebel Alliance who believes that Cassian may be a key addition to the burgeoning resistance.
Of the first three episodes, there’s little more to say than that, largely because “Andor” is redefining the notion of a slowbuild show. We’re treated to flashes of Cassian’s youth, and reasons why he hates the Empire so much, and we learn about his life on the planet Ferrix, which finds itself under the heel of an authoritarian regime in a drawn-out introduction that has little action.
But what we do get is the “Star Wars” universe painted in detail more intricate than we’ve seen before. There are no Jedi, no sprawling space battles or (cough) trade disputes to drive the story forward, so “Andor” treats us to a gritty, realistic look at what it might actually be like to live in this fantastical universe.
For “Star Wars” fans, it’s a wonderful tour through a level of minutiae never glimpsed before in live action. And while the lack of fireworks early on might deter casual viewers, or those not familiar with the franchise, that level of expectation that surrounds new “Star Wars” outlets will probably be enough to buy the show the time to realize its true potential.
South Asians in UK honored for their outstanding achievements
Pratik Dattani, the director of the Asian Achievers Awards, said: ‘The aim of the evening is to recognize changemakers from across the South Asian community in the UK’
This year’s awards were presented in 12 categories, one of which, the Woman of the Year Award, was renamed as a tribute to the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth II
Updated 30 September 2022
LONDON: Influential and inspirational South Asians in a range of fields in the UK were honored recently, during a prestigious ceremony in London, for their outstanding achievements.
Established in 2000, the Asian Achievers Awards, one of the most prominent and long-established celebrations of its kind, returned for its 20th edition after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers chose to pay tribute this year to the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8, and renamed the Woman of the Year Award in her honor.
“The aim of the evening is to recognize changemakers from across the South Asian community in the UK,” Pratik Dattani, the director of the awards, told Arab News. “It really is the cream of the community and everyone really worth celebrating.”
This year’s awards were presented in 12 categories: art and culture; business leadership; community service; entrepreneur and professional of the year; media; sports; health; innovation; uniformed and civil service; women of the year; and lifetime achievement.
“It means a lot to have South Asians in prominent positions because it’s about leadership in the community, mentorship, and having visible role models,” Dattani said.
He added that the current mayor and the deputy mayors of London come from South Asian backgrounds, the UK cabinet during the past 12 years has included, on average, four ministers of Indian or Pakistani origin, and the richest person in the UK is of South Asian origin.
“This just shows the immense contribution we make to the cultural, social and economic fabric of the country, he said.
“South Asians in the UK are here to stay but the growth, the economic success and the community success of the South Asian community will grow and the awards will continue to be the place in the UK, and across Europe, where we recognize South Asian excellence.”
Dattani said that the proceeds from the event, held at JW Marriott Grosvenor House, will go to Pardada Pardadi Educational Society UK, a charity that helps underprivileged children across India and South Asia. In all, he said, it raised more than £150,000 ($165,945), with additional commitments of more than £100,000.
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman received the newly renamed Queen Elizabeth II Woman of the Year award, which her parents accepted on her behalf.
“I think from the start, our mantra has been: ‘Suella you’ve got to study hard and you’ve got to do well if you want to get anywhere,’” said her mother, Uma Fernanades.
“And I think being of ethnic minority, and also being a lady, it’s harder still and (requires) us to work doubly hard, and she has done that.
Honoured to receive this award. Thank you so much.
This is the best country in the world for anyone, regardless of race or background, to achieve.
Let’s keep working together to support everyone to realise their potential.
“Another thing I used to say to her, whenever she passes an exam or she gets a degree, I always used to say, ‘This is not just for you, it’s for the whole community out there and you’ve got to learn to share it.’ And I think I would want to know that she’s setting an example; that she’s just an ordinary woman, just like anybody else, but if you want to achieve something, you can do it.”
Capt. Harpreet Chandi MBE, an officer and physiotherapist in the British Army, received the Uniformed and Civil Service Award. She recently completed a 700-mile solo, unsupported expedition to the South Pole that took 40 days.
“When I had the idea, I didn’t know anything about Antarctica; I literally typed into Google, ‘How do you get to Antarctica as a modern-day explorer?’” she said. It took her about two and a half years to actually get onto the ice.
“I became the first woman of color to do a solo expedition but that was just a journey — then I got back and I did about four months of school talks and reached about 18,000 students, just hoping to inspire the next generation,” Chandi said.
She is preparing to return to Antarctica in a month with the aim of becoming the first woman to complete a solo, unsupported crossing of the continent. She plans to cover 1,100 miles in 70 days.
“My aims are hopefully to inspire people to push their boundaries and show that, actually, it doesn’t matter what you look like or where you’re from, you can go and achieve anything you want and no barrier or boundary is too (great),” Chandi said.
“I really want to encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone and do whatever they want and achieve whatever they want.”
Prema Subaskaran, chairperson of Lycahealth and KIMS Hospital, won the Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare Award and said it was a “great privilege” to be recognized for her efforts.
“I’m really passionate about health care and I really wanted to become a doctor and serve the people, but because of the civil war (in Sri Lanka) and family commitments, I couldn’t and I had to stop my degree in the middle,” she said.
“Then I always wanted to set up a business that could facilitate philanthropic work through the field of medicine by working with like-minded people, so this is how I set up Lycahealth in 2015.”
With a focus on providing patients with a complete diagnostic pathway and secondary care, Lycahealth last year acquired KIMS Hospital, the largest independent private hospital in the English county of Kent.
“We play a critical role in Kent to provide outstanding health care to the local community, as well as becoming a big employer in the local community,” Subaskaran added.