Must-see movies from the Arab world at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival  

Must-see movies from the Arab world at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival  
A still from 'Nezouh.' (Supplied)
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Updated 01 December 2022

Must-see movies from the Arab world at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival  

Must-see movies from the Arab world at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival  

DUBAI: Here are just a few of the features from Arab filmmakers showing at this week’s Red Sea International Film Festival, which runs from Dec. 1-10 in Jeddah. 

‘A Gaza Weekend’ 

Director: Basil Khalil 

Cast: Stephen Mangan, Loai Noufi, Mouna Hawa, Adam Bakri 

British-Palestinian filmmaker Basil Khalil’s debut feature has been eagerly awaited by cinema lovers following the success of his smart, satirical short “Ave Maria,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 2016. Judging by early reviews, Khalil has delivered. The film is set during a viral pandemic unleashed on Israel after a security lapse at an infectious-disease lab, but was reportedly in development before COVID-19 brought unwelcome topicality to the subject. Michael, an English journalist, is trapped in the country, but is offered an escape route into Gaza — ironically now the safest place in the area, as no one can officially get in or out — by two Palestinians, Waleed and Emad, who are aspiring, though untalented, people smugglers. But Michael refuses to leave without his girlfriend, the uptight Keren. That complicates things, since Keren is an Israeli whose presence could get them all killed. While the couple hide in Waleed’s basement, Keren’s incessant complaining drives Waleed’s wife Nuhad — clearly smarter than her bumbling husband — to assist their escape, against her better judgment, all while evading the scrutiny of Hamas.  

‘Raven Song’ 

Director: Mohammed Al-Salman 

Cast: Asem Alawad, Ibrahim Khairallah, Abdullah Aljafal 

Al-Salman’s debut feature has been selected as Saudi Arabia’s entry to next year’s Oscars. It’s a comedy-drama about 30-year-old Nasser — a young man who feels his life is drifting and who struggles to connect with his father. But when Nasser is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and scheduled to undergo a potentially fatal operation, he finds new purpose — particularly when he becomes enthralled by a beautiful but mysterious woman. Determined to win her heart, he turns to his friends for advice. That advice is generally terrible, but Nasser accepts a challenge to woo her by singing her a love poem. 

‘Nezouh’ 

Director: Soudade Kaadan 

Cast: Kinda Alloush, Hala Zein, Samer Al-Masri, Nizar Alani 

The acclaimed Syrian filmmaker’s latest feature picked up the Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival for its moving portrayal of a 14-year-old girl and her family torn between leaving their home in Damascus and becoming refugees, or staying where they ‘belong’ (as Zeina’s father Motaz argues). Zeina’s mother is concerned not only about the family’s physical safety, but also the prospect of Zeina being married off to a soldier. The family’s worries only increase when a missile rips a hole in their roof, but when a rope is mysteriously lowered into the hole, Zeina is introduced to a world of new possibilities. “Most of the refugee films about Syria were either trying to present us as victims or heroes, in a black-and-white narrative,” Kaadan said in promotional material for the movie. “But of course, we are neither one nor the other, like any human being. In all my films, I want the audience to feel that Syrian refugees are their equals. (This) could be any family around the world who is facing a dilemma of whether to stay or leave everything behind.” 

‘Harka’ 

Director: Lofty Nathan 

Cast: Adam Bessa, Salima Maatoug, Najib Allagui, Ikbal Harbi 

Billed as “an impassioned plea for social justice,” Nathan’s debut feature wowed critics at Cannes, with Adam Bessa picking up a Best Performance award in the festival’s Un Certain Regard section. Bessa plays Ali, a street vendor in Sidi Bouzid, the Tunisian city where another street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in 2010 and started the Jasmine Revolution. Ali continually risks his life heading into the desert to buy the gasoline he sells on the black market, only for the police to extort most of his profits. Already in debt since the death of his father, and with his two younger sisters to provide for, Ali turns to his emotionally distant brother for help. 

‘Dounia and the Princess of Aleppo’ 

Directors: Marya Zarif, André Kadi 

Voice cast: Rachaf Ataya, Elsa Mardorissian, Manuel Tadros, Raïa Haidar 

Zarif and Kadi’s feature is clearly designed to appeal to kids with its simple-but-striking animation, but will, as Screen Daily noted in its review, likely “prove to be a disarmingly potent proposition for adult animation fans also.” Six-year-old Dounia is forced to leave her home in Aleppo when her father is arrested in the middle of the night. Her mother died when Dounia was a baby, so the girl is accompanied by her grandparents. Through them, she connects to her homeland’s culture, particularly music and cooking, and through the five nigella seeds her grandma gives her as her journey as a refugee begins, her imagination runs free, connecting her with a character from stories her father used to tell her. 

‘The Blue Caftan’ 

Director: Maryam Touzani 

Starring: Saleh Bakri, Lubna Azabal, Ayoub Messioui 

The Moroccan filmmaker’s latest feature focuses on husband and wife Halim (Saleh Bakri) and Mina (Lubna Azabal), a middle-aged couple who run a traditional caftan store in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. Struggling to maintain their livelihood, they hire a talented young man named Youssef to help out. His arrival has a profound effect on the couple’s relationship, with Halim, in particular, forced to confront, and accept, his true self. The British Film Institute hailed the movie as “an emotionally complex, richly empathetic depiction of a partnership sustained through storms and challenges.” 

‘Ashkal’ 

Director: Youssef Chebbi 

Cast: Fatma Oussaifi, Mohamed Grayaa, Rami Harrabi 

Chebbi’s first solo feature starts out as a police procedural, but develops into something much weirder with supernatural elements. Set in Tunis’ Gardens of Carthage — a development project put on hold during the 2011 revolution and still unfinished — it focuses on detectives Fatma and Batal as they investigate the discovery of the burned corpse of a caretaker, under pressure from their bosses to label the case a suicide. When a similarly burned body — this time of a young maid — is found, witnesses tell them that a man with a “burning hand” is responsible.  


‘Shockwave’ as Dutch producers R3HAB and Afrojack strengthen bond with new single

‘Shockwave’ as Dutch producers R3HAB and Afrojack strengthen bond with new single
Updated 28 January 2023

‘Shockwave’ as Dutch producers R3HAB and Afrojack strengthen bond with new single

‘Shockwave’ as Dutch producers R3HAB and Afrojack strengthen bond with new single
  • The new single is out now on MDLBEAST Records

LONDON: Dutch producers and longtime friends R3HAB and Afrojack have teamed up again on a new collaborative release, “Shockwave,” in the wake of the 2022 hit and Tomorrowland’s official anthem, “Worlds On Fire,” featuring Au/Ra.

A statement said: “With noticeable elements of big-room, house, and bass sound, it showcases both R3HAB’s and Afrojack’s signature styles, while still standing out.”

With its stabbing synths and dancefloor-friendly bass, “Shockwave,” which is out now on MDLBEAST Records, is said to be “a guaranteed crowd pleaser from these two heavyweights.”

R3HAB and Afrojack have played back-to-back sets at festivals over the last decade, produced music together, remixed each other, and developed a long-lasting friendship along the way.

R3HAB said: “Afrojack and I have worked together for over 10 years, and this last year has been the best yet.

“We released our anthem ‘Worlds On Fire,’ remixed each other’s records, and played sets at the world’s biggest festivals.”

He said they were excited to kick off the year with “Shockwave,” adding: “[It] is unlike any record we’ve worked on yet, it’s been a staple in our sets as we’ve developed it, and it’s finally ready for its official debut.

“Each year keeps getting better, and we can’t wait to see what this one has in store.”

Afrojack said: “It’s been great being back together with R3HAB. We’ve got many records ready to pop; you can find some already in our sets, and we’ve been testing ‘Shockwave’ for a while now and we’re pumped to put it out now.”


Georgina Rodriguez celebrates her birthday in Riyadh with Cristiano Ronaldo, children 

Georgina Rodriguez celebrates her birthday in Riyadh with Cristiano Ronaldo, children 
Updated 28 January 2023

Georgina Rodriguez celebrates her birthday in Riyadh with Cristiano Ronaldo, children 

Georgina Rodriguez celebrates her birthday in Riyadh with Cristiano Ronaldo, children 

DUBAI: Argentine model Georgina Rodriguez celebrated her 29th birthday in Riyadh on Friday with her partner, Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, and their children. 

The family was photographed at Armenian restaurant Lavash on The Boulevard.

The model wore a white midi form-fitting dress, that was off the shoulder, and a pair of white heels.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by LAVASH (@eat_lavash)

She was welcomed with a three-tier birthday cake that boasted flower designs and gold text that read “Happy Birthday” in Portuguese.

She posed for pictures with her family against a white backdrop covered in feathers that was lit with the message “Happy Birthday Georgina.”

The private room was decorated with white balloons, gypsophila flowers and inflated helium balloons shaped as “29” and “G.”

The pathway to one of the dinner rooms reserved for the couple was decorated with pictures of the birthday girl.

The room was decorated with candles to add a romantic feel, while Rodriguez was welcomed with a large white bouquet.

The couple were also treated to two instrumentalists, playing an oud and a violin.

Fans of Ronaldo and Rodriguez gathered outside the restaurant to cheer the couple following the celebration.

The model last week featured at the Joy Awards in Riyadh, showing off a midnight blue form-fitting velvet gown by Dubai-based Tunisian designer Ali Karoui. Her look featured a matching veil, gold pumps from Italian luxury shoemakers Le Silla, and jewelry from Kooheji, of Bahrain.

The Netflix star, who now calls Saudi Arabia home after her partner signed a record-breaking deal with Al-Nassr, shared her pictures on Instagram, and wrote: “A big thank you to everyone, love you Saudi Arabia.”

Rodriguez also showed up to support her long-time partner as he made his Al-Nassr debut against Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League on Sunday.

The footballer, 37, captained the team to a 1-0 win at Mrsool Park in Riyadh, while Rodriguez cheered on from the sidelines in a Ronaldo jersey, paired with cut-off jeans and a jacket.


Demand goes through the roof for Saudi Crown Prince’s AlUla Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet

Demand goes through the roof for Saudi Crown Prince’s AlUla Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet
Updated 28 January 2023

Demand goes through the roof for Saudi Crown Prince’s AlUla Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet

Demand goes through the roof for Saudi Crown Prince’s AlUla Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet

DUBAI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was spotted on Friday at a restaurant called Somewhere in AlUla, and fashion lovers on Twitter have once again gone wild over a vest that he wore. 

The crown prince championed the Italian brand Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet in white and beige. The straight hem vest, with a high neck, had two side-slit pockets. 

The vest retails for around $6,900 on luxury application FarFetch. 

Fans quickly started looking for websites selling the jacket at a lower price.

 

 

“For people who liked the jacket of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and are not able to (buy it) because of the price, this jacket is similar to it and has a number of colors and all sizes and a cheaper price,” wrote one user.

Another user noticed that the website ShopStyle increased the price of the vest after it was worn by the crown prince. 

“The crown prince’s jacket was priced at $3,850, and now its price has increased (to $4,524),” he wrote on Twitter, while another user said: “High demands on the crown prince’s jacket.”

“Someone find us a similar jacket on Shein,” joked another user. 

Videos on social media showed the crown price accompanied by the crown princes of Jordan and Oman. 

The videos shared on social media showed people posing for pictures with the Saudi crown prince. 

 

 

“I am proud to meet His Highness, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may God protect him, and His Excellency Badr Al-Asaker in the city of AlUla,” tweeted one user sharing his pictures with the crown prince. 

 

 

It is not the first time that the Saudi crown prince has sparked a style storm online.

In 2022, a cohort of fashion lovers on Twitter went wild over a pair of dark brown Oxfords, called Hallam, from British footwear label Crockett & Jones, that retailed for about $560. 

 

 

In 2021, he was photographed wearing a quilted gilet while chairing a board meeting of the Public Investment Fund.

The prince showed off a $6,551 casual sleeveless vest by UK luxury cashmere brand Franck Namani.

In 2019, he attended the Formula E races in Riyadh wearing a navy-colored Barbour jacket worn over a crisp white thobe that immediately sent the internet into overdrive.

The outerwear item by the British heritage brand sparked its own Arabic hashtag on Twitter — that translated to “crown prince’s jacket” — with many taking to the social media platform to admire the look.


Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performs at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix 

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performs at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix 
Updated 28 January 2023

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performs at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix 

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performs at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix 

DUBAI: Dutch DJ Martin Garrix hit the stage on Friday at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia to perform to a packed audience. 

The “Animals” artist, who was ranked number one on DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list for three consecutive years, played remixes for “Shakes,” “Summer Days” and many more. 

One of the posters read: “Martin on, world off.”  (Arab News)

Fans in the Kingdom danced, cheered and held up signs to support the DJ. 

One of the posters read: “Martin on, world off.”   

Egyptian singer Mahmoud El-Esseily also met his fans at the event. “I am very happy to be here today. We will light up the stage, won’t we?” he told his fans. 

He sang some of his hits: “Helm Baeed,” “Ekhteraa” and “El-Leila.” 

Fans were also treated to a drone show and colorful fireworks. 

The event also presented local talent, including Saudi Lebanese record producer DJ Loush, whose real name is Ali Assi.  

The audience sang along with him to “Staying Alive,” “The Business” and “Do It To It.” 


Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  

Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  
Updated 28 January 2023

Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  

Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  
  • As one of the co-founders of Telfaz11, the writer-director-producer is now reaping the rewards of years spent establishing an authentic entertainment industry in the Kingdom 

DUBAI: Ali Al-Kalthami is trying not to let it all go to his head. But that’s easier said than done. As one of the three co-founders of the pioneering Saudi production company Telfaz11, Al-Kalthami is one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s film future. And, as we’ve seen over the last two months, that future is now.  

In that short span of time, Telfaz11’s film “Raven Song” became the latest Saudi submission to the Academy Awards, their theatrical release “Sattar” became the highest-grossing Saudi film in history, and their latest feature, “Al Khallat+,” just became the first Netflix original film from Saudi.   

“This is not overnight success, of course,” Al-Kalthami explains to Arab News. “It’s been 12 years of experience, 12 years of staying true to our stories, our philosophy, and our talents. We’re grateful that all of these projects are flourishing at the same time, but we’ve been working a long time for these things to take place, and we’re most proud that we got here by doing it the right way — doing it our way.” 

A still from “Sattar.” (Supplied)

We’re speaking to the writer/director/producer over Zoom and he doesn’t want to turn his camera on. It’s nothing personal, he explains, he’s just been filming for 12 hours straight, directing his upcoming theatrical feature “Night Courier,” a dark crime comedy, in Riyadh and he doesn’t want anyone to see him. His mood, however, belies his exhaustion — he’s still thrilled to gush about “Al Khallat+,” perhaps the Telfaz11 project that is closest to his heart.  

The film is a continuation of the 22-episode anthology web series he created, which has amassed an astounding 1.5 billion views — a viewership far too big to qualify this as a ‘cult hit.’ Rather, Al-Kalthami and co., through their years of viral YouTube videos, have defined what Saudi Arabia’s mainstream entertainment looks like, building grassroots support with content that is wholeheartedly Saudi, made with a love and authenticity that allows them to push boundaries and subvert expectations, an aesthetic that is defined in “Al-Khallat.”  

“From the start, I thought about doing a show that reflects the Saudi psyche. We wanted to capture everyday life in a way that that appeals to real people with engaging, well-crafted storytelling,” the creator explains. 

While “Al Khallat+” tells a number of unrelated stories — two thieves crash a wedding to rescue their captured partner, a chef risks his restaurant trying to save his parent’s marriage, a mother searches for her husband who in turn is searching for his son in a nightclub — they each share a defining theme, one that Al-Kalthami and his collaborators discovered while holed up writing together during COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Director Fahad Alammari on the set of “Al Khallat.” (Supplied)

“We went back to the 22 episodes we’d released on the internet, and wanted to figure out what worked and what didn’t as we started to work on the feature. And for some strange reason, we found that the stories that worked had something in common. In each of them, there was a character who had to hustle their way out of an issue brought on by society’s restrictions — and we don’t mean that negatively,” Al-Kalthami says.  

“If you think about Saudi Arabia as a largely conservative society, that comes with a lot of rules that cause restraints on social life. Watching people hustle around those restraints becomes funny, because people can relate to those situations. We approach it with a very local mindset, and that allows Saudis to come along for the ride with us.” 

While “Al Khallat” has a perspective purely his own, Al-Kalthami is always quick to give credit to his collaborators. If he is proud of anything personally, it’s that he’s created a platform which has allowed the Kingdom’s rising talent to thrive, from the myriad actors featured to the crew behind the camera, many of whom he has known for years.  

“When I saw the first edit, I was very emotional. I was able to see in front of my eyes so clearly all the ideas that we’d written come to life through such great production. Fahad Alammari, the director, executed this so well, for example, and seeing all these actors — all of my friends — having fun bringing these characters to life is so rewarding,” says Al-Kalthami. 

“From the beginning, I always wanted this to go somewhere beyond the internet. I had no other experience at the time, but I knew we would get there eventually. To have something that I created with my friends get picked up and treated as a franchise is very humbling.” 

The challenge that Al-Kalthami now faces is to keep pushing forward and rewriting the template that he and his collaborators have made.  

“As a writer, you often create this illusion around yourself when you create something successful. If you’re not careful, there’s a barrier that rises between you and reality. You have to force yourself not to believe the hype, to be true to who you are and true to the society you live in — and force yourself to keep living in it. You can’t isolate yourself and become carried away by your success,” he says. “You have to embrace life, and live like a normal person, and get inspired the right way. I’m always trying to force myself to stay grounded, which can be very tricky with this kind of success, especially when you’re in on the ground floor. You have to force yourself to continue to push the envelope, break boundaries and do great work, and you have to help build this industry the right way. That’s the responsibility of pioneers.” 

While Al-Kalthami is usually focused on the future — committed to pushing himself as a writer and helping Saudi talent flourish both within his own projects and theirs — he does, occasionally, allow himself to look back and take stock of all he and Telfaz11 have accomplished over the last dozen years. Often, the emotion hits when he least expects it. 

“Somebody sent me a TikTok video last week. In it, someone had put together pictures of all the Telfaz11 founders, filmmakers and family members, spanning every moment they could find from 2010 to 2022. They wrote that we were the voice of our local inner life, that we were filmmakers that Saudis believe in. It was just so poetic, so nice, and so innocent. It just really got to me,” Al-Kalthami says. “I was so overwhelmed, I could hardly control it. To know that a lot of people in Saudi feel we represent their voice, their authentic life, truly means everything.”