French animator Michel Ocelot looks back on his career at RSIFF 2022

French animator Michel Ocelot looks back on his career at RSIFF 2022
Michel Ocelot at the Red Sea International Film Festival. (AFP)
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Updated 07 December 2022

French animator Michel Ocelot looks back on his career at RSIFF 2022

French animator Michel Ocelot looks back on his career at RSIFF 2022

JEDDAH: On the sidelines of the Red Sea International Film Festival festivities, the French animation veteran Michel Ocelot sat down with his audience during one of the festival’s “In Conversation” sessions at Red Sea Mall in Jeddah on Dec. 6.

Ocelot, 79, is a writer, designer, storyboard artist, and director of an array of legendary animated feature films and mostly he is recognized for his “Kirikou et la sorcière” released in 1998 which translates to "Kirikou and the witch" and also his amazing animation "Azur and Asmar: The Princes' Quest" released in 2006.

“Kirikou et la sorcière” resampled the rebirth era of French animation in the cinema and it was a striking start for Ocelot’s artistic career who is strongly passionate about what he produced. “I know what I want, I’m doing it and I love it,” he said.

The animation art and drawings of Kirikou et la sorcière were fully handmade and the film was the boom for his animation career, Ocelot said that before this film come to life, he was just an artist.

“The life of a movie artist who doesn't exist much was very hard. But all of a sudden, I have an international success.”




Michel Ocelot, 79, is a writer, designer, storyboard artist, and director of an array of legendary animated feature films. (AFP)

He continued: “They are handmade and handmade, with not much money, it's part of that you can see somebody did them, not a company, not board of director, and literally like this, I discovered this parallel life of animation, little things are done in one's kitchen, but they exist.”

Ocelot is a role model for experts and emerging animation artists as the brilliance in his work will always remain a great inspiration for many generations, as his work is always nurtured by a visual atmosphere. “Kids who were kids at the time now adults, and come to me and thank me. And sometimes they cry. So, I'm lucky.”

Despite his true success, Ocelot has been through hard times, and that is what made him an outstanding expert in the field.

“It was hard to find my way because when I started animation didn't really exist, people wouldn’t know about this name. They were no real schools to learn from, and I had to go to a lab to emulate the process, where you have to have a camera, light, an editing table, and all that was expensive and out of my reach. So, I lost quite some time I learned by myself. But as I didn't go to any school, I'm still completely innocent and don't know how I'm feeling so amazing. I just made them.”

“I think I started at the year of one or two, I took a pencil and I drew and I never stopped. And then I was a happy child and I was always active. And I think I prepared myself for my job from my infancy. And I would draw in paint and cut and get into a disguise and decorate the house for the festivals and make a little gift with a nice package. And that's, my vision today”

He had a very interesting childhood as he has been raised in Africa, Kenya where his vibrant animation is inspired by its “Beautiful and benevolent people.”

“I remember the beauty of the people and the dresses of women on festival days, it was definitely intelligent. True elegance, happy elegance, and the details within which made my infancy in the world of animation special.”

Ocelot's extravagant animation made him a former president of the International Animated Film Association, as he had been moving between two countries with huge cultural and historic differences shaping his artistic style as his animation reflects a lot about great Africa from his personal perspective.

“I was at ease in those universities. So, I was never expatriates that didn't exist in my vocabulary. So that's always been a great part of my life. Being aware of different worlds and being at ease with them and being at ease with such different parts of the world. I can put myself in the place of other people easily and I know the relatability of things.”

Ocelot shared some of his career fundamentals when it comes to following an animation production career including commitment, sticking to original ideas is key, and leaving fear behind is a must.

“Give everything you have. Try not to listen to bad advice. Sometimes you get good advice, but it's better not to follow them. Don't be afraid to start.”

His new animation feature film that has been released earlier this year. “The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess” was screened for the audience after the conversation.
 


Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery
Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia. (Instagram)
Updated 30 January 2023

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

ABU DHABI: Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants MENA list in a ceremony held in Aby Dhabi on Monday night as Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabbed the overall top spot.  

The ranking is voted on by a body formed of 250 restaurant experts in the region, known as the Academy. Each member casts seven votes for those that are – in their expert opinion – the best dining experiences in the MENA region.

The top 10 consisted of eateries from around the region, with a heavy showing from Dubai, including Moonrise in Dubai at number 10, Zooba (Zamalek) in Cairo at number 9, Fakhreldin in Amman at number 8, Kinoya in Dubai at number 7, George & John in Tel Aviv at number 6, 3 Fils in Dubai at number 5, Ossiano in Dubai at number 4, Fusions by Tala in Manama at number 3, Trèsind Studio in Dubai at number 2 and Orfali Bros Bistro in Dubai at number 1.

“Also crowned The Best Restaurant in the UAE, this Dubai establishment is the restaurant embodiment of three brothers from Aleppo, Syria. The dining experience here is focused on storytelling, where every flavour, ingredient and technique has played a special part in the trio’s story. The atmosphere, with the rhythm set by the work in the two-storey kitchen overlooking the dining space, is fun, indulgent and at times nostalgic,” the organization posted on Instagram shortly after the announcement.

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s best restaurant, the organization posted: “Under the leadership of chef Ian Pengelley, (Myazu) is a spot where harmony reigns in texture, aromas and flavors. Some dishes push the envelope of gastronomic craftsmanship while others focus on Japanese fan favorites, but all are set apart by a sophisticated presentation that has become part of this restaurant’s DNA.”

 

The eatery ranked number 18 on the list, just after Tawlet Mar Mikhael in Beirut.

Meanwhile, the Middle East & North Africa’s Best Female Chef Award 2023 went to Palestinian chef Salam Dakkak and this year’s Estrella Damm N.A. Chefs' Choice Award went to Moustafa Elrefaey of Zooba in Cairo.

 


Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  
Updated 30 January 2023

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

DUBAI: The 2023 Sundance Film Festival — which took its final bow this weekend in Park City, Utah, after its first in-person edition since 2020 — saw three Middle Eastern films winning awards, including “The Persian Version,” “Shayda” and “Animalia.”  

Iranian American director Maryam Keshavarz’s “The Persian Version” won the Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the US Dramatic Competition.  c

The film follows a large Iranian American family gathering for the patriarch’s heart transplant when a family secret catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past.   

It was one of three films at Sundance this year to be directed by Iranian women, the others being “Joonam” and “Shayda.”  

Noora Niasari’s “Shayda” took home the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The film follows Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, who finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter. But when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardized.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Animalia (@animaliathefilm)

The third regional film to win an award at Sundance is “Animalia” by Morocco's Sofia Alaoui, who took home the Special Jury Award for Creative Vision. The film follows a young mother-to-be as she experiences an alien invasion with a sense of dread that slowly turns into liberation.  


Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab
Updated 30 January 2023

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

DUBAI: Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas has a well-documented penchant for Arab designers. The Indian star, who crossed over into Hollywood, has been pictured donning looks from regional labels on plenty of occasions, including designs by Zuhair Murad and Nicolas Jebran, to name a few. 

Now, Chopra has taken to Instagram Stories to share a photograph of her latest look — a glittering get up by Lebanese designer Elie Saab.  

“When your fit deserves a closet selfie,” she captioned the casual snap.  

The jewel-toned look consisted of a floral midi dress paired with a matching bomber jacket.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

The former Miss World, who is married to US singer Nick Jonas, has sported Arab designs in the past and is also known for championing up-and-coming brands.  In 2021, Chopra made an appearance in Dubai and opted for a striking, saffron-colored design from sustainable Moroccan couture house Benchellal. 

The orange air mesh blazer dress featured a draped shawl cape and pockets and was plucked from the label’s ninth collection. She wore it with slim-fitting black trousers and pumps. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

Chopra also supported rising US Lebanese label Monot in 2021 by showing off a white, custom draped dress by the label during a product shoot for her haircare range.  

The actress and entrepreneur walked the red carpet at the second iteration of Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival in December 2022 in a lavish gold gown by Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran, complete with a matching overcoat.  

Arab designers have increasingly become the “go-to” for Indian celebrities at major events. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ami Patel (@stylebyami)

Ami Patel, one of India’s leading celebrity stylists, previously explained Bollywood’s love affair with Middle Eastern design talent to Arab News, saying: “I think Middle Eastern designers understand the Indian body type and silhouette very well. They know exactly what Indian celebrities want and cater to them.” 

Dubai-based Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali, who just unveiled his latest collection on the sidelines of Paris Haute Couture Week, agreed, telling Arab News in a previous interview: “Bollywood stars are also celebrities in the Middle East world.” 

“Since the Middle East is actually aligned with the industry, they are definitely keener on dressing Indian stars and even willing to customise and size outfits for our actors,” added Rai, in a bid to explain why stars such as Chopra, who started off in Bollywood, have an affinity for Arab designs. 


Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia
Winnie Harlow attends the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Scott Garfitt)
Updated 29 January 2023

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Canadian model Winnie Harlow was spotted in Saudi Arabia this weekend attending the Formula E Diriyah E-Prix.

 The model was part of the thousands of fans who watched on as 22 of the fastest electric race cars ever built raced for the second time this weekend.

 “The experience at Formula E is unmatched and I’ve really enjoyed the vibe, people, atmosphere, and racing. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia a few times and always have a great experience, so I love that Formula E is in Diriyah,” Harlow said in a released statement.

“Living in a more sustainable world and being able to enjoy motorsports at the same time is incredible,” she added. 

Harlow rubbed shoulders with the likes of John Legend, Martin Garrix, Miguel and French Montana, who performed at the event’s after-race concert series.

Netflix series “Emily in Paris” star Lucien Laviscount was also in attendance.

“I’m a massive fan of motorsport and anything to do with cars. Seeing the new GEN3 race car on track for the first time was insane,” he said in a released statement. “It looks like a fighter jet on wheels and sounds like it’s from a sci-fi movie. Formula E are leading the world in electric car innovation. I’m in line for an electric vehicle and this has really given me a taste.”


Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  

Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  
Updated 29 January 2023

Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  

Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  

DUBAI: It would not be an understatement to say that we are living in the golden age of television when it comes to sheer diversity in terms of content. That much is evident when a Dungeons & Dragons game that started out in someone’s living room is now a full-blown animated series on a massive streaming platform — and it has returned for a second season.   

 “The Legend of Vox Machina” is based on the hugely successful D&D actual play series Critical Role, in which players livestreamed themselves playing the tabletop game. The adult animated series made fans in its debut season for its ability to carefully balance juvenile humor with immense character depth, set against a lore-heavy fantasy setting.   

Season two builds on that promise and comes back even stronger with greater character arcs for its seven main characters: Half-elf rogue Vax’ildan (Liam O’Brien), his ranger twin sister Vex’ahlia (Laura Bailey), half-elf druid Keyleth (Marisha Ray), gnome bard Scanlan (Sam Riegel), goliath barbarian Grog (Travis Willingham), his BFF gnome paladin Pike (Ashley Johnson) and human gunslinger Percy (Taliesen Jaffe). This is an impressive feat to achieve given that the episodes have a run time of under 30 minutes.   

The new season picks up exactly where season one left off — with a group of large and ancient dragons attacking the city of Emon. Our motley crew of mercenaries/heroes, clearly underqualified for the job of defeating these powerful beings, must now go on a continent-hopping jaunt to retrieve magical artifacts that will help them in this mission.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by FanologyPV (@fanologypv)

It is helpful here to remember that “TLOVM,” unlike any fantasy series or movie that you may have watched so far, is not based on a book or video game: It is based on a story created by a group of friends as they played a game over several years, albeit with an audience watching on Twitch and YouTube.   

And, hence, what makes the animated show such an engrossing watch, despite having a story that may seem familiar to most fans of fantasy media, is that “TLOVM” manages to accurately capture the bond between the players and translate it into endearing television.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by FanologyPV (@fanologypv)

And while the personal stakes are dialed up to 11 this time around, the larger plot is not ignored either. As big as the emotional punches are, they are matched in intensity with the beautifully realized action scenes and set pieces, which will again feel familiar to anyone who has ever played a role-playing game with their friends.   

With Critical Role announcing that they will also be animating their second campaign, Mighty Nein, for Amazon, and if you are a fan of all things magic, camaraderie and epic battles, there has never been a better time to tune in and let “Vox Machina” enthrall you.