DUBAI: US model Kendall Jenner, US rapper Jay-Z and British singer Liam Payne were spotted on Friday celebrating the opening of Atlantis The Royal in Dubai this weekend.
The stars are in the UAE city for an eventful weekend.
Jenner wore a green Victoria Beckham dress that Palestinian Dutch supermodel Bella Hadid debuted on the runway. The dress, from the designer’s spring 2023 ready-to-wear collection, featured flouncy sleeves and was clinched to her waist.
Jenner wore the dress the same way Hadid debuted it on the red carpet, with black latex gloves and boots.
Payne wore a grey suit as he posed next to Kate Cassidy.
The Friday event was also attended by US reality television personality Jonathan Cheban, influencer Hofit Golan, the “Dubai Bling” star Farhana Bodi, Egyptian actress Enjy Kiwan, the “Real Housewives of Dubai” star Caroline Stanbury, Lebanese influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen and more.
On Saturday, the VIP guests, coming from around the world, will pose on the red carpet and attend a gala dinner.
The A-list celebrities are rumored to include Emirati-Yemeni singer Balqees Fathi, US model Olivia Culpo, Indian actor Aamir Khan, British actress Michelle Keegan and the “Emily In Paris” star Ashley Park.
The top-notch list of invitees will attend US superstar Beyonce’s private concert, which will be her first full-length show in four years.
The backdrop of her show will be the “School of Athens” painting by Italian Renaissance artist Raphael.
British rapper Bree Runway took to Twitter to comfort fans who are not able to attend saying that “invited guests will be allowed to take content,” meaning Beyonce’s supporters can get a sneak peak at the event.
“Soooooooo excited to see Beyonce!!!!” she tweeted. “I’ll take LOTSSSSSS of videos!!! Prepare to be SICK.”
After Beyonce’s highly anticipated performance, guests will be treated to a breathtaking fireworks show and an afterparty that will be headlined by music supergroup Swedish House Mafia.
Egyptian Canadian star Mena Massoud to produce first non-English adaptation of Stephen King novel in Farsi
Updated 17 sec ago
DUBAI: “Aladdin” star Mena Massoud is ready to revolutionize content from the Middle East as he announces the first slate of projects out of his company Press Play Productions, which aims to bridge the gap between Hollywood and the Middle East and North Africa.
One of the said projects involves the first non-English adaptation of a Stephen King book.
Adapting “The Doctor’s Case” and titled “The Last King,” the short film will be performed entirely in Farsi and will star an all-Iranian cast, including Maz Jobrani, Sheila Ommi, Marshall Manesh, and Tara Grammy.
Set in Iran, the film reflects the country’s ongoing “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement.
The company’s other announced titles include Canadian TV series “Evolving Vegan,” as well as the films “In Broad Daylight” and festival title “Spaceman.”
“Evolving Vegan” is slated to debut this spring in Canada. It’s a six-part food, travel and adventure series that explores the exploding plant-based food scene across North America.
Press Play is currently in post-production on Massoud’s Arabic-language debut film “In Broad Daylight,” set for a theatrical release later this year. The Egyptian film is centred on a young man who, after leaving his homeland as a young boy, comes back to Egypt as a trained agent to carry out the most dangerous mission of his life.
“Spaceman,” directed by Dan Abramovici, stars Massoud, J.K. Simmons, and one of Canada’s prolific mimes, Trevor Copp.
“In the 1970s, Egypt was the third largest film industry in the world and continues to cultivate a rich and thriving industry for the whole region,” said Massoud in a statement, according to Deadline.
“Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the UAE, and now Saudi Arabia are all breeding grounds for some of the best content in and around the African continent. Press Play will be a driving force in bringing those stories to the West. We have some really exciting projects releasing this year and in the pipeline and I’m thrilled to be bridging the gap between the MENA region and Hollywood.”
With offices in Dubai and Los Angeles, Press Play was founded by Massoud and producing partner Ali Mashayekhi, who heads content development in North America.
Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi fights to keep her country’s cinema alive
Artist fled Afghanistan after US withdrawal, Taliban takeover
Cultural expression is critical to advocate for change, she says
Updated 8 min 1 sec ago
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: Just over one-and-a-half years ago award-winning Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi, known for her poignant portrayal of her countrywomen, had to flee her home in Kabul when the US withdrew its troops on Aug. 30, 2021, and the Taliban regained control of the country.
Since the Taliban returned to power, despite the group’s pledges that this time would be different — particularly for women, education and cultural expression — the country has plunged into an even darker repressive rule. Now women are fiercely controlled, and education and freedom of expression is limited. In December, the Taliban ordered an indefinite ban on university education for Afghan women, among a host of repressive measures, sparking international condemnation and widespread despair among people both inside and outside the country.
“With the return of (the) Taliban to power, we lost everything,” Karimi told Arab News. “We lost almost every personal and collective achievement we gained over the past 20 years. We artists, filmmakers, are now trying to be active outside of Afghanistan.”
Culture can also be a casualty of war. Through her work abroad Karimi is trying to reverse this fate and keep the flame burning for Afghan culture even during some of the country’s darkest days.
“Afghanistan is a very complex country, and its struggles are complex too but one of the many main ways to help Afghanistan is through culture,” Karimi said. “We need to develop culturally through our films, our music, and art. We need our artists, and we need to tell our stories to educate people about their history and identity.”
Karimi — now based in Rome, Italy, where she is a visiting professor at the Rome National Film School while simultaneously working on her next film “Flight from Kabul” — was born and raised in Iran by Afghan refugee parents. In Iran, while studying mathematics and physics to become an engineer, she was discovered by an Iranian film director looking for a young Afghan actress. She was cast in her first movie and since then has dedicated herself to cinema.
Karimi then went on to receive her doctorate in cinema (Fiction Film Directing & Screenwriting) from the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Bratislava, Slovakia, and in August 2012 decided to return to Afghanistan. For Karimi, it was vital that she worked and filmed in her homeland so that she could shoot the country’s stories first-hand.
“We try to advocate for our athletes, for our cinema and our stories, and make, with the help from Western, European or American production houses, our films so that we can continue,” she said. “But it is not that easy because when you get cut off from your country of origin, it is very difficult to again find your way of storytelling and your way of doing your own cultural activities in (a) different country that has its own culture.”
Before the Taliban’s return to power, Kabul’s nascent art scene, which included the first-ever Afghanistan Cinema Festival on the country’s 100th Independence Day celebrations in 2020, has since the Taliban takeover in August gone largely underground due to new limits on creative expression. Karimi, the first-ever female head of Afghan Film, a state-owned institution, staged the festival, which was financed by the Afghan government and private sector, to revive cinema in the war-stricken nation. The festival showed a selection of 100 classic Afghan films through its duration.
“We were preparing the second edition when the Taliban returned and the collapse happened,” Karimi said.
Since then, plans for future editions of the festival have been halted.
“Unfortunately, when there are conversations about the future of Afghanistan, artists and culture worker(s) are not included or on the agenda,” she added. “Culture is missing, and this is a big mistake for Afghanistan because there can be no advocacy, no change without cultural change.”
“A film brings people together from various social and ethnic backgrounds in Afghanistan,” said Karimi. “It goes beyond just entertainment; cinema brings people together. We cannot save ourselves from conflicts, but if you read history, you find that it was culture that saved people from hopelessness.”
The staging of a film festival was historic for a country where following a relatively moderate period of rule, movie theaters were banned in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s reign from 1996-2001. When the Taliban fell, Afghan cinema flourished again. Although unlike its pre-war period, private media flourished in the country, largely due to international support.
But now the lights have dimmed again, the handful of cinemas that were operating in Kabul and throughout the country remain closed and Afghan actresses have very few rights if any.
Still Karimi, who was the first chairwoman of the Afghan Film Organization and spoke at the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi in October 2022, believes that no matter what happens it is crucial to keep the flame burning for Afghan art and culture. She has directed over 30 short films, three documentary films and the 90-minute fiction film titled “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” which premiered at the 76th Venice Film Festival in 2019. It was nominated for best fiction movie at the festival and tells the story of three pregnant Afghan women suffering in the aftermath of explosions and car bombings in Afghanistan. The film reveals what Karimi says are the “stories of war by women” that have rarely been told.
In her debut feature documentary “Afghan Women Behind the Wheel” that she released in 2009, Karimi examines how obtaining a driving license is a key factor for the personal freedom of Afghan women. In the film she asked whether Afghan society was ready for women drivers. The film features interviews with Afghan women of various backgrounds and ages. In 2014 it won the Women Filmmakers Section Award for Best Documentary at the Dhaka International Film Festival.
In 2016, Karimi released “Parlika,” a documentary examining the life of Suraya Parlika, one of the few Afghan women involved in the country’s politics. A fierce advocator for women’s rights, Parlika died of cancer in 2019. The film notably documents how the status of women changed in Afghanistan as the country transitioned from Taliban rule to that of a US-backed republic with a democratic system.
The fire and passion that Karimi gives to her work she says comes from Afghan women themselves. And while she still intends to share stories of women in Afghanistan, she is also covering those who are now living in exile.
“I am trying to keep the conversation alive about Afghan cinema and especially about the women of Afghanistan through film,” Karimi said. “I keep working; I don’t give up because I don’t believe in giving up. I want to advocate our stories through my films and through my photos so that people can keep talking and remembering Afghanistan. We must continue.”
Lebanese filmmaker Karim Kassem discusses ‘Octopus,’ shot following the Beirut port explosion
‘I was traumatized. I didn’t know what was going on,’ says Karim Kassem
Updated 49 min 23 sec ago
DUBAI: When Karim Kassem arrived in Beirut on Aug. 3, 2020 to make a film called “Octopus,” he was quarantined in a hotel overlooking the city’s port. So he settled in, made what preparations he could, and got some rest. The following day his mother joined him and the two of them sat six feet apart on the hotel’s balcony. They chatted, probably drank some coffee or tea, and were enjoying the late afternoon when the filmmaker saw a mushroom cloud over the port. He immediately grabbed his mother and ran inside. Both were blown from the room.
“From that very moment I decided to make a different ‘Octopus,’” says Kassem. “I just had to go back home, make sure my dad and my sisters were OK, and then immediately begin to plan this silent film. And I knew from the onset that it was going to be silent. It was almost necessary to make it silent, because anything you said would become diluted. It would dissolve immediately into soup.”
What emerged from that initial reaction is impossible to pigeonhole. Although “Octopus” won the Envision Competition at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2021, the traditional characteristics of a documentary are largely absent from Kassem’s film. There is no dialogue, no explanation, no story. The only brief snippet of speech is from a radio broadcast. What there is instead is a series of slow, lingering shots of traumatized people, of empty streets, of collective endeavor. All filmed with a level of patience and poetry that is sometimes mesmerizing.
At its most elemental, “Octopus” is a collection of beautifully framed shots accompanied by a darkly ambient score. About two thirds of the way through the film, the camera concentrates on a single neighborhood junction in Beirut and remains fixated on it for a long period of time. As the sound of church bells mingles with the clamor of reconstruction, the camera pans left and right, but for the most part it simply observes.
“My editor calls that shot the ‘Pasolini shot,’ (a reference to Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini)” says Kassem with a smile. “Because it just lingers forever. There was no other way to make the film for me. It was largely instinctive. My background is in philosophy, so I try to emulate what I think is a, let’s say, ontological or metaphysical position and implement that into the culture. And really the purpose of this film is to ask the questions, ‘What is our purpose?’ ‘What is the meaning of life?’ and ‘What is the nature of reality?’ It was made to feel timeless. It’s not a place, it’s not a time, it could be anything. There could be no log line, you could just walk in and watch. You can make whatever you want of it.
“But I did work a lot prior to shooting, finding people and taking their numbers. You talk to them, you tell them you’re going to film this, and then you go and film it as though it were a documentary. You make it look like that on purpose. But for me, it’s a hybrid. There are aspects of documentary, but I don’t even know what that means anymore.”
Filming began a month after the explosion and lasted for 36 days. With Kassem — who directed, produced and shot the film himself — were a production coordinator and an occasional assistant. Although some people would talk to him for hours, they weren’t always willing to be filmed. But because Kassem had experienced the explosion firsthand, people would let him in.
“I was traumatized all the way through. I don’t even remember how I made this film,” he admits. “It’s beyond me. I didn’t know what was going on because I was in shock. I purposefully waited a month because by then they had cleaned almost everything up. I could’ve shot immediately, when there was way more destruction, but I shot way later. By then, the emotions had started to actually sink in and those thousand-yard stares really became present. That was the time for me to make the film.”
For Kassem, who lived in New York for a decade before spending most of last year either in Beirut developing his fourth feature or hopping from place to place, the film’s dialogue is an inner one with the viewer. As such, the film can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways. At the beginning of the film, for example, an unnamed man drives a truck full of doors to a location on the outskirts of Beirut, where an octopus is stenciled onto each one. At the end of the film, those stenciled doors are carried through Beirut, although the carrier receives no response when he attempts to deliver them to apartments in the city.
What is the significance of this and the octopus itself? Kassem says there’s no right or wrong answer. One interpretation could be that the tentacles of the octopus represent the multiplicity of human experience and thought. Or it could be a simple ode to the sea (when the camera goes beneath the waves it finds only trash). Maybe it’s political. “You could say, ‘Yeah, this government feels like an octopus, operating underneath,’” he says. “We never really see it, but it’s controlling everything. Every step you take in Beirut, you’re just under control somehow — you feel like you have agency, but you really don’t.”
Supported by the Red Sea Fund and the Doha Film Institute, Octopus had its Middle East and North Africa premiere at Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival in December. This was followed by the world premiere of his third film — called “Thiiird” — at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in February. Starring the door carrier from “Octopus,” “Thiiird” is the film that Kassem had originally set out to make when he arrived in Beirut in August 2020. Now, he says, it is “like an echo of the ideas that I had for the original ‘Octopus.’”
Featuring a cast of non-actors, the film tells the story of a car mechanic struggling to make ends meet during the country’s economic crisis. But when people bring their cars to him to be fixed, it quickly becomes apparent that it is the owners who need fixing.
“He becomes a sort of therapist,” explains Kassem. “And his garage becomes this environment in which we all dive into our subconscious.”
“Thiiird” is the third film that Kassem has made in as many years. Now working on his fourth, he has been prolifically churning out films like there’s no tomorrow. Why?
“Because I know it takes a lot of time to make films and I don’t know if I’m going to die tomorrow,” he replies. “I’ve always had this belief — from very early in my life — that I would die very soon, which is normal, I think. It’s a philosophy that drives me. I might not make a film for two years, maybe three, four… I don’t know. Life takes you in different directions.
“But it’s been three years — three feature films back-to-back with no help whatsoever. I produced all of them myself independently. I’ve been lucky getting post-production grants from the Red Sea Fund, Doha and AFAC, but with no backing, with no name whatsoever. I’ve kind of come from the underground really. I’m just an indie filmmaker doing my own thing.”
‘Paper Planes’ rapper M.I.A. joins Wireless Abu Dhabi line-up
Updated 09 February 2023
DUBAI: British rapper M.I.A. is the latest addition to the line-up set to descend on the UAE capital for the Abu Dhabi edition of one of the UK’s biggest urban music festivals, Wireless.
Set to take place at Etihad Park, Yas Island on March 11, the global superstar joins a growing list of musical acts that includes Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert, Wegz, Black Sherif, Ali Gatie, King, Divine, and Young Stunners.
London-born Mathangi Arulpragasam, who goes by the stage name M.I.A. started out as a visual artist, filmmaker and designer in 2000, and began her recording career in 2002, bursting onto the international scene with her 2007 release of the track “Paper Planes.”
The multi-award-winning artist, who has collaborated with the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Pharrell, and Lil Wayne, will be performing an array of her smash-hits including “Bad Girls,” “Borders,” “XXXO,” and “Paper Planes.” Guests will also be treated to songs from her most recent album, “Mata.”
Recipes for success: Chef Adel Sayed Rawi talks early mistakes, checking your ego
Updated 47 min 29 sec ago
RIYADH: Adel Sayed Rawi is a chef at Al Nakheel Boulevard in Riyadh — a restaurant serving Middle Eastern and Saudi cuisine that opened its first branch in Jeddah in 1986. Its traditional decorative touches and simple plating made it one of the most-popular places to dine during Riyadh Season. Al Nakheel Boulevard is focused on embracing Saudi culture and highlights include traditional Hijazi dishes and Rawi’s own take on classic Middle Eastern foods including vine leaves and ful.
Here, Rawi offers some advice and insights into his cooking, and discusses staying calm and the importance of teamwork.
Q: How did you first get interested in cooking? What made you want to become a chef?
When I was a child, I would cook with my mother and help her out in the kitchen, so I grew to love it. Now I’ve had about 34 years in the industry. I went into it out of passion. I’ve had many opportunities to work in other fields, but I wasn’t comfortable. Cooking is a hobby, but also everything to me.
When you started out as a professional, what was the most-common mistake you made when preparing/cooking a dish?
I can’t remember the specifics, but I’m sure there were many. The roughest experience in the beginning was when I was chopping something, I cut my finger and the wound lasted over a month. My head chef warned me multiple times — “Adel, one thing at a time” — but I was coming in young and was excited. I think that’s the biggest mistake I made early in my career; I wanted to be like him, and I was using the knife too fast and swerving it, so I hurt myself in the process. But instead of crying about it, I laughed. I learned to stay calm and not rush — you need to stay calm and collected in this industry.
What’s your top tip for people considering becoming professional chefs?
Never let your ego get in the way. This industry is so huge — and has become so open, globally; some 15-year-old could show me a dish I’ve never made in my life, and I can learn from them.
My advice is to stay away from arrogance, no matter what you produce, or what feedback you get, or how much diners love your food. Always strive for more.
When you go out to eat, are you able to relax and enjoy it, or do you find yourself critiquing the food?
I swear, whenever I go out to a restaurant, the staff always ask me if I’m a chef. I’m not sure how they sense it. If there’s an issue with my meal, I might ask for the chef and introduce myself and try to offer advice, without being rude. Mistakes happen, and it can be a difficult situation, so I might say something like, “The salt might be a bit too much,” or whatever, and that’s the end of it. I can offer advice but never criticize, because I know that’ll sadden the chef.
What’s your favorite dish to eat?
And what’s your favorite dish to cook?
Kushari, an Egyptian dish. Whenever I make it, my mind is so fulfilled.
What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home?
When I’m at home in Egypt, surrounded by the kids and family, Bechamel pasta is my go-to. In around 25 minutes, it’s on the dinner table and everyone’s eating.
What customer behavior most annoys you?
The term is ‘guest’ and I can’t treat them as anything other than that at my restaurant. I can’t let them leave angry or unsatisfied. No matter what they do, we have to accept it. For me, the customer is always right. Even if they’re in the wrong, we’ll take it.
What are you like in the kitchen? Are you a disciplinarian? Do you shout a lot? Or are you fairly laidback?
There’s no yelling at all in our kitchen. We’re all one unit. We’ve really become a family; from the cleaners to the head chef, we’re all one. If there’s yelling or nagging of any kind, that person will fail, and that will work its way onto the customer’s plate. The whole vibe has to be relaxed and the cook needs to be emotionally comfortable as well. If that’s the case, then they'll serve something great.