Australian Lebanese model Jessica Kahawaty stars in new Gucci campaign 

Australian Lebanese model Jessica Kahawaty stars in new Gucci campaign 
The actress, humanitarian and entrepreneur took to Instagram to announce that she has teamed up with Italian luxury label Gucci. (Getty/ Instagram)
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Updated 16 February 2023

Australian Lebanese model Jessica Kahawaty stars in new Gucci campaign 

Australian Lebanese model Jessica Kahawaty stars in new Gucci campaign 

DUBAI: Australian Lebanese model Jessica Kahawaty has added a new brand to her ever growing list of collaborations.  

The actress, humanitarian and entrepreneur took to Instagram on Wednesday to announce that she has teamed up with Italian luxury label Gucci.  

“It’s here! Your girl is GUCCI Jackie. Honored to have worked on this creative and adventurous filled, multi-personality campaign with @Gucci - because we’re all a little Gucci inside,” the Dubai-based model wrote on Instagram, sharing the news with her 1.2 million followers. 

In the short clip she posted, Kahawaty sported the brand’s Jackie purse in red, black, yellow and beige as she changed her hair color and style from her natural brunette shade to blonde, then ginger, then black.   

She seems to be liking the black hair, because she asked her followers to vote on whether she should cut and dye her hair like the wig she wore in the campaign. 

Kahawaty has worked with top-notch brands like Tod’s, Prada, Boucheron, Chloe and more. 

Last month, she starred in German fashion label Hugo Boss’s Spring/Summer 2023 digital campaign, alongside other A-list celebrities including Gigi Hadid, Demi Lovato, Pairs Hilton, Maluma, Bella Throne, Naomi Campbell and more.   

She also walked for Lebanese designer Georges Hobeika during Paris Haute Couture Week in January. She wore a voluminous satin gown in blue with an embroidered floor-length coat.  

Her mother, Rita Kahawaty, also modeled for Hobeika. At the time, Jessica said that walking her first Paris Haute Couture show with Hobeika was “a dream.”  

“Walking right behind my mother in Paris Haute Couture for Georges Hobeika is a memory I’ll never forget,” she added.  

When Jessica is not modeling, she can be found setting up charitable endeavors — evidenced most recently in her support for people affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.  

Kahawaty has been sharing videos and suggesting charitable organizations to donate to help the victims.  

For her most recent collaboration with Prada, the model said that she will be donating her earning from the partnership to help families affected by the earthquake.  

Gulf dish harees, Palestinian dabke added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list  

Gulf dish harees, Palestinian dabke added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list  
Updated 13 sec ago

Gulf dish harees, Palestinian dabke added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list  

Gulf dish harees, Palestinian dabke added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list  

DUBAI: The Middle Eastern dish harees, popular in the Gulf region, has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list alongside other practices and dishes from the Arab world.  

The name harees comes from the Arabic word harasa, which means to mash or to squash. Just as the name suggests, in the preparation of harees wheat is ground with goat meat or mutton, and then cooked over low heat until it gets creamy. 

The list also includes six other cultural traditions from the Arab world, including the Palestinian version of the dabke – the Levant folklore dance, Iraq’s traditional craft skills and arts of building called Al-Mudhif and Lebanon’s man’ouche, the flatbread topped with thyme, cheese or ground meat.   

From Syria, UNESCO added the glassblowing technique that artisans use for the craft of creating glass objects from pieces of waste glass using a handmade brick oven.  

The list also includes Sudan’s Al-Molid procession, which is a parade that celebrates the Prophet’s birthday. It takes place in the third month of the Islamic lunar calendar. 

The last thing on the list is the arts, skills and practices associated with engraving on gold, silver and copper, which is popular in Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisian and Yemen. 

Kate Beckinsale, Jameela Jamil step out in Arab gowns

Kate Beckinsale, Jameela Jamil step out in Arab gowns
Updated 54 min 1 sec ago

Kate Beckinsale, Jameela Jamil step out in Arab gowns

Kate Beckinsale, Jameela Jamil step out in Arab gowns

DUBAI: British actresses Kate Beckinsale and Jameela Jamil this week stepped out in head-turning ensembles by Arab designers at Elle’s Women in Hollywood celebration at Nya Studios in Los Angeles. 

Beckinsale — famous for her roles in “Snow Angels,” “Fool’s Paradise” and “Click” — opted for a figure-hugging gown from Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad’s ready-to-wear Fall/Winter 2023 collection.  

The dress boasted cut-outs with gemstone detailing at the waist. 

Beckinsale opted for a figure-hugging gown from Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad. (AFP)

The event was attended by A-list stars including Jennifer Lopez and her husband Ben Affleck, Eva Longoria, Bella Ramsey, Jodie Foster, Jameela Jamil, Kerry Washington, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Alexandra Shipp and many more. 

British Indian Pakistani actress and activist Jamil wore a heavily-embellished gold mini dress from Dubai-based Tunisian designer Ali Karoui. To complete her dazzling ensemble, she wore reflective gold heels by Jimmy Choo. 

Jamil took to Instagram to share snippets from the event with her followers. “I love Jodie Foster so much,” she captioned a video, and in another she wrote: “Oprah brought on ICONIC Fantasia Taylor Barrino.” 

British Indian Pakistani actress and activist Jamil wore a heavily-embellished gold mini dress. (AFP)

US singer and actress Taylor Barrino also turned to an Arab designer — Yousef Akbar.  

She donned an electric blue jumpsuit by the celebrity-loved Saudi couturier. The ensemble had an asymmetric skirt attached to the waist and a chunky gold chain that crossed over her chest.  

The ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards honors “the women who are influencing Hollywood today from the best red carpet appearances, the women behind the camera, to ELLE’s very own cover stars,” according to the publication’s description.  

This year’s honorees include Lopez, Taylor Barrino, Longoria, Foster, Nina Garcia, America Ferrera, Danielle Brooks, Greta Lee, Lily Gladstone and Taraji P. Henson. 

Tunisian-Moroccan production ‘Backstage’ explores inner lives of multinational dance troupe

Tunisian-Moroccan production ‘Backstage’ explores inner lives of multinational dance troupe
Updated 06 December 2023

Tunisian-Moroccan production ‘Backstage’ explores inner lives of multinational dance troupe

Tunisian-Moroccan production ‘Backstage’ explores inner lives of multinational dance troupe

JEDDAH: Set against the backdrop of the majestic Atlas Mountains, “Backstage” — the Tunisian-Moroccan production from husband-wife duo Khalil Benkirane and Afef Ben Mahmoud that premiered at the Red Sea International Film festival on Monday night — is a story that contains multitudes. 

Following a fateful night in the lives of a slowly unraveling but close-knit dance troupe, “Backstage” manages to touch on topics such as displacement, climate change, body autonomy, found family, the institution of marriage, and more; all the while slowly zooming the lens into the inner lives of its main characters, all 10 of them.  

Speaking to Arab News at the sidelines of the festival in Jeddah, co-director Ben Mahmoud — who also stars in the film as one of its central characters Aida — says that she began working on the script for the film in 2016. 

“I began my artistic career as a dancer, then stage actor, then actress for cinema and TV. And this journey through all these life arts, of course made a huge impression in my life. And when I moved to cinema, my goal was to bring these two worlds of cinema and dance together because, for me, they are both not that far. And I love them both,” she said.  

Co-director and husband Benkirane said: “I would come home from from work and she would update me as to the new scenes she was working on. My job does not allow me to really get my creative parts, really start the script. But this way worked really, really well. And we usually get on the same wavelength when we watch films. So, it was a beautiful collaboration.”  

“And what I liked about the script is that it has a normal, straight line as far as the development of the narrative. But the structure allowed us to inject certain things that we are concerned with, such as the environment, the right for women to use their body as a tool of work, challenging the notion of marriage, which in the Arab world is so dear to tradition, immigration and going back to the place of origin, which does not satisfy anymore because you have become something else,” he said.  

(AN/ Huda Bashatah) 

The cast, a mix of actors and dancers, features names from across the Arab world including Sofiane Ouissi, Ali Thabet, Abdallah Badis, Salima Abdelwahab, Nassim Baddag and Saleh Bakri. The film also stars dancer Hajjiba Fahmy, who is known for her extensive work with US superstar Beyonce.  

But the most prominent name to jump out from the cast and crew is that of award-winning Belgian choreographer and dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who makes his acting debut with “Backstage.” 

“Dance is really dear to my heart but it is also not always well represented in cinema. And there are only three dance scenes. But even if we have only three scenes, for me it was extremely important to have a big figure because this is going to give more visibility and credibility to what we are trying to do,” Ben Mahmoud said.  

“And it was extremely important for us to have someone such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and we were so lucky to talk to him and to convince him to be with us. And we were lucky because he’s extremely generous and we really collaborated together. We gave him the script, he worked on the script, and we didn’t know what he was going to do with the choreography. But when we saw the movement and how it was so linked to the narrative and how much they give this expression through the body to tell everything without words — this was really amazing,” she said. 

Tamer Ruggli’s ‘Back to Alexandria’ starring Nadine Labaki dives into complex mother-daughter relationship

Tamer Ruggli’s ‘Back to Alexandria’ starring Nadine Labaki dives into complex mother-daughter relationship
Updated 06 December 2023

Tamer Ruggli’s ‘Back to Alexandria’ starring Nadine Labaki dives into complex mother-daughter relationship

Tamer Ruggli’s ‘Back to Alexandria’ starring Nadine Labaki dives into complex mother-daughter relationship
  • Swiss-Egyptian director Tamer Ruggli’s debut feature ‘Back to Alexandria’ stars lauded Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki
  • The film will screen at Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival, with the director saying he expects it will resonate with Arab audiences

DUBAI: Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival has attracted a slew of major titles for cinemagoers to watch before it wraps up on Dec. 9 and one of its most anticipated movies is Swiss-Egyptian director Tamer Ruggli’s debut feature, “Back to Alexandria.”

Starring veteran actors Nadine Labaki and Fanny Ardant, the film explores the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship with a script that features Arabic and French.

Sue (Labaki) is a psychotherapist living in Switzerland who returns to Egypt after 20 years to mend fences with her dying mother, Fairouz (Ardant).

Ruggli’s unconventional flick explores various layers of familial relationships.

The 37-year-old filmmaker told Arab News that he had initially wanted to do cartoons and later turned to film because it brought all the layers – colors, photography, costumes, and makeup – into one universe.

For his first movie, script development took seven years, and it became an ambitious project with a stellar cast.

He said: “We have a great cast of famous Arab actors that accepted to work on this more arthouse kind of film that they were normally used to.”

The film draws extensive references from his childhood.

The film poster for ‘Back to Alexandria.’ (Supplied)

“I grew up listening to my mother’s story on her relationship with her mother, how it affected her — she is the pretext of telling the story. But it’s very inspired by my childhood memories; the people I met growing up and those who have shaped me. I like to say it’s semi-autobiographical,” Ruggli added.

As mother and daughter unearth the past, Sue learns about Fairouz’s love life and better understands the complexities of their relationship.

He said: “Sue has an idealized image of her mother, and she discovers some things about her love life – that she loved someone else and had to marry a different person. She had to sacrifice a part of herself, so she rejected her daughter in a way. It symbolizes the freedom that she didn’t have.”

Aside from examining a contentious mother-daughter relationship, Ruggli has also included the presence of aunts in the film, making it even more relatable to Arab audiences.

“There’s this love-hate relationship with aunts – sometimes they even replace the mother’s role. So, we have different aunts present in the movie.

“For instance, Nadine’s character has this very close relationship with her aunt’s help, which is more human than that she has with her family,” he added.


A post shared by Tamer Ruggli (@tamer_ruggli)

One highlight of the film is the candy pink Cadillac Sue is seen driving around in, imagining conversations about things left unsaid between her and her mother. The car, which belongs to Fairouz, becomes a symbol of the mother’s eccentricity.

Ruggli said: “The car is very feminine and exuberant and is reminiscent of the mother. She’s this flamboyant character that lived in Egypt and always stood out from the crowd.”

British-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi discusses her debut feature ‘The Teacher’

Farah Nabulsi on the set of 'The Teacher' (Supplied)
Farah Nabulsi on the set of 'The Teacher' (Supplied)
Updated 06 December 2023

British-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi discusses her debut feature ‘The Teacher’

Farah Nabulsi on the set of 'The Teacher' (Supplied)
  • ‘What’s happening in Palestine can’t be ignored anymore,’ Nabulsi says
  • The Oscar-nominated filmmaker’s debut feature premieres at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Dec. 5

DUBAI: As the war in Gaza stretches into its second month, “The Teacher,” the feature debut of Oscar-nominated British-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi, which screened in competition at the Red Sea International Film Festival this week, could hardly have had a timelier airing in the region.

“The Teacher” is the latest entry in the canon of films chronicling the contemporary Palestinian experience under occupation, and dives into many themes that have been the subject of global discussion as the conflict rages on. In it, a member of the Israeli Defense Forces is held hostage in the West Bank as his parents fight for his release, international aid workers grapple with their role in supporting justice, and a seasoned schoolteacher struggles to keep his community together as local settlers wage a campaign of violence.

But for Nabulsi, who was herself put into the global spotlight after the success of her debut short film “The Present” in 2020, “The Teacher” was never intended as a political statement. First and foremost, the film exists as an exploration of the human condition, as ordinary people are forced to contend with extraordinary circumstances. Its meaning, ultimately, is left for the viewer to decide.

“I did not make this film with a message,” Nabulsi tells Arab News. “I didn’t even set out to make a political film, but, by default, any film about Palestine is going to be considered political somehow. It can certainly be interpreted as including statements about the socio-political environment we exist in, but it is storytelling first and foremost, not an essay. I’m more interested in the individual journeys of people in that landscape, the human dynamics and the emotional experiences.

“If I can create one moment that an audience member is left contemplating long after the film ends, if I’ve created one character whose humanity forges a genuine connection to this situation for the viewer, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do,” she continues. “If the film does contain a deeper meaning, it should be a personal one that the viewer comes to on their own. That’s what exists in the movies that inspired me, and that’s what I want in my movies, too.”

While Nabulsi did enter filmmaking with the idea of highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people — turning her back on investment banking after an illuminating trip to the West Bank — she could never have predicted the journey her first short would take. “The Present” garnered awards at nearly every festival in which it screened, and ended up earning a BAFTA, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Film. Soon after that, it was trending worldwide on Netflix, with former CIA director John Brennan even penning a New York Times opinion piece about it entitled “Why Biden Must Watch This Palestinian Movie.”

“I came to filmmaking late, but the deeper I got into it, the more it became clear to me that the industry has a graveyard of brilliant films that no one will ever see — films that people poured their hearts and souls into, but that, for one reason or another, never captured the world’s attention,” Nabulsi says. “It was astounding what happened to ‘The Present,’ but I’m keenly aware that I can’t rest on my previous accolades and expect the same formula to be repeated each time. And if I try to pander to that same audience in order to provoke the same result, it will do me no good either.

“In approaching a follow up, I had to unburden myself from all of that success. I’ll be grateful forever for what that film gave me, but to hold myself to that with every subsequent endeavor would be ridiculous,” she continues. “In order tell the next story, I had to focus on doing justice to these characters and their plight, I had to be sure that my artistic expression never lost its integrity, and then let the chips fall where they may.”

It's clear to Nabulsi that “The Teacher” will not be as easy for audiences to process as “The Present” proved to be. The latter followed a father named Yusef (Saleh Bakri) and his daughter Yasmine (Miriam Kanj) as they made their way through checkpoints in the West Bank in order to bring home a gift for her mother, leading to a final conflict with border patrol agents that ends with a surprisingly optimistic result. “The Teacher” features Bakri in the title role playing something much closer to an “anti-hero,” in Nabulsi’s words, and resolves in a far more complicated fashion.

“There’s a lot to absorb compared to the simple story of ‘The Present.’ There are a couple layers of injustice in ‘The Teacher’ and with these various characters and journeys on both sides of the conflict, there’s a lot to digest — especially if you’re not familiar with the reality on the ground,” says Nabulsi.

“But even as people may have wildly different interpretations of the film, I think a lot of people are coming from a place of goodwill and good intentions. Most who will watch a film like this just want to understand, because what’s happening in Palestine can’t be ignored anymore. And with what’s happening in Gaza now, though the timing of the film is coincidental, people are more focused on these issues than perhaps ever before,” she continues.

Now that the film is completed and continuing its acclaimed run on the festival circuit, Nabulsi is able to sit back and begin to chart her own journey. “The Teacher” was an experience of personal growth too, one in which she developed not only as an artist, but as a person.

“If you looked at the runtimes of (my) two films, you’d say (‘The Teacher’) should be six times harder, but it was honestly hundreds of times more difficult. Perhaps I have myself to blame — I put so much pressure on myself, wore so many hats from beginning to end, and spent three years living and breathing this film, all day each day. And the sacrifices that come with that are heavy,” says Nabulsi.

“Sometimes it’s not easy to enjoy the journey. But there are moments — truly beautiful moments. I think I’ve become more able to recognize those triumphs and appreciate them, and then, when they’re over, get down the mountain and get ready to start again,” she continues. “And as difficult as this can all get, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that nothing great can come without hardship.”