CHENNAI: In the running for an Oscar for its lead star Paul Mescal, “Aftersun” has had incredible — and unexpected — success on the awards circuit after is Cannes Film Festival 2022 debut.
Coming from Scottish-born, New York-based director Charlotte Wells, “Aftersun” is a sweetly poignant story of a young single father and his 11-year-old daughter as they spend their summer in a Turkish resort. The understated and emotionally fulfilling drama talks about love and loss, but there is no melancholy and it is well worth a watch on Apple TV+.
As the movie rolls on, we see young father Calum and his daughter Sophie (newcomer Frankie Corio) on a holiday in Turkey in the late 1990s.
The father-daughter duo have fun moments playing water polo or diving underwater, but we cannot miss the quiet anguish of Calum and Sophie — she misses her mother and he his wife, and the holiday has all the ingredients of a bitter-sweet moment in time.
A very personal work, Wells says the inspiration for “Aftersun” were her holiday albums from her childhood and her deep admiration for her father.
I was reminded of Lynne Ramsay’s early works such as “Gasman” (1997) and “Ratcatcher” as both Ramsay and Wells share a common trait — they have this marvellous ability to capture memories on screen. Editor Blair McClendon mixes and matches the past with the present in a seamless style. A quiet work that in a very few words says such a lot about the father and his daughter, it is difficult to recall any movie which has captured a parent-child relationship with such precise detail and with such stylistic finesse.
Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad strikes again with second custom look for Taylor Swift on ‘Eras’ tour
Updated 26 March 2023
DUBAI: After revealing that he designed US pop sensation Taylor Swift’s showstopping ballgown for the “The Eras Tour” just last week, Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad is back with yet another unique look for her latest stop in Las Vegas.
The 33-year-old wore a shimmering dark blue outfit, with embellishment and fringe detailing, paired with knee-high boots.
“@TaylorSwift wore for The Eras Tour Las Vegas Opening Night a custom #ZMCouture midnight blue crystal embellished bodysuit, overflowing with richly beaded fringes and a matching garter,” posted the label’s official Instagram account, sharing a picture of the glittering outfit.
The Grammy Award-winning singer -- who kicked off her first trek in more than four years at Glendale, Arizona's State Farm Stadium last weekend -- belted out her top hits at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday in a three-hour show that ran through hits from every era of her 17-year career.
Saudi Arabia’s GEA launches Eid Al-Fitr 2023 activities with new logo
General Entertainment Authority said in a statement to Arab News that the new logo and corresponding program aim to capture the feelings of joy associated with Eid Al-Fitr
Updated 24 March 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority has launched Eid Al-Fitr 2023 with a new logo, characterized by elements and colors that represent both the celebrations and Saudi culture.
Eid Al-Fitr 2023 activities will include fireworks, parties, and other events with the aim of celebrating the season and encouraging the Saudi private sector to contribute to developing entertainment options for the community.
GEA, established in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 objective of developing the entertainment sector in the Kingdom, said in a statement to Arab News that the new logo and corresponding program aim to capture the feelings of joy associated with Eid Al-Fitr — from buying new clothes to gathering with friends and family.
GEA has issued a guide for the Eid Al-Fitr activities, which can be viewed via the link: https://eid.gea.gov.sa/
GEA supports the Kingdom’s economy by contributing to its diversification, increasing the gross domestic product, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and raising foreign direct investment in the entertainment sector.
Review: In ‘Faraway,’ a woman finds peace and place by the shimmering sea in Croatia
Updated 23 March 2023
CHENNAI: Vanessa Jopp’s bilingual Netflix drama, “Faraway,” underlines the ways in which humanity is still living in a man's world. And she narrates it picturesquely. Shot aesthetically on a beautiful Croatian island where the sun dazzles magically and the sea is a shimmering blue, it makes up, however, for a rather ordinary story of an unhappy woman whose husband (Adnan Maral) owns a restaurant.
The man is busy in his own little world, and pays little attention to his wife, Zeynep (Naomi Krauss). Their daughter (Bahar Balci) is no different. “Faraway” talks about a classic situation where so many women find themselves unhappy, unappreciated and lonely. They slog away for their families but find that they are little cared for.
The breaking point comes when Zeynep's mother dies and her husband forgets to turn up for the funeral. This may seem a tad exaggerated, but this appears like the only way the plot can move into the second part of the drama, which is far more realistic.
She runs away to her mother's birthplace, a lovely Croatian island, where something unexpected is all set to arrive. She walks into her mother's home and finds that it is occupied by a strange man, Josip (Goran Bogdan). And Zeynep's plan to turn the house into an Airbnb appears to be failing.
There is instant chemistry between the two, but Jopp and writer Jane Ainscough place this on a slow-burner. The relationship swings wildly between love and hate and the rom-com burns brightest in this segment.
It is not very difficult to see what will follow, and how the story will end. Unfortunately, “Faraway” is highly predictable, but the visual brilliance overshadows the latent flaws.
Krauss is compelling to watch with a performance curve that is marvellous: she turns from an unhappy woman to one who finds joy and happiness in faraway Croatia. For those who are a romantic at heart, Jopp's work may be even exhilarating. Yes, the visuals are stunning and add to the feel-good factor. A great work for an evening when you are not in a very critical mood and are willing to go with the flow of “Faraway.”
What to watch in Ramadan: The latest slate of TV shows to hit your screens this month
Updated 23 March 2023
DUBAI: It is no secret that Ramadan TV series are among the most eagerly anticipated of the year, with fans across the Middle East — and the world — settling in to watch the latest hot new show after iftar each evening.
This year, regional production houses are offering up a slate of shows, including classic comedies, heart-felt roadtrips and even a docuseries focused on Anas Bukhash, who is famous for his YouTube talk show #ABTalks and has interviewed the likes of American Palestinian Netflix star Mo Amer, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, Gigi and Bella Hadid’s father Mohamed, and Mohammed Diab, director of Marvel’s “Moon Knight,” among others.
‘A Sitdown with Anas and Hala’
Starring: Anas Bukhash, Hala Kazim
With #ABtalks, Anas Bukhash has cemented himself as a top Arabic-language interviewer, inviting stars from across the region onto his show for a series of often-heartfelt conversations about the human experience. In “A Sitdown with Anas and Hala” he hosts a very special guest — his own mother. The six-episode docuseries will follow Anas and Hala as they discuss grief, creating boundaries, and making connections, all on a quest to find their inner selves. Airing weekly in 30-minute episodes, each installment will find the two in their home as they discuss life, the universe, and everything.
‘Gaafar El Omda’
Starring: Mohamed Ramadan, Zeina, Hala Sedki
Where: MBC Shahid
Love him or hate him, Mohamed Ramadan is the prime Arabic-language television season’s biggest star, each year turning in a role that becomes both must-watch and hotly debated, driven either by his on- or off-screen antics. Two years ago, his period piece “Moussa,” set in 1940s Egypt, was condemned by his peers after a seemingly unflattering portrayal of Egyptian comedy icon Ismail Yassine. Last year, “El Meshwar,” a series in which he plays a man in the throes of a curse, was also poorly received by many. “Gaafar El Omda” looks to be a return to form for the talented leading man, reuniting him with writer Mohammed Samy, who previously crafted the acclaimed Ramadan 2020 hit “Al Prince.” This time around, he plays a rich businessman and village elder named Gaafar, who offers a woman a loan on the condition that she become his wife for 400 days.
‘El Keteeba 101’
Starring: Asser Yassin, Amr Youssef, Khaled Elsawy
Where: MBC Shahid
After a huge hit last year with “Suits Arabia,” an Arabic-language remake of the popular American legal series, Asser Yassin is back with a gun in his hand in “El Keteeba 101,” a military drama that pairs him with acclaimed actor Amr Youssef (from 2016’s massive hit “Grand Hotel”). The series is set in the Sinai Peninsula in 2014, as the Egyptian Army’s 101st Battalion wages war against terrorist organizations, striving to overcome what appear to be impossible odds. Yassin has cemented himself as one of the best action stars in the Arab world, especially after his 2022 hit “The Eight,” and a pairing with Youssef should prove impossible to resist.
Starring: Saad Aziz, Saleh Abu Amra, Muhammad Al-Shehri
Where: MBC1 and MBC Shahid
Perhaps the greatest joy of the Ramadan television season is the surprises. In Saudi Arabia last year, that was “Road Trip” (Sikat Safar), a hilarious and heartfelt dramedy following three brothers who set off on the road after the death of their father. The second season reunites the trio of Mohammed Alshehri, Saleh Abuamrh, and Saad Aziz, this time to help their uncle run a small hotel that is threatened with demolition, all set in the gorgeous backdrop of the green southern part of the Kingdom. After Abuamrh’s widely-loved portrayal as the boss in the Saudi Arabian remake of “The Office,” expect this series to fully transition from underdog hit to Ramadan mainstay.
Starring: Ibrahem Al-Hajjaj, Fayez Bin Jurays, Khalid Al-Farraj
Where: MBC Shahid
Saudi comedian Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj is undoubtedly the most popular actor in the country at the moment, with his action-comedy “Sattar” still setting box-office records in the Kingdom, inching closer to number two on the all-time list overall, and his Netflix hit “Al Khallat+” still ranking in the country’s top five after nine weeks of release. Expect the second season of his Ramadan hit to be even bigger than the first, then. Here, Al-Hajjaj returns in a comedy following a conflict between two brothers who are attempting to run a company together but can’t seem to agree on how. Season two promises an unexpected love story, with Al-Hajjaj’s unique brand of physical comedy on full display throughout the month.
Starring: Ahmad Fahmy, Ahmed Salah El-Saadany, Shams
After two decades behind the camera making only films, Egyptian director Khaled Youssef is making his hotly anticipated TV debut with this historical drama that follows a young man in search of the secret shrine of Sultan Hamed, supposedly in a village in the Egyptian countryside. The show is set across two timelines, one present day, and one in the French-Egyptian war of 1798, with parallel characters existing across both. A strongly political filmmaker who serves in the Egyptian parliament, Youssef’s films often tackle social justice and corruption with the gritty cinema veritè style and signature use of improvisation that has made him one of the Arab world’s most distinctive voices.
‘Al Kabeer Awi’
Cast: Ahmed Mekky, Bayoumi Fouad, Mohamed Sallam, Rahma Ahmed
Where: MBC Shahid
Now in its seventh season, this long-running Egyptian hit continues to capitalize on the undeniable charisma of star Ahmed Mekky as the titular Al Kabeer, the mayor of Al-Mazareeta, a small town in the northern part of the country, as well as his twin brother, who returns to the country from the US to claim their father’s fortune. As the series has progressed, Mekky even added a third and fourth brother to the mix, while never losing audiences, even as the plots grew increasingly absurd. The latest season follows Al Kabeer after his latest marriage, and a mysterious potion transforms his grown son into a child.
‘Bab Al Hara’
Starring: Nizar Abu Hajar, Nijah Sefkouni, Fadia Khattab, Tayser Iddriss
No Ramadan TV list would be complete without the show that has become most synonymous with the season. “Bab Al Hara,” set to debut its 13th season, is still going strong, though many fans may debate in which season the show dropped from its peak. It follows the same family in Syria as the country continues its social and political transformation. In this season, set in 1945 and 1946, beloved star Nizar Abu Hajar returns as the characters grapple with an Evacuation Day that will see the final French soldiers leave the country ahead of April 17, 1946 — Syrian Independence Day. With Abu Hajar back front and center, will “Bab Al Hara” recapture its former glory? Stay tuned.
Europe’s first majority Black orchestra debuts stateside
The London-headquartered Chineke! echoes similar efforts in the US, including the Detroit-based Sphinx organization that promotes representation of Black and Latino artists in classical music
Updated 23 March 2023
NEW YORK: After more than three decades in the classical music industry, British double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku began grappling with the question that had troubled her for years: Why was she consistently the only Black musician onstage?
“Why did I never ask anyone about it? Why did we never talk about it?” she describes wondering. “Was I being tolerated, or were people just completely unaware?“
“Or were people okay with the status quo?“
In 2015 Nwanoku took a leading role in creating a more diverse future for classical music, which, from musicians to conductors to repertoire, traditionally skews heavily white.
She founded Chineke!, Europe’s first majority Black and ethnically diverse professional orchestra, which this week played at the prestigious New York Philharmonic’s David Geffen Hall in Manhattan’s Lincoln Center.
The performance was part of their long-awaited North American debut tour — it was among the many performances the pandemic pushed back — which included stops in New York, Ottawa, Toronto, Boston, Worcester and Ann Arbor.
The New York show featured the pioneering composer Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1, along with a rendition of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto featuring the New York Phil’s principal clarinet Anthony McGill.
The London-headquartered Chineke! echoes similar efforts in the United States, including the Detroit-based Sphinx organization that promotes representation of Black and Latino artists in classical music.
Yet the League of American Orchestras, which represents professional and amateur symphonies across the United States, found in a 2014 study on diversity that just 1.4 percent of orchestra musicians were Black — and there’s little reason to believe much has changed.
“Because the great majority of American orchestras are not individually transparent with racial and ethnic data on their artists, we do not know the percentage of Black orchestral artists in our orchestras today,” writes the Black Orchestral Network, a collective of Black musicians from more than 40 orchestras launched in 2022.
“From our vantage point, however, we have seen little meaningful progress.”
It’s mind-boggling to Nwanoku, who told AFP during a rehearsal break that “it seems to me that the only colleagues of color that I see who have a job in an orchestra in this country are those who are exceptional.”
“We have to be that much better to actually be given a job.”
Nwanoku believes that especially for young people, seeing more diverse faces onstage is “an immediate door-opener.”
“It’s the most incredibly winning thing to feel represented on a stage,” she said. “Even if when you walk through the front of house to buy a ticket, if you don’t see anyone who looks like you, that is immediately uncomfortable.”
“But when you see people that look like you in any place — in the supermarket, at the train station, at the concert hall, at the cinema — you immediately feel that is a place that I can walk into with confidence,” Nwanoku continued.
“You can be what you can see.”