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.”
DUBAI: American rock band Kiss is bringing its farewell tour, dubbed the End of the Road World Tour, to Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena on Oct. 13.
“JUST ANNOUNCED: THE FINAL DUBAI SHOW! We are stoked to announce a one night only exclusive Middle East date at Dubai’s @cocacolaarena on Friday, October 13th! #EndOfTheRoadTour,” read an announcement on the band’s official Instagram account.
Taylor Swift, Ice Spice sparkle in Yousef Al-Jasmi catsuits
Updated 31 May 2023
DUBAI: US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and rapper Ice Spice were spotted wearing dazzling catsuits by Kuwaiti designer Yousef Al-Jasmi in the new music video for “Karma.”
While Swift is seen in an embellished white-and-silver creation, Ice Spice sparkled in a skin-toned, form-fitting piece.
Swift was also seen wearing a look by Lebanese fashion house Azzi & Osta in the music video.
The handmade gown, part of their Between Light and Sea Couture 2023 Collection, features antique silver sequins on silk georgette, adorned with ombre, silver and gold leaves on the shoulders, long cape, skirt and cape.
The new music video had its world premiere during the second night of Swift’s “Eras Tour” show in New Jersey. Ice Spice also made a surprise appearance during the concert.
Lebanese-Canadian comedian Dave Merheje talks ‘Ramy’ and his new film with Daisy Ridley
Updated 31 May 2023
DUBAI: There was a single moment that Lebanese-Canadian comedian Dave Merheje knew that it was time to move into acting. He was in Singapore on another grueling stand-up tour, traveling across Southeast Asia with only a small, worn suitcase, forced to use the hotel laundry service because he ran out of clothes.
“I had just gotten paid, and I went to the front desk holding the envelope with all the money I’d made from the shows. I asked them if my clothes were done, and they said yes, and slid the bill across the desk. I realized it was everything I’d earned. I literally had to hand them the entire envelope,” Merheje told Arab News in Dubai, ahead of his appearance at the Dubai Comedy Festival in May.
“I said to myself, ‘I can’t be doing this anymore.’ And then, later that same night, I got a call from my agent in the United States. I had landed a role on ‘Ramy,’” he continued with a smile.
“Ramy” changed everything for Merheje. The acclaimed series, created by Egyptian-American Golden Globe winner Ramy Youssef, broke ground as the first series in the West to put Arabs and the Muslim faith front and center from their own perspective, and has since catapulted the careers of not only its titular star and Merheje, but Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass (“Succession”), Egyptian-Palestinian actress May Calamawy (Marvel’s “Moon Knight”), and fellow comedian and now Peabody Award-winner Mohammed Amer (‘Mo’) as well.
“I was born and raised in Windsor, Canada to Lebanese immigrant parents, and growing up, I never felt connected to either side. I was either not Canadian enough or not Lebanese enough. It wasn’t until I was on the set of ‘Ramy’ that I got to be around people like me. I finally felt accepted,” said Merheje.
Merheje long dreamed of getting into acting before he worked up the courage to share that deram with someone. One of the first people he told was a then-19-year-old former child actor and aspiring comedian at the 2010 Arab Comedy Festival in New York: Ramy Youssef.
“He hadn’t yet started doing stand-up. He told me how much he wanted to get into comedy, and I told him that I wanted to use comedy to find my voice before moving into acting. I forgot I told him that, but I guess he never did,” said Merheje.
Before making that move, Merheje still had a lot of growing to do on stage, especially because he was doing comedy in an era when his non-white identity was perceived by those more bigoted in his profession to be a weakness, causing him to initially shy away from it.
“At one point I was doing my dad’s accent on stage when telling a story, and a white comic came up to me after and said, ‘Why did you just do that? There’s too many people doing this ethnic thing.’ So I stopped,” Merheje said.
“Then after a show one night, I was telling a story about my dad to another comedian, Jocko Alston. He said, ‘Why don’t you talk about this on stage? This is a good story. Just do that!’ That was the first time I started talking about my dad, my culture, my upbringing. I had been too in my own head about it all, but the second I tried it, people really responded to it,” Merheje continued.
Alston tragically passed away shortly after in 2010, but Merheje never forgot the gift he had been given. “It was really him who pushed me to embrace who I was. That’s how I was able to find myself on stage,” he said.
When Merheje moved to the United States in the middle of the last decade, he reconnected with Youssef, and the two stayed friends as Merheje continued his comedy tours and Youssef worked tirelessly at creating his series.
When the show got picked up and went into production, Merheje ran into Youssef again at the Arab Comedy Festival. It was there that Youssef remembered what his friend had told him all those years ago, the dreams he had of becoming an actor, and he asked Merheje to audition for a role.
“By the time auditions came around, I was in China, and so Ramy asked me to send in a self-tape of me performing all my lines as a monologue. I had no idea what I was doing. I asked the events promoter there to help me film it in my hotel room, and after I was done, I asked her, ‘Was that good?’ She looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘No.’”
Merheje tried again and got it right, and looking back at that video on his phone, he can hardly fathom how much he’s grown as a performer since that moment. His character, a doctor named Ahmed, has developed into a key figure through the show’s three seasons, and Merheje is particularly proud of the standout 2022 episode “Second Opinion Doctor,” which centered around his character and was directed by Abbass.
“I learned so much, and I feel like I got better because she pushed me to go places that I either didn't know existed, couldn’t access, or had never really explored,” said Merheje. “I remember at one point I got really nervous. Hiam said, ‘What's wrong?’ I said, ‘It just feels heavy.’ She said, ‘It won’t be — we’ll work together.’ She made me feel safe, and that allowed me to get where I needed to be.”
Merheje’s growth as an actor has already paid dividends, as his work on “Ramy” landed him a starring role opposite Daisy Ridley in the 2023 Sundance hit “Sometimes I Think About Dying,” which was being shopped for global distribution at last month’s Cannes Film Festival.
“The director sent me a very beautiful letter — the nicest words someone has said to me besides my mother. She said she loved how earnest my performance on Ramy was — how sincerely he loves his friends and his faith — and she wanted me to bring that same energy to her film. And it was a deeply inspiring experience. I feel blessed to have been a part of it,” Merheje said.
At 43, Merheje is happy to be thriving both with his comedy — the Dubai festival was the first time he’d performed in the Gulf — and with his acting, with more roles on the way, and even a potential series of his own.
“I’ve been shopping it for about a year — it’s about Arabs and mental health, and the challenges in unpacking that to your family,” he said. “I’m pushing myself to continue to learn and get better — and to get to the level of the people that I’m inspired by, the people that helped me get to where I am today.”
Arab singers perform at free concert ahead of royal Jordanian wedding
Updated 30 May 2023
DUBAI: Popular singers from the Arab world took to the stage on Monday night at the Amman International Stadium in Jordan ahead of the highly anticipated royal wedding of Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II and Saudi Arabian citizen Rajwa Al-Saif, set to take place on Thursday.
Among the performers were Lebanese singer Ragheb Alama, Jordanian singers Diana Karazon and Zain Awad, Egyptian singer Ahmed Saad and Egyptian singer and actor Tamer Hosny.
Midway through his set, Hosny took his performance offstage and walked while singing towards the stands. With call and response, he encouraged the crowd to sing along. “For his excellency the beloved crown prince let’s hear a huge round of applause,” Hosny said while surrounded by a roving entourage in the stadium.
“It is an honor to open this legendary celebration with the precious people of Jordan on the occasion of the wedding of His Highness Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II, Crown Prince of Jordan and Miss Rachouh Al-Saif,” Hosny posted on Instagram after the show.
“I am happy and very proud that a day has come where I can play a part, even a small part, in placing the Egyptian flag, with love (in union), with a great nation such as Jordan, as a symbol of love between two countries for a great official occasion such as this.”
Alama also shared a post on his Instagram, dedicating a song to the young couple.
“From my heart, I dedicate this song to the honourable royal Hashemite family and to the beloved Jordanian and Saudi people,” he wrote. “And wishing the joys in your homes to continue to flourish.”
It was revealed earlier this month that the religious ceremony of the June 1 wedding will take place at Zahran Palace in Amman, while the reception, to be attended by international heads of state and the Jordanian royal family, will be held at Al-Husseiniya Palace.
Mika Kobayashi makes Kingdom concert debut in Jeddah
Mika Kobayashi: The audiences were truly captivating and engaging from the beginning
Kobayashi: It was amazing to see that my songs transcended language and so many people knew me and listened
Updated 29 May 2023
JEDDAH: Japanese singer Mika Kobayashi played Saudi Arabia for the first time with two concerts in Jeddah on Friday and Saturday.
The singer mesmerized the audience with a power-packed performance of famous tracks from “Attack on Titan,” “Gundam UC,” and “Aldnoah Zero” at City Walk’s Anime Village.
Kobayashi told Arab News that Saudi Arabia had provided her with a totally different experience from other venues at which she has played.
She said: “The audiences were truly captivating and engaging from the beginning. It was amazing to see that my songs transcended language and so many people knew me and listened.”
Despite the hot conditions, Kobayashi felt the vibes were cool as the audience’s reaction kept her comfortable throughout.
She is now keen to learn more about her fans in Saudi Arabia and looks forward to future opportunities in the Kingdom.
She added: “I didn’t have much of an impression before of Saudi Arabia, but visiting this country was truly memorable and changed my perspective.
“The people are so friendly and welcoming. That’s one of the reasons I want to come back and perform again.”
Vocalist Kobayashi has worked with Hiroyuki Sawano since 2010. She first collaborated on the album “Massugu na Otoko,” providing vocals for the song “Illusion.”
She features on “Final Fantasy,” “Blue Exorcist,” and various other solo projects. Her signature singing style owes much to classical music, but her talent is distinguished by the power she displays while performing songs of battle and conflict.
Hamza Mohammed, 25, who attended one of her shows, said: “The audience was provided with a real treat. We chanted the famous lines of the songs with Mika Kobayashi.
“The love for anime in the Kingdom has increased, and such concerts just bring so much to fans like us who can listen to our favorite songs and engage with the singers.”
Muzn Alhind, 29, said: “The Anime Village is the best zone in City Walk. I have attended three concerts so far and enjoyed all of them. Mika’s concert was one of the best as a debut performance. She sang fiercely and strongly while engaging with the audience.”