Palestinian Chilean singer Elyanna becomes first artist to perform full set in Arabic at Coachella

Palestinian Chilean singer Elyanna becomes first artist to perform full set in Arabic at Coachella
Elyanna hit the Gobi Tent stage during the 2023 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this weekend. (Getty Images)
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Updated 17 April 2023

Palestinian Chilean singer Elyanna becomes first artist to perform full set in Arabic at Coachella

Palestinian Chilean singer Elyanna becomes first artist to perform full set in Arabic at Coachella

DUBAI: Palestinian Chilean singer Elyanna has become the first Palestinian artist to perform at Coachella, the popular music festival that is held annually in Indio, California.  She also set a precedent as the first Arabic-language artist to perform at the event.

Elyanna, who is famous for her songs “Ghareeb Alay,” “Ala Bali” and “Ana Lahale,” hit the Gobi Tent during the 2023 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this weekend and in doing so became the first-ever artist to perform an entire set in Arabic at the festival.

“Tomorrow on stage at 2:30!!! ❤️ I can’t wait! I put my heart into this show! I love you,” she posted before the show, which took place on Friday.

The Los Angeles-based music sensation, who has been taking the music industry by storm, was spotted in Saudi Arabia in November where she hosted a one-on-one session, called “Pro Xperience,” at XP Music Futures to discuss her professional career.

“Growing up, I was inspired by a lot of genres such as jazz; it was all I would sing as a young girl,” she previously told Arab News. “When I moved to the US, I felt an immediate connection with Arabic music and my culture. It gave me another perspective on the type of music I wanted to create.”

Elyanna also explained more about her musical process.

“Each of my projects have a different source of inspiration and I still have a lot to achieve and learn from,” she said. “I work on always improving my music from lyrics to melody and production but also the overall purpose behind my music.”

Kate Beckinsale, Jameela Jamil step out in Arab gowns

Kate Beckinsale, Jameela Jamil step out in Arab gowns
Updated 8 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 15 min 4 sec ago

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.”


Chris Hemsworth shares career insights at RSIFF 

Chris Hemsworth shares career insights at RSIFF 
Updated 05 December 2023

Chris Hemsworth shares career insights at RSIFF 

Chris Hemsworth shares career insights at RSIFF 

JEDDAH: Marvel superstar Chris Hemsworth held a panel discussion during the Red Sea International Film Festival this week — and he gave fans insight on his career choices during the talk.  

Moderated by director Baz Luhrmann, who is also the head of the jury for this year’s edition of the film festival, the pair discussed Hemsworth’s involvement in the upcoming “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” movie. “There’s a lot of anticipation for myself and from the fanbase that has been there for the 45 years,” Hemsworth said. 

Luhrmann and Hemsworth also addressed how “Mad Max” franchise director, George Miller, was brave enough to create a fictional universe from scratch, with Hemsworth adding:  

 “Taking leap, doing something different, thinking outside the box. The fear and the anxiety that comes with that is something to face and overcoming that and choosing to tell a story from your perspective, to be influenced by other people but not to be directly mimicking anyone else … there’s courage to that.” 

Hemsworth later shared with the audience that the escapism offered by films attracted him to the art of storytelling from a young age — he also noted that the ability to shapeshift and inhabit different characters is part of the reason he got into the film industry. 

“From a very young age, whether it would be books or television films, I enjoyed the fantasy, I enjoyed the escapism, the journey that the narrative and the story would take me one,” he said.  

“I think the vivid imagination of me as young kid carried through and still does now and that was the attraction to inhabit different spaces and different worlds and be taken on a journey,” he added. 

 Hemsworth appeared at the festival as part of the In Conversation series that has already featured the likes of US actor Will Smith, Bollywood star Katrina Kaif and Arab stars Amina Khalil and Yasmine Sabri.