DUBAI: The Saudi Fashion Commission on Thursday kicked off its pop-up event EMERGE in Milan on the sidelines of the city’s fashion week.
The event highlights emerging and established talents in Saudi fashion.
The brands taking part in EMERGE are Agmarat, Ain, Dananeer, DERZA, Ivorifashion, Jayla, Linen by A, Md29, Mona Alshebil, RBA New York, REHAM NASSIER, SAJAS and Samar Nasraldin.
The first edition of the pop-up took place during Paris Fashion Week in June.
Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Fashion Commission, said in a statement: “The first EMERGE pop-up that we held in Paris was a huge success and received visitors from different cultures who had an authentic Saudi shopping experience and discovered what Saudi creative talent has to offer.”
“I look forward to welcoming visitors to Milan Fashion Week to introduce them to the Saudi fashion world,” he added.
Thirteen designers participating in the Saudi 100 Brands program are taking part in the event to showcase a wide assortment of ready-to-wear pieces and accessories, inspired by Saudi culture and heritage.
The Saudi 100 Brands project is an initiative by the Saudi Fashion Commission that supports established and emerging design talents from Saudi Arabia, who work across the ready-to-wear, modest, concept, premiere, demi-couture, bridal, bags and jewelry categories.
Red Sea International Film Festival spotlights Korean entertainment
Updated 04 December 2023
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival is making a visible effort to attract titles from across the world — with Arab, Bollywood, Hollywood and Korean celebrities gracing many a red carpet at the Nov. 30-Dec. 9 event in Jeddah.
Earlier this week, the star of the Korean thriller mini-series “The Deal” Yoo Seung-Ho walked the red carpet at VOX Cinemas in the Red Sea Mall.
“The Deal” is an eight-episode South Korean drama that is based on a Korean comic series made by artist Woonam 20. It tells the story of Jae-Hyo who kidnaps his rich friend Park Minwoo to ask for a ransom from the latter’s mother, and Lee Jun-Seong, played by Yoo Seung-Ho, who is torn between rescuing his friend Minwoo or assisting his friend Jae-Hyo in the criminal act due to his urgent need for money to save his and his father’s lives.
Only the first three episodes of the emotionally provoking series premiered on the silver screen in Jeddah. After the screening, the director spoke to the audience about why he decided to turn the comic story into a live-action series.
“Why did I do it? Because the concept of a friend kidnapping a friend is very provocative, or as we say in Korea ‘very spicy’,” said director Lee. “I decided that this is a concept which can show how the younger people, the youth in Korea, live.”
When asked by Arab News about the scene he found the most challenging, Seung-Ho said the role as a whole was a tough nut to crack.
“The biggest challenge was having to be this character whose hostile hostage is a friend, and the kidnapper is also his friend. And I’m in the middle of it all,” said Seung-Ho.
“And of course, the fights were physically challenging, but there was also this psychological and mental challenge of playing the scenes where I am the friend of both the kidnapper and the hostage,” he said.
RSIFF title ‘Antidote’ sheds light on the challenges faced by Saudi musicians in the past
Updated 04 December 2023
JEDDAH: Saudi director Hassan Saeed is set to unveil his short film “Antidote” at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah and spoke to Arab News ahead of the screening to explain the themes he explores and why he chose to tell this story.
The 20-minute film tells the story of a young boy, Ali, who sets out with his father’s tape recorder to record a folk singer named Abu Hussain.
However, Abu Hussain loses his voice after undergoing throat surgery, and Ali reconnects with him through a previous recording. The deliberate use of silence surrounding Abu Hussain serves as a powerful motif, symbolizing his enduring struggle and passion for music, set against the challenges faced by Saudi musicians in the past.
Saeed said that he drew inspiration for “Antidote” from his formative years in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
“Having grown up in a society where musicians and music were not widely embraced, my goal was to portray the challenges encountered by underground musicians in the 1990s. The film intertwines a personal narrative with a broader cultural context, showcasing the unwavering determination and commitment of artists in the face of adversity,” he said.
The director is excited about showing his work to global audiences at the festival, which attracts participation from international industry figures.
“I firmly believe that our stories possess a unique quality, and through ‘Antidote,’ we can offer a fresh and captivating perspective to audiences worldwide. I anticipate the film resonating deeply with viewers, sparking meaningful conversations, and bridging cultural gaps,” he said.
“I am thrilled about the prospect of presenting ‘Antidote’ at the Red Sea Film Festival, as it offers an ideal setting to connect with international directors and producers who share a profound passion for cinema.”
Reflecting on his career as a filmmaker, Saeed said that growing up in a conservative society with limited access to cinema, his fascination with the art form began with a VHS camcorder in the late 1980s. This early exposure to capturing moments on film sparked his love for observing the world through a lens.
Saeed’s hope is that “Antidote” will allow audiences to connect with the characters and their struggles, and also spark an appreciation for local stories.
“The characters and their journeys are not limited to a specific culture or region; they represent universal experiences that can resonate with people from different backgrounds,” he said.
“Through my work, I hope to bridge cultural gaps and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of Saudi culture.”
With its unique storytelling and cinematic style, “Antidote” stands out, particularly as a period piece set in the 1990s.
The film was made in collaboration with German director of photography Christoph Schumann, and has garnered widespread recognition, including two Golden Palm awards for best short film and best cinematography at the 2023 Saudi Film Festival.
Saeed said that through “Antidote” and future projects, he hopes to contribute to a “more comprehensive and accurate understanding of Saudi culture on a global scale.”
He added: “Film has the power to transcend boundaries and bring people together, and it is my mission to use this medium to tell meaningful and impactful stories.”
Oscar-nominated director Kaouther Ben Hania talks challenges faced filming ‘Four Daughters’
Updated 04 December 2023
LOS ANGELES: After winning the L’Oeil d’or award for best documentary following its premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s movie “Four Daughters” will now screen at Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival.
Ben Hania is no stranger to critical acclaim and saw her 2020 feature "The Man Who Sold His Skin" nominated at the Academy Awards in the best international feature film category. Tunisia has now submitted her latest film in the same category for the 2024 Oscars, with the nominations yet to be announced.
She spoke to Arab News about the challenges involved in filming the flick.
She said: “It’s not about one scene or another. It’s about how to translate all the complexity of this story, all the layers of this story, because it’s a movie about motherhood.
“It’s a movie about transmission between generations, transmission of trauma also. It’s a movie about Tunisia. All those themes were very important to me.”
The film tells the true story of Olfa Hamrouni, a heart-broken Tunisian mother of four daughters. The two eldest, aged 15 and 16, disappear in 2015 after being radicalized by extremists.
Ben Hania started working on “Four Daughters” in 2016, when she first heard the story on the news in Tunisia.
“I started thinking about making a documentary about it. But when I met Olfa and her daughters, I thought that I could do a fly-on-the-wall documentary. It took me some years to come up with the actual form of the movie,” she added.
Professional actresses filled in for the missing sisters, while renowned Egyptian actress Hend Sabri replaced Hamrouni as memories started to weigh heavy on the mom. This created a unique hybrid of fiction and documentary in the co-production between Tunisia, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.
Naomi Campbell stuns at Red Sea film premiere of ‘The Absence of Eden’
Updated 03 December 2023
JEDDAH: British supermodel Naomi Campbell was among the many celebrities spotted on the red carpet at the MENA premiere of “The Absence of Eden,” on the third day of Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival.
“I love what Red Sea has become and that it’s growing and growing and growing. And it’s really amazing and phenomenal what the team and Mo (Al-Turki) and Jomana (Al-Rashid) have created,” said Campbell in a video posted on the RSIFF Instagram page.
Starring Marvel actress Zoe Saldana, best known for her role in “The Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Absence of Eden” marks the feature directing debut of her renowned artist husband Marco Perego. The duo was also spotted at the screening. Also gracing the red carpet was the film’s other star, Garrett Hedlund.
Hedlund plays an ICE agent struggling with the moral dilemmas of his job who unites with an undocumented woman fighting to escape a ruthless cartel, played by Saldana, to save the life of an innocent girl.
The Red Sea festival runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9 and boasts 11 categories of films.
This year’s celebrity-studded festival jury is presided over by director Baz Luhrmann, joined by Swedish-American actor Joel Kinnaman (“Suicide Squad”); Freida Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”); Egyptian actor Amina Khalil (“Grand Hotel”) and Spain’s Paz Vega (“Sex and Lucia,” “The OA”).
The festival began with a gala screening of Dubai-based Iraqi director Yasir Al-Yasiri’s “HWJN,” modelled on a YA novel by Saudi writer Ibraheem Abbas. Set in modern-day Jeddah, “HWJN” follows the story of a kind-hearted jinn — an invisible entity in Islamic tradition — as he discovers the truth about his royal lineage.
Lebanese actress Njeim spoke to Arab News on the red carpet, saying: “The festival marks a turning point for every ambitious Saudi filmmaker, providing excellent support for young talents to showcase their work at international festivals.”
Dhafer L’Abidine on ‘To My Son’ and the magic of Saudi Arabia’s Abha
The Tunisian filmmaker and actor’s latest feature was shot in Saudi Arabia, but will ‘resonate anywhere’
Updated 03 December 2023
DUBAI: There are two things that cinema can do better than any other form of artistic expression. First, it allows us to immerse ourselves in parts of the world we’ve never seen, and second, it empowers us to empathize with people we’ve never met. Tunisian megastar Dhafer L’Abidine’s lyrical directorial effort “To My Son,” which will hold its world premiere on December 3 at the Red Sea International Film Festival, excels at both. After scoring a huge global distribution deal the night the fest began, it is now poised to introduce the world to a part of Saudi Arabia never before immortalized on the big screen.
For L’Abidine, a cross-cultural performer who has long been one of Arab film and television’s most beloved stars, the Saudi-set film is a “love letter” to a country that has fully embraced him. It also marks a welcome return to a festival that helped launched the now-thriving next phase of his career, after his debut feature, the unforgettable politically-charged drama “Ghodwa,” screened to great acclaim at RSIFF 2021.
But while his last film was a deeply personal exploration of his home country’s political landscape in the wake of the 2011 Tunisian Revolution, “To My Son,” in which he also stars as a British-Saudi father named Feisal, is a leap outside of his lived experience — which has filled the 51-year-old with a range of emotions ahead of the film’s premiere.
“I’m thrilled to debut ‘To My Son’ in Jeddah. It’s exciting to share this story with this amazing community, a film that aims to capture humanity as well as the beauty of this astounding place. But there’s also a bit of excited nervousness, to be honest, because it’s so different from anything I’ve attempted before,” L’Abidine tells Arab News.
“My last film was about Tunisia, it was an idea born from my own culture. But with this film, I’m exploring a place I’m still discovering even years after first coming here. That carries with it a huge responsibility, which I kept at the front in my mind while making it. I knew that I had to do right by this place, these people, and this culture. It’s always challenging to step out of your comfort zone, but I’m always most attracted to making the choices that feel the least safe and easy, because that’s where I thrive,” he continues.
The film is set primarily in the Abha, a lush, mountainous city in the southwest of the Kingdom that is beloved by Saudis but largely unknown to an international community that has only just begun to explore the country. L’Abidine first found himself there three years ago filming a hit MBC series and was amazed by the place.
“I really didn’t know what I was in for. You have certain clichés in your head about Saudi Arabia, and then suddenly you find yourself in the middle of these huge green mountains, all with a very distinct quality to them, and so many historical places to discover. You feel really feel you’re somewhere unlike anywhere else in the world. After I left, I couldn’t get this place out of my head,” he explains.
After the release of “Ghodwa,” L’Abidine was meeting with a producer friend, who was himself considering doing a film in Saudi Arabia. He and L’Abidine began to brainstorm, coming up with an idea that became the bones of the story that the film now explores — the story of a Saudi man living in London who, still mourning the death of his wife, decides to return with his son to the home he left 12 years ago. The man’s father, however, still resents him for having left the family, and refuses to accept him back into the fold.
“As we sat there and explored the concept, it became clear we needed to really highlight that these are people from two different worlds. And Jeddah and Riyadh — as they’re so cosmopolitan and modern — couldn’t capture that difference. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this needs to be set in Abha.’ I was brought back to this place that I fell in love with that helped me see Saudi Arabia in a different way and I knew that would be valuable to this story, so I went away to write and it all developed from there,” says L’Abidine.
While Abha helped inspire the story, what became more important to L’Abidine as he developed the film was that it not become a glorified travelogue or tourism campaign. The place, rather, had to serve as a character of sorts on its own, one that could help bring viewers deeper into the emotional journey of the people that live in it. And as he got further into his research of the place’s history, it he realized how universal their struggles really are.
“Ultimately, this film is an exploration of the humanity that we all share within us, no matter where we’re from. They could be from Abha, Jeddah, Tunis, or Marrakesh. I wanted to make a film that would resonate anywhere, a film that shows that the struggles of the people of Abha — a place cinema has never taken us — are rooted in the same shared experiences that define us all as human beings. We all share stories like this, and the more we focus on that, the closer it brings us,” says L’Abidine.
In zooming in on characters locked in the struggle between individual fulfillment and duty to family, and in exploring generational divides that require honest discussion in order to get to the heart of what divides them, L’Abidine soon realized this wasn’t just a story about Saudi Arabia, or Arab societies. It was a story about all of us, even himself.
Quickly, it became clear to him that once again he was making a film about fathers and their children, this time at a period in his life when he is raising a 13-year-old daughter in London who is herself growing up in a world so different that which shaped him back in Tunisia. In the end, as much as he thought he was stepping outside of himself to find the truths of another culture, many of the answers were to be found in his own experience all along.
“Storytelling is always personal, whether you intend it to be or not. There’s so much in our heads that we have to resolve. And in raising my daughter, there’s so many lessons I’ve had to learn, so much perspective I’ve gained,” says L’Abidine. “I wanted to explore that journey through the main character from both sides, because I think so many people can relate. We all share stories like this.”