Gareth Edwards returns to big screen with original sci-fi epic ‘The Creator’

Gareth Edwards returns to big screen with original sci-fi epic ‘The Creator’
For his latest original sci-fi theatrical, “The Creator” – hitting theaters in the Middle East on Sept. 28 – Gareth Edwards and his team traveled more than 10,000 miles to 80 different locations spread throughout Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Japan, Indonesia, the UK (at Pinewood Studios near London), and the US (in Los Angeles). (20th Century Studios)
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Updated 27 September 2023
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Gareth Edwards returns to big screen with original sci-fi epic ‘The Creator’

Gareth Edwards returns to big screen with original sci-fi epic ‘The Creator’

DUBAI: British filmmaker Gareth Edwards began his career by jumping into the world of visual effects, persuading production houses such as the BBC to let him do their special effects for free in exchange for him directing an episode or two of their shows.

While all that may seem a lifetime ago for the 48-year-old director – having since led blockbuster movies such as “Godzilla” (2014) and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016) – the experience helped him chart a unique path in Hollywood filmmaking.

For his latest original sci-fi theatrical, “The Creator” – hitting theaters in the Middle East on Sept. 28 – Edwards and his team traveled more than 10,000 miles to 80 different locations spread throughout Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Japan, Indonesia, the UK (at Pinewood Studios near London), and the US (in Los Angeles).

Rather than designing the film upfront, they took the unconventional approach of shooting scenes first without sets, leaving the production design work until after it wrapped, during postproduction.

Edwards used the so-called reverse engineering method on his first film, “Monsters,” which he found to be a much more efficient process.

He told Arab News: “Being able to shoot organically was much easier knowing there was a powerhouse visual effects company behind the film. Industrial Light and Magic went out on a limb to help the realism of the film, allowing us to film actors without motion capture suits, or have tracking markers on location everywhere.

“But to prove that we could make a large-scale sci-fi film on a small budget with minimal green screen, we went on a location scout and filmed a short film. I put a 1970s cinema lens on a little digital camera. We went to Nepal and Japan and everywhere.

“And then we gave ILM this footage of like monks going into temples in Angkor Wat (Cambodia). And we’re like, ‘okay, make that a robot.’ I didn’t take any tracking markers. I didn’t put any dots on their faces. I didn’t measure anything. And they did it. And they did it in a few days. It went really successfully, and it cost very little,” Edwards said.

In “The Creator,” Joshua (John David Washington), a hardened ex-special forces agent grieving the disappearance of his wife (Gemma Chan), is recruited to hunt down and kill the Creator, an elusive architect of advanced artificial intelligence who has developed a mysterious weapon with the power to end the war – and mankind itself.

Joshua and his team of elite operatives journey across enemy lines, into the dark heart of AI-occupied territory, only to discover the world-ending weapon he has been instructed to destroy is an AI in the form of a young child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles).

Most of the movie is set in the world of New Asia – an amalgamation of Southeast Asian countries. And Edwards gives a nod to Star Wars creator George Lucas for the inspiration behind the setting.

“The thing he got right about science fiction was that it’s not just about the future, it’s also about the past.

“He would take stories and ideas and concepts of spirituality, religion, mythology, stuff from a 1,000 years ago, and combine it with the far future of spaceships and robots. And then it would feel important because it was really about all that spiritual past.

“And I think when you look around the world for places that are like that, for me, Southeast Asia is that combination. You go to the cities in the capitals of these countries, and it feels like something from ‘Blade Runner.’

“But then you look down an alleyway, and you go around the corner, and there’s a temple, and a Buddhist monk, or something. And there’s this really ancient tradition combined with that, that I felt was really exciting,” he added.

For Edwards, who took seven years to return to the big screen after “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “The Creator” is his chance to tell an original story in a way that spoke to his childhood experience of going to the cinema.

He said: “When I was young, every single movie every week, was a brand-new original film. And now this is such a rare thing.

“‘The Creator’ is really a love letter to the movies that I grew up with, you know, the science fiction and fantasy films that I wanted to kind of bring back to the younger audience today,” Edwards added.


Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists in upcoming series

Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists in upcoming series
Updated 59 min 41 sec ago
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Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists in upcoming series

Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists in upcoming series

DUBAI: Through an open-call competition, Palestinian director Saleh Saadi was selected by MENA-based broadcasting network OSN to film his upcoming six-episode series, “Dyouf” (meaning “guests” in Arabic). 

Saadi submitted his project in response to OSN’s Writer’s Room mentorship program, which was also organized by The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, that aims to support aspiring filmmakers and writers from the region. 

Originally from the bedouin village of Basmat Tab’un, Saadi has previously created two social-themed short films that dealt with his native Palestine: “Borekas” (2020) and “A’lam” (2022).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Saleh Saadi (@_salehsaadi)

The filmmaker says that he did not grow up in an environment that had a film institute, let alone an overall industry, but that didn’t stop his creativity, which began at home with simple means. 

“My family doesn’t have an artistic background. Their focus was to give us a good life, but they used to take pictures of us with a small camera,” Saadi told Arab News. “My siblings would film with a video camera and make little plays. . . I don’t know why it stuck with me.”

From a young age, he taught to edit and filmed sketches with his family members, who acted in his creations. “To them it was good fun, but I took it seriously,” he recalls. Saadi grew up “glued to the television set,” watching sitcoms. He also admires the work of notable Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, whose films have been shown at the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival.

Saadi’s winning submission “Dyouf,” a dramedy which is in the process of development, centers around the protagonist Shadi, who returns to his homeland after living abroad and feels lonely. His mother has set up a guesthouse that is being frequented by tourists. 

Each episode, delving into the themes of relationships and identities, will focus on one tourist. “Through these guests, we understand the country more. One of the main characters is the country,” Saadi explains. “It shows a certain reality, the day-to-day life and little moments of the day. I think different people will be able to relate to the show in different ways.”

Saadi adds that shooting in Palestine comes with its own set of tricky challenges, from funding to on-site disturbances. “Things are more and more difficult. I don’t want to be cheesy, but it’s also become more and more important. There are difficulties from start to finish, where anything can happen.”

Despite the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, Saadi is heartened by how Palestinian cinema is slowly on the rise in the region and abroad, through film festivals and cultural events. “I am very happy because I feel like there are more films on Palestine. They tell our stories,” he said

“We have so much love for our people, our family and our land. All kinds of art have an important role to play. Through art, we are showing that, despite all difficulties, the love is still there.”  


Gigi Hadid, Arab models walk Versace runway

Gigi Hadid, Arab models walk Versace runway
Updated 24 February 2024
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Gigi Hadid, Arab models walk Versace runway

Gigi Hadid, Arab models walk Versace runway

DUBAI: US-Dutch-Palestinian model Gigi Hadid, a staple on Versace runways, made a remarkable return to the Italian brand’s catwalk this week during Milan Fashion Week.

The supermodel stunned the runway in a black sheer, collared dress featuring intricate button-down detailing and a daring thigh-high slit. Complementing her ensemble, she sported black latex gloves and accentuated her look with sharp eye makeup.

Hadid was joined by other part-Arab models, including Imaan Hammam, who is Moroccan, Egyptian and Dutch, and Loli Bahia, who is French Algerian.

Hammam donned a printed blazer layered over a brown top. (Getty Images)

Hammam donned a printed blazer layered over a brown top, completing her ensemble with black tights and thigh-high leather boots. Just like Hadid, she accessorized with latex gloves and striking eye makeup.

Bahia wore a black mini-dress. (Getty Images)

Bahia opened the runway show in a black mini-dress, complementing her ensemble with a bold pop of color courtesy of a fiery red purse.


From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom

From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom
Updated 24 February 2024
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From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom

From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom

LOS ANGELES: From working in finance to gracing the stage and screen, Yasmine Al-Bustami has emerged as a dynamic talent on the rise.

Known for her roles in “The Originals,” “NCIS: Hawai’i” and “The Chosen,” the actress was born in Abu Dhabi to a Palestinian-Jordanian father and a Filipino mother.

Al-Bustami grew up in Texas and began work in the world of finance, but soon found that she was not fulfilled and began to dig for something more exciting.

“I had never taken acting classes or anything, but I knew to get auditions you needed an agent,” she said. “So I just emailed all the Dallas agents and one of them was so sweet, emailed me back … I was sending in my business resume, too, I didn’t even have an acting resume. I was like, ‘this is where I went to university. I have a finance degree.’ None of that. They don’t care.

“And (the agent) goes, ‘well, clearly, you have no idea what you’re doing. Go to class. And here are some acting class recommendations.’ Then from that, I just kept taking classes in Dallas, then moved to Los Angeles,” she said.

Al-Bustami began with a brief appearance in a health-related commercial before making her television debut in “The Originals,” appearing in the recurring role of Monique Deveraux, a villain in the first season.

The actress was born in Abu Dhabi to a Palestinian-Jordanian father and a Filipino mother. (Getty Images)

Today, she has a role in hit spinoff “NCIS: Hawai’i” and the historical drama “The Chosen,” which recently moved to the theater.

“On ‘The Chosen,’ I play Ramah,” she said. “And when you meet her, it’s in season one. I’m in one of the episodes, episode five, and I basically work with Thomas the Disciple, and we have a little bit of romance there. We are very flirtatious with each other, and then you start to see that develop from seasons two to now, the season that is out right now is season four.”

Part of the challenge Al-Bustami faced was gaining the approval of her parents and finding roles true to her ethnicity.

On the latter note, she has scored a role representing women of color in the dark comedy show “Immigrants.”

“We just finished the pilot and that is by my friend Mustafa Knight, and it’s basically how we have described it is like ‘Friends,’ but with color,” she said.

“I’ve never been more proud to be an immigrant because now I also have an outlet to express that to people through storytelling,” the actress added. “It’s a different kind of gratefulness whenever you get the opportunity to play something that you are actually.”

The show is described as a dark comedy series following the “misadventures of six unlikely friends through their trials and tribulations on what it really means to be American in America.”


Saudi Cup kicks off in Riyadh with a showcase of traditional fashion

Saudi Cup kicks off in Riyadh with a showcase of traditional fashion
Updated 24 February 2024
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Saudi Cup kicks off in Riyadh with a showcase of traditional fashion

Saudi Cup kicks off in Riyadh with a showcase of traditional fashion
  • From bespoke creations designed exclusively by and for style icons to bold original outfits, guests were dressed in striking attire for the event
  • The Saudi Cup carries a prize fund of $35.4 million, with the $20 million Saudi Cup race itself maintaining its position as the most valuable race in the world

RIYADH: The Saudi Cup, the Kingdom’s annual international horse race, returned this weekend in Riyadh for its fifth edition with a head-turning display of fashion.

From bespoke creations designed exclusively by and for style icons to bold original outfits, guests were dressed in striking attire for the event that takes place Feb. 23 and 24.

Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, special adviser to the chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, spoke to Arab News about fashion at the event — and the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the event. 

Princess Nourah Al-Faisal wore an intricately embroidered tulle covering over a robe with embroidered detailing on the cuffs. (Photo by Huda Bashatah)

He “really had a vision, and not just for fashion, but he had this idea that he wanted the event to represent our culture and our heritage in every way possible,” she said.

“I have to say I am delighted and super excited by it and especially this reintroduction of our heritage to the younger generation … (and) seeing what this younger generation is doing with that, you know the experimentation,” she added.

Princess Nourah donned an intricately embroidered tulle covering over a robe with embroidered detailing on the cuffs from Art of Heritage.

Influencer and model Rakan Alhamdan also showed off attire inspired by his country.

“Today, I’m wearing Siraj Sanad — he’s a Saudi (designer) in Jeddah. As you can see, it is heritage-style clothing with three embroidered triangles which Najd is known for,” he said, referring to the Saudi region of Najd which is famous for its triangles visible in architecture and embroidery.

Influencer and model Rakan Alhamdan. (Photo by Huda Bashatah)

Other guests showed off a rainbow of colors at the fashion-forward event, with modern takes on Saudi attire spotted across the venue — from gemstone-covered burqas to elegant kaftans complete with heavy embroidery.

The Saudi Cup carries a prize fund of $35.4 million, with the $20 million Saudi Cup race itself maintaining its position as the most valuable race in the world.

- Additional reporting by Hams Saleh


Bella Hadid expands portfolio with launch of new brand Orebella

Bella Hadid expands portfolio with launch of new brand Orebella
Updated 23 February 2024
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Bella Hadid expands portfolio with launch of new brand Orebella

Bella Hadid expands portfolio with launch of new brand Orebella
  • Speculation that model will sell fragrances, incense, body lotions, oils, shampoo, conditioner and candles

DUBAI: Bella Hadid is launching a new brand, Orebella, that is likely a venture into the perfume and beauty market.

The US-Dutch-Palestinian supermodel shared a teaser on Instagram on Thursday.

“Ôrəbella founded by Bella Khair Hadid,” she captioned the post teasing the brand’s launch in May. “Reveal your alchemy on 5/2.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

The 10-second video showcases a close-up of Hadid’s face intertwined with clips of the universe, culminating with the brand’s logo.

Gigi Hadid showed support for her younger sibling, writing: “YAAAAAYYYYY.” This was accompanied by a genie emoji.

While specifics about the brand and its offerings remain under wraps, WWD Magazine reported that Hadid’s trademark filing, dating back to 2022, hints at Orebella’s focus on scent-related products. These may include fragrances, incense, body lotions, oils, shampoo, conditioner and candles.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Orebella (@orebella)

In 2021, Hadid co-founded Brooklyn-based Kin Euphorics with Saudi Arabia-raised Jen Batchelor.

The brand boasts non-alcoholic tonics “made to transform the world’s oldest social ritual, drinking, into a conscious act of better being,” according to its website.

The name Kin Euphorics is a nod to the Greek word “euphoros” — meaning a state of well-being.

The brand claims that many of its key ingredients, such phenylethylamine and rhodiola rosea root extract, improve cognitive function and increase energy levels. Kin drinks will also soon be infused with lavender grown on the Hadid family farm in Pennsylvania.

Hadid has walked for some of the top fashion brands in the world, including Burberry, Off-White, Fendi, Versace, Givenchy, Max Mara and Moschino.

She has had multiple covers in France, Italy, UK, Japan, China and other countries.