REVIEW: Once again, Hollywood villainizes the Arab in ‘The Crown’ Season 6

REVIEW: Once again, Hollywood villainizes the Arab in ‘The Crown’ Season 6
Khalid Abdalla and Elizabeth Debicki star in "The Crown" season six as Dodi Al-Fayed and Princess Diana. (Netflix)
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Updated 18 November 2023
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REVIEW: Once again, Hollywood villainizes the Arab in ‘The Crown’ Season 6

REVIEW: Once again, Hollywood villainizes the Arab in ‘The Crown’ Season 6
  • Stereotypical depiction of the Egyptian billionaire as a misogynist is troubling
  • Show misses an opportunity to reflect on post-colonial Western attitudes toward the Arab and Muslim world

LONDON: The final season of “The Crown” debuted to much anticipation, particularly given it was set to depict a pivotal moment in British royal history: the death of Princess Diana (played by actress Elizabeth Debicki).

The award-winning series has been criticized in the past for its use of sensationalism, blending fact and fiction to deliver dramatic renditions of real-life events involving the royal family.

And while every story needs a villain, it is regrettable that Season 6, released in two parts, succumbed to the Hollywood trope of depicting Arab characters as the “bad guys.”

The first four episodes, which were released on Thursday, use fictional elements of the storyline to portray Mohamed Al-Fayed (Salim Daw) as a power-hungry social climber, orchestrating his son’s relationship with Diana in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong desire to ascend the heights of British society and secure citizenship.

The stereotypical depiction of the Egyptian billionaire as a misogynist is troubling, especially in a scene where he claims to have offered Diana to Dodi (Khalid Abdalla) “on a plate” during a holiday on their mega-yacht in St. Tropez.

The narrative also suggests that Al-Fayed tipped off paparazzi about Diana and Dodi’s whereabouts.

Al-Fayed’s character is even shown exploiting the tragedy of Diana and Dodi’s death in an attempt to forge a bond with the royal family.

Meanwhile, Dodi is merely relegated to the role of a passive figure, easily swayed by his father’s ambitions and engaging with Diana to fulfill those aims.

A significant but short-lived plot development unfolds in the fourth episode when Al-Fayed realizes that even in his son’s death, Queen Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton) remained just as repelled by him.

While Al-Fayed is shown receiving an overwhelming amount of support from the Arab region, Dodi’s death is largely overlooked by British tabloids.

In this evocative scene, a distressed Al-Fayed, conversing with the ghost of his late son, questions why the royals hate him. “Is it the fate of the Arabs to always be hated by the West?”

This could have been an opportunity for the script to engage in a more meaningful reflection on post-colonial Western attitudes toward the Arab and Muslim world.

Instead, Dodi’s character offers little insight into his father’s anguish, responding: “You shouldn’t look up to the West. You should never have exalted expectations because they will never be fulfilled.”

The handling of the show’s only significant Arab characters as insufferably unlikable raises questions about the series’ approach to diversity and representation.

This may leave viewers, particularly from our region, less enthusiastic about the upcoming second part of the season, to be released on Dec. 14 


Celebrity-loved footwear designer Amina Muaddi opens pop-up store in Dubai

Celebrity-loved footwear designer Amina Muaddi opens pop-up store in Dubai
Updated 11 sec ago
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Celebrity-loved footwear designer Amina Muaddi opens pop-up store in Dubai

Celebrity-loved footwear designer Amina Muaddi opens pop-up store in Dubai

DUBAI: Celebrity-loved footwear designer Amina Muaddi revealed this week that she opened a new pop-up store in Dubai at Kite Beach.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by AMINA MUADDI (@aminamuaddi)

The shoemaker, who is of Jordanian and Romanian descent, has collaborated with clothing retail company Ounass for a four-week pop-up.

“I wanted to create a special experience for our community, a space that feels like an oasis from an outer world,” she wrote, sharing pictures of the place. “Visit the store and shop the collection starting Dec. 1 for the next 30 days. Happy shopping!”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by AMINA MUADDI (@aminamuaddi)

To celebrate the launch, Ounass hosted an exclusive A-list dinner that was attended by rapper Kanye West, his partner Bianca Censori, American singer Ty Dolla $ign and Lebanese actress Nadine Nassib Njeim.


The Weeknd donates $2.5m to Gaza

The Weeknd donates $2.5m to Gaza
Updated 3 min 44 sec ago
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The Weeknd donates $2.5m to Gaza

The Weeknd donates $2.5m to Gaza

DUBAI: The UN World Food Programme this week announced that its goodwill ambassador, Canadian singer The Weeknd — whose birth name is Abel Tesfaye — has donated $2.5 million from his XO Humanitarian Fund to aid WFP’s humanitarian response in Gaza.

The donation, which equates to 4 million emergency meals, will fund 820 tons of food parcels that could feed more than 173,000 Palestinians for two weeks, the organization said.

“This conflict has unleashed a humanitarian catastrophe beyond reckoning. WFP is working round the clock to provide aid in Gaza but a major scale up is needed to address the desperate level of hunger we are seeing,” Corinne Fleischer, WFP’s director for the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe, said in a statement.

“We thank Abel for this valuable contribution towards the people of Palestine. We hope others will follow Abel’s example and support our efforts.”

The multi-platinum global recording artist was appointed a goodwill ambassador in October 2021.


Red Sea film fest celebrates ‘Women in Cinema’ with global stars 

Red Sea film fest celebrates ‘Women in Cinema’ with global stars 
Updated 02 December 2023
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Red Sea film fest celebrates ‘Women in Cinema’ with global stars 

Red Sea film fest celebrates ‘Women in Cinema’ with global stars 

JEDDAH: The Red Sea Film Festival and Vanity Fair Europe played host a celebration of “Women in Cinema” on Friday night, with celebrities from around in attendance at the soiree.  

Bollywood star Katrina Kaif joined Hollywood actresses Sofia Vergara, Sharon Stone, Diane Kruger, Michelle Rodriguez and Zoe Saldana at the evening event while British supermodel Naomi Campbell also made an appearance.  

Michelle Rodriguez at the Women In Cinema Gala during the Red Sea International Film Festival. (Getty Images)

From the Arab world, it was a glittering invitation list with Yasmine Sabri, Egyptian icon Yousra, Amina Khalil, Nadine Nassib Njeim, Andria Tayeh, Aseel Omran and Sarah Taibah attending, among many more regional stars.  

“In collaboration with Vanity Fair Europe, and on the sidelines of the third edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival, we were pleased to host ‘Women in Cinema’ celebrating women’s cinematic contributions — where we honored Egyptian cinema icon Nabila Ebeid, acknowledging her rich cinematic career,” the festival posted on Instagram.  

Nabila Ebeid and Mohammed Al-Turki at the Women In Cinema Gala during the Red Sea International Film Festival. (Getty Images) 

Born on Jan. 21, 1945, Ebeid has been dubbed “Egypt’s first star.” Ebeid is known as both an actress, with film and stage titles under her belt, and a producer.  

The Red Sea International Film Festival runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9 and boasts 11 categories of films: Special Screenings; Red Sea: Competition; Red Sea: Shorts Competition; Festival Favorites; Arab Spectacular; International Spectacular; New Saudi/ New Cinema: Shorts; Red Sea: New Vision; Red Sea: Families and Children; Red Sea: Series and Red Sea: Treasures.   

Mohammed Al-Turki and Naomi Campbell at the Women In Cinema Gala during the Red Sea International Film Festival. (Getty Images)

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 Lucía,” “The OA”).  

Sharon Stone and Shivani Pandya attend the Women In Cinema Gala during the Red Sea International Film Festival. (Getty Images)

The festival kicked off with a gala screening of Dubai-based Iraqi director Yasir Al-Yasiri’s “HWJN,” which is based 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 opening 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.” 


‘Arab cinema needs support,’ says Cannes prize winner Asmae El-Moudir ahead of RSIFF debut

‘Arab cinema needs support,’ says Cannes prize winner Asmae El-Moudir ahead of RSIFF debut
Updated 02 December 2023
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‘Arab cinema needs support,’ says Cannes prize winner Asmae El-Moudir ahead of RSIFF debut

‘Arab cinema needs support,’ says Cannes prize winner Asmae El-Moudir ahead of RSIFF debut

TORONTO: The documentary that won Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El-Moudir a best director prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival will be screened at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah.

“The Mother of All Lies” took the honors in the Un Certain Regard section, as well as winning the prestigious L’oeil d’Or prize for best documentary. The film explores El-Moudir’s personal journey, unraveling the mysteries of her family’s history against the backdrop of the 1981 bread riots in Casablanca.

El-Moudir, a regular on the international film festival circuit, spoke to Arab News about both the film and her desire to see Arab cinema attract more support.

“I think every filmmaker in the world dreams of having their film premiere in a big festival like Cannes or Sundance or the Berlinale or Venice,” she said.

“It wasn’t easy for me as a filmmaker, producer and editor to bring this film to the international level but with the support from the Red Sea Festival, the Arab Documentary Photography Program and Doha Film Institute, people from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, things became easier.”

The film poster for 'The Mother of All Lies.' (Supplied)

Morocco has chosen “The Mother of All Lies” as its submission for the best international feature film category in the 96th Academy Awards, which will take place in March next year. With the official nominations yet to be announced, El-Moudir said: “This means a lot for me and for my characters, because I’m talking about a sensitive subject.

“I was also afraid to make this a subject to talk about because I was protecting my family, and I had no idea how we can talk about the past freely without hurting anyone, without looking for guilty people or denouncing anyone.”

El-Moudir’s decade-long journey in making “The Mother of All Lies” has taught her a valuable lesson — the importance of time in crafting meaningful stories.

“There is no rush to make films, especially when we are talking about real facts,” she said. “We should wait for the project. I made this film in 10 years. I was super tired and exhausted, but I don’t regret anything. If I had made this film five years ago, maybe nobody would have watched it. It needed maturity and took time to talk about how we can make a national story an intimate one.”

Discussing what she hoped the audience in Jeddah would take away from her film, El-Moudir emphasized the need for support within the Arab filmmaking community.

“I’m sure the audience in Saudi Arabia will identify themselves in this story. We have the same aspirations, we have the same vocations. I would tell the audience please come and discuss the films. Whether it’s Moroccan or Saudi Arabian, or Tunisian or Egyptian, Arab cinema needs support, and we should support each other.

“I hope people from Saudi Arabia will understand a lot of time has passed working on this film, and maybe younger generations of filmmakers will be happy to see we need time to make films. And we should not be afraid if ideas are not here today. In five years, they will be, and we will be everywhere.”


Johnny Depp walks the red carpet at ‘Jeanne Du Barry’ Red Sea Film Fest premiere 

Johnny Depp walks the red carpet at ‘Jeanne Du Barry’ Red Sea Film Fest premiere 
Updated 01 December 2023
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Johnny Depp walks the red carpet at ‘Jeanne Du Barry’ Red Sea Film Fest premiere 

Johnny Depp walks the red carpet at ‘Jeanne Du Barry’ Red Sea Film Fest premiere 

JEDDAH : Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp on Friday walked the red carpet at the Red Sea International Film Festival for the regional premiere of his film “Jeanne Du Barry.”

The actor wore a black suit as he posed for pictures on the red carpet. 

French director Maïwenn’s period drama features the director as the titular 18th Century courtesan Madame du Barry opposite Depp, who plays King Louis XV. The director also hit the carpet at the Red Sea Mall.

Mohammed Al-Turki and Johnny Depp. (Huda Bashatah)

RSIFF provided post-production support for the period drama, marking the first time the foundation co-produced a French movie. The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May. 

On Thursday, Depp attended the opening night of the festival alongside US star Will Smith, US actress Michelle Williams, German actress Diane Kruger, Lebanese songstress Maya Diab, Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio, Saudi singer Aseel Omran — among many more — it was an affair to remember.

The glittering event kicked off with a gala screening of Dubai-based Iraqi director Yasir Al-Yasiri’s “HWJN,” which is based 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.

French director Maïwenn’s period drama features the director as the titular 18th Century courtesan Madame du Barry opposite Depp, who plays King Louis XV. (Huda Bashatah)

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 Lucía,” “The OA”). 

The Red Sea International Film Festival runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9 and boasts 11 categories of films: Special Screenings; Red Sea: Competition; Red Sea: Shorts Competition; Festival Favorites; Arab Spectacular; International Spectacular; New Saudi/ New Cinema: Shorts; Red Sea: New Vision; Red Sea: Families and Children; Red Sea: Series and Red Sea: Treasures. 

The theme of year’s festival is “Your Story, Your Festival.”