‘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
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. (AFP)
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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.”


Film about Israeli settler violence wins best documentary award at Berlin Film Festival

Film about Israeli settler violence wins best documentary award at Berlin Film Festival
Updated 25 February 2024
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Film about Israeli settler violence wins best documentary award at Berlin Film Festival

Film about Israeli settler violence wins best documentary award at Berlin Film Festival

DUBAI: A documentary film about struggles faced by a West Bank village against Israeli settlers has won the Berlinale Documentary Film Award at the Berlin Film Festival.

“No Other Land” is an Israeli-Palestinian production, with Palestinian activist Basel Adra and Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham acting as co-directors.

“No Other Land” is an Israeli-Palestinian production, with Palestinian activist Basel Adra and Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham acting as co-directors. (Supplied)

“I'm here celebrating the award, but also very hard for me to celebrate when there are tens of thousands of my people being slaughtered and massacred by Israel in Gaza,” Adra said at the ceremony on Saturday.

He urged Germany to “respect UN calls and stop sending weapons to Israel.”

His co-director, Abraham, added: “I am Israeli, Basel is Palestinian. And in two days we will go back to a land where we are not equal... this situation of apartheid between us, this inequality has to end.”

“No Other Land” had also earlier won an audience award.

In an earlier interview with Variety, Adra had said, “Yuval and Rachel, who are Israelis, came five years ago to write about things — Yuval is journalist — we met and we became friends but also activists together, working on articles about the area.” He further said, “And then we got the idea of doing this, of creating this movie.”


In the studio with Fadi Yazigi, one of the last of Syria’s internationally renowned artists

In the studio with Fadi Yazigi, one of the last of Syria’s internationally renowned artists
Updated 25 February 2024
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In the studio with Fadi Yazigi, one of the last of Syria’s internationally renowned artists

In the studio with Fadi Yazigi, one of the last of Syria’s internationally renowned artists
  • Yazigi’s work is housed in a number of international public collections, including at the British Museum in London, The Delfina Foundation in London and at the Kaleemat Foundation in Istanbul
  • The artist is known for his authentic approach to image-making, whether it be in paintings or sculptures

DAMASCUS: In the heart of ancient Damascus, veteran Syrian artist Fadi Yazigi delicately inspects a neat set of assorted paintings, sculptures, and reliefs.

He blows off the gathered dust, stating: “I feel we are living in a medieval age, not everything is fair, there is no plan for the world, and it’s not an honest period.”

Fadi Yazigi’s work is housed in a number of international public collections, including at the British Museum in London, The Delfina Foundation in London and at the Kaleemat Foundation in Istanbul. (Supplied)

Yazigi, 57, is at home in his Bab Sharqi atelier, drawing intricate sketches that are sometimes comical, cartoonish even, giving glimpses of the unorthodox techniques of one of Syria’s most creative modern artists.

“(Jean) Dubuffet is a big inspiration for me.” He told Arab News, referring to the late French painter and sculptor.  “I feel the humanistic side, the pain and suffering of everyday people, from the homeless person in the street to those stricken in poverty. I feel they are always right,” he added.

Fadi Yazigi, 57, is at home in his Bab Sharqi atelier, drawing intricate sketches that are sometimes comical, cartoonish even. (Supplied)

One glance at Dubuffet’s work and the influence is conspicuous. The artist, who died in 1985, embraced so-called "low art" and discarded traditional beauty standards in favor of an authentic approach to capturing people and places in his art. In the same vein, Yazigi is known for his authentic image-making. 

“I try to explore new materials in my work, to experiment with a wide variety of means and forms, each new material gives me a feeling whether on canvas, cardboard, textiles or papers, using acrylic, oil and ink, I depict people and human emotions,” he explained of his style.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Fadi Yazigi (@fadiyazigiart)

Yazigi’s work is housed in a number of international public collections, including at the British Museum in London, The Delfina Foundation in London and at the Kaleemat Foundation in Istanbul, among other locations. His solo exhibitions include Art Paris 2016, Galerie Tanit in Beirut, and The Mosaic Rooms in London 2011. He has also exhibited extensively at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.

The artist represents the last of a breed of older-generation Syrian creatives who have attained global recognition.   

In a spectacular new collection, the artist created a set of sculptures inspired by the exploration of memory.

“I’m working on the idea of memory. It's inspired by the tale of Kalila and Dimna, where there is a phasic flow, where square artworks are ornamented with heads that suggest different emotions and stories. It's relevant to general human nature,” the artist said.

Kalila and Dimna are a collection of fables where the heroes are animals, the role of the king is played by a lion and the two jackals, Kalila and Dimna, are both the narrators and the protagonists.

The Indian-origin tale — composed in Sanskrit possibly as early as the third century BC — was translated into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa in the eighth century.

The ingenious representation of life as hybrid human-animal creatures is symptomatic of Yazigi’s general preference for this type of art.

“Relief is my favourite type of art, it's what is similar to my style and identity, and lots of my efforts and works are relevant to that, I love the multi-dimensional, especially working with mud or clay, human beings were made of it, that’s what they say.”

Born in the Syrian port city of Latakia, Yazigi is known for choosing to leave many of his works untitled. (Supplied)

Born in the Syrian port city of Latakia, Yazigi is known for choosing to leave many of his works untitled. 

“I am free to do what I want with my piece, and you are free with what you want to title it, to tell your story. I’m not going to push you to be inside my cage, and I won't be pressed to concur or conform to what a title has to be, so I leave it open to interpretation, something untitled is also titled at the same time,” he explained.

Art curator Nour Salman spoke to Arab News about her experience working with the renowned artist on the recent solo exhibition “Once in Damascus.”

“While working with Fadi, I discovered a whole new realm of art, as an artist he is incredibly hard-working and creative, he can make something out of nothing in an instant, and that’s partly why he gets international recognition.

“His vision and viewpoint on art and the way he makes it is inspiring and rare. We don’t have that weighted creative touch in Syria anymore. There is a depth to his work that takes generations to develop.”


Arab designers take over Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet

Arab designers take over Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet
Updated 25 February 2024
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Arab designers take over Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet

Arab designers take over Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet

DUBAI: Arab designers Saiid Kobeisy, Waad Aloqaili, Tony Ward, Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad had their moment at the 2024 Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on Saturday in Los Angeles.

First up, Keltie Knight was all here for bows and their big comeback. The Canadian TV personality wore a stunning strapless gown from Lebanese designer Saiid Kobeisy featuring a gigantic black bow on the bodice as well as tiny tulle beaded bows across the entire piece.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by KELTIE (@keltie)

US actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph put Saudi fashion in the spotlight, donning a strapless, black gown from couture label Waad Aloqaili. Founded in 2019 by sisters Waad and Ahlam Aloqaili, Waad Aloqaili Couture, the eponymous label produces bi-annual collections inspired by “personal experience and the collective female journey,” as seen on their brand website.

Meanwhile, Hollywood star Reese Witherspoon opted for a fiery red look, wearing a bright gown from Lebanese couturier Elie Saab’s spring 2024 haute couture collection.

Witherspoon walked the red carpet in a strapless floor-length dress featuring a high slit and scooped neckline. The gown, crafted with a pleated bodice and gathered wrap skirt, was styled with a pair of Gianvito Rossi heeled sandals.

English actress Hannah Waddingham, known for her roles in “Game of Thrones” and “Ted Lasso,” channelled her best Marilyn Monroe, in a glimmering ruby couture gown from Lebanese label Tony Ward. Her deep red off-the-shoulder gown featured a thigh-high slit and long train.

English actress Hannah Waddingham, known for her roles in “Game of Thrones” and “Ted Lasso,” channelled her best Marilyn Monroe, in a glimmering ruby couture gown from Lebanese label Tony Ward. (AFP)

US actress and comedian Abby Elliott, of “Bear” fame, was elegance personified as she opted for a sleek black gown from Lebanese label Zuhair Murad’s Spring-Summer 2024 ready-to-wear collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SAG Awards® (@sagawards)

Cast members from FX’s “The Bear,” available to stream on Disney+ in the Middle East, won in three categories at Screen Actors Guild Awards, including Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, Ayo Edebiri for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series and Jeremy Allen White for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series.

Christopher Nolan’s hit biopic “Oppenheimer” dominated this year’s Screen Actors Guild awards.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SAG Awards® (@sagawards)

The cast of the biographical epic won for best ensemble, ahead of “Barbie” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Cillian Murphy picked up male actor in a leading role, while Robert Downey Jr won for male actor in a supporting role for playing Lewis Strauss in the film.

Lily Gladstone took home female actor in a leading role for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” beating Emma Stone and Margot Robbie.


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 25 February 2024
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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.