Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Baz Luhrmann talk careers, inspiration at RSIFF

Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Baz Luhrmann talk careers, inspiration at RSIFF
Gwyneth Paltrow cut a business chic look as she headlined three high-profile In Conversation panels. (Getty)
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Updated 07 December 2023

Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Baz Luhrmann talk careers, inspiration at RSIFF

Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry and Baz Luhrmann talk careers, inspiration at RSIFF

JEDDAH: Academy Award-winner and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow cut a business chic look as she headlined three high-profile In Conversation panels that took place at the Red Sea International Film Festival on Wednesday night, with Australian director Baz Luhrmann and US actress Halle Berry taking part in panels on the same day. 

Taking part in a retrospective conversation moderated by Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) CEO Jomana Al-Rashed – who introduced Paltrow as a personal role model – the latter looked back on her career as a successful movie star as well as an entrepreneur, recently celebrating 15 years of her wellness company, Goop.   

“Entrepreneurship and acting are very similar. Both require the same kind of energy,” said Paltrow of her decision to launch Goop.  

Paltrow went into some detail about the first ever MCU film she shot, 2008’s “Iron Man,” starring Robert Downey Jr. in his famous titular role. (Getty)

“I’m really happy I did it because I’ve learned so much through the process of growing this company and working with this team and all of the challenges, whether it be inventory management or Excel. I never thought in a million years I would have to learn how to read a P&L. It’s been so thrilling to build this business and still do what I love to do.”   

On the topic of films, Paltrow was asked by an audience member about how she felt about working in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to which she said she stopped watching the films at some point, having also never watched “Avengers: Endgame,” in which she has a significant role.  

Paltrow did, however, go into some detail about the first ever MCU film she shot, 2008’s “Iron Man,” starring Robert Downey Jr. in his famous titular role.   

“The first film we did was very different from the rest because the studio didn’t think it was going to be a big hit,” she said. “They hired Jon Favreau to direct who was great. And they hired Robert Downey Jr., who was un-hireable at the time. His career was at a very low point. 

Paltrow with Mohammed Al-Turki and Jumana Al-Rashed. (Getty)

“And then I remember they called me one day and said, ‘Come do this thing with us.’ And I said, ‘I’m not going to be in a superhero movie.’ And then they said, ‘No, but it’s going to be like doing an indie film. We’re going to have fun and, you know, you don’t have to be in too much of the action part anyway.’”   

“And so I thought, ‘Oh, okay.’ And we had such a good time. We improvised almost every scene of that movie. We would write it in the morning in Jon’s trailer, and it was like doing an independent film. Then, the movie was such a huge hit that then we didn’t make them like that anymore. But it was fun. It was a fun ride,” she added.  

Paltrow, whose last onscreen role was Netflix’s “The Politician,” was also asked whether she saw herself returning to Hollywood.  

“I never say never. I’m really happy and busy doing what I’m doing. But again, I can never know what the future will hold,” she said.  

Here’s a look at what Luhrmann and Berry had to say at their respective In Conversation panels:  

Halle Berry talks Oscars and inspiration  

US actress Halle Berry took part in the panel. (Getty)

US actress Halle Berry, the first and only African-American actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, spoke about empowering herself as an actress, filmmaker and producer as she delved into topics like the creation of her production house, upcoming projects and possibly shooting parts of her next movie in Jeddah.   

Berry, revealed to huge applause, that inspiration struck her on her flight to Jeddah for a new story she wants to direct.  

“Finally on the plane coming here I saw a story, I saw what’s in my heart, and realised what I wanted to share,” said Berry, who recently launched production company HalleHolly with former WME partner Holly Jeter.   

Asked by moderator and Lebanese presenter Raya Abirached to elaborate, Berry said, “It’s a love story at its core, but it deals with the supernatural and time travel and the future. It’s taken me the last few years to figure this out.”   

Berry also spoke about her famous Oscar win in 2002 for her devastating role in Marc Forster’s “Monster’s Ball,” also starring Billy Bob Thornton.   

About her win and speech, Berry said, “I don’t remember any of it and here’s why. I didn’t expect to win. I don’t know if anybody ever expects to win. Back in those days, usually whoever won the Golden Globe, would win the Oscars. So, any hopes I had were dashed when I lost to Siccy Spacek for the Golden Globe.  

“And it was in that moment that I thought this was a good run. Look how far I got. I dared to take a chance and I took the role of ‘Monster’s Ball’ and all of my agents and everybody around me said this would be the end of my career.   

Halle Berry spoke about empowering herself as an actress, filmmaker and producer. (Getty)

“So, knowing all that, I didn’t write a speech. I just wanted to go and have fun and sort of bask in the moment of this achievement, being at the Academy Awards and being nominated. So, I was not prepared. So, when I went up there when they called my name, I absolutely went blank. And all I remember was Russell Crowe. Walking up there and seeing his face and hearing him say, ‘Breathe, mate.’ And I remember taking a big breath turning around and then it’s kind of a blur. And the next memory I really have is backstage, and realizing, ‘Oh! An Oscar!’ I think I saw it for the first time backstage.”  

Berry also talked about her upcoming collaboration with Angelina Jolie for the action-comedy film “Maude v Maude,” which the two actresses are co-producing.   

“I’m just thrilled to just work with another woman and craft a story from our sensibility, from our point of view. So many times, we’re characterised in movies, and the writers are usually men, so we’re portrayed from their perspective. And, so, there’s a female director, Angelina and I are there, and we can tell a story from our point of view.”  

She also said the Warner Bros. film is a big action movie that will shoot around the world: “And maybe we’ll come back here (to Jeddah). When I was looking around the old town today, I was thinking about what we can get in here.”   

Baz Luhrmann reflects on his biggest hits  

Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann, known for films like “Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Elvis,” sat down with Raya Abirached to look back on his 30-year-long career, reflecting on his biggest hits.  

Talking about his hit biographical film “Elvis,” starring Austin Butler in the lead role, Luhrmann went into some detail about losing hope on the film when COVID-19 hit. However, Butler never gave up, he said.  

“Austin carried a very precious secret with him that he didn’t tell me about until much later in the process, and that is that he had lost his mother at exactly the same age that Elvis did. And it affected him profoundly because she was the one who would go with him to auditions and you know helped him start out. His work ethic was like… Denzel Washington rang me out of the blue. I didn’t know Denzel at the time. He said, ‘Look, you’re about to meet Austin Butler.’ Austin was doing a play with Denzel on stage and he said he’s never seen a young actor work as hard as he was. ‘You’ll be all over him,’ said Denzel. And I was,” said Luhrmann.  

“And then the movie went away. I told everyone to go home from Australia. But Austin wouldn’t leave. He said, ‘I’m not leaving.’ We would see him walking up and down the beach and people would think he was mad because he’d be yelling his ‘Elvis’ lines into the ocean,” he added, laughing.  

Luhrmann, in an offhand comment, also said he’s considering retiring while talking about how he picks the projects he works on.  

“I’ve always got so many pieces in my mind and I’ll never make all of them. It’s just so much noise out there and not to criticize anyone but there’s just so much stuff out there. I would rather retire – which I am considering doing – and not put more noise out there. If I can’t put something that’s actually useful and can be worthy of someone’s incredibly precious two-and-a-half hours when you invite them into a darkened room with strangers to look at something that they can’t walk out and either be uplifted or moved or something… It’s got to be worthwhile to do it. That’s all they care about. And if I can believe I can do that, then I would do it,” he said.

Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi

Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi
Updated 04 March 2024

Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi

Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: Two women leading the conversation on culture in Saudi Arabia took to the stage on two separate panels at the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi on Monday to talk about their respective institutions.

Aya Al-Bakree, the CEO at Diriyah Biennale Foundation, and Nada Alhelabi, the strategy and XP Music Futures director at MDLBEAST, were both in the spotlight at the event.

Al-Bakree was speaking as part of the panel “Cultural Leadership in Our Complex World.” She was joined by Francesca Colombo, managing and cultural director at Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano; DooEun Choi, vice president of Artlab at Hyundai Motor Company; and Justine Simons, deputy mayor for culture and creative industries in London.

Al-Bakree said: “The purpose of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation is to craft perspectives. It does that by staging ... the Contemporary Art Biennale at Jax District and the Islamic Arts Biennale, which takes place at Jeddah Airport. This is a very special location, an Aga Khan Award-winning location, because it used to be the Hajj terminal, used by the Hajj travelers, which we basically repurposed to have art programs. And we are also developing a creative district called Jax.

“The foundation is meant to support artists full circle. I’m happy to say that the success is very much there because the art was always there. The creation of the Diriyah Foundation is a culmination rather than an overhaul. It just created a framework and an ecosystem for everything to shine.”

Al-Bakree spoke of the inaugural edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale in 2023 attracting more than 600,000 visitors, adding: “That’s a large number of people for such a young event.”

Alhelabi spoke at a later panel called “The Time to Pursue a Career in the MENA Music Industry.”

Moderated by Mayssa Karaa, a singer-songwriter and artistic director at Berklee Abu Dhabi, the panel also featured Karima Damir, A&R director for the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region at Warner Music Group.

Alhelabi said: “We are at the right time for creatives. We have a lot of opportunities.

“For us at XP, collaboration is key. And passion. For all of us in Saudi, we did not have any music education. I remember I was 7 years old and wanted to learn the piano, but there were no stores and there was no one teaching piano at the time. And look at us now.

“So, the key point is definitely passion. And if someone is starting to get into the music industry, every skill and every experience you had in your life matters.”

She stressed that there are many avenues within the music industry to explore. She also pointed to XP Music Futures’ two-week Artist Management Bootcamp as an example of the kind of exposure that individuals in the region are being exposed to when it comes to new careers in the field of music and entertainment.

She added: “Whether you want to work on your own brand and design the events; whether you want to work in production, or you want to do programming, or even artist booking, there are so many fields in the music industry you can contribute to.

“In addition to working as artists, the artists themselves need a village, a surrounding team, for them to be successful.”

Ancient astronomical device reveals ties between Muslims, Jews in medieval Europe

Ancient astronomical device reveals ties between Muslims, Jews in medieval Europe
Updated 04 March 2024

Ancient astronomical device reveals ties between Muslims, Jews in medieval Europe

Ancient astronomical device reveals ties between Muslims, Jews in medieval Europe
  • Astrolabe is believed to have been produced in 11th-century Al-Andalus
  • Historian discovers hidden Arabic, Hebrew, Western etchings after chance online encounter

London: A reappraisal of an ancient astronomical device in Italy has sparked new interest in the medieval interaction between Muslim and Jewish scientists, The Times reported on Monday.

The astrolabe, an instrument once used by astronomers to measure time and distance based on the position of stars, has been on display at a museum in Verona for decades.

But a historian’s chance online encounter with the device, long thought to be a fake, has opened new theories about social and scientific interactions between the Islamic and Jewish faiths in medieval Europe.

Federica Gigante from Cambridge University came across an image of the astrolabe in an online post, and traveled to the museum to investigate the object.

The device is believed to have been produced in Al-Andalus, the Muslim-ruled kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula that encompassed much of modern-day Spain and Portugal.

At the museum, Gigante held the astrolabe in the sunlight and discovered a series of hidden Arabic, Hebrew and modern Western etchings.

She said: “The museum didn’t know what it was and thought it might be fake. It’s now the single most important object in their collection.”

The device is said to be from 11th-century Toledo, during a period known as the Convivencia, or Coexistence, when members of all three Abrahamic faiths lived in relative harmony.

The first markings on the astrolabe are in Arabic and denote the times of Muslim prayers in Toledo and Cordoba.

A brass plate later added to the device allowed the user of the astrolabe to determine prayer times in North Africa.

Further Arabic etchings contain two Jewish names, suggesting that the device was later used by Sephardic Arabic-speaking communities in Al-Andalus.

Hebrew text is also inscribed on the astrolabe, implying that “at a certain point the object left Spain or North Africa and circulated among the Jewish diaspora in Italy,” Gigante said.

Further Hebrew etchings translate the Arabic terms for the astrological signs Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces and Aries.

Gigante believes that the astrolabe may have reached Italy in the 12th century. Once in medieval Verona, Western numerals are believed to have been added to the device by a Latin or Italian speaker.

A 17th-century Veronese nobleman, Ludovico Moscardo, is thought to have obtained the astrolabe, before it was passed to the prominent aristocratic Miniscalschi family which, in 1990, founded the museum where the device remains today.

Gigante said: “The Verona astrolabe stands out, attesting to the contacts and exchanges between Arabs, Jews and Europeans in the medieval and early modern periods.”

Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine

Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine
Updated 04 March 2024

Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine

Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine
  • A miniature sculpture of Banksy’s “Flower Thrower” fetched the highest bid of £16,000

LONDON: A prestigious art auction in London has raised £165,000 ($208,800) for nonprofit organizations providing medical aid in Gaza and advocating for Palestinian human rights, its organizers said on Sunday. 

Voices of Palestine, which took place on Feb. 25 at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel, featured 15 pieces of Arab artwork, including a Banksy-designed miniature sculpture of his “Flower Thrower,” painted by local Palestinian artists. This piece, originally sold at the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, fetched the highest bid of £16,000.

The proceeds from the auction are earmarked for two primary causes: supporting Fajr Scientific’s comprehensive healthcare initiative in Gaza, and the efforts of the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians.

The event hosted a panel discussion featuring a high-profile list of speakers. (AN Photo/Tamara Turki)

Egyptian activist and Editor-in-Chief of Scoop Empire Rahma Zein told Arab News: “These kinds of events are important to reiterate the message that we need to empower ourselves to have the right kinds of discussions as to how to do that, be it economically or politically.”

The 30-year-old went viral in a video confronting CNN’s Clarissa Ward for her reporting at the Rafah border. She was then invited to appear on Piers Morgan’s TalkTV show to discuss Palestinians’ suffering.

She added: “Right now there is a void; there is an empty space because the veil has fallen.

“We’ve seen that these institutions that we deemed as prestigious, these news outlets that we deemed as prestigious, are no longer the case; they’re duds.

“Now is the time to look inwards, and look regionally and see so that we’re not looking at token politicians that look like us but speak in the name of Zionism or appease the colonizers.

“We need to empower ourselves. We need to own back our narrative and these are the events to do so.”

Fajr Scientific CEO Dr. Mosab Nasser has detailed a $55 million post-war plan aiming to enhance Gaza's medical infrastructure by adding 120 hospital beds, numerous operating rooms, and intensive care units over the next three years.

Meanwhile, the ICJP focuses on strategic legal actions and advocacy to align foreign policy with the realities Palestinians face, guided by international law.

Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot and South African High Commissioner to the UK Jeremiah Nyamane Mamabolo. (AN Photo/Tamara Turki)

The event hosted a panel discussion featuring a high-profile list of speakers including Rahma Zein and Nasser alongside Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot, award-winning journalist Ahmed Eldin, surgeon Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sitta, and Israeli-British historian Avi Shlaim.

The panelists tackled a wide range of issues on Israel’s war in Gaza, which has killed over 30,000 people. Eldin spoke on the democratization of the media and its role in challenging Western narratives about Palestine, while Abu-Sitta shared harrowing experiences of treating patients under siege in Gaza, including Israel’s bombing of hospitals.

The event drew 450 attendees, with tickets sold at between £150 to £250.

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’
Updated 03 March 2024

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’
  • World-renowned Syrian poet Adonis gave the first keynote speech of the summit
  • Mohamed Al-Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, stressed his desire to ‘create a world of understanding’

ABU DHABI: Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicked off its sixth edition in the UAE capital with a diverse program of keynote speeches, creative talks, panel discussions and cultural performances.

On the first day of the three-day event, held under the theme of “A Matter of Time,” the summit explored the role of culture in creating collective memories while looking at alternatives to the linear concept of time.

Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi, at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi 2024. (Supplied)

In his opening remarks, Mohamed Al-Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), said, “‘A Matter of Time’ is the theme for this year's Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, which serves as an invitation for us all to reflect and pause. Culture Summit is more than just words — issues will be discussed and tangible solutions will be found for global communities. Culture will allow us to understand each other, respect each other, accept and preserve each other’s culture. Once we attain this level of harmony, we will create a world of understanding.”

Al-Mubarak also made a call to attendees to make connections at the conference. “These are not just words in summits like this. Our job is to make sure we find platforms and other solutions to be a positive voice for our youth,” he said. “They will be the catalyst to make sure all of our actions and all of our fruits bear.”

Al-Mubarak then introduced world-renowned Syrian poet and philosopher Adonis, who gave the summit’s first keynote speech where he framed the relationship between people and time, exploring both in the context of technological advancements.

“Time is a creation and we are living in an era of technological advancements and modernism, enslaving us where it should have set us free. At the culture summit, we share one common goal with distinct yet similar views on culture, poetry and art. We are living in an era where nature and creativity are the need of the hour. Technology cannot be creative, cannot think, breathe or feel — technology is not the problem but relying too much on it is,” said Adonis.

"When man lives according to his creative nature, they will be a source of continuous innovation," he continued. "Understanding that is the key to a person's relationship with himself, to others and the world."

Emirati celebrity singer and Goodwill Ambassador at Large Hussain Al-Jassmi also took part in a conversation with Egyptian talk show host Mona Al-Shazly. “The UAE is a strong enabler for creative talents, including emerging artists. I personally received great support from the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, who I believe was the first supporter of creative talents in the UAE. In addition, the UAE is the best example of coexistence and harmony, embracing residents of more than 200 nationalities — you can walk across any walkway in the UAE and come across five different dialects and languages.”

Nobel Prize in Literature winner, playwright, and professor of theater at NYU Abu Dhabi Wole Soyinka sat in conversation with Manthia Diawara, professor in the department of cinema studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to discuss the intricacies of African culture as well as issues around identity, as well as his thoughts on restitution.

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, which runs until March 5, is organised by DCT Abu Dhabi.

Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week

Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week
Updated 03 March 2024

Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week

Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week

DUBAI/PARIS: Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveiled his Fall/Winter ready-to-wear 2024-25 collection at Paris Fashion Week on Saturday, with a showcase of darker colors in a suitably wintery palette.

Figure-hugging olive green gowns were shown off on the runway, with deep purple and a muted dark blue also punctuating the new offering.


A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

“The Elie Saab ready-to-wear Fall/ Winter 2024-25 collection is a never-ending song where the melodies of Graceland resound beyond Elvis (Presley),” the fashion house declared on Instagram.

Besides gowns, the designer also offered a variety of chic tailored separates, with a glittering coat with razor-sharp lapels contrasting well against the soft curves and floral elements of another all-white overcoat.

Guests included influencers such as Olivia Palermo, Nathalie Fanj and Tamara Kalinic.


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Elsewhere at a rainy Paris Fashion Week on Saturday, luxury label Hermes explored the meaning of “quiet luxury.” This season the narrative took a darker, more introspective turn as creative head Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski offered brooding black leathers that evoked the deep, reflective tones of the late French painter Soulages.

Nipped buckles and gentle ribbing on skin-tight pants demonstrated Vanhee-Cybulski’s adeptness at blending Hermes’ storied craftsmanship with innovative design. Amidst this darker palette, muted flashes emerged, weaving poetically through the collection, The Associated Press reported.

Braving the persistent Parisian drizzle, K-Pop star Sandara Park led the pack at Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, captivating the audience in a punk-tinged corset adorned with pearls. The opening ensembles transported the audience back in time amid contemporary fusions, channeling the essence of a serf, the medieval agricultural laborer. The designs incorporated leggings, jockstraps resembling codpieces, mystical talismanic pendants, and tear-shaped cutouts on thick knit sweaters.


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Meanwhile, elegant sophistication, minimalism, and a hint of nonchalance continued to define Carven. The storied house, originally founded by Marie Louise Carven in 1945, evolved under the guidance of various male creative directors since its reboot 2009 and 2018. Stepping into this lineage as the first female leader since its reboot, Louise Trotter presented her second collection Saturday, skillfully weaving together the brand’s 1950s origins with a minimalist aesthetic reminiscent of the 1990s.

The show opened with a statement piece: A brown round-shouldered coat that was both loose and indicative of the new direction Trotter is steering Carven towards.

This piece set the stage for a collection with dimensions and perceptions — for example, a striking dress featured a trompe l’oeil effect, cleverly designed to appear two-dimensional.