Israel to amend Eurovision entry over political lyrics

Israel to amend Eurovision entry over political lyrics
Eden Golan‘s entry contained references to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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Israel to amend Eurovision entry over political lyrics

Israel to amend Eurovision entry over political lyrics

DUBAI: Israel’s public broadcaster will request changes to the lyrics of a song under consideration for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, reversing its previous stance on the issue.

Eurovision barred the song last week for breaking rules on political neutrality in song lyrics. Artist Eden Golan‘s Israel entry, “October Rain,” contains references to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Israeli broadcaster Kan, which will determine which song enters Eurovision for the country, pledged last week that it wouldn’t request any alteration of the lyrics.

But Israel’s President Isaac Herzog today called for “necessary adjustments” to ensure Israel can enter the show.

The original lyrics of the song were published on Kan's website last month in English. 

They include the lines "They were all good children, every one of them" and "Who told you boys don't cry/ Hours and hours/ And flowers/ Life is not a game for the cowards."

The reference to flowers often denotes war fatalities, according to Israeli media. 

Kan is also considering a song called “Dance Forever.”

The 68th Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Malmo, Sweden, in May.


‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes

‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes
Updated 19 May 2024
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‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes

‘Goodbye Julia’ wins big at Critics Awards for Arab Films in Cannes

DUBAI: Sudanese first-time director Mohamed Kordofani’s “Goodbye Julia” won the best feature film and best screenplay awards at the eighth Critics Awards for Arab Films that took place on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

French-Tunisian composer Amin Bouhafa, who worked on “Hajjan,” won the best music award for the Saudi Arabia-based film. 

Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s hybrid docudrama “Four Daughters,” which missed out on the Best Documentary win at this year’s Academy Awards, scored three prizes: Best director for Ben Hania, best documentary and best editing.

Amjad Al-Rasheed’s “Inshallah a Boy” picked up the best actress prize for Palestinian star Mouna Hawa and best cinematography for Kanamé Onoyama.

Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri nabbed the best actor prize for his role in “The Teacher” while Egyptian filmmaker Morad Mostafa’s “I Promise You Paradise” came out on top in the best short film category.

The awards ceremony is organized by the Cairo-based Arab Cinema Centre (ACC) and winners are voted on by 225 critics from more than 70 countries.  


Saudi Arabia’s RSIFF hosts ‘Women in Cinema’ gala in Cannes

Saudi Arabia’s RSIFF hosts ‘Women in Cinema’ gala in Cannes
Updated 19 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s RSIFF hosts ‘Women in Cinema’ gala in Cannes

Saudi Arabia’s RSIFF hosts ‘Women in Cinema’ gala in Cannes
  • Rosie Huntington Whitley, Richard Gere, Minnie Driver, Alexa Chung, Uma Thurman and Eiza González attended the event, among other international celebrities

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) hosted the “Women in Cinema” Gala in partnership with Vanity Fair Europe in Cannes on Saturday, attracting celebrities from across the world.

Richard Gere poses with Mohammed Al-Turki. (Ammar Abd Rabbo)

The glitzy gala dinner took place after RSIFF presented the “Women in Cinema” panel discussion during the Variety Global Conversations event earlier in the day.

The panel featured Egyptian actress and model Salma Abu Deif, Indian actress Kiara Advani,  Thai actress, model and singer Sarocha Chankimha (also known as Freen), Saudi actress Adhwa Fahad, Saudi singer and actress Aseel Omran, and French-Senegalese director Ramata Toulaye-Sy. The talents spoke about their early beginnings, their career breakthroughs and their sources of inspiration during the panel talk.

Aseel Omran pictured at the event. (Ammar Abd Rabbo)

Those stars and many more attended the evening’s festivities at the iconic Hotel Du Cap.

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” actress Eiza González, model Ikram Abdi, supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Dorra Zarrouk were among the star-studded guest list.

Rosie Huntington Whitley, Richard Gere, Minnie Driver, Raya Abirashed, Alexa Chung, Wallis Day, Lucas Bravo and Uma Thurman also attended the event. 

Yousra attended the event in Cannes. (Ammar Abd Rabbo)

“The Red Sea International Film Festival (#RedSeaIFF) and Vanity Fair Europe reunited to host the #WomenInCinema Gala, championing the achievements of rising female talent on both sides of the camera who are reshaping the film industry in Saudi Arabia, Africa, Asia and the Arab world,” the Red Sea Film Foundation posted on Instagram.

Saudi Arabia is playing a key role at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, having supported four projects that are screening at the event.

Eva Longoria and Eiza González snap a selfie. (Ammar Abd Rabbo)

“Norah,” “The Brink of Dreams,” “To A Land Unknown” and “Animale” will screen as part of the Un Certain Regard, Directors’ Fortnight and Critic’s Week programs at Cannes. The Red Sea Film Foundation supported the projects through the Red Sea Fund and the Red Sea Souk.

RSIFF CEO Mohammed Al-Turki has been spotted on multiple red carpets throughout the event so far and walked the opening night’s red carpet alongside Jomana Al-Rashid, CEO of the Saudi Research and Media Group.

 


Saudi pop star Mishaal Tamer feels ‘honored and grateful’ ahead of sold-out London gig

Saudi pop star Mishaal Tamer feels ‘honored and grateful’ ahead of sold-out London gig
Updated 17 May 2024
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Saudi pop star Mishaal Tamer feels ‘honored and grateful’ ahead of sold-out London gig

Saudi pop star Mishaal Tamer feels ‘honored and grateful’ ahead of sold-out London gig
  • Singer tells Arab News his fans in the city have a special place in his heart but he owes his success to people all over the world who have embraced his music
  • He says his debut album, “Home is Changing,” out in October, is a tribute to the changes and reforms that have swept through the Kingdom in recent years

LONDON: Saudi singer Mishaal Tamer said he feels honored to be performing his first headline show outside Saudi Arabia in London and is grateful to his fans there for their support.

Speaking to Arab News ahead of his sold-out gig on Friday at Camden Assembly, a live music venue and nightclub in Chalk Farm, Tamer said his fans in London will always have a special place in his heart.

“The people attending the show in London have been with me from before the starting line and I really appreciate that,” he said of the 220 people who will attend the event. “I will love those people forever and they will be in my heart forever.”

Tamer also thanked his fans in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the world, saying he owes his success as an independent artist to them.

“The kids that are back home and the ones abroad that have found me have been supporting me,” he said. “This would be impossible without them. I am grateful to the fans for listening to the music and sharing it.

He told how he was approached by two fans in a restaurant after arriving in the UK, which helped him realize how his profile was growing.

“One of them was Saudi, the other wasn’t,” Tamer said. “When I looked at that, it made me realize that not only was this bigger than I expected for me, as an artist, but that what we’re doing is bigger than me.”

His debut album, “Home is Changing,” is due for release in October and he said it is a tribute to the changes and reforms that swept through the Kingdom in recent years.

“There are so many opportunities that keep popping up, so many cool new things,” he added. “People have the freedom and creativity to make the world around them and the environment around them, to shape it into what they see in their heads.

“It feels almost like every other country is decaying whereas the Kingdom is growing and that feeling makes me proud.”

The evolution of Saudi Arabia “sets an example of always being hopeful for the future and having a positive attitude,” Tamer said. “And I think the optimism that we have right now in the Kingdom is a beautiful thing.”


Haifaa Al-Mansour hopes to show ‘fire and bravery’ of Saudi women in Nike campaign film

Haifaa Al-Mansour hopes to show ‘fire and bravery’ of Saudi women in Nike campaign film
Updated 16 May 2024
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Haifaa Al-Mansour hopes to show ‘fire and bravery’ of Saudi women in Nike campaign film

Haifaa Al-Mansour hopes to show ‘fire and bravery’ of Saudi women in Nike campaign film

DUBAI: For Nike’s first Saudi campaign “What If You Can?” the US athletic brand collaborated with acclaimed Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour. 

Shot in Riyadh, the film aims to inspire young girls in the Kingdom to try sporting activities, and Al-Mansour brought a level of craft and authenticity deeply rooted in Saudi culture to the project, as she has done throughout her career. Her groundbreaking debut feature, 2012’s “Wadjda,” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, was a love letter to the young girls of Saudi Arabia. 

“I really feel a responsibility to try and represent the world I grew up in as authentically as possible to audiences at home and abroad. I want to start conversations at home about issues that are important to us, while at the same time providing a window to our world to people who have never had access to it before,” Al-Mansour tells Arab News. 

“I think it is very important to make a film that shows international audiences what life is really like in Saudi Arabia, as there are very few opportunities for them to see it otherwise. Even with ‘Wadjda,’ I heard from a lot of foreign audiences that were surprised by how strong and sassy Saudi women actually are. There is this perception that we are weak and shy and afraid of the world, and that we are just victims, resigned to the limited, restrictive circumstances of our culture. It is so not true. Saudi women are so tough, feisty, funny, and way more savvy than most people realize. I hope this (Nike campaign) further captures the fire and bravery of women from my country. Telling their stories is the honor and privilege of my life.” 

Her work on the new campaign reminded Al-Mansour just how dramatic the changes in the Kingdom have been over the past decade. 

“It was incredibly difficult to make a film in 2011. People were still very hesitant to embrace any public form of artistic expression,” she says. “Film, especially, was seen as taboo, and the idea of opening theaters had become a red line that most of us thought would never be crossed. Of course, now everything is different. 

“For my first film I couldn’t work with the men in public, so I had to direct from a van,” she continues. “Being allowed to mix with my crew and be fully immersed in this production was amazing. It was also very exciting to have so many enthusiastic young Saudis working on the set. They are the future of the industry, and to see them giving their all was very special for me. We have a long way to go in building local expertise, but the enthusiasm is there. It’s an exciting time to be a Saudi filmmaker.” 

For Al-Mansour, the Nike ad campaign is a natural extension of her work as a filmmaker.   

 “It feels like a dream to shoot a commercial encouraging Saudi women to participate in sport, with an all-female cast, in Saudi Arabia. While I love working in the West, there is a much deeper sense of pride and emotion for me when taking on projects shot in KSA. I feel such a strong connection to this story and these issues, it is very emotional for me,” she says. 

Al-Mansour credits her parents for her creative spirit. “My father was a poet and philosopher who thought far beyond the borders of the tiny town he was from. And my mother is a free spirit. They never listened to people who criticized their way of life, and never limited opportunities for their children. It is incredibly brave to stand up for what you believe in, and neither of them ever backed down,” she says. 

As for her legacy, Al-Mansour hopes to “encourage women to always push boundaries and look for new opportunities. I want to make films that show people adjusting to change and struggling through it the way we all have to. It isn’t easy for anyone. If I hear that this project encouraged someone to go out and try a sport for the first time, not knowing if they would even be able to do it, that would be the most rewarding thing I can imagine.” 


Saudi director Shahad Ameen’s ‘Hijra’ set to wrap filming

Saudi director Shahad Ameen’s ‘Hijra’ set to wrap filming
Updated 15 May 2024
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Saudi director Shahad Ameen’s ‘Hijra’ set to wrap filming

Saudi director Shahad Ameen’s ‘Hijra’ set to wrap filming
  • This is the director’s second movie following her debut feature film “Scales,” which premiered at the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival
  • Once filming wraps, editing will take place in Paris under the guidance of Hervé de Luz

DUBAI: Saudi filmmaker Shahad Ameen is in the production phase of her latest film, “Hijra,” with the film set to be edited in Paris after filming wraps in May.  

This is the director’s second movie following her debut feature film “Scales,” which toured international festivals and premiered at the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival, where it received the Verona Film Club Award. “Scales” was also submitted to the Best International Feature Film category by the Kingdom at the 93rd Academy Awards. 

Ameen began filming “Hijra” in March and is anticipated to wrap up shooting on May 24, according to a released statement.

A photograph taken on the set of 'Hijra.' (Supplied/ Ziyad Alzayer)

The shooting locations encompass eight cities in the Kingdom: Taif, Jeddah, Madinah, Wadi Al-Faraa, AlUla, Tabuk, NEOM, and Duba.

The film follows the journey of a grandmother with her two granddaughters from Taif to Makkah. When the eldest granddaughter goes missing, they embark on a quest to the north of the Kingdom.

The film stars Saudi talents Khairiya Nazmi, Nawaf Al-Dhufairi and Lamar Feddan. 

Once filming wraps, editing will take place in Paris under the guidance of Hervé de Luz, known for his work on “Jacques,” “Ghost Writer” and “The Pianist.” 

The film’s crew also includes Chilean cinematographer Miguel Littin Menz and British set designer Chris Richmond. 

In a released statement, Ameen said: “‘Hijra’ is one of the most difficult films I have worked on, and we are still halfway through. We are filming in eight different cities and remote areas. Still, the team and I fully believe in the importance of this story, which tells the story of Saudi women from different generations, and the conflict that ensues.

“All of this is in the plot of a road film that highlights the cultural and historical diversity of the Kingdom and stresses that the Kingdom was and still is a refuge for all people who sought safety in this holy land,” she added. 

For “Hijra,” Ameen is teaming up with Iraqi filmmaker Mohamed Al-Daradji, Biet Ameen Production, the Iraqi Independent Film Center, Ideation Studio by Saudi producer Faisal Baltyuor, veteran Egyptian Mohamed Hefzy, Abboud Ayyash, Sayed Abou Haidar, the Red Sea Fund and Film AlUla for the production of the movie. 

Hefzy said: “Having collaborated with Shahad on ‘Scales,’ we feel Shahad is onto something very special and more ambitious with ‘Hijra,’ and are only proud and eager to complete the journey with her and her producing team.” 

The film has also received support from the Daw Initiative Saudi Film Commission, Ithra and NEOM.