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.


Amir El-Masry, Pierce Brosnan to dramatize British Yemeni boxing legend’s story

Amir El-Masry, Pierce Brosnan to dramatize British Yemeni boxing legend’s story
Updated 15 April 2024
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Amir El-Masry, Pierce Brosnan to dramatize British Yemeni boxing legend’s story

Amir El-Masry, Pierce Brosnan to dramatize British Yemeni boxing legend’s story

DUBAI: British Egyptian actor Amir El-Masry will star alongside Pierce Brosnan in the sports drama “Giant,” based on the story of British Yemeni boxer Naseem “Naz” Hamed.

El-Masry will play Hamed, who competed from 1992 to 2002, and Brosnan is set to portray his Irish-born boxing trainer Brendan Ingle. The film will be written and directed by Rowan Athale (“The Rise,” “Gangs of London,” “Strange But True”) and Sylvester Stallone is on board to executive produce, alongside other Hollywood executives.

“Giant” tells the story of the boxer’s humble beginnings in a working class area of Sheffield and his discovery by Ingle. Hamed shot to fame amid rampant Islamophobia and racism in 1980s and 1990s Britain.

El-Masry won a Scottish BAFTA for his performance in the film “Limbo” in 2021 and was cast in the fifth season of Netflix’s historical drama “The Crown” as the young Egyptian billionaire Mohamed El-Fayed, among other acting credits.


Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival

Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival
Updated 14 April 2024
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Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival

Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival

DUBAI: Saint Levant, a Palestinian French Algerian Serbian rapper, performed at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival music festival in California on Saturday.

The musician used the opportunity to address the ongoing war in Gaza, saying: “Coachella, my name is Saint Levant and I was born in Jerusalem and raised in Gaza … as I hope all of you are aware, the people of Gaza have been undergoing a brutal, brutal genocide for the past six months. And the people of Palestine have been undergoing a brutal occupation for the past 75 years.”

Saint Levant performed a series of his hits, including “Nails,” “From Gaza, With Love” and a slowed-down version of “Very Few Friends.” The artist also performed “Deira” and “5am in Paris,” which was released last week.

“It’s about exile,” he said, describing the new song. “A feeling that us Palestinians know a bit too well.”

Born Marwan Abdelhamid in Jerusalem, the singer previously spoke to Arab News about his childhood.

“The actual cultural makeup is my mom is half-French and half-Algerian. My dad is Serbian, half-Palestinian. And they actually both grew up in Algeria. But they decided, in the early 90s, post the Oslo Accords, that Palestine was going to be free.

“So they went back, my dad went to live in Gaza in the early 1980s. And my dad actually built a hotel there and that’s where I grew up,” he said.

“For everyone, childhood is very meaningful. And for me, it was a juxtaposition because I remember the sound of the drones and the sounds of the bones. But more than anything, I remember the warmth, and the smell … and the taste of food and just the odd feeling of soil.”


Cinema for Gaza auction raises over $300,000 with the aid of Annie Lennox, Jonathan Glazer, Ramy Youssef and more

Cinema for Gaza auction raises over $300,000 with the aid of Annie Lennox, Jonathan Glazer, Ramy Youssef and more
Updated 13 April 2024
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Cinema for Gaza auction raises over $300,000 with the aid of Annie Lennox, Jonathan Glazer, Ramy Youssef and more

Cinema for Gaza auction raises over $300,000 with the aid of Annie Lennox, Jonathan Glazer, Ramy Youssef and more

DUBAI: Cinema for Gaza, which was launched by a group of female filmmakers and film journalists, has raised $316,778 to support the UK charity Medical Aid for Palestinians through a celebrity auction, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The auction featured donations from Tilda Swinton, Annie Lennox, Joaquin Phoenix, Spike Lee and Guillermo del Toro among others. 

Lennox’s handwritten lyrics to her Eurythmics hit “Sweet Dreams” was the top seller, with a bidder paying $26,222 for the item.

Meanwhile, “The Zone of Interest” director Jonathan Glazer, who received criticism online for referencing the Gaza conflict in his 2024 Oscars acceptance speech, donated seven posters from the film, signed by himself, composer Mica Levi and producer James Wilson, as well as a selection of posters for his 2014 feature “Under the Skin,” which collectively raised $13,702. 

US-Egyptian comedian and creator Ramy Youssef donated tickets to his live show as well as to the afterparty and a meet-and-greet. Oscar-winner Phoenix donated a signed “Joker” poster. Del Toro contributed six signed books. Lee contributed a signed, framed poster of Malcolm X.

“We thought we might raise maybe £20,000 ($25,000),” said London-based film journalist and critic Hanna Flint to The Hollywood Reporter.

Flint set up Cinema for Gaza together with her film-industry friends Hannah Farr, Julia Jackman, Leila Latif, Sophie Monks Kaufman, and Helen Simmons a few months after the start of Israel’s ongoing military assault on Gaza.

“We’re a very diverse group of women, we’ve got women of color, we’ve got Jewish women, Muslim women, Christians, atheists, who all came together out of this need to do something tangible to show our support and activism for the humanitarian crisis that’s going on (in Gaza),” said Flint.

“We really believe that cinema can be a powerful tool, a political tool, to speak about the world, to reflect and engage with what’s going on, and, we thought, what better way (to get) people in our industry to come together to try and help people who are not doing that well?”
 


Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr all set to speak ‘the truth’ at Dubai show

Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr all set to speak ‘the truth’ at Dubai show
Updated 13 April 2024
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Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr all set to speak ‘the truth’ at Dubai show

Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr all set to speak ‘the truth’ at Dubai show

DUBAI: Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr, who is set to perform at the Dubai Comedy Festival on April 17, says he is an activist who “likes to use comedy as his tool.”

In an interview with Arab News ahead of his show at the Dubai Opera, Zahr said: “Activism is about telling the truth. Being Palestinian is about telling the truth. And comedy is about telling the truth. People sometimes say to me, ‘Hey, I never know when you’re joking.’ I tell them, ‘Look, I’m always being serious. I’m always telling the truth.’ But a comedian uses humor to tell the truth.

“Because if you can make someone laugh, they listen to you and they let down their guard.

“And we Palestinians have been trying to tell our story for 75 years. And we’ve been using art, music, poetry … but for me, I found that comedy is a very effective way. So, I’m a Palestinian first who is trying to tell our stories, and comedy is my tool,” he added.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Amer Zahr (@amerzahr)

Zahr, who is also a law professor and political activist, said he got hooked to stand-up comedy while in law school.

“I had thought about comedy and then in law school, the opportunity presented itself where there was a show going on, and they kind of asked if anyone wants to do some comedy before the main comedian comes on. And so, I said ‘let me try it.’ I got up there. I told a couple stories about my dad. Everybody laughed, and I got kind of hooked to the idea of being on a stage and being able to make people laugh and connect with people in that way,” said Zahr.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Amer Zahr (@amerzahr)

For Zahr, the allure of stand-up comes from the fact that it involves “speaking truth to power.”

He said: “Comedy is one of the purest art forms. When somebody sings, we’re okay with it if we learned later on that they didn’t write the song. We’re just happy they have a great voice. But when you hear a comedian, you assume that everything that that person is saying is genuine and coming from them. And if you learned later that it wasn’t, you might feel cheated.

“Comedy is a very personal art form between the audience and the comedian. And, so, that’s something that you that you grow into. And then comedy, in its purest form, is a form of protest, speaking truth to power. And, so, it kind of fits the Palestinian story perfectly,” he added.

Asked about what audiences can expect from his Dubai show, Zahr said: “It’s going to be me telling the Palestinian story from before Oct. 7, and after Oct. 7, with love, laughter and the truth. And maybe during the show, I’ll make people laugh until they cry. And sometimes I’ll make them cry until they laugh.”


The Roundup: Pop-culture highlights from across the Arab world

The Roundup: Pop-culture highlights from across the Arab world
Updated 12 April 2024
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The Roundup: Pop-culture highlights from across the Arab world

The Roundup: Pop-culture highlights from across the Arab world

DUBAI: From art and fashion to Egyptian electro, here are pop-culture highlights from across the Arab world.

 

Farah Al-Qasimi 

‘Toy World’ 

The acclaimed Emirati artist’s latest exhibition, which runs until April 19 at The Third Line in Dubai, includes her first black-and-white image series. “Black-and-white images automatically historicize,” Al-Qasimi told Sarah Chefka in an interview for promotional material. The series includes this image, “Camel Bones,” of which Chefka writes: “I know that the camel bones lying in the barren grass are innocuous victims of the cycle of life, but all I can think of are anonymous human remains, lying forgotten in battlefields that will never bear another rose.” 

 

Weam Ismail 

‘Ala Belady’ (Remix) 

The latest release from the Egyptian producer is a remix of his popular track “Ala Belady.” According to his label, Universal, Weam “invites listeners on a transformative journey where artistry and spirituality intertwine.” His blend of electronic music, Afro-house beats and Arabic sounds has connected with fellow artists in the region and in Europe, and his upcoming album should be one to look out for. 

 

Majdulin Nasrallah 

‘Hadatha Ghadan’ 

Zawya Gallery announced a series of new prints from the Palestinian artist Majdulin Nasrallah last month, in which, according to the gallery, she “takes us on a journey through the urban landscape of Palestine, offering a fresh perspective on power dynamics” and sparks conversations about “the role of built environments in perpetuating or challenging systems of control.” The series, including this image, titled “The Hole Hanging,” is typical of Qatar-based Majdulin’s work, which focuses heavily on life and the built environment under occupation. 

 

Odeem 

The Dubai-based luxury accessories label recently launched its latest handbag collection, ranging from elegant clutch purses to practical tote bags. “Whether you're seeking a sophisticated companion for the office or a chic accessory for a night out, our drop caters to the diverse facets of your lifestyle,” the label stated in a press release. “Each piece in this new line up exemplifies our unwavering commitment to quality, functionality, and contemporary aesthetics.” 
 

Mohammed Suliman Al-Faleh 

‘Kara tribe’ 

The Saudi photographer was one of the winners of March’s Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum International Photography Awards’ Instagram competition, which was held under the theme “Culture.” The striking image is one of a series of photographs that Al-Faleh has taken of members of the Kara tribe in Ethiopia. This one was shot on the banks of the Omo River. 

 

Salama Hassan 

‘Kanji’ 

This piece by the self-taught Saudi conceptual calligrapher was featured in “Senses and Spirituality,” an exhibition curated by Saudi designer Amar Alamdar at Riyadh’s Centria Mall. In “Kanji,” Hassan used Chinese typography characteristics to reproduce Qur’anic verses. “I love Eastern cultures like Japanese and Chinese and their calligraphy, as well as Arabic,” she told Arab News previously. “I wanted to prove that the Arabic letter is valid in any time and space.”