Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi

Saudi art, music execs speak at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi
Nada Alhelabi (left), the strategy and XP Music Futures director at MDLBEAST, and Aya Al-Bakree, the CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, shed light on Saudi Arabia’s creative industries. (Arab News/Supplied)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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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.”


Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’

Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’
Updated 16 April 2024
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Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’

Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’

DUBAI: Israeli artist Ruth Patir has shut down her national pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale, saying that she will only reopen it when a “ceasefire agreement happens” between Israel and Hamas.  

Patir said in a statement on Instagram: “I feel that the time for art is lost and I need to believe it will return. We (Tamar, Mira and I) have become the news, not the art. And so, if I am given such a remarkable stage, I want to make it count.

“I have therefore decided that the pavilion will only open when the release of hostages and ceasefire agreement happens,” she added. “This has been our decision and we stand by it. I am an artist and educator, I firmly object to cultural boycott, but since I feel there are answers, and I can only do what I can with the space I have, I prefer to raise my voice with those I stand with in their scream, ceasefire now, bring the people back from captivity. We can’t take it anymore.”

In February, thousands of people, including artists, curators and museum directors, signed an online appeal calling for Israel to be excluded from this year’s art fair and accusing the country of “genocide” in Gaza.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza,” said the online statement by the Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA) collective.

ANGA said the Venice Biennale had previously banned South Africa over its apartheid policy of white minority rule and excluded Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said the appeal was an “unacceptable, as well as shameful ... diktat of those who believe they are the custodians of truth, and with arrogance and hatred, think they can threaten freedom of thought and creative expression.”

Dubbed the “Olympics of the art world,” the Biennale is one of the main events in the international arts calendar. This year’s edition, “Foreigners Everywhere,” is due to host pavilions from 90 countries between April 20 and Nov. 24.


Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’
Updated 16 April 2024
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Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

DUBAI: Mexican actress and singer Eiza Gonzalez this week turned heads at the premiere of the Saudi-backed action movie “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” in New York City. 

The star dazzled in a metallic gold strapless gown by New York-based label Jason Wu. The dress boasted intricate three-dimensional designs accentuating the waist and chest. 

Complementing the ensemble, she showed off matching gold heels from Maison Ernest and Cartier jewelry. Her brunette bob was styled in a voluminous blowout. 

Complementing the ensemble, she showed off matching gold heels from Maison Ernest and Cartier jewelry. (Getty)

She posed on the red carpet alongside her co-stars Henry Cavill, Henry Golding, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Cary Elwes, Babs Olusanmokun, Henrique Zaga and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. 

The premiere was attended by Mohammed Al-Turki, film producer and CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation. 

The Saudi foundation, which backed the movie, took to Instagram to share pictures of the premiere captioning the post: “Live from New York, the premiere for ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,’ Red Sea Film Foundation is proud to have supported through its Red Sea International Film Financing initiative.”

 

 

Based on recently declassified files of the British War Department and inspired by true events, the movie is an action-comedy that tells the story of the first-ever special forces organization formed during WWII by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a small group of military officials, including James Bond author Ian Fleming. 

The top-secret combat unit, composed of a motley crew of rogues and mavericks, goes on a daring mission against the Nazis using entirely unconventional and utterly “ungentlemanly” fighting techniques. Ultimately, their audacious approach changed the course of the war and laid the foundation for the British SAS and modern Black Ops warfare.

The film is directed and co-written for the screen by Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes,” “The Gentlemen” and “Wrath of Man”) and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure”).

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” will be released in cinemas in the Middle East on April 18 and internationally on April 19.


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 16 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.


Jessica Chastain flaunts Elie Saab look at Breakthrough awards in Los Angeles

Jessica Chastain flaunts Elie Saab look at Breakthrough awards in Los Angeles
Updated 14 April 2024
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Jessica Chastain flaunts Elie Saab look at Breakthrough awards in Los Angeles

Jessica Chastain flaunts Elie Saab look at Breakthrough awards in Los Angeles

DUBAI: US actress and producer Jessica Chastain sparkled in a purple jumpsuit by Lebanese designer Elie Saab at the Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

Chastain — who has previously championed looks by Lebanon’s Zuhair Murad, among other Arab designers — hit the red carpet in the sequined number that boasted a plunging neckline and bootleg-style pants. Celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart finished off Chastain’s look with a statement necklace by Damiani jewelry.

US actress and producer Jessica Chastain sparkled in a purple jumpsuit by Lebanese designer Elie Saab. (Getty Images)

French Canadian scientist Michel Sadelain was awarded an "Oscars of Science" for his research into genetically modifying immune cells to fight cancer at the event, AFP reported.

The genetic engineer was awarded the Breakthrough Prize at a glitzy ceremony attended by tech giants such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates, and an array of celebrities including Chastain, Robert Downey Jr. and Bradley Cooper.

His work has led to the development of a new form of therapy called CAR-T that has shown exceptional efficacy against certain blood cancers.

"This prize is an extraordinary recognition," Sadelain told AFP on the red carpet at the Oscars Museum. "It's all the more of an honor because ... my scientific colleagues told me for a long time that it would never work.

Honorees Dr. Michel Sadelain, right, and Dr. Carl H. June accept awards onstage during the 10th Breakthrough Prize Ceremony. (Getty Images)

"The greatest pleasure, however, is to see patients... who no longer had a chance and who thank us, who are alive today thanks to CAR-T cells," added Sadelain.

Launched in 2010, the Breakthrough Prize awards "the world's most brilliant minds" in fields including life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics, styling itself as the Silicon Valley-backed answer to the Nobels.

Dubbed the "Oscars for Science", founding sponsors include Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg.

Sadelain will split the $3 million prize money with American immunologist Carl June, who also led groundbreaking research into the field independently of his co-winner.

Sadelain studied medicine in Paris, then immunology in Canada, before taking up postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989.

Other celebrity guests at the event includes actresses Zoe Saldana and Margot Robbie, director Olivia Wilde and Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh, among others.


Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival

Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival
Updated 16 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.”