Yango Play launches in the GCC with bilingual AI assistant, Ramadan shows

Yango Play launches in the GCC with bilingual AI assistant, Ramadan shows
Roman Shimansky, MENA region business director at Yango Play, was photographed on the red carpet. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 04 March 2024
Follow

Yango Play launches in the GCC with bilingual AI assistant, Ramadan shows

Yango Play launches in the GCC with bilingual AI assistant, Ramadan shows

DUBAI: Tech platform Yango launched Yango Play, an artificial intelligence-powered entertainment super app, in the GCC market this week.

As Dubai’s Burj Al-Arab glittered in the background, the launch party saw guests hit the red carpet, including the stars of Yango Play’s exclusive Ramadan programming lineup. Those shows include Egyptian drama “The Assassins” (“Al Hashasheen”), as well as the Yango Play Original and the company’s first Saudi production, “Sakf El-Waled.”




Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk attended the event. (Supplied)

Roman Shimansky, MENA region business director at Yango Play, took to the stage and explained Yango Play’s mission to deliver different types of entertainment – from music to games to series – all on one platform. The AI-powered entertainment service combines video streaming, music, and mini-games in one place.

“What's so cool about it? First of all, our concept is very, very simple. Play everything you like, all in one place. Play music, play movies, play games, series all together. Second, is our unique artificial intelligence technologies. Yango Play is powered by AI, which allows us to bring next level features like an Arabic-speaking voice assistant, like a personalized stream of music that that adjusts to your tastes in real time, and so many more features,” he said.




Dancers perform on stage at the launch event. (Supplied)

He also introduced Yasmina, the bilingual AI assistant integrated into Yango Play. Yasmina can interact with users in Arabic and English and is able to understand major Arabic dialects, including Egyptian and Lebanese. Yasmina suggests songs and answers myriad questions — anything from today’s weather to this year’s Ramadan dates.  

Yango Play is available in the Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other GCC countries. The service provides subscribers with cross-platform access on smartphones and TVs.




Radwa Shaheen on the red carpet at the event. (Supplied)

In a released statement, Shimansky said: “At Yango Play, we're devoted to crafting a joyful entertainment experience, offering a selection of diverse content that turns every moment into a delightful adventure. Our ever-evolving platform uses AI to provide more seamless and intuitive experiences by understanding your preferences—whether by curating uplifting music for your drive, engaging shows for family time, or quick games for a brief pause in your day. We are deeply committed to enhancing these experiences through our original content and strategic collaborations with regional creatives, ensuring that each choice on our platform is a step towards discovering vibrant new emotions.”


Dua Lipa denounces ‘Israeli genocide,’ calls for Gaza ceasefire

Dua Lipa denounces ‘Israeli genocide,’ calls for Gaza ceasefire
Updated 29 May 2024
Follow

Dua Lipa denounces ‘Israeli genocide,’ calls for Gaza ceasefire

Dua Lipa denounces ‘Israeli genocide,’ calls for Gaza ceasefire

DUBAI: British singer Dua Lipa has taken to social media to denounce Israel’s military operations in Gaza as an “Israeli genocide” in an Instagram Story post shared with her 88 million followers.

The Grammy-winning artist, who has Kosovo Albanian heritage, also used the trending hashtag #AllEyesOnRafah that is being used online following Israel’s bombing of the Palestinian city.

“Burning children alive can never be justified. The whole world is mobilising to stop the Israeli genocide. Please show your solidarity with Gaza,” the singer wrote.

The singer shared a post on an Instagram Stories. (Instagram)

It is the strongest condemnation Lipa has made so far in Israel’s eight month bombing campaign that followed an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.

In December, she wrote: “With each passing day, my heart aches for the people of Israel and Palestine. Grief for the lives lost in the horrifying attacks in Israel. Grief as I witness the unprecedented suffering in Gaza, where 2.2m souls, half of them children, endure unimaginable hardships. For now, I desperately hope for a ceasefire in Gaza and urge governments to halt the unfolding crisis. Our hope lies in finding the empathy to recognise this dire humanitarian situation. Sending love to Palestinian and Jewish communities worldwide, who bear this burden more heavily than most.”

Meanwhile, English singer-songwriter  Paul Weller, who performed in front of a Palestinian flag on his recent tour, spoke against Israel in an interview with British newspaper the Observer in May, saying: “Am I against genocides and ethnic cleansing? Yes, I am, funnily enough. I can’t understand why more people aren’t up in arms about what’s going on. We should be ashamed of ourselves, I think. One minute you’re supplying bullets and bombs and guns, and then you’re sending over food. How does that work?”


Elisabeth Moss turns British spy in action thriller ‘The Veil,’ alongside Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan

Elisabeth Moss turns British spy in action thriller ‘The Veil,’ alongside Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan
Updated 30 May 2024
Follow

Elisabeth Moss turns British spy in action thriller ‘The Veil,’ alongside Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan

Elisabeth Moss turns British spy in action thriller ‘The Veil,’ alongside Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan
  • Lebanese-Palestinian actress Yumna Marwan plays suspected terrorist
  • Show explores the fraught, surprising relationship between the 2 women

DUBAI: US actress Elisabeth Moss — who made her name through prestige shows including “Mad Men” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” — is returning to television as a British MI6 agent in FX’s “The Veil,” available to stream in the Middle East on Disney Plus.

“I love the spy genre. I love all the spy franchises, but I don’t know if we’ve seen this kind of story on television before. At least, not in a while. For that reason, I am excited for people to get hooked by how fun, entertaining and global this story is,” said Moss in a recent interview with Arab News.

Elisabeth Moss is MI6 genius Imogen Salter. (Supplied)

The show explores the surprising and fraught relationship between two women who play a deadly game of truth and lies on the road from Istanbul to Paris and London. Moss is MI6 genius Imogen Salter, while Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan plays Adilah El-Idrissi, a suspected commander of a terrorist organization.

Imogen finds Adilah in Turkiye and convinces her to flee with her. During their journey, Adilah and Imogen bond in unexpected ways, while the rest of the world’s spy network hunt them down.

“‘The Veil’ is an action-packed and international drama. I think that’s the hook. And then, of course, there are these two characters at the center of it all. Imogen and Adilah are the emotional truth and the emotional heart of the story. I think we’ve achieved a great balance between the character drama and the complexity of that, as well as a lot of fun,” added Moss.

For Moss, all of 1.6 meters in height, playing an action hero did not come naturally. “I’ve done a fair amount of fight scenes before, but it’s usually on the defensive. Usually, I play a character who isn’t trained to fight.

“What was really fun and different about this was she’s a trained fighter, so she would have learned how to do the things she does and be quite good at them. That was really cool for me,” said Moss.

The actress took quite a few hits in the process, too.

“When there’s a huge, massive leap and fall, obviously I physically don’t know how to do that, so my stunt double would do that for me — but I certainly got pushed really hard.

“I actually fractured my back when we shot on the rooftop scene (in episode one), so we had to go back six weeks later and shoot that again. What you see in the show is actually our second attempt. We got really good at it by then,” she said.


New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity

New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity
Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity

New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity
  • Event features narratives from Muslim filmmakers, productions inspired by Muslim culture and faith

LONDON: A new film festival in the UK is on a mission to explore Muslim experiences through film.

The inaugural Muslim International Film Festival will begin on May 30 in London’s Leicester Square.

The four-day event features narratives from international Muslim filmmakers as well as productions inspired by Muslim culture and faith.

“The idea behind the festival is about reclaiming our identity and celebrating it. For the longest time, being Muslim has felt like something we can’t be proud of,” MIFF director Sajid Varda told Arab News.

He added: “We’ve had to hide our identity, and the narrative around our faith and identities has often been controlled by others.

“There’s been a persistent frustration with how to change those perceptions and how to reconnect with wider audiences and communities.

“We want to give them a glimpse into our lives and lived experiences, while also showcasing the cinematic brilliance of our creative community and its contributions to cinema.”

The event will begin with the London premiere of “Hounds” (“Les Meutes”) by Moroccan director Kamal Lazraq. The film follows a father and son in Casablanca’s suburbs who make ends meet by committing petty crimes for a local mob until a kidnapping goes horribly wrong.

Other highlights include critically acclaimed films set in the UK, France, Turkiye, Tunisia, Jordan, Iran and Sudan.

The festival will include Q&A sessions, panels and networking events in partnership with the British Film Commission, Netflix and the BBC.

Organizers have made the festival as accessible as possible to wider audiences, Varda said.

“We wanted to ensure that the films align with our faith and ethos, avoiding gratuitous violence, nudity and overtly sexual themes. This makes the content accessible to all, not just Muslims, but also people of other faiths and beliefs who might be sensitive to these issues.”

He added: “Our ticket costs are much lower compared to other festivals. We’ve also given out many tickets at no cost to various organizations, and offered discounts to students and those facing financial hardship.”


Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story

Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story
“Norah” had its official screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story

Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story

CANNES: Director Tawfik Alzaidi's “Norah” made history when it was selected as the first Saudi film to screen on the official calendar at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film premiered at December’s Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah before heading to the French Riviera last week, where it ran in the famed festival’s Un Certain Regard section.

“Norah” is the story of a restless young woman (played with wonderful ease by Maria Bahrawi), who dreams of a life beyond her immediate surroundings.

Set in 1990s Saudi Arabia when conservatism ruled and the pursuit of all art, including painting, was frowned upon, a new world opens up for Norah when Nader (Yaqoub Alfarhan), a failed artist and teacher from the city, comes to her village. Despite the rigid rules of society, the pair form a platonic relationship, linked by a passion for the arts. What emerges is a story in which the characters inspire each other, played out against the backdrop of the scenic AlUla region in Saudi Arabia, a location that is becoming a major moviemaking hub.

Norah, brought up by her uncle and aunt after having lost her parents early on, listens to music and pores over magazines. She encourages Nader to follow his passion for drawing, and their affection for each other gradually develops into an unshakable union.

The director strives to walk a tightrope, maintaining an equilibrium between Saudi sensibilities and a daringly emotional outlook. He explores the hesitant heartbeats of Norah and Nader but stops short of entering any overt romantic territory. The love affair, in this case, in one with the arts — both lead characters yearn for the chance to creatively express themselves.

While the narrative carries on at a gentle pace, the tone and tenure seem ruffled and out of place in the finale — with a rather bizarre ending marred by uncertainty. Alzaidi loses his grip over the narration, which until then seemed to have traversed a smooth road.


Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes
Soraya Al-Shehri, Nabila Abu Al-Jadayel, Kariman Abuljadayel, and Salwa Abuljadayel. (Supplied)
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes

JEDDAH: Saudi film “Wa Isjod Wa Iqtareb” (“Prostrate and Draw Near”) won the “Animation That Matters” award during the Animaze Animation Day event at Marché du Film, the industry networking section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Directed, produced, and written mother-daughter duo Suraya Al-Shehry and Nabila Abuljadayel, the film was created via production company Suraya Productions and explores the period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic when cleaning staff replaced the usual mix of international worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

The film integrates traditional art and 2-D animation, but it is its subject matter that makes it unique, according to Al-Shehry.

“In the history of cinema, there has been a noticeable lack of films focusing on Makkah and the Holy Mosque, particularly in the realm of animation. Collaborating with my daughter … on our short animated film has brought me immense joy and a profound sense of fulfilment,” she said.

She added that the film portrays a significant moment in global and Islamic history by showcasing the Grand Mosque devoid of pilgrims, with the exception of the cleaning and maintenance staff who had the unique opportunity to pray there during the pandemic when no one else could.

Abuljadayel reflected on the nearly two-year project, saying: “For me, the best reward was the chance to collaborate with my mother, an experience that transcends any accolade.”

She emphasized that receiving the award aligned with the film’s core message of celebrating shared humanity.

“I firmly believe that what comes from the heart resonates with others, whether expressed through animation or my artwork, and the greatest testimony of that is the success of this film,” she said.

The creative duo seem to be keen to continue their success, with another project scheduled for completion next year.