Director Elie El-Semaan discusses his first feature film, ‘Honeymoonish’ 

Director Elie El-Semaan discusses his first feature film, ‘Honeymoonish’ 
“Honeymoonish” is a romantic comedy that will come to Netflix later this year.  (Supplied)
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Updated 14 March 2024
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Director Elie El-Semaan discusses his first feature film, ‘Honeymoonish’ 

Director Elie El-Semaan discusses his first feature film, ‘Honeymoonish’ 
  • Murex D’or winning director tells Arab News that his rom-com for Netflix is a labor of love 

DUBAI: Elie El-Semaan says being a director is physically exhausting, but that’s what fuels his love for filmmaking. The Lebanese director gained international acclaim with his breakout work, the TV show “Shatti Ya Beirut” (Rain Over Beirut), which won him a Murex D’or (the annual Lebanese awards for achievements in the arts) for Best Drama Director in 2022. 

Now, El-Semaan is ready to bring his expertise to the silver screen with his feature-film debut, “Honeymoonish”, a romantic comedy that will come to Netflix later this year.  




El-Semaan is ready to bring his expertise to the silver screen. (Supplied)

The project, as the first Kuwaiti film to be shot in Lebanon, comes with a nuanced take on the Arab world and the cultures that make it unique. 

“I think the film will change the perception of Arabs,” El-Semaan says to Arab News.  “Once people watch it, they’ll understand what I mean.” 

The film, written by Egyptian author and director Eiad Saleh, stars Kuwaiti-born Egyptian actress Nour Al-Ghandour as Noor and Kuwaiti actor Mahmoud Boushahri as Hamad. In it, the couple navigate a web of misunderstandings and unexpected truths to discover love and the possibility of redemption, inviting viewers on an emotionally resonant journey. 




The project, as the first Kuwaiti film to be shot in Lebanon, comes with a nuanced take on the Arab world and the cultures that make it unique. (Supplied)

Though the pressure of making his debut feature for a powerhouse like Netflix may have been daunting, El-Semaan says that the raising of the bar for pan-Arab television in recent years had given him confidence. 

 “I think series are now being treated as films,” he says. “The quality of our series is up to the level where each episode is like a film. In terms of quality, in terms of responsibility, in terms of everything, it was quite similar. You cannot give (audiences) what they used to watch in the past because the world has so much to offer. 

“The main difference between series and film is the amount of time you have — in a series you have, let’s say, three days to shoot an episode,” El-Semaan continues. “Whereas for a 90-minute film, you have 30 to 40 days to shoot.”  




Elie El-Semaan on the set of 'Honeymoonish.' (Supplied) 

With this added time came the opportunity to refine and understand the cultural subtleties of cast and crew. 

“One of the most difficult things for me as the director was the different dialects — Lebanese and Kuwaiti Arabic. That’s why I had a Kuwaiti on set with me who could explain different things. It was very diverse,” El-Semaan says.   

Bringing pan-Arab stories to the world stage is something El-Semaan often thinks about. It is important to the director to break down misconceptions and authentically represent his people.  




The film is written by Egyptian author and director Eiad Saleh. (Supplied)

“It’s a fine line, not shifting to a story that doesn’t look like our society and that doesn’t look like us,” he says. “You have to maintain the authenticity of the project, but, at the same time, take things up a notch and build on the story to do something that people haven’t seen before.” 

To do that, El-Semaan says he tried to foster an on-set environment that offered his actors and crew the freedom to collaborate in the filmmaking process. While he acknowledges his role as the final decision-maker, El-Semaan’s approach hinges on mutual involvement, with actors and crew members encouraged to contribute their insights and creativity. He shuns the notion of a director versus crew dynamic, instead fostering an environment where every individual is a valued partner in the project.  




The film stars Kuwaiti-born Egyptian actress Nour Al-Ghandour as Noor and Kuwaiti actor Mahmoud Boushahri as Hamad. (Supplied)

“I do not work with people who are not partners, I want people involved,” he says. “I want them to help build my vision, change my vision, and surprise me at times.” It is then his job to know how best to handle those surprises. 

“There are always things you need to know how to deal with on the spot. That’s what we do for a living: make decisions,” El-Semaan says. 

His championing of the idea of collective dreaming and dialogue, he believes, gives him a greater chance of creating the best possible film from the material. In his words, “That’s how you come up with a better project.” 

As he eagerly awaits the film’s launch, El-Semaan reflects on the transformative power of cinema and the joy of bringing diverse voices together to create something truly special. To him, it’s not just about entertaining audiences, but also about sparking conversations, challenging stereotypes, and fostering a deeper understanding of the human experience.  

“I’m sure there’s always room for improvement,” he says. “There’s always more we can do.” 


Gigi Hadid stuns at ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ NYC premiere

Gigi Hadid stuns at ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ NYC premiere
Updated 58 min 5 sec ago
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Gigi Hadid stuns at ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ NYC premiere

Gigi Hadid stuns at ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ NYC premiere
  • Ensemble from Miu Miu’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection
  • Hadid posed on the red carpet alongside friend Blake Lively

DUBAI: US-Dutch-Palestinian model Gigi Hadid turned heads at the “Deadpool & Wolverine” premiere in New York City this week wearing an ensemble from Miu Miu’s Spring/Summer 2024 Ready-to-Wear collection.

The outfit featured a yellow bandeau top that was paired with a matching mustard yellow skirt in a knee-length cut and flowing silhouette. Hadid’s look was accessorized with a brown belt, black strappy heels and a yellow handbag.

Her jewelry included large gold hoop earrings and a statement gold chain necklace. She wore several chunky bangles in brown and gold, and a glitzy diamond anklet on her left ankle.

Hadid posed on the red carpet alongside her friend Blake Lively. (AFP)

Her blonde bob was styled sleek and smooth, with her bangs shaped into a bouncy, old Hollywood-inspired swoop.

Hadid posed on the red carpet alongside her friend Blake Lively, who was there to support her husband, Ryan Reynolds, who stars as Deadpool in the film.

Lively donned a striking off-the-shoulder jumpsuit from Atelier Versace. The outfit was crafted from a deep red, satin-like material and featured intricate black lace detailing throughout.

Lively accessorized the look with statement earrings and several rings. Her hair was styled in a sleek high ponytail, completing the ensemble.

Both Hadid and Lively continued their fashionable night with new outfits for the film’s after-party.

Both Hadid and Lively continued their fashionable night with new outfits for the film’s after-party. (Getty Images)

Hadid opted for a vibrant yellow trench coat made from a glossy, vinyl-like material from LaQuan Smith. The coat featured a classic trench silhouette with a wide lapel, belted waist and flared hem that fell just below the knees.

Meanwhile, Lively wore a head-turning Balmain minidress with a red and blue color scheme. The off-the-shoulder ensemble was adorned with large, three-dimensional red roses along the neckline and hemline.

The upcoming superhero film “Deadpool & Wolverine” is based on Marvel Comics characters. In addition to Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, the film features Hugh Jackman reprising his role as Wolverine.

The plot centers on Deadpool teaming up with a recovering Wolverine to face a common enemy. The film delves into the dynamic between the two characters, exploring their regrets and quarreling relationship.

The film is directed by Shawn Levy and is set to release in Saudi Arabia on July 25.


REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel

REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel
Updated 14 min 34 sec ago
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REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel

REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel

NEW DELHI: Getting lost in a good story is an occupational hazard and a crime in “The Book Censor’s Library,” a dystopian political satire with elements of magic realism. The story follows an unnamed narrator whose life unravels after he reluctantly begins working for an all-powerful government.

With a spellbinding and smooth translation from Arabic by Ranya Abdelrahman and Sawad Hussain, Kuwaiti literary icon Bouthayna Al-Essa’s novel warns against the loss of originality and personal freedoms in its depiction of the transformation of a man into a reader and his inevitable fall down the rabbit hole of books and imagination.

Set in the near future “in a place that would be pointless to name, since it resembles every other place,” the novel follows the book censor in the New World as he combs through manuscripts, looking for any offending word or idea that would render a book unfit to publish.He is a “guardian of surfaces,” and his task is to ensure that books that carry depth and ideas should be identified and removed from the shelves because “one curious person who picked up a volume and read a few lines could poison the entire society.”

In a swift turn of events, the protagonist himself is swept away by classics like “Zorba the Greek,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “1984,” his dreams and waking hours engulfed in the siren song of good storytelling.

As the world around him slowly regains color, he falls into the throes of an existential crisis, torn between doing his duty as a simple cog in the machine and the secret society of “Cancers” attempting to restore books to their former glory and preserve the collective memory of humanity.

Drawing from the power of timeless stories, El-Essa’s Orwellian tale delves into the terrifying heart of darkness to remind us that “cancer cells are the only ones that thrive in a dying body.”


‘Those About to Die’ stars talk new swords-and-sandals series set in Ancient Rome

‘Those About to Die’ stars talk new swords-and-sandals series set in Ancient Rome
Updated 22 July 2024
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‘Those About to Die’ stars talk new swords-and-sandals series set in Ancient Rome

‘Those About to Die’ stars talk new swords-and-sandals series set in Ancient Rome

DUBAI: British-Yemeni actor Moe Hashim (“Ted Lasso”) and Iceland’s Johannes Haukur Johannesson (“Succession”) spoke to Arab News recently about playing gladiator frenemies in new swords-and-sandal series “Those About to Die,” streaming in the Middle East on Starzplay.

The action-packed series set in Rome in 79 A.D., stars the legendary Anthony Hopkins as Emperor Vespasian, the founder of the Flavian dynasty, and is inspired by Daniel Mannix’s classic non-fiction book of the same name.

Johannes Haukur Johannesson and Moe Hashim star in ‘Those About to Die.’ (Courtesy of Starzplay)

Hashim, known for his minor role as footballer Moe Bumbercatch in hit Apple TV + series “Ted Lasso,” plays Kwame, a lion tracker, who has been taken to train as a gladiator and now faces an existence that means fighting for his life every day.

When asked what drew him to the series, Hashim said: “For me, (it was) Kwame where he was from and what he represents. And I was very excited because I was like: ‘This is a character that is not really spoken about or has been documented too much in the Roman Empire.’

“And when I did the research on North Africans and the influence they had in the Roman Empire, I was like: ‘Oh, I definitely want to be part of this for sure.’”

Johannesson, in turn, plays an imposing Norse gladiator who befriends Kwame in arena training. His main draw to the show was the grittiness of daily gladiator life. “I thought it was really beautiful to see how the gladiators, who were essentially prisoners made to fight till their death, fought for their lives daily, the way they found humanity and friendship, I thought that was really, really beautiful. That really stood out to me,” said Johannesson.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by STARZPLAY (@starzplayarabia)

The show also marks the television directorial debut of blockbuster director Roland Emmerich (“Moonfall”, “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Independence Day”).

Said Johannesson: “Roland is a whirlwind to work with. He sweeps you along. He’s very intense, which is enjoyable. You sort of step on set and you just jump on the Roland Emmerich train. It’s an express train.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by STARZPLAY (@starzplayarabia)

Added Hashim: “It was also fun getting to know him on a personal level. We practically did a tour of every restaurant in Rome, we had all types of pasta and, you know, during those dinners, you kind of get to see who Roland really is.

“A man at that point of his career still making time to listen to my stupid questions about ‘Independence Day’ and him being so happy to tell me about all the stories and willing to answer my questions.”


Mona Tougaard stars in new Marc Jacobs campaign

Mona Tougaard stars in new Marc Jacobs campaign
Updated 22 July 2024
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Mona Tougaard stars in new Marc Jacobs campaign

Mona Tougaard stars in new Marc Jacobs campaign

DUBAI: Model Mona Tougaard is the face of Marc Jacobs’ Fall 2024 eyewear collection “The Sunglasses.”

The catwalk star, who has Danish, Turkish, Somali and Ethiopian ancestry, took to Instagram to announce the campaign, posting a photo along with a simple heart emoji.

Last month, Berlin-based magazine-turned-fashion label 032c presented its menswear spring/summer 2025 collection at Paris Fashion Week, where Tougaard featured.

She strutted down the runway in a form-fitting suit with a cropped blazer and a blue buttoned-shirt layered underneath. The look was complemented with dark shades and her hair was slicked back in a low bun.

She was not the only regional model on the runway; Tougaard was joined by British-Moroccan model Nora Attal, who wore a sheer, reflective fishnet-like black dress.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Marc Jacobs (@marcjacobs)

The collection, designed by Maria Koch, is titled “Everything Counts” and included outerwear, feminine suiting and versatile denim co-ords suitable for day and night wear.

Collarless 032c jackets featured tonal gothic lettering, while army parkas and deconstructable cargo pants were paired with boxy vinyl tops.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Joerg Koch / 032c (@032c)

Last month, 032c also announced on Instagram that Tougaard had been named the artistic talent director for the collection.

“Tougaard is an inherent member of the 032c universe, who has starred on our magazine covers, our editorials, and our previous FW-24 show. It is an organic progression to involve Tougaard more closely in 032c’s creative processes together with creative director Maria Koch and fashion director Ras Bartram,” the post read.

Tougaard started 2024 with a bang, gracing the runway for Chanel during Paris Haute Couture Week in January. Tougaard wore a black thigh-high coat-style dress with white buttons and a sheer white skirt underneath, teamed with wore white stockings and black heeled sandals.

Tougaard started her modeling career in 2017 after winning the Elite Model Look Denmark competition at the age of 15. Since then, she has become a prominent figure in the fashion industry, known for her work with top designers and luxury brands including Prada, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Chanel and Valentino.


Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’

Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’
Updated 21 July 2024
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Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’

Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’
  • The 29-year-old venture capitalist-turned-actor hails from Islamabad and recently moved back to Pakistan from abroad
  • Xarmina says she wants to represent Pakistan on international forums, bring about a change for women

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani actor Noor Xarmina has been declared ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024,’ after which she is poised to represent Pakistan at the 73rd Miss Universe 2024 pageant in November this year.
The announcement of Xarmina’s successful bid was made in a video published on the official YouTube channel of Miss Universe on Saturday.
The 29-year-old venture capitalist-turned-actor, who has studied biology and business, hails from Islamabad and recently moved to Pakistan.
In the video shared on Miss Universe YouTube channel, she said she wanted to bring about a “positive change” in her home country.
“I want to be an agent for positive change in two respects. The first is for our country. Pakistan is scarcely represented internationally across so many industries and I want to enhance our representation on an international stage,” Xarmina said.
“In the second respect, I want to have change for women in our country. Pakistan needs strong female leaders that can mobilize its women and empower them to create positive change in society.”
Asked if Pakistan would support Xarmina’s bid at international beauty pageants, Pakistani Information Minister Ataullah Tarar said if Xarmina has played a role in projecting Pakistan’s soft image, then a discussion can be held on this.
“I do not know about that woman, what background she has and what professional achievements she has before this, they can be looked into. If she has played her role for Pakistan’s image, Pakistan’s soft image, and Pakistan’s development, then discussion can be held on this,” he told reporters in Islamabad on Sunday.
Tarar noted that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently invited Naila Kiyani, a UAE-based Pakistani mountaineer, and appreciated her.
“So, we definitely believe that whatever achievement one has, it should be recognized,” he added.
Last year, Erica Rabin became the first Pakistani woman to be crowned Miss Universe Pakistan. Prior to that, no woman from Muslim-majority Pakistan ever participated in the Miss Universe pageant.
Miss Universe Pakistan is a national beauty pageant franchise organized by the Yugen Group of Dubai to select a representative from Pakistan for the Miss Universe pageant.