‘The Sympathizer’ cast, director discuss new series that shows the Vietnam War through a Vietnamese lens

‘The Sympathizer’ cast, director discuss new series that shows the Vietnam War through a Vietnamese lens
Hoa Xuande plays the Captain, a North Vietnam operative who is a plant in the South Vietnam army in ‘The Sympathizer.’ (Supplied)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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‘The Sympathizer’ cast, director discuss new series that shows the Vietnam War through a Vietnamese lens

‘The Sympathizer’ cast, director discuss new series that shows the Vietnam War through a Vietnamese lens

DUBAI: “The Sympathizer,” HBO’s latest spy drama streaming in the Middle East on OSN Plus, is based on Vietnamese-US author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel.

It tells the story of a double agent known to the audience only as the Captain (Hoa Xuande), a North Vietnam operative who is a plant in the South Vietnam army. After he is forced to flee to the US and take up residence in a refugee camp, he continues to spy for the Viet Cong.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Speaking to Arab News in a virtual interview, Xuande, an Australian actor of Vietnamese descent, talked about digging into the dual nature of his character and the struggle it creates.

“It is important to remember that the Captain is a human being and he’s trying to play to survive. And, obviously, the struggle of war, and trying to save his people, and trying to find the best outcome for the people that he cares about, and trying to not rock the boat so much.

“And, so, I really tried to dig deep into the facts of the period of the time. And I tried to figure out the psychology of what people were thinking and the ideologies that were spinning around at the time,” he said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The show was also an opportunity for Xuande to reconnect with his people’s past.

“I’ve been so used to being told what Vietnamese people are or the stories that even my parents grew up telling me, you know. Their perspectives were always generally lost, right? Depictions of the war were always depicted through the Western perspective,” he said.

“I always knew what the war was about. But I really wanted to get deep into the stories that that we’ve never heard before. And I did a lot of YouTubing and reading of articles. And, so, once you learn those stories, you start to appreciate that Vietnamese people — who bore the brunt of the trauma of this war — have never really had their voices heard. That weighed heavily on me. And so, I tried to carry this throughout much of the show, playing the Captain. And I guess that kind of made me appreciate my own history that I haven’t really learned about before.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Veteran Korean director Park Chan-Wook, the name behind cult classics such as “Oldboy” and “The Handmaiden,” oversaw the new adaptation. Park directed the first three parts of the seven-episode series, which premieres weekly on OSN Plus. The show also stars and is executive produced by Robert Downey Jr.

“‘Sympathizer’ is a story about identity and this individual having two kinds of minds and two kinds of identities. I’m drawn to that kind of story because the story is dealing about an individual who wants to be someone else while there is certainly some other identity within him. Or it might be a case of him being forced to become someone else than who he really is,” said Park.

“So, whenever that kind of situation is forced upon him, he has to put on a mask. And then at some point that mask eventually becomes his identity itself. So, the story is dealing with how certain tragedy or comedy happens because of that kind of situation. And I feel like I’m certainly drawn into that kind of story.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Sandra Oh, an American Canadian actress born to South Korean immigrants and best known for her roles in shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Killing Eve,” plays the character of Sofia Mori, a liberal feminist who, in the midst of a complicated love triangle, begins to realize her own complicity in the racism suffered by her people.

“From my character’s perspective, to play a character who is representing a very Asian American character, who is a liberal in her own way, and who is a defiant woman in her own way… But throughout the series, I tried to show how through her relationship with the Captain and the love triangle that you’ll see comes about in the series, she starts to question how she has also been complicit in the very thing that she is fighting against, against the patriarchy and against the racism. You see how much she’s internalized and is starting to question the internalization,” said Oh.


Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney

Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney
Updated 18 May 2024
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Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney

Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney

DUBAI: The Biennale of Sydney announced this week that Emirati creative Hoor Al-Qasimi will become its artistic director for 2026.

The 25th edition of the biennale will run from March 7 to June 8.

Since its inception in 1973, the biennale has grown to become one of the longest-running exhibitions of its kind and was the first biennale established in the Asia-Pacific region.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Al-Qasimi created the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2009 and is currently its president and director. Throughout her career, she acquired extensive experience in curating international biennials, including the second Lahore Biennale in 2020 and the UAE Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

In 2003, she co-curated the sixth edition of Sharjah Biennial and has remained the director of the event since.

Al-Qasimi has been president of the International Biennial Association since 2017 and is also president of the Africa Institute. She has previously served as a board member for MoMA PS1 in New York and the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, among other roles.

She is also the artistic director of the sixth Aichi Triennale, scheduled to take place in Japan in 2025.


Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales

Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales
Updated 17 May 2024
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Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales

Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales
  • Name ‘has soared in popularity in recent times’: Daily Mail
  • Layla, Maryam, Yusuf, Fatima, Musa, Ibrahim among popular Arabic names

LONDON: Muhammad was the second most popular name for baby boys in England and Wales in 2022, according to the Office of National Statistics.
The Daily Mail reported on Friday that the Arabic name “has soared in popularity in recent times,” having ranked 20th in 2012.
Variations of the name’s spelling, Mohammed and Mohammad, were also among the top 100 most popular baby boys’ names in 2022, ranked 27th and 67th respectively.
Other popular Arabic names for baby boys were Yusuf (93rd), Musa (99th) and Ibrahim (100th).
In the girls’ list, Layla ranked 56th, Maryam 75th and Fatima 99th.


India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence

India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence
Updated 17 May 2024
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India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence

India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence
  • Two Indian restaurant chains have been sparring since Jan. at Delhi High Court, both claiming credit for inventing the dish
  • The lawsuit that has grabbed the attention of social media users, food critics, editorials and TV channels across the globe

NEW DELHI: With new photographic and video evidence, an Indian court battle over the origins of the world famous butter chicken is set to get spicier.
Two Indian restaurant chains have been sparring since January at the Delhi High Court, both claiming credit for inventing the dish in a lawsuit that has grabbed the attention of social media users, food critics, editorials and TV channels across the globe.
The popular Moti Mahal restaurant chain said it had the sole right to be recognized as the inventor of the curry and demanded its rival, the Daryaganj chain, to stop claiming credit and pay $240,000 in damages. Moti Mahal said founder Kundan Lal Gujral created the cream-loaded dish in the 1930s at an eatery in Peshawar, now in Pakistan, before relocating to Delhi.
That “story of invention of butter chicken does not ring true” and is aimed at misleading the court, Daryaganj said in a new, 642-page counter-filing reviewed by Reuters.
Daryaganj says a late member of its founding family, Kundan Lal Jaggi, created the disputed dish when he helmed the kitchen at the relocated Delhi eatery, where Gujral, his friend-cum-partner from Peshawar only handled marketing.
Both men are dead, Gujral in 1997 and Jaggi in 2018.
Evidence in the non-public filing includes a black-and-white photograph from 1930s showing the two friends in Peshawar; a 1949 partnership agreement; Jaggi’s business card after relocating to Delhi and his 2017 video talking about the dish’s origin.
By virtue of the friends’ partnership, “both parties can claim that their respective ancestors created the dishes,” Daryaganj says in the filing, calling the dispute a “business rivalry.”
Moti Mahal declined to comment. The judge will next hear the case on May 29.
A key point of contention, which the court will have to rule on, is where, when and by whom the dish was first made — by Gujral in Peshawar, Jaggi in New Delhi, or if both should be credited.
Butter chicken is ranked 43rd in a list of world’s “best dishes” by TasteAtlas, and bragging rights about who invented it can matter, brand experts said.
“Being an inventor has a huge advantage globally and in terms of consumer appeal. You are also entitled to charge more,” said Dilip Cherian, an image guru and co-founder of Indian PR firm Perfect Relations.
Moti Mahal operates a franchisee model with over 100 outlets globally. Its butter chicken dishes start at $8 in New Delhi, and are priced at $23 in New York.
Late US President Richard Nixon and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru are among the famous clients to have visited its primary outlet in Delhi.
Daryaganj started in 2019 and its butter chicken costs $7.50. It has 10 outlets, mostly in New Delhi, with plans to expand to other Indian cities and Bangkok.
In its 2,752-page Indian lawsuit, Moti Mahal had also accused Daryaganj of copying “the look and feel” of the interiors of its outlets.
Daryaganj has retorted with photographs of restaurant interiors which the judge will review, claiming it is Moti Mahal that has copied its “design of floor tiles.”


Tima Abid’s ‘sea-spired’ collection opens first Red Sea Fashion Week

Tima Abid’s ‘sea-spired’ collection opens first Red Sea Fashion Week
Updated 17 May 2024
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Tima Abid’s ‘sea-spired’ collection opens first Red Sea Fashion Week

Tima Abid’s ‘sea-spired’ collection opens first Red Sea Fashion Week
  • Beadwork, satin used to mimic waves, gleaming glints on water
  • Designer lauds support of Culture Ministry, Fashion Commission

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia designer Tima Abid opened the first Red Sea Fashion Week on Thursday with bridal wear inspired, or perhaps sea-spired, by the effervescent colors and tides of the ocean.

Backdropped by the glistening and clear turquoise waters of the St. Regis Red Sea Resort on the developing Ummahat Al-Sheikh island, Abid showcased luxurious, elegant and intricately-designed evening wear.

Abid incorporated sheer chiffon, micro ruffles, and malleable fabrics to mimic an underwater experience. (Arab News)

The Jeddah-born haute couture designer told Arab News: “When I was told that I would inaugurate Red Sea (Fashion) Week at the St. Regis and by the sea, it was a beautiful idea but very challenging. I was inspired for this collection by the Red Sea and its shades of sand. I used pearls, fishnets, and elements derived from the sea like the waves. I really aimed for couture to align with the mood that we’re in.”

Abid incorporated sheer chiffon, micro ruffles, and malleable fabrics to mimic an underwater experience.

(Arab News)

Embroidered white gowns incorporating delicate beadwork and sequins on sumptuous fabrics such as elevated fishnet and satin were subtly nods to the softness of waves and prominence of fishing culture on the coast.

But the intricate and sharp designs also suggested the strength and sureness of crashing waves. As air does for sea, the silky silhouettes drifted in the wind, creating an ocean swell-like appearance. Speckled in jewels, the pieces resembled the gleaming glints on water.

Bejeweled gloves, capes, veils, and draping fringed neck pieces married traditional and contemporary bridal wear. (Arab News)

Cream and beige looks also made it out to the dock-turned-runway, featuring chic feathered accents and unconventional fabrics that mimicked the Kingdom’s coral reefs. Bejeweled gloves, capes, veils, and draping fringed neck pieces married traditional and contemporary bridal wear while also taking inspiration from the ocean’s sea creatures.

Cream and beige looks also made it out to the dock-turned-runway. (Arab News)

Several well-known guests, which included TV presenter Lojain Omran and actress Mila Al-Zahrani, were all front row for the latest collection from Abid — whose meticulous attention to detail has birthed creations that incorporate deep sentiment and luxurious elegance for nearly two decades.

“I can’t thank the Ministry of Culture and the Fashion Commission enough for this opportunity and this trust. This inauguration is truly historic for me,” Abid said.


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.”