‘Game of Thrones’ star Liam Cunningham says world will ‘not forget’ those who stayed silent on Gaza

Irish actor Liam Cunningham has said the public will “not forget” those who have not voiced support for Palestinians during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. (AP/File Photo)
Irish actor Liam Cunningham has said the public will “not forget” those who have not voiced support for Palestinians during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 26 April 2024
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‘Game of Thrones’ star Liam Cunningham says world will ‘not forget’ those who stayed silent on Gaza

‘Game of Thrones’ star Liam Cunningham says world will ‘not forget’ those who stayed silent on Gaza
  • Irishman has been vocal advocate for Palestinian causes for decades

LONDON: Irish actor Liam Cunningham has said the public will “not forget” those who have not voiced support for Palestinians during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

The “Game of Thrones” star has been a vocal advocate for Palestinian causes for decades. Speaking during a demonstration in Dublin led by Irish-Palestinian Ahmed Alagha, who has lost 44 family members in the recent Israeli assault on Gaza, Cunningham said he has been commended by his peers in the past for his activism.

“What concerns me is that the people who do care and are not doing anything are, in my opinion, worse than the people who don’t care,” he said.

Cunningham was asked if he had spoken to other actors to convince them to show support for the Palestinian cause, but responded by saying he could not speak for others, The Independent reported.

However, he added, “The internet doesn’t forget. When this comes around, when the ICJ (International Court of Justice) and ICC (International Criminal Court) hopefully do their work honorably, it is going to come out,” he said.

“And the people who didn’t talk — it is not going to be forgotten. It’s livestreamed, this genocide, and (saying) you didn’t know is not an option. You did know. And you did nothing. You stayed quiet. I need to be able to look in the mirror, and that’s why I speak,” he added.

A month after Israel launched its onslaught on Gaza in response to Hamas incursions on Oct. 7 in Israeli territory in which nearly 1,200 people were killed and around 250 hostages were taken, Cunningham said that for Irish people to ignore the treatment of Palestinians would be to “betray” their history.

“If we allow ourselves to accept this behavior, then we allow it to happen to us,” he said at the time. “We have to stand up for standards. We have to stand up for international law and it reduces us as human beings if we don’t.”

Israel’s assault on Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, around two-thirds of them children and women, according to Hamas-run health authorities in the enclave.


Saudi star Fatima Al-Banawi discusses her directorial debut ‘Basma’ 

Saudi star Fatima Al-Banawi discusses her directorial debut ‘Basma’ 
Updated 14 June 2024
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Saudi star Fatima Al-Banawi discusses her directorial debut ‘Basma’ 

Saudi star Fatima Al-Banawi discusses her directorial debut ‘Basma’ 
  • The Saudi actress and writer-director’s drama about a family’s struggle with mental health launched on Netflix this month  

DUBAI: “I really went into cinema — in 2015 with my first feature as an actress — with one intention: to bridge the gap between the arts and social impact and psychology,” Fatima Al-Banawi tells Arab News. “And I was able to come closer to this union when I positioned myself as a writer-director — more so than as an actor.” 

Al-Banawi is discussing her debut directorial feature, “Basma,” which launched on Netflix earlier this month. She not only directed the movie, but wrote it (and an original song for the soundtrack) and played the title role — a young Saudi woman who returns home to Jeddah after two years away studying in the States to find that her parents have divorced without telling her after struggling to deal with the mental illness of her father, the well-respected Dr. Adly (played by the excellent Yasir Al-Sasi). 

Basma is distraught to learn that her beloved father has moved out and — worse — that most of the family are, at best, reluctant to visit him. She is convinced that all he needs is the love and care of his loved ones. So she moves in with him, against the advice of her mother, Hind (Shaima), brother Waleed (Tared Sindi), and uncle, Hamza (Mohammed Essam). It doesn’t go smoothly.  

“My undergrad is in psychology. My father’s a psychologist. My sister’s a psychologist. I have psychology and sociology in my DNA,” Al-Banawi says. “We talk about Sigmund Freud over lunch, you know?”  

And so, when she sat down to write her first feature, it was natural that she would choose mental health as its focus. 

Al-Banawi and Yasir Al-Sasi in 'Basma.' (Supplied) 

“Dissonance was a word I found when I started working on ‘Basma.’ I wasn’t familiar with this term: to be in a complete state of, not just denial, but not responding in any way — action or awareness — to what (is obvious),” she says. “I felt it around me everywhere; things that were brushed under the carpet for years and years until they piled up and a person or a family could not handle them anymore; couldn’t fix the situation anymore. It becomes too big of an issue. Then the outcomes begin to unfold and, in turn, extend roots into society.  

“There were different personality disorders or mental illnesses that I was curious about investigating, like OCD, or depression — anti-depressants are very widespread in my community — and I felt like maybe these issues could be addressed in cinema.” 

In the end, though, she decided against making depression Dr. Adly’s illness.  

“I wanted to challenge myself with something that was difficult to translate visually,” she explains. “A paranoid or schizophrenic case is not like a case of depression. There’s a cinematic language for depression — you can put a person in a dark room, for example. But what Dr. Adly suffers from is these internal thoughts or assumptions. That’s very difficult to translate visually, but I wanted to (do it) because I felt that it was widespread — this was something that was really happening (around the world).” 

Al-Banawi was acutely aware that the portrayal of mental illness in cinema hasn’t always been successful.  

“It turns me off so much, when they make it seem like a person with an intellectual disability,” she says. “Someone can have a severe mental illness and seem incredibly normal — more normal than you or me; it really doesn’t manifest physically. It’s an internal process. This is why mental illness is such a difficult topic, because you’re, like, ‘What is normal? What is not normal?’ Yasir really had to understand that dichotomy between Dr. Adly’s internal scenario versus how he behaves externally. I told him, ‘Just think of yourself as a difficult father. Like, something triggers you and all of a sudden you snap, but otherwise, you’re actually very cool. You’re decent, you’re pleasant, you’re sweet and you’re charismatic.’” 

Al-Banawi and cast members on the set of 'Basma.' (Supplied)

It was vital, clearly, to get the casting just right, and not just for Dr. Adly. As Al-Badawi explains: “Mental illness is a family matter. It’s not just on the patient themselves, it’s on their community and how they accept and deal with it.” 

The obvious on-screen chemistry between the actors — even though for many of them it was their first experience of acting in front of a camera — shows how well the casting process worked. 

“The most important element was to create a believable, cohesive family. That was one of the main issues,” Al-Banawi says. “The second thing was that — although I recognize that a lot of amazing actors and actresses have (emerged in Saudi Arabia) in the past couple of years — as a director, I wanted to see fresh faces. It’s beautiful to see these talents who weren’t given a chance before, or didn’t even see themselves taking this path. Honestly, this whole cast was a blessing.” 

To ensure that family “cohesiveness,” Al-Banawi scheduled three weeks of rehearsals before shooting.  

“I wasn’t going to roll a camera before that. I wanted to get closer to the actors as an actress — not only as a director,” she says. “I wanted to play with them and do improv with them and really come into character with them as Basma, not as Fatima. I couldn’t have done that without some playtime — that’s what I called it; we wanted to play before the real deal. That was really important for me. It was fun to watch this energy growing.” 

The “playtime” experience included getting the crew to perform some of the roles at a readthrough too. “I’m a nerd,” she says with a laugh. “OK, we were paying them, but I really wanted them to be immersed in the story we’re telling, and to choose to tell it. And I wanted them to have one hell of a good time.” 

Al-Banawi (left) on the set of 'Basma.' (Supplied)

The whole process — particularly getting people together to record the song that she wrote for the end of the movie — was something of a throwback, as Al-Banawi tells it.  

“Pre-industrialization of cinema in Saudi Arabia, this was how things worked,” she says. “We weren’t concerned with the financials or anything; we were just concerned with whether we’d want to be part of something. And that’s how beauty unfolded. Of course, now, with all the support and recognition, it’s like the passion multiplied by ten.” 

And “Basma” really was a passion project for Al-Banawi.  

“The mental-health aspect is something I’m driven by, of course, but I also feel that it’s important for films to be personal and relatable and reflective of social set-ups,” she says. “As much as I admire — and am a fan of — action and thrillers and comedies, I like to have some family drama amidst those too. Something close to reality. That’s why I want to make films: to invite children who are like myself once upon a time to watch films like the ones that I grew up watching — films that had a subtext or meaning, but that I really engaged with. I learned so many principles from them.” 


Recipes for success: Chef Cedric Vongerichten  at The Edition in Jeddah offers advice and a tasty fritters recipe

Recipes for success: Chef Cedric Vongerichten  at The Edition in Jeddah offers advice and a tasty fritters recipe
Chef Cedric Vongerichten. (Supplied)
Updated 14 June 2024
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Recipes for success: Chef Cedric Vongerichten  at The Edition in Jeddah offers advice and a tasty fritters recipe

Recipes for success: Chef Cedric Vongerichten  at The Edition in Jeddah offers advice and a tasty fritters recipe

DUBAI: “My dream wasn’t to be a soccer player or a musician or a doctor,” says Cedric Vongerichten, head chef of the French-Asian eatery Maritime at The Edition in Jeddah. “This is what I was meant to do — and to be.”  

It’s hard to argue. Vongerichten was born in Thailand to French parents who were in the country because Vongerichten’s father was head chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. By the time Vongerichten was two, the family had settled in New York after stints in Portugal and Boston. 

Vongerichten says his own passion for cooking starting at the age of eight or nine. “(I would finish) school and head home — which was a hotel at the time — and I’d spend my free time in the kitchen doing pastries and helping out. That was all I thought about.”  

He started serious cooking lessons in the south of France when he was 14 and has since traveled the world to learn about different cuisines and cultures.  

When you started out what was the most common mistake you made? 

I’d say overcomplicating things and not having a clear vision of the dish. Sometimes you just have to step back and look at the whole picture. The more you practice, the more things work automatically and you don’t have to think about it anymore. 

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?  

When you’re at home it’s very easy to make your kitchen a mess and have pots and pans everywhere. That’s when it gets difficult to focus. Cooking, honestly, is 50 percent cooking and 50 percent cleaning; it’s really important to keep things clean and organized. Then when it comes to the actual cooking, keep it simple. People will be more impressed with (good quality ingredients) than with something overly complicated. 

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?  

Chili. I can’t live without it and nor can my family. It makes the dish very exciting from beginning to end. 

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?  

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. It’s part of our job. But I’m not vocal about it, whether positive or negative. I don't want to ruin someone else’s experience. Everybody wants to just have a nice dinner. 

What’s the most common issue that you find in other restaurants?  

I’d say my pet peeve is lighting. I really like light to be done well. It creates a vibe. If the light is maybe gray, or too bright, it can make you feel like you don’t want to stay too long.  

What’s your favorite cuisine? 

We can’t live without our Asian fix. We need it at least once or twice a week, whether it’s Japanese, Indonesian, or Thai. 

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home? 

Seafood takes me 15 to 20 minutes. Two nights ago, I did a simple local black sea bass. You just simply sear it skin-side down in a pan. And right now it’s the season for asparagus, so we had some boiled salted asparagus with olive oil and rice. Sometimes for the kids I’ll do roast chicken, they love that. I put it in a pan with potatoes, onion, garlic, water, salt, and olive oil, and sometimes I add rosemary. I put the chicken on top and put it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the chicken. The sauce does itself because of the dripping chicken and the potatoes. It doesn’t make much of a mess and it’s pretty easy and tasty. 

What customer request or behavior most annoys you? 

I don’t like to say no, so, in terms of requests, if we have the ingredients, then we just do it. The only thing that I don’t appreciate is when the service team gets disrespected.  

What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?   

It depends on the season. Right now, I would do say a fluke — the fish. It’s very simple and very good with just olive oil, a little squeeze of lime juice, a little salt, lemon zest, and, of course, some chili on top.  

I also love to do bouillabaisse. It’s a Mediterranean fish soup. It takes a long time. On top of the fish, you have some lobster, more fish, some potato and a piece of bread. There’s also a lot of saffron inside. It’s such a fun dish. And it’s very, very tasty. 

What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right? 

Pastries can be difficult. You need to be very precise. You need to actually weigh everything by the gram. Also, from country to country, it’s completely different, because — first of all — the weather is very different. There is the factor of humidity and temperature. The products, like flour, are different. So, you have to adjust to all of that. It’s very technical.  

As a head chef, what are you like in the kitchen? 

I feel like I experienced the end of an era in France when there were still chefs yelling and throwing things around. I remember seeing that in France. But it’s definitely phased out. Did I scream a little bit at beginning of my career? Maybe, but I’m definitely not like that now. In a team, everybody reacts differently, so you have to manage people differently. Some people need a little more coaching, others have a more independent approach. As a manager and as a chef, this is where you have to be flexible. I can be laidback, but I also want to have great results and the proper product. In the long run, you can see that most people want to stay with us for a long time. So that speaks for itself. 

 RECIPE: Chef Cedric’s fritters  

Chef Cedric’s fritters. (Supplied)  ​​​​​

Ingredients: 

90g all-purpose flour; 30g rice flour; 8g baking powder; 3g salt; 130g water; 25g scallions, green tops sliced on the bias; 300g corn kernels; 10g Fresno chili; vegetable oil for frying  

Instructions:  

1. Put the all-purpose flour, rice flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  

2. Whisk in water until just combined. 

3. Add scallions, corn kernels and Fresno chili.  

4. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottom pan.  

5. Heat oil until it shimmers but doesn’t smoke (350°F).  

6. Pour 1 tablespoon of the batter mixture into the hot oil at a time without overcrowding (for larger fritters, use about 1⁄2 cup of batter each). 

7. Flatten fritters slightly with a spatula, then press the spatula into the fritters a few times to create indentations for crispy edges. 

10. Cook until batter turns golden brown on the bottom, then flip and cook until the other side matches (about two mins more).  

11. Remove fritters and place on a platter lined with paper towels. 

12. Serve hot with spicy kecap manis (sweet soy) dipping sauce and garnish with sliced scallions.  

 

 

 


Saudi artist Nada Halabi explores dreams through artwork

Saudi artist Nada Halabi explores dreams through artwork
Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi artist Nada Halabi explores dreams through artwork

Saudi artist Nada Halabi explores dreams through artwork
  • Nada Halabi: I get a lot of inspiration from travel, so when I go to Europe, I love to visit old and contemporary museums to get ideas
  • Halabi: I lose myself while painting, and sometimes I paint something, then paint something over the top of it if I’m not content, until I’m happy with the end result

RIYADH: Contemporary Saudi artist, Nada Halabi, is exhibiting her “Dreams Unveiled” collection at Ahlam Gallery in Riyadh from June 4-15.  

“There’s a lot of dreams in these paintings,” Halabi told Arab News. “So, it’s like all the years accumulated with time and all my dreams, like sometimes I wake up at 5:00 a.m. and write down what I see, and when I wake up again, I paint.” 

Some of her works are inspired by the Renaissance era, a period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” after the Middle Ages.  

“I enjoy combining Renaissance art with a contemporary touch of flair, and I chose Renaissance characters because I believe their style at that era was exceptional, and they were the true artists, so I transformed some of them into contemporary art,” said Halabi, who enjoys experimenting with different styles, colors and sizes.  

Many things have influenced Halabi’s work as an artist. She enjoys traveling to different museums and finds inspiration in historic places and things. 

“I get a lot of inspiration from travel, so when I go to Europe, I love to visit old and contemporary museums to get ideas. Then, when I return to Saudi Arabia, I just paint nonstop because everything is so new on my mind,” she said. 

Halabi’s works reflect her time-consuming process.  

“I lose myself while painting, and sometimes I paint something, then paint something over the top of it if I’m not content, until I’m happy with the end result,” she said.  

The artist has clients of all ages. Some of her clients are art collectors, while others own museums.  

She studied fine art at the Academie Libanaise de Beaux Arts in Lebanon before relocating to London and then Los Angeles, where she received more guidance from a well-known American artist. She has trained at schools of art in the UK and the US, and exhibited her work in exhibitions and galleries in the Middle East.

In her current exhibition, there is a section dedicated to Lebanon — featuring newspapers and the neon words “Disconnected Roots.”

Halabi said: “I lived in Saudi Arabia longer than I did in Lebanon, even though I was born and raised there, and this artwork shows how many countries are connected yet at the same time are disconnected due to political conflicts.” 


Inside Gharem Studio, the Saudi cultural ‘think tank’ 

Inside Gharem Studio, the Saudi cultural ‘think tank’ 
Nadine Dorries, who at the time was the British secertary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, visits Gharem Stud
Updated 13 June 2024
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Inside Gharem Studio, the Saudi cultural ‘think tank’ 

Inside Gharem Studio, the Saudi cultural ‘think tank’ 
  • Founder Abdulnasser Gharem discusses the sweeping changes he has witnessed over his career as an artist in the Kingdom

DUBAI: There is perhaps no better person to ask about the magnitude of Saudi Arabia’s current cultural boom than Abdulnasser Gharem. Gharem has been creating art for decades, and has established himself as one of the Kingdom’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, despite the many obstacles he faced starting out at a time when there was really no pathway to becoming a professional artist from Saudi Arabia and most of those with a creative bent in the country were left with little choice but to pursue other careers. 

“I was in the army for 23 years,” Gharem, 51, who comes from the south of the Kingdom, tells Arab News. “There was no way you were going to be an artist with an income in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Most of my friends and relatives were in the army, so it was a popular thing. I became an officer, just to make sure that I could earn (money), and art would be something I’d do on the side.” 

Gharem also remembers how he discovered that two of his best friends from high school, raised in a strict environment, were part of the September 11 attacks on the US in 2001. “After high school, they just disappeared. We thought that maybe their parents moved to another city,” he says. “And suddenly I found their names in the list of the 19 hijackers. I was really shocked, because I was asking myself: ‘Why wasn’t it me?’ We were in the same neighborhood, the same school, the same environment, and had the same education. I think that’s why I became an artist: I was insisting that I wasn’t going to just rely on others. I just needed to create my own path.” 

And that is exactly what Gharem has done over the past two decades. In 2003, he co-founded Edge of Arabia in London. The arts platform, which highlighted Saudi artists through touring exhibitions, became hugely influential.  

A decade later, Gharem decided to set up his “own space” in Riyadh, which made him realize that there was a huge lack of support for the country’s up-and-coming generation of artists. 

“I had the experience of establishing a studio, dealing with challenges, bringing in sponsors, and setting up programs,” he says. “I was shocked to see how young Saudi talents — boys and girls who were interested in fashion, art, photography, filming — didn’t have their own space.” 

In Gharem Studio, young creatives from a variety of fields are invited to use Gharem’s library, art, filming equipment, the space itself, and — most importantly — to share ideas among themselves. He is much more than simply the founder of the studio, and has become a mentor to several young artists. He hopes that his non-profit arts organization can inspire self-expression and freedom of thought.  

Abdulnasser Gharem, founder of Gharem Studio. (Supplied)
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“It’s really fascinating for me. We have artists like photographer Haitham Alsharif who discusses gender issues, and the artist Halla Bint Khalid (the studio’s co-owner), who is looking into family and children,” he says. “So, it’s all related to society. It’s nice when you listen to issues from different aspects, ages and slices of society. The studio became a think tank.” 

When Gharem Studio was launched, its artists flew abroad to experience art fairs in Europe and exhibited their own works in the UK and the US, traveling across 15 states. Gharem admits that in the beginning there were some hurdles to overcome, not just at home but overseas too.  

“We were doing international shows, because contemporary art wasn’t accepted yet in Saudi Arabia,” he says. “It was honestly tough to sell Saudi art. Of course, now it’s different. Now the government is putting us on the cultural map of the world. We are living in what I call ‘a grant narrative,’ and that’s what we have been looking for since we were young. I can’t believe our dreams became true. Suddenly everything changed. We have two biennales in this country. We have Desert X and Noor Riyadh Festival. These kinds of cultural events have become part of people’s daily lives. They can spend time at the movies, in a restaurant or at a concert, or a biennale. The public sphere has become totally different.” 

In early May, a selection of predominantly photographic works from Gharem Studio were displayed in an exhibition at Zidoun-Bossuyt Gallery in Dubai. This month, the studio will be moving to its new home in the cultural hub of JAX District in Riyadh. According to Gharem, there are also plans to establish a bio-art lab in the studio, where artists can explore environmental issues.  

“Our mission,” he says, “is to bring something new to the artist and society.”  


Coldplay concert halted after Israeli man falls during failed stage invasion

Coldplay concert halted after Israeli man falls during failed stage invasion
Updated 13 June 2024
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Coldplay concert halted after Israeli man falls during failed stage invasion

Coldplay concert halted after Israeli man falls during failed stage invasion
  • Controversial media personality Guy Hochman tried to rush stage in Athens wearing Israeli flag
  • Frontman Chris Martin: ‘We don’t believe in oppression, or occupation, terrorism or genocide’

LONDON: A Coldplay concert in Athens had to be paused after a man with an Israeli flag injured himself trying to reach the stage, The Independent reported on Thursday.

Footage of the man, later identified as Israeli media personality Guy Hochman, was posted to social media showing him trying to climb over a lighting rig before falling, knocking over several pieces of equipment.

Lead singer Chris Martin was seen asking the rest of the band several times to “stop” after witnessing the event directly in front of him, gesturing at crew around him to assist. He and bandmate Johnny Buckland then tried to help Hochman from the edge of the stage.

 

 

Hochman identified himself on social media, posting an image of himself at the concert wearing a black baseball cap and draped in the Israeli flag.

He also posted footage of himself on TikTok, saying he had led chants of “bring them home” in the audience in relation to Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.

Hochman then posted footage of his efforts to climb onto the stage, narrating as he got closer that he was “smelling Chris Martin’s sweat.”

After the fall, Hochman wrote on social media that he had damaged his ribs. “I have fallen. Right rib gone,” he said.

Hochman, who has courted controversy in the past for making jokes about the killings of Palestinians in Gaza, received mixed responses from fellow Israelis on social media despite his claims that he had “made history” with the failed stunt.

One person wrote on his TikTok: “I’m glad it didn’t work out. It saved us a great embarrassment and maybe even increased antagonism from Chris.”

Another said: “Really unnecessary and would have made us (a joke) if you came to him with an Israeli flag. Be healthy and glad you didn’t succeed.”

Last month, Hochman claimed that he was removed from the Eurovision village in the Swedish city of Malmo for waving the Israeli flag.

The event was dogged by controversy over the participation of an Israeli entrant in the annual song contest, with local protesters and other performers critical of the decision.

At a Coldplay concert in Tokyo in November, Martin appeared to speak out against Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

He told the audience that there were “so many terrible things happening,” and that he believed “most people on Earth are full of love and full of kindness, compassion.”

He added: “We don’t believe in oppression, or occupation, terrorism or genocide, nothing like that.”