New Netflix drama ‘Elite’ explores Islamophobia in Europe

A still from new Netflix drama 'Elite.' (Image supplied)
Updated 06 October 2018
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New Netflix drama ‘Elite’ explores Islamophobia in Europe

  • 'Elite' is based on a prestigious private school in Spain where three newly enrolled working-class students upset the status quo
  • The show highlights prejudices toward the working class, HIV and Islamophobia

MADRID: After the success of “Casa de Papel” (Money Heist), Netflix premiered its latest Spanish language teen drama, “Elite,” this week.
The story is based on a prestigious private school in Spain where three newly enrolled working-class students upset the status quo — among them, an ambitious Muslim-Palestinian girl.
As the plot unravels around spoilt, rich teens clashing with the newbies and the death of one of their classmates, the show — which has been compared to “13 Reasons Why,” “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars” — highlights key issues, among them prejudice toward the working class, HIV and Islamophobia.
In the first episode, Nadia, played by Mina El-Hammani, is ordered to remove her headscarf by the principal or face expulsion in a scene that plays heavily on the debate over whether to ban headscarves in schools that has gripped Europe in recent years.
In 2004, France banned the wearing of all noticeable religious symbols in public schools, which affected those wearing headscarves in schools. Meanwhile, in 2016, a young Muslim woman missed a week of classes because she refused to remove her headscarf.
There was also widespread controversy when a primary school in London banned pupils from wearing the headscarf earlier this year only to later back down from the ban.
It is in this context that the show’s co-writers sought to use Nadia’s character to highlight the challenges some Muslims face when integrating into European society.
“We wanted to work with this character because it’s something that is happening in Europe. This is the reality that we see every day,” co-writer Dario Madrona told Arab News.
“(Nadia) reflected the idea of what Muslims have to face in Europe every day. Because you are part of a different culture, you don’t know if you can integrate. People look at you funny sometimes,” he added.
During the series, Nadia is also faced with hateful comments from her fellow classmate Lu, played Danna Paola, who refers to her as “Taliban.

 

 

Nadia’s brother, Omar, played by Omar Ayuso, faces his own challenges in the show. In one episode he his confronted by his friend Samuel, played by Itzan Escamilla, about his drug dealing.

Samuel advises Omar to join him at the restaurant where he works, to which Omar reminds him that although they both handed in their resumes, only Samuel received a call back.
Aside from Islamophobia and ethnic discrimination, the show also explores the identity crisis some teenagers go through in high school.
El-Hammani explained that, like Nadia, she comes from a Muslim background but struggles with the culture clash that comes with living in Spain.
“My parents are from Morocco, they are Muslims, so I know what it is like to live in a closed environment. Nadia is from Palestine so it’s different, but the same clash of cultures can be felt in both cases,” El-Hammani said.
“I have had a childhood that was very similar to what Nadia has lived (through). Although I was born in Spain, when I go back to Morocco I am a Spaniard and when I am in Spain I am the Moroccan girl. So, you always wonder, ‘Who am I?’”

FASTFACTS

Born in Spain, Mina El-Hammani is of Moroccan origins and began her acting career in 2014. She is known for Spanish TV shows “El Príncipe” and “Servir y proteger” and British TV series, “The State.”


UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

Updated 18 June 2019
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UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

  • Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi
  • The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017

FONTAINEBLEAU: An exquisite 19th-century French theater outside Paris that fell into disuse for one and half centuries has been restored with the help of a €10 million donation from oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
The Napoleon III theater at Fontainebleau Palace south of Paris was built between 1853 and 1856 under the reign of the nephew of emperor Napoleon I.
It opened in 1857 but was used only a dozen times, which has helped preserve its gilded adornments, before being abandoned in 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III.
But during a state visit to France in 2007, Sheikh Khalifa, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, was reportedly entranced by the abandoned theater and offered €10 million ($11.2 million) on the spot for its restoration.
After a project that has lasted 12 years the theater is now being reopened.
An official inauguration is expected soon, hosted by French Culture Minister Franck Riester and attended by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi.
The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the first foreign institution to carry the name of the great Paris museum.
For all its ornate beauty, the theater has hardly ever been used for its orginal purpose, hosting only a dozen performances between 1857 and 1868, each attended by around 400 people.
“While it had been forgotten, the theater was in an almost perfect state,” said the head of the Fontainebleau Palace, Jean-Francois Hebert.
“Let us not waste this jewel, and show this extraordinary place of decorative arts,” he added.
According to the palace, the theater is “probably the last in Europe to have kept almost all its original machinery, lighting and decor.”
Having such a theater was the desire of Napoleon III’s wife Eugenie. But after the defeat, his capture in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and the declaration of France’s Third Republic, the theater fell into virtual oblivion.
Following the renovation, the theater will mainly be a place to visit and admire, rather than for regularly holding concerts.
“The aim is not to give the theater back to its first vocation” given its “very fragile structure,” said Hebert.
Short shows and recitals may be performed in exceptional cases, under the tightest security measures and fire regulations. But regular guided tours will allow visitors to discover the site, including the stage sets.
The restoration aimed to use as little new material as possible, with 80 percent of the original material preserved.
The opulent central chandelier — three meters high and 2.5 meters wide — has been restored to its original form.