Lebanese director Pam Nasr discusses her debut film ‘Clams Casino’

A still from the short film 'Clams Casino'. (Supplied)
Updated 09 January 2019
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Lebanese director Pam Nasr discusses her debut film ‘Clams Casino’

DUBAI: “When we see something strange, if we’ve never been exposed to anything like it, we tend to push it away. But I was really interested in this phenomenon. There was so much to discover about it, and I was attracted to the human aspect of why people partake in it and why it’s so popular. Like, why does it exist?”

A still from the short film 'Clams Casino'. (Supplied)

Lebanese filmmaker Pam Nasr is talking about mukbang — a craze that began in South Korea and is basically a live stream of someone eating a large amount of food. Nasr’s first film, a short called ‘Clams Casino,’ which premiered in the region in Dubai last month, is based around the phenomenon. A young woman who lives with her mother, with whom she has a difficult relationship, spends hours collecting seafood, cooking it, setting it out beautifully on the table, and dressing up in order to eat it in front of a webcam.
“It stems from loneliness,” Nasr says. “Mukbang is kind of a solution to loneliness, and — at the same time — these performers make a lot of money from eating online.”
While some viewers, she says, are watching for fetishistic reasons, most “watch it because they’re lonely and they want to have someone to eat with.” Nasr recalls, as a child, arriving home from school each day and dining by herself, as the rest of her family had already eaten.
“I asked my family if someone would wait and eat with me,” she says. “In Lebanon, and in many other cultures too, the art of cooking for someone (and eating together) is such a way of delivering your love to them. So I really connected to this when I was studying Mukbang. It was a beautiful learning curve for me. And I hope for many others who watch ‘Clams Casino.’”

Filmmaker Pam Nasr. (Supplied)

The Q&A session that followed the Dubai screening was the longest she’s had so far (having toured several festivals in America with the movie). “A lot of people really connected to it and understood what I was doing.” In particular, Nasr was moved by an exchange with a young college student who told her that a friend in college had been going through a tough time and was watching a lot of mukbang.
“She was very tearful. She said that after watching my film, she understood her friend a lot more. My heart went out to her,” Nasr says. “There were a lot of intimate moments like that at the screening. It was really beautiful.”


Who is Mahershala Ali? The rise of the Oscar-nominated actor

Mahershala Ali has been nominated for an Oscar. (AFP)
Updated 49 min 59 sec ago
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Who is Mahershala Ali? The rise of the Oscar-nominated actor

DUBAI: Movie geeks are abuzz for this year’s Academy Awards, following revelations that several nominees could make history for the 91-year-old ceremony.

Among them, Mahershala Ali could win an Oscar for his performance in “Green Book,” and become the fastest star to win two awards in the same category.

The 44-year-old won Best Supporting Actor in 2017 for “Moonlight” when he again made history as the first Muslim to triumph in the category.

Ali, born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore to a Christian mother in Oakland, California in 1974, converted to Islam in 1999.

“It just felt like a life sign. I’d come from sports, so I appreciated the discipline that the religion requires. For me, it was a way of living more deliberately,” said Ali.

He added, in an interview with British magazine the Radio Times: “I felt I was connecting to something that was making my physical experience more peaceful.”

Hollywood has been criticized recently for its lack of diversity, and more and more actors have become increasingly vocal about the Academy’s need to better represent US society.

Winners in the past have often used their acceptance speeches to talk about race, identity and other contentious issues.

When Ali received an award for “Moonlight” at the 2017 Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, he addressed being Muslim and his relationship with his Christian mother.

“My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do back flips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago,” he said.

But he discounted the idea that differing faiths need drive people apart, highlighting how their differences never hurt their relationship, saying: “We love each other. The love has grown.”

Ali kicked off his career in the early noughties, after graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. After completing his education, Ali was cast in a small indie film, “Making Revolution” (2003), and went on to earn small roles in TV shows before he scored a role in 2008’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” alongside Brad Pitt. After earning an Emmy nomination in 2016 for his part on Netflix show “House of Cards,” Ali took on a variety of roles and appears in the latest season of “True Detective” as the lead character.