Series featuring top Pakistani actors premieres at Series Mania Festival 2023

(L-R) Writer and director Asim Abbasi, Sanam Saeed, producer Shailja Kejriwal, actor Franco Giusti and production designer Aarij Hashimi of Barzakh attend the opening ceremony of Series Mania Festival 2023 on March 17, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Instagram/Zindagi)
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Updated 19 March 2023

Series featuring top Pakistani actors premieres at Series Mania Festival 2023

  • “Barzakh” (meaning barrier) has been helmed by producers from India and Pakistan
  • Top Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed star in the series’ leading roles

KARACHI: A series by producers from India and Pakistan that also feature top Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed, had its world premiere on Saturday at the prestigious Series Mania Festival 2023 in France.

Series Mania is a festival that spotlights international TV series since 2010. Titled “Barzakh” the series has been produced by Pakistani producer Waqas Hassan and his Indian counterpart, Shailja Kejriwal, for Zindagi, a subcontinent focused programming block on OTT platform ZEE5.

It has been written and directed by Asim Abbasi, a critically acclaimed director who also directed Zindagi’s first Pakistani original “Churails” and the feature film “Cake.”


A post shared by Asim Abbasi (@a_abbasi)

The first two episodes of the series premiered under the International Panorama section at the Series Mania Festival 2023 on Saturday evening, with Saeed, Abbasi and Kejriwal in attendance. Barzakh’s screening took place at the UGC Cine-City in Lille, France, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The series was the only work of art from South Asia selected for screening at the prestigious festival this year. Barzakh is competing among 12 titles for the best series, director, actress, actor, student jury and audience awards.

“[Barzakh is] a project that brings together India and Pakistan, shot in Karachi and the sublime landscapes of the Hunza Valley,” reads the information on Series Mania Festival’s official website.

“Combining realism and fantasy, Barzakh gives us a family story that looks like a fairy tale, in which spirits rub shoulders with the living, and the reunion of a family is marked by the crazy decision of a patriarch who has never been able to recover from the loss of his first love.”

Series Mania opened on March 17 and will run through till March 23. Barzakh will be screened again on March 20 at Le Majestic, Cine-City, Lille in France.

“World premiere of the first two episodes of our series #barzakh a @zindagiofficial original,” Saeed wrote on Instagram. “It was such a privilege and honor to be representing South Asia here at the incredible @seriesmania festival. A melting pot of talent, creativity and inclusion,” she added.

Khan, who according to media reports is playing the role of a single father in the series, shared the official poster of Barzakh prior to its screening at the international festival.

Saeed and Khan both starred in leading roles in the 2012 Pakistani drama series “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” which became a critical and commercial success in Pakistan. The series was also one of several drama serials that gained popularity and enthralled viewers in neighboring India as well.

Saudi Music Commission CEO sets sights on education sector at XP Music Futures

Updated 10 December 2023

Saudi Music Commission CEO sets sights on education sector at XP Music Futures

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Music Commission is aiming to see 1.3 million Saudi students enrolled in music classes at school, the CEO of the Music Commission Paul Pacifico said at an XP Music Futures panel in Riyadh tilted “Sound Governance: Crafting the Future of Music Policy.”

Pacifico said that 26,500 kindergarten teachers are being trained to teach music and “music is going into school as a compulsory subject” for kindergarten, elementary, and middle school students in the Kingdom. 

He added: “1.3 million Saudis will be doing music school for the first time. And we'll be developing that program up through middle school. It'll be elective in high school. We're working with the first four universities in the Kingdom to build lots of faculties and support music programs.” 

The panel discussion featured industry professionals Lutz Leichsenring, co-founder of Vibelab, and Mai Salama, founding partner of Creative Industry Summit. It was moderated by Jake Beaumont-Nesbitt, director of innovation and education at the International Music Managers Forum.

Pacifico says the Music Commission has three main objectives: Music policy, education, and the commercial sector.

“(Firstly) The development of copyrights, intellectual property, licensing, recreation, all the aspects you think of when you think of government. Secondary is education. So, we are responsible for taking the lead on the education strategy for the Kingdom … (for) the entire commercial sector. We're responsible for supporting the development of the live music sector, recording and publishing.” 

He told Arab News that the commission aims to support non-mainstream music genres through programs and festivals like the International Jazz Festival in Saudi Arabia.

“The thing is to not treat these genres in silos, to look at them as an intersecting creative community. How do we support the community and how do we let the grassroots tell us what music is needed? … it's about fostering creativity and enabling a young population,” he said.

Nicolas Cage shares career insights and teases ‘Dream Scenario’ at RSIFF

Updated 09 December 2023

Nicolas Cage shares career insights and teases ‘Dream Scenario’ at RSIFF

JEDDAH: During an “In Conversation” panel at Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival, Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage captivated the audience in an hour-long discussion on his notable performances.

Moderated by Lebanese presenter Raya Abirached, the event saw Cage start off by sharing the story of his name change from Nicolas Coppola to Nicolas Cage at the beginning of his career.

He recounted instances of on-set bullying during the filming of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” where his talent was called into doubt due to his relation to renowned filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.



Cage disclosed: “They would quote lines from ‘Apocalypse Now’ and change them to ‘I love the smell of Nicolas in the mornings’ instead of ‘napalm in the morning.’”

He acknowledged how directors and filmmakers might not want the name Coppola associated with their work, which led him to change his name. Cage explained: “I didn’t think any filmmaker in their own right would want the name Coppola above the title of their movie. So, I changed my name predominantly for business reasons.”

Reflecting on his role in the 1987 comedy film “Moonstruck” alongside Cher, Cage shared an amusing conversation in which he asked the singer why she wanted him in the movie. Cage recalled her response: “‘I saw you in ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ and thought it was like a two-hour car accident, and I had to have you.’”



Cage evaluated his past works with enthusiasm, naming “Vampire’s Kiss,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Raising Arizona,” “Adaptation,” and the highly anticipated A24 production “Dream Scenario” as the five scripts he considers to be the pinnacle of his 45-year journey in the industry.

Providing a glimpse into his future endeavors, Cage unveiled details about his upcoming film “Dream Scenario,” where he will portray an ordinary man who mysteriously starts appearing in the dreams of others.

Cage also expressed his interest in exploring television and said: “I’m thinking about television. My son turned me on to ‘Breaking Bad,’ and I saw Bryan Cranston stare at a suitcase for one hour. I never get time to stare at a suitcase for an hour. I said, ‘Let’s do some TV.’”

He revealed his intention to transition to television while maintaining a selective approach to film projects, citing his desire to spend more time with his 15-month-old daughter as a motivating factor.

Cage also discussed the impact of winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Mike Figgis’ “Leaving Las Vegas” in 1995. He credited the award for providing him with creative freedom and the opportunity to pursue his artistic vision. Cage joked that the award gave him a “tenure” to make movies, allowing him to work with directors while still retaining creative control.

During the conversation, Cage revealed a fascinating tidbit about almost starring in a “Superman” film directed by Tim Burton.

However, this exciting project was ultimately shelved due to the apprehension of studio executives. Cage explained: “Tim was riding high after the success of ‘Mars Attacks!’ Initially, they considered Renny Harlin to direct, but I knew that playing such an iconic role required hitting the bull’s eye. We came incredibly close, but the studio made the decision to cancel the entire production. I believe they were concerned about the potential cost and whether they would recoup their investment.”

Egyptian actress Amira Adeeb nabs Hollywood breakout role in Jeffrey Elmont’s ‘No Nation’

Updated 09 December 2023

Egyptian actress Amira Adeeb nabs Hollywood breakout role in Jeffrey Elmont’s ‘No Nation’

DUBAI: Egyptian actress Amira Adeeb announced this week that she is set to star in the upcoming Hollywood film “No Nation,” directed by Jeffrey Elmont. 

The actress, who has starred in Egyptian TV hits such as “Naql Aam” and “Meet Gal?!,” took to Instagram to share the news with her followers. 



A post shared by Amira Adeeb (@amiraadeebb)


“I’ve been sitting on this for six months and not a single person had a clue, not even my parents. I think I’m more proud of my big mouth for keeping this a secret than anything,” she wrote to her 1 million Instagram followers. 

“So much to say and so many feelings to be felt but I’ll wait a bit and more details to come,” she teased.  



A post shared by Amira Adeeb (@amiraadeebb)


The actress also thanked Elmont for believing in her and for “casting an Arab girl in a non-Arab-cliché role.” She added: “Working with you has been a blessing.” 

Model Nora Attal walks Chanel’s Manchester show

Updated 09 December 2023

Model Nora Attal walks Chanel’s Manchester show

DUBAI: Scintillating colors and celebrity flair lit up a gloomy Manchester on Thursday as the British city — famous for its past textile industry — flaunted the latest fashion in a prestigious Chanel show, which British Moroccan model Nora Attal walked.

Lashed by rain and plunged into winter darkness, the city’s gritty industrial heritage was not an obvious choice as the setting for the glitz and glamour of the French luxury group’s Metiers d’Art event.

The blazer was cropped and featured a flower on her chest. (Chanel)

But the show captivated as models strutted down the catwalk sporting dazzling bermuda shorts, mini-skirts and eye-catching outfits under a temporary covering in a city center street.

Attal, 24, graced the runway in a pink tweed skirt suit — a quintessential British classic —with gold buttons. The blazer was cropped and featured a flower on her chest. She wore a gold chain belt on her waist, matching bracelets and black ballerinas to complete the look.


A post shared by CHANEL (@chanelofficial)


Actor Hugh Grant, director Sofia Coppola, local football stars Ruben Dias and Luke Shaw, as well as brand ambassadors Charlotte Casiraghi and Kristen Stewart, were among the celebrities in attendance.

“I loved the rock attitudes, the 60s looks,” British actor Jenna Coleman told AFP.


A post shared by CHANEL (@chanelofficial)


The northern English city was a hub of the 19th century industrial revolution, processing half of the world’s cotton in 1860.

Chanel’s creative director Virginie Viard said Manchester was the starting point for a musical culture that changed the world, inspiring her to bring the show there for its pioneering and creative spirit.

Attal, who has walked the runway for major fashion houses including Tom Ford, Tory Burch, Tiffany & Co., Fendi, Burberry and Valentino, is a Chanel fixture and has walked the runway for the storied brand a number of times over the years.


A post shared by CHANEL (@chanelofficial)

She hit the runway for Chanel in October 2022 at Paris Fashion Week, where she showed off a number of looks as part of the label’s Spring-Summer 2023 showcase. The ensembles were part of a 71-piece collection designed by the fashion house’s creative director, Virginie Viard.

In June this year, she took part in a campaign for Chanel Beauty, in which she posed wearing a pair of black sunglasses. The model was also seen holding a pocket-sized capsule of Chanel hand cream and lying in long green grass with her oversized branded shades.

Industry leaders talk building grassroots culture at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures

Updated 09 December 2023

Industry leaders talk building grassroots culture at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures

RIYADH: Investments, events and community interaction are key to growing Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning music industry, a panel at the XP Music Futures conference was told on Thursday.

Music industry leaders and government officials took part in the panel at the event’s third edition, which is being held from Dec. 7-9 ahead of MDLBEAST’s Soundstorm festival.

“What I’ve noticed in Saudi Arabia from my visits is that there are entities who are taking the initiative to set up the grassroots culture … their scope is to teach people how to make music,” said Ramy Al-Kadhi, head of commercial at streaming platform Anghami.

Panelists said that investment is musical education is critical, with the Saudi Ministry of Culture establishing the Music Commission to direct funding into the Kingdom’s homegrown industry.

Creativity hubs for up-and-coming musicians, such as JAX, Riyadh’s art district that hosts spaces for music, fashion and art events, are also working to promote Saudi artists.

“We’re really proud of our community and we’re trying to always bolster their creativity, to keep them all alive, to have them all together in this space. It’s the community — it’s not anyone else but the community,” said Omnia Abdulqadir, communications and marketing director of JAX District.

Events like XP offer creatives a chance to learn and share their experiences, pushing the grassroots scene forward, the panelists said.

Other important steps include using existing cultural spaces, like museums, to initiate collaborations with the music industry, said Dr. Basma Al-Buhaira, managing director of the Center for Fourth Industrial Revolution in KSA.

Inclusivity must also be promoted for people with disabilities, as well as older artists, panelists said.

Other speakers, including CECO founder and creative consultant Dalia Fatania, and The Warehouse founder Mohammad Al-Attas, highlighted the power of technology to bolster musical talent.

The Warehouse also hosts open mic nights and jam sessions to encourage a culture of creativity.

Monetization of work is important for budding artists, the panelists said, encouraging young Saudis in the industry to work with brands, take on educational roles, sell merchandise and collectibles, and collaborate with other industries.