Jennifer Lawrence-produced Afghan documentary premieres at Cannes
The documentary shows daily lives of three women after the Taliban's resurgence
The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan shortly after US withdrawal in 2021
Updated 22 May 2023
CANNES: While the world watched Kabul fall and the Taliban surge back to power in 2021 following the withdrawal of U.S. troops, actor Jennifer Lawrence and producer Justine Ciarrocchi were asking themselves what they could do to support women's rights.
"Jen's first response was to find an Afghan filmmaker and give them a platform," Ciarrocchi told The Hollywood Reporter.
They eventually found director Sahra Mani, whose 2019 documentary "A Thousand Girls Like Me" looked at a sexually abused woman's quest for justice.
On Sunday, "Bread and Roses," Mani's documentary about the daily lives of three women after the Taliban's resurgence, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in a special screening.
"This film has a message from women in Afghanistan, a soft message; please be their voice who are voiceless under Taliban dictatorship," said Mani at the premiere.
The director said in an interview on the Cannes website that she wanted to show the reality of how drastically life has changed under the Taliban for women, even if filming was difficult. "Now that women can no longer leave the house without the veil, I thought we should tell their stories," she said.
The safety of the camera crews and the people filmed was of top priority, said Mani, who currently lives in France.
"The way in which their lives have changed under the Taliban is an everyday reality for us, it's life under a dictatorship, a cruel reality we cannot ignore."
Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II weds Saudi national Rajwa Al-Saif at royal wedding
The ceremony was held at the Zahran Palace, where the crown prince’s parents — King Abdullah II and Queen Rania — wed in 1993
The event was attended by around 140 guests, including members of the Royal Hashemite family, invited royals and heads of state
Updated 02 June 2023
AMMAN: It was an affair to remember as Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II wed Saudi national Rajwa Al-Saif, who by royal decree will now be known as Princess Rajwa Al-Hussein, on Thursday at Zahran Palace in Amman, before the royal couple travelled by motorcade to Al-Husseiniya Palace for a lavish reception.
When the crown prince takes the throne, the princess will be Queen Rajwa. The bride wore a custom-made Elie Saab gown, while Queen Rania opted for Dior.
The religious ceremony was held at Zahran Palace, where the crown prince’s parents — King Abdullah II and Queen Rania — wed in 1993. The ceremony was attended by around 140 guests, including members of the Royal Hashemite family, invited royals and heads of state - US President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden even shared a congratulatory message on social media.
Guests include dignitaries and royals from around the world, including the UK’s Prince and Princess of Wales William and Kate Middleton; US First Lady Jill Biden; Qatar’s Sheikha Moza bint Nasser; the king and queen of Malaysia; the king and queen of The Netherlands; King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía of Spain; Prince Sébastien of Luxembourg; Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark; Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland; Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway and Hisako, Princess Takamado and her daughter, Princess Tsuguko of Takamado of Japan, among others.
The bride arrived at the palace in a 1968 Rolls-Royce Phantom V that was custom-made for the late Queen Zein Al-Sharaf and was escorted by the Crown Prince’s younger brother, Prince Hashem bin Abdullah II, and Princess Salma bint Abdullah II. Prince Hashem walked Al-Saif to the gazebo where the Islamic marriage ceremony took place.
During the ceremony, the bride and groom signed the marriage contract. Royal Hashemite Court Imam Dr. Ahmed Al-Khalaileh, who was appointed to the position in January 2021, presided over the ceremony, which was followed by several women performing the Zaghrouta, or traditional ululation.
Afterwards, crowds lined the 10km route as the couple traveled to the location of the reception party in a custom 1984 Range Rover as part of a convoy worthy of an Arab royal wedding.
The motorcade featured eight red 1980s Land Rovers and 11 red BMW motorcycles. The vintage machines belong to the Royal Convoy Unit, part of a special military formation known as the Royal Guards. The Jordan Armed Forces Musical Band performed during the event.
As is customary, the arrival of the bride and groom was announced with a zaffeh by the Jordan Armed Forces Musical Band. All band members wore the red-and-white shemagh, a traditional headdress for men, in addition to their full-dress uniform. After passing through an honorary Arch of Sabers, the couple proceeded through the courtyard amidst a traditional Jordanian zaffeh, toward the greeting stage, where the family greeted more than 1,700 guests. The remainder of the evening featured a variety of performances by local and regional singers, a choir group, Jordanian bands, the national orchestra, and folk dance troupes.
According to the Royal Hashemite Court, the reception space at Al-Husseiniya Palace was designed to showcase Jordanian traditions, craftsmanship, and the country’s natural surroundings. Upon arrival, guests entered on a path that evokes the Jordanian desert, featuring a 20-meter-long handwoven Bedouin rug, created specifically for this occasion by the Bani Hamida Women's Weaving Project in the village of Mukawir in Madaba.
Surrounded by foraged wildflowers that reflect the native landscape of the weavers, guests were welcomed with traditional Arabic coffee and music as they made their way down the reception. Once inside the reception space, guests were greeted by the sight of native olive trees surrounded by a dune-like display of dates, which represent hospitality in both Jordanian and Saudi cultures. The venue featured an installation of five large-scale mesh arches, inspired by the architecture of the palace and the hues of the desert landscape of Jordan’s Wadi Rum.
Guest seats were adorned with traditional embroidery patterns, handstitched by women artisans employed by Al-Karma Embroidery Center and the Jerash Women Charitable Society – all of which were established to empower local women and promote traditional handiworks. Guest tables were made from natural Madaba stone and decorated with hand-blown glass vases and traditional clay pottery made by local artisans. The decor also incorporated hand-hammered basalt stone from the north of Jordan. Utilizing local seasonal flowers, the Palace’s archways wre steeped in jasmine. Other design elements paid homage to Jordan’s wheat harvesting season, which is in full swing, with items reimagining the traditional threshing board used to shred wheat and release its grain.
The reception concluded with the bride and groom cutting the wedding cake.
The royal wedding was almost a year in the making, with the couple announcing their engagement in August 2022. The pair got engaged in Riyadh with members of the Jordanian royal family in attendance, as well as Al-Saif’s parents — Khalid bin Musaed bin Saif bin Abdulaziz Al-Saif and Azza bint Nayef Abdulaziz Ahmad Al-Sudairi.
The Al-Saif family traces its lineage to the Subay tribe, who have been present in the Sudair region of Najd since the beginning of the era of King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern-day Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Al-Saif’s mother comes from the prominent Al-Sudairi family.
Jordan’s royal wedding day gets underway with surprise arrival of Britain’s William and Kate
Updated 01 June 2023
AMMAN, Jordan: Jordan’s highly anticipated royal wedding day got underway on Thursday with the surprise announcement that Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate had arrived to witness the nuptials of Crown Prince Hussein and his Saudi Arabian bride.
The attendance of the British royals had been kept under wraps, and was only confirmed by Jordanian state media a few hours before the start of the palace ceremony.
The wedding of Jordan’s 28-year-old heir to the throne and Rajwa Al-Saif, a 29-year-old architect linked to her own country’s monarch, emphasizes continuity in an Arab state prized for its longstanding stability. The festivities, which are to start Thursday afternoon, also introduce Hussein to a wider global audience.
On Thursday morning, Saudi wedding guests and tourists — the men wearing white dishdasha robes and the women in brightly colored abayas — filtered through the sleek marbled lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman. Noura Al Sudairi, an aunt of the bride, was wearing sweatpants and sneakers on her way to breakfast.
“We are all so excited, so happy about this union,” she said. “Of course it’s a beautiful thing for our families, and for the relationship between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”
Excitement over the nuptials — Jordan’s biggest royal event in years — has been building in the capital of Amman, where congratulatory banners of Hussein and his beaming bride adorn buses and hang over winding hillside streets. Shops had competing displays of royal regalia. Royal watchers speculated about which dress designer Al-Saif would select— still an official secret,
Nancy Tirana, a 28-year-old law intern, said she spent the last week scrutinizing Al-Saif's every move and stitch of clothing.
“She’s just so beautiful, so elegant, and it’s clear from her body language how much she loves the queen,” she said, referring to Hussein’s glamorous mother, Rania. “I feel like all of Jordan is getting married,” Tirana gushed as she ate mansaf, Jordan’s national dish of milky mutton and rice, before heading to a wedding-themed concert.
Jordan’s 11 million citizens have watched the young crown prince rise in prominence in recent years, as he increasingly joined his father, King Abdullah II, in public appearances. Hussein has graduated from Georgetown University, joined the military and gained some global recognition speaking at the UN General Assembly. His wedding, experts say, marks his next crucial rite of passage.
“It’s not just a marriage, it’s the presentation of the future king of Jordan,” said political analyst Amer Sabaileh. “The issue of the crown prince has been closed.”
Palace officials have turned the event — a week after Jordan’s 77th birthday — into something of a PR campaign. Combining tradition and modernity, the royal family introduced a wedding hashtag (#Celebrating Al Hussein) and omnipresent logo that fuses the couple’s initials into the Arabic words “We rejoice”
Photos and reels from Al-Saif's henna party — a traditional pre-wedding celebration featuring the bride and her female friends and relatives — and the couple’s engagement ceremony in Saudi Arabia last summer have splashed across state-linked media.
The kingdom declared Thursday a public holiday so crowds of people could gather after the wedding service to wave at the couple’s motorcade of red Land Rover jeeps — a nod to the traditional procession of horse riders clad in red coats during the reign of the country’s founder, King Abdullah I. Tens of thousands of well-wishers are expected to flock to free concerts and cultural events. Huge screens have been set up nationwide for crowds to watch the occasion unfold.
The signing of the marriage contract will take place at Zahran Palace in Amman, which hasn’t seen such pomp and circumstance since 1993, when, on a similarly sunny June day, Abdullah married Rania, who was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. Decades earlier, Abdullah’s father, the late King Hussein, sealed his vows in the same garden with his second wife, the British citizen Antoinette Gardiner.
In addition to the Prince and Princess of Wales, the guest list includes an array of foreign aristocrats and dignitaries, including senior royals from Europe and Asia, as well as First Lady Jill Biden and US climate envoy John Kerry. Other likely attendees include Saudi aristocrats, as Alseif’s mother traces her roots to the influential wife of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Her billionaire father owns a major construction firm in the kingdom.
After the ceremony, the wedding party will move to Al Husseiniya Palace, a 30-minute drive away, for a reception, entertainment and a state banquet. The royals are expected to greet more than 1,700 guests at the reception.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani female rapper Eva B said on Sunday it is “a dream come true” for her song “Sunrise in Lyari” to be featured in the Grammys’ Global Spin series this month.
The Global Spin is a performance series by the Grammys that spotlights global music and international artists. Eva B, who is touted as Pakistan’s first woman rapper, rose to prominence after her breakthrough single “Rozi” was featured in an episode of the popular TV series Ms Marvel last year while her song “Kana Yaari” was also a massive hit in the South Asian country in 2022.
Sunrise In Lyari has been described by Global Spin as an “infectious rap track about her roots in Karachi.” In the video for the song, Eva B can be seen rapping from the streets of Lyari, an underdeveloped neighborhood in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi haunted by years of gang violence, poverty, and drugs. According to Global Spin, the rapper wrote the song exclusively for the platform.
“Being featured on the Global Spin series by the Grammys is an absolute dream come true for me,” Eva B told Arab News. “It’s an incredible feeling to see my music reach such a global and famous platform.”
Eva B said it was important for her to represent her roots in Lyari and share her story with the world.
“It’s not just about the recognition; it’s about the impact and connection my music can create across borders and cultures,” she added.
Eva B said Sunrise in Lyari is not just a song for her but a reflection of her journey so far. “It depicts how the small artists of Lyari were underlooked yet they persisted and produced their art,” she said.
The rapper said the song depicts her transformation from being “shunned and criticized by people for my art and my background” to now being a celebrated artist.
“It’s a symbol of rising above adversity and proving that our voices matter,” she said.
Happy at her accomplishments, Eva B says the best is yet to come, adding that she’s “constantly working on new projects and exploring different avenues to express my artistry.”
“I’m thrilled to share that I’m currently in the process of producing new albums that will showcase different dimensions of my music and personal growth,” Eva B said.
“My fans can definitely expect an amazing journey ahead, filled with captivating music and unforgettable experiences. I can’t wait to share it with you guys.”
‘Kandahar’ star Ali Fazal talks filming in AlUla, working with film greats
The Indian actor spent many childhood holidays in the Kingdom, now he’s starring in ‘Kandahar,’ the first international feature to be shot there
Fazal sees Saudi Arabia pushing itself further and only wants to surround himself with people, and operate in places, that do the same
Updated 28 May 2023
DUBAI: It’s funny how life works out. Decades ago, Indian actor Ali Fazal was just a boy spending every summer with his Muslim family in Saudi Arabia, idly dreaming that one day he might make a Hollywood movie in some far-off place. Little did he know that one day he would have a lead role in a major Hollywood blockbuster filmed in the same country that helped raise him, the first international film to be shot in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla region: “Kandahar,” starring modern action icon Gerard Butler.
“It was such a pleasant surprise. I never thought I’d be shooting a movie in Saudi Arabia, where I spent such a large part of my childhood. Filming anything in the Kingdom was something unheard of for so long, but it’s beautiful how times change,” Fazal tells Arab News.
“It was one of the most welcoming experiences of my career. Saudis are such a warm people — that I knew — but I was shocked when I landed. I thought I knew this country, but I’d never seen anywhere like AlUla in my life. It’s such a stunning, exotic place, and it was such a joy to call it home for those three months,” he continues.
Fazal felt at home in more ways than one. He’s become the heir apparent to the late Irrfan Khan’s throne as the best crossover Hollywood-Bollywood actor working today. After standout performances in “Furious 7,” “Victoria & Abdul,” “Death on the Nile” and Amazon’s acclaimed ongoing action series “Mirzapur,” thriving on a set full of actors and crew from across the world has become his trademark.
That doesn’t mean, however, that his experience on “Kandahar” didn’t teach him a lot. While he’s used to hands-on combat sequences in “Mirzapur,” working with the same team behind Butler’s films “Angel Has Fallen” and “Greenland” brought things to a different level. To match the experience of everyone else around him, Fazal had to put in the work.
“I ended up landing in AlUla 25 days before the rest of the cast, just so I could learn how to ride a motorcycle in this completely different setting than anything I’ve worked in before. Most of the film I’m chasing Gerry Butler, and though I knew how to ride a bike, riding a bike in the desert is a whole new game,” says Fazal.
While Fazal and Butler are fierce rivals on screen, off it the two shared every meal at AlUla’s Banyan Tree resort, with Butler’s playful spirit creating a tight bond between each of the cast members that continues until today.
“(Butler) just immediately brings you into the fold. He could easily just come in, do his job and go, but he made a point to champion all of us, and that takes a lot of humility and integrity. He would come up to me every day and say, ‘I saw your rushes, and they’re good but I think we can take it in a different direction.’ He always had great notes. He made the film better, and he made me better,” says Fazal.
“We had this tight-knit little community by night, and by day I think the people of AlUla thought there were earthquakes coming through, because of the hardcore action mayhem we were creating,” Fazal continues.
Working on huge international projects has many benefits. Every time Fazal works with someone like Gerard Butler, Judi Dench, Stephen Frears or Kenneth Branagh, he takes away personal lessons on how he can be a better actor and a better person, and sees what it takes to reach the pinnacle of his chosen art.
“I keep thinking back to one moment with Branagh. It was the night before the Oscar nominations were to be announced, and we were all at the British Museum after the premiere of “Death on the Nile” — sitting back and celebrating — but he was sitting in the corner writing his next stage play. That’s diligence. He puts the time in. The next morning, he was nominated for seven Oscars,” says Fazal.
Thinking about those moments, he confesses, also has made it harder and harder to accept offers for projects that don’t come with that same substance and commitment. As a result, he’s gotten a lot more discerning, and a lot more wary of the limelight of Bollywood, though he knows he’s holding himself back from becoming the kind of celebrity some of his colleagues have become.
“I run away from the vanity that has kept us in a bubble in Bollywood. I don’t judge the people — it’s the system itself. Indian film can be so much more, and the rest of India is showing that now. If you go down south, we have some of the best films in the world coming out of Malayalam cinema and Tamil cinema, and both the Oscars and Cannes, for example, are taking notice,” Fazal adds.
Fazal sees Saudi Arabia pushing itself further, sees artists like Branagh and Butler pushing themselves further, and only wants to surround himself with people, and operate in places, that do the same.
“I just don’t want to do mediocre stuff. If the economics of our respective industries is keeping us apart, that doesn’t mean our sensibilities should suddenly dumb down,” says Fazal. “Everything is in competition with everything else right now, anyways. If you’re on a streaming platform, your project is sitting next to an Oscar winner and some groundbreaking new Polish show and you’re only a click away from rejection. You can’t cheat and get away with mediocrity. You have to really get to the truth of things — the painstaking, emotionally draining truth — or people across the world will just ignore it.”
Fazal wants to step up his own game, but he also wants to identify and raise awareness of the types of artists and performers who are putting in the work but not yet receiving recognition. After all, while the great Irrfan Khan was able to find massive success in both India and Hollywood before his death, he spent decades not getting the respect he deserved.
“I want to champion people, because nobody champions artists like us. The same people who are now writing books about Irrfan spent years disregarding him,” he says. “We need people to support great artists not when the rest of the world discovers their talent, but now.”
Thankfully, the recognition that took Khan decades to find is coming to Fazal more easily. True to his word, his next projects fit the mold of what he yearns for, first with the Netflix original film “Khufiya,” from renowned filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, and then a starring role in Academy Award winning director Bill Guttentag’s film “Afghan Dreamers,” the true story of Afghanistan’s all-girls robotics team.
“I want to be uncomfortable. I want to feel something I’ve never felt before. Great vision pushes you places you have never been, and then something new comes out,” he says. “That’s what I love. That’s where I find my greatest joy.”
Acclaimed Tunisian film now being shown at Saudi cinemas
‘Gadeha: A Second Life’, which recently won three awards at the Greece International Film Festival, explores various themes, including friendship, family and loss, and hardships endured by working class people trying to achieve manageable lives
Updated 26 May 2023
RIYADH: “Gadeha: A Second Life,” an acclaimed Tunisian feature film directed by Anis Lassoued, first released in 2021, is now being shown at cinemas in Saudi Arabia.
The film recently received, among several others worldwide, three awards at the Greece International Film Festival — Best Director for a feature film, Best Child Actor for the role of Gadeha, played by Yassine Tormsi, and Best Supporting Child Actor for the role of Oussama, played by Ahmed Zakaria Chiboub.
The story begins when the titular character Gadeha, a 12-year-old boy, is injured in a car accident. After waking up in hospital, he realizes that his life has changed drastically. This is due to a benevolent couple who offered to pay his hospital fees and uplift his destitute family by providing a home and better work and educational opportunities.
However, soon the mystery of Gadeha’s new life begins to unravel, while he also develops a strong friendship with Oussama, the wealthy couple’s son.
The film takes one on an emotional journey as the boy discovers how his life has been altered at the hands of adults.
The story explores various themes, including friendship, family and loss, delving into the hardships endured by working class people trying to achieve manageable lives. The viewer bears witness to a boy’s developing character as he initially resists, and eventually accepts, the challenges in life that are beyond his control.
Visually, the film is picturesque, offering captivating scenes of Tunisian beaches and the country’s natural beauty.
Heartbreaking and poignant, “Gadeha: A Second Life” enthralls with its striking beauty and leaves one contemplating its profound message and meaning.
Lassoued is a Tunisian filmmaker, producer and director who has been involved in numerous Tunisian and international projects since 2004. He is widely recognized for his work on notable projects including “Saba Flouss” (2006), “Bent Walad” (2010) and “Majnoun Al-Bahr” (2018). In 2013, he founded, with other filmmakers, a production company named Lumieres Films.