Arab Cinema Week returns for second year

Held under the theme ‘Human Bonds,’ the festival will feature films reflecting key events that have affected the Arab world. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 03 October 2023
Follow

Arab Cinema Week returns for second year

  • Held under the theme ‘Human Bonds,’ the festival will feature films reflecting key events that have affected the Arab world

DUBAI: The second Arab Cinema Week is returning this month to Dubai, UAE.

The inaugural event last year screened nine feature films and six short films — with 11 Arab countries and nine female directors represented.

This year the festival is being held under the theme ‘Human Bonds’ and aims to explore an individual’s connection to a particular society and the effect customs and traditions have on a person’s upbringing, identity and relationships.

The featured films reflect key events that have affected the Arab world — such as the unrest in Lebanon, the earthquake in Morocco and the upheaval in Sudan.

For example, the documentary “Heroic Bodies” explores the position women hold in Sudanese society, and in “My Lost Country,” filmmaker Ishtar Yasin Gutierrez retraces her father’s roots in Iraq, 20 years after the invasion of the country.

Beirut holds a special place in the selection, said Rabih El-Khoury, curator of this year’s festival.

The lineup includes three Beirut-based films: Wissam Charaf’s “Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous,” which tells the story of a Syrian refugee and an Ethiopian domestic worker falling in love in Beirut; Mohamed Soueid’s documentary “The Insomnia of a Serial Dreamer” and Borhane Alaouie’s celebrated feature “Beirut the Encounter,” which was shot during the Lebanese civil war.

Other films this year include “Under the Fig Trees,” “Life Suits Me Well” and “Alam.”

El-Khoury said: “Arab Cinema Week is both an exploration and a celebration of Arab cinema. In a program that invites the spectators to investigate human bonds, Cinema Akil is also fortifying its ties with its tremendous audience and filmgoers, a human bond that remains invaluable.”

The 10-day event will be held at Cinema Akil in collaboration with the UK’s Safar Film Festival from Oct. 6 to Oct. 15.


French journalist detained in Ethiopia

Updated 26 February 2024
Follow

French journalist detained in Ethiopia

  • Antoine Galindo has been accused of conspiring “to create chaos” after travelling to Ethiopia to cover the African Union summit
  • Galindo was arrested while meeting an official from the opposition Oromo Liberation Front party

ADDIS ABABA: A French journalist has been arrested and detained in Ethiopia since February 22 on suspicion of conspiring “to create chaos” in the country, his employer announced on Monday.
Antoine Galindo had traveled to Ethiopia to cover the African Union summit earlier this month for the specialist publication Africa Intelligence.
Following his arrest on Thursday, he was brought before a judge on Saturday, who ordered his detention be extended until March 1, Africa Intelligence said, condemning the “unjustified arrest.”
“These spurious accusations are not based on any tangible evidence that might justify this extended deprivation of liberty,” it said, pointing out that Galindo had informed the Ethiopian authorities of his assignment and had a visa authorizing him to work there as a journalist.
The 36-year-old journalist, who heads the publication’s East Africa section, lived in Ethiopia between 2013 and 2017 and was “known to the Ethiopia Media Authority,” which oversees media accreditations in the country.
According to a source close to the case who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, Galindo was arrested on Thursday afternoon at a hotel in Addis Ababa while meeting an official from the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) party.
He has since been held at a police station in Ethiopia’s capital, the publication said, calling for his immediate release.
Ethiopian authorities did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
An OLF spokesman told AFP that a party official was arrested in Addis Ababa on Thursday but could not confirm if Galindo had met the official.


The Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday that it was “outraged that a journalist on a legitimate reporting trip is targeted in this way.”
Galindo’s “unjust arrest highlights the atrocious environment for the press in general in Ethiopia,” the CPJ’s Africa branch said on its website.
According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, as of January 1 this year, 15 journalists were in prison in Ethiopia.
In 2023, Ethiopia ranked 130th in the world in terms of press freedom, down 16 places compared to 2022, according to the NGO.
The government imposed a state of emergency in Ethiopia’s second most populous region Amhara in August after fighting erupted between federal authorities and a regional “self-defense” militia named Fano.
The decree, which was extended earlier this month, allows the authorities to declare curfews and for suspects to be searched and held without a warrant.
Federal forces in Oromia — Ethiopia’s most populous region — have been battling the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebel group since 2018, after it split from the OLF when the latter renounced armed struggle.


The fighting in Amhara reignited concerns about Ethiopia’s stability, just a few months after a peace deal ended a brutal two-year conflict in the northernmost region of Tigray between Tigrayan rebel authorities and forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Abiy was hailed as a reformer when he came to power in 2018 after decades of authoritarian rule, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his rapprochement with neighboring Eritrea.
But his reputation has taken a hit in recent years, with UN investigators accusing his government of crimes against humanity in Tigray — claims rejected by the authorities.
Ethiopia has expelled several foreign journalists since the end of 2020.
“The surge in abuses against journalists seen since the start of the war in Tigray in November 2020 is not abating. Several journalists have been killed under unclear circumstances,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Hostility toward foreign media was seen again in early 2023, when the authorities suspended around 15 foreign TV channels for allegedly operating without a license,” it added.
Prior to Galindo’s detention, Ethiopian authorities had not arrested a foreign journalist in more than three years.
In July 2020, a Kenyan journalist was detained for more than a month in Addis Ababa, despite an Ethiopian court ordering his release on bail.


Mexico president lambastes YouTube after company edits video revealing NYT journalist’s number

Updated 26 February 2024
Follow

Mexico president lambastes YouTube after company edits video revealing NYT journalist’s number

  • Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador revealed the private telephone number of the New York Times’ Mexico bureau chief during news conference
  • Mexican president criticized the platform of censorship and and authoritarian attitude after the video was removed for violating privacy policies

MEXICO CITY: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized YouTube on Sunday night after the tech company removed the video of a news conference in which the leader revealed the private telephone number of the New York Times’ Mexico bureau chief.
The platform said the video had violated their policies on harassment and cyberbullying. It later republished an edited version without the reporter’s private information.
In response, Lopez Obrador accused the platform of censorship and said it was acting with an overbearing and authoritarian attitude.
The message was accompanied by a picture of the Statue of Liberty, which he said had become a “empty symbol.” YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Thursday, Lopez Obrador read aloud a letter from the Times requesting comment on a story reporters were preparing about a shelved US government investigation into allegations that his allies met with and took millions of dollars from drug cartels after he took office in 2018.
Then he read the phone number of Times’ bureau chief. The same day, Mexico’s freedom of information body INAI said it was initiating an investigation into his revealing the number.
After the news conference, the Times issued a statement that called it “a troubling and unacceptable tactic from a world leader.”
Making public a journalist’s private phone number is particularly worrisome in Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries in the world for reporters outside of war zones, especially for Mexican journalists investigating criminal gangs and widespread corruption.
Lopez Obrador frequently attacks the news media during his daily press conferences.
“She is slandering us and if she is very worried, then she should change her phone number,” Lopez Obrador told reporters after the video was released. “Above the personal data protection law, there is the dignity of the president.”
In the days that followed, social media users published the private numbers of one of Lopez Obrador’s sons and both candidates for the country’s June presidential race, Claudia Sheinbaum from the president’s MORENA party and rival Xochitl Galvez.
Galvez said that she had gotten a flood of messages since her number was published — both critical and supporting — and that she would not change it.
MORENA’s New York committee protested outside the Times’ office in New York City on Sunday afternoon.
The New York Times story in question, published just after Lopez Obrador revealed the reporter’s phone number, noted that the United States never opened a formal investigation and that officials ultimately shelved the inquiry.
Lopez Obrador denied all accusations and said it was “completely false.”
That story came on the heels of other recent reporting from other media outlets about a different US investigation into possible collusion between a drug cartel and Lopez Obrador associates to accept money for his 2006 presidential campaign in exchange for leniency.
Lopez Obrador has denied those accusations, calling them slander, and responded by saying the journalist who broke the story was a “mercenary in the service” of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which carried out the investigation.
Concerns about media safety have remained consistent throughout Lopez Obrador’s presidency. In January, the theft of the personal data of hundreds of journalists in Mexico, including addresses and copies of voter ID cards and passports, raised fresh worries.
International free-speech organization Article 19 has documented 163 journalist murders in Mexico since 2000.


Media leaders discuss content, entertainment, news at FII Priority Summit

Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Media leaders discuss content, entertainment, news at FII Priority Summit

MIAMI: The Future Investment Initiative Priority Summit in Miami brought together experts from various facets of the media industry on Friday for a panel discussion titled “Captivated by Content: How Brands are Adapting to Trends in Media Consumption.”

The key for any media owner is knowing their audience, but that audience is constantly evolving.

Sam Englebardt, founding general partner of Galaxy Interactive who has been a key investor in the gaming industry, said: “It used to be that we were catering to younger males … and now it’s pretty much the whole world.”

One of the problems with understanding audiences is doing so through data, said Bob Pittman, chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia.

“We’re entering this era of tyranny of the data,” he said, adding that the idea that if you cannot measure something it does not exist is a delusion.

As technology has become more pervasive, said Englebardt, “it’s now more possible than ever to really be everywhere they (audiences) are on whichever platform they have, so what are you going to make that people are going to care about, and how do you build a world that they want to spend conceivably all of their time in?”

However, it can be detrimental if people spend more time in virtual worlds than in the real one.

John Hanke, founder and CEO of mobile apps firm Niantic, is focused on building immersive experiences powered by augmented reality.

As a parent of three, he has struggled with determining how much screen time is acceptable for them, he said.

“It was the thing that motivated me to start thinking about video games that can take place out in the world,” he added.

“It’s up to us to think about how we evolve that technology to help us be better humans and be out in the world interacting with one another, and thankfully, technology is headed in that direction with augmented reality wearable devices.”

The worlds of media and entertainment are starting to exist outside screens, and brands, of course, want a spot.

Before streaming services launched, brands would have 30-second spots between shows and movies, but now they want to be part of the “content conversation where they want to subsidize and really have an engagement that goes beyond what a 30-second spot would be,” said Brent Montgomery, founder and CEO of Wheelhouse.

However, technology does not necessarily have to reinvent or create new business models, said Englebardt. “It’s just (about) how technology can enable what we know works to be applied,” he added.

The emergence of these technologies has also transformed news media, where non-traditional platforms such as user-generated content on Instagram and X have become news sources.

The fundamental change, Pittman said, is consumer convenience. “What people want today is have the information find me. I don’t want to go find the information,” he added.

While that can be both good and bad, media companies have to think about “chasing the consumer, as opposed to expecting them to come to you,” Pittman said.

It is becoming harder to distinguish between real and fake content, leading to a point where audiences will have to presume that everything they watch and hear is fake, said Englebardt.

That, however, is the advantage of news brands, because they are well-trusted and audiences can rely on them to vet the information and present genuine news, said Pittman.

In order to maintain that trust, news brands “will have to forego the clickbait business model and opportunity to monetize fake news,” said Englebardt. 

Pittman said: “Clickbait is directly related to lack of trust. The more clickbait, the less trusted.” As such, businesses have to choose whether they want to get more clicks and be less trusted, or have fewer clicks and be more trusted, he concluded.

 


Vice to lay off hundreds of staff, close website

Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Vice to lay off hundreds of staff, close website

  • Company is ‘no longer cost-effective and will transition to studio model’: CEO 
  • Unclear how decision will impact group’s presence in Riyadh

LONDON: Vice Media is set to lay off hundreds of staff and discontinue publication on its website.

An internal memo leaked to the media and later confirmed by Vice CEO Bruce Dixon said that the layoffs would begin early next week.

Dixon announced on Friday that the company is transitioning to a “studio model,” in a decision that was “not made lightly.” Affected employees will be “notified about next steps early next week.”

The decision is a result of Vice Media’s digital content distribution no longer being cost-effective, Dixon said.

The outlet will “look to partner with established media companies to distribute our digital content, including news, on their global platforms, as we fully transition to a studio model,” he added.

Dixon said that Refinery29, a Vice-owned women’s lifestyle-focused site, will continue to operate independently.

“Our financial partners are supportive and have agreed to invest in this operating model going forward. We will emerge stronger and more resilient as we embark on this new phase of our journey,” he added.

Reports of the layoffs come less than a year after Vice Media, whose assets include Vice News, Motherboard, Refinery29, i-D and Vice TV, was rescued from bankruptcy by a consortium of buyers from Fortress Investment Group.

Dixon said that the group is in “advance discussions” to sell its business and expects to “announce more on that in the coming weeks.”

Valued at $5.7 billion in 2017, Vice, once a prominent media company geared toward a younger audience, operated digital, television and film outlets.

In January last year, the media group announced the opening of a new regional office in Riyadh in an effort to expand its presence in the Middle East.

It remains unclear how the layoffs will impact the group’s presence in the Middle East. Experts say that the company employs about 900 people across all divisions.


Israel threatens to withdraw from Eurovision over song’s lyrics

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

Israel threatens to withdraw from Eurovision over song’s lyrics

  • European Broadcasting Union assessing whether ‘October Rain’ breaches guidelines on political neutrality
  • There have been protests over Israel’s participation in various European countries

LONDON: Israel has threatened to pull out of the Eurovision Song Contest after organizers said they were assessing the lyrics of its entry for political messages.

The song, “October Rain,” is set to be performed by singer Eden Golan at the event in Sweden in May.

It features references to the victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, including the lyrics “they were all good children, each one of them,” according to Israel Hayom newspaper.

The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the event, said in a statement: “The EBU is currently in the process of scrutinizing the lyrics, a process which is confidential between the EBU and the broadcaster until a final decision has been taken.

“If a song is deemed unacceptable for any reason, broadcasters are then given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics.”

In response, Israel’s national broadcaster KAN, which oversaw the process of selecting the entry and will show the contest in Israel, said: “It should be noted that as far as the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation is concerned there is no intention to replace the song.

“This means that if it is not approved by the European Broadcasting Union, Israel will not be able to participate in the competition, which will take place in Sweden next May.”

KAN confirmed that the lyrics published by Israel Hayom are correct, calling the song a “moving and powerful ballad.”

It also published other lyrics, including the lines “Who told you boys don’t cry / Hours and hours / And flowers / Life is not a game for the cowards,” which Israel Hayom said is a reference to Israeli soldiers. 

KAN said Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar had written to the EBU to insist the song’s lyrics be approved, adding that “Israel is in one of its most complex periods, and that this fact cannot be ignored when choosing a song to represent it.”

On X, Zohar said: “The song of Israel, which will be performed by Eden Golan, is a moving song, which expresses the feelings of the people and the country these days, and is not political."

He said any decision to disqualify “October Rain” would be “scandalous.”

“We all hope that Eurovision will remain a musical and cultural event and not a political arena — where the participating countries can bring their uniqueness and nationalism to the stage through music.

“I call on the European Broadcasting Union to continue to act professionally and neutrally, and not to let politics affect art.”

Several protests about Israel’s participation, including in Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, have been raised, while Iceland’s Association of Composers and Lyricists said the war in Gaza made Israel’s entry “incompatible” with the spirit of the contest.

The annual Eurovision contest has been won four times by Israel, where it is popular and often viewed as a barometer of the country’s standing internationally.

In the past, the EBU has forced the altering of lyrics over politics. In 2009, Georgia withdrew from the contest over its song’s overt references to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia was itself excluded from the contest in 2022 following its invasion of Ukraine, which went on to win Eurovision that year.

Noel Curran, director general of the EBU, said: “Comparisons between wars and conflicts are complex and difficult and, as a non-political media organization, not ours to make.”

He added: “The EBU is aligned with other international organizations, including sports unions and federations and other international bodies, that have similarly maintained their inclusive stance towards Israeli participants in major competitions at this time.”

(With Reuters)