Hollywood Arab Film Festival: Showcasing Arab cinema in Los Angeles

Mohamed Hefzy and Elham Shahin. (Instagram)
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Updated 20 April 2024
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Hollywood Arab Film Festival: Showcasing Arab cinema in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES: The third annual Hollywood Arab Film Festival began this week, bringing the best of 2024’s Arab cinema to Los Angeles and giving fans a chance to see the films in theaters as well as introducing a new audience to the Arab world’s top talent.

The event, which runs until April 21, was attended by a number of celebrity guests including Egyptian producer and screenwriter Mohamed Hefzy, Tunisian actor Dhaffer L’Abidine, renowned Egyptian star Elham Shahin and Egyptian producer Tarek El-Ganainy.

 

 

At the event, Hefty said: “Arab cinema really needs a platform to tell our stories and to show who we are, our identity, our hopes and dreams, our pains, and all the different social topics that are tackled in some of the films that are being presented are maybe more relevant today than ever. So I think it’s a great opportunity to have this dialogue.”

Hefzy’s film “Hajjan” was showing at the event. It is a Saudi Arabia-based film directed by Egyptian filmmaker Abu Bakr Shawky.

“Hajjan is a film about a young boy who got a very special connection to his camel, who has a brother who was a camel jockey and races,” Hefzy said. “And, one day when something really unexpected happens to his brother, and shatters his world, it forces him to step into his brother’s shoes and become a camel jockey, and so starts racing himself.”

The movie is a co-production between the Kingdom’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, and Hefzy’s Film Clinic.

“It was a film made in Saudi Arabia with Saudi talents and actors with an Egyptian director, but with the Saudi co-writer and Saudi actors and shot mostly in Saudi Arabia,” Hefzy said. “So I think it’s, it was a great experience, and learned a lot about Saudi Arabia, learned a lot about the culture.”

The festival featured cinema from various Arab countries, presenting films from 16 different nations. Marlin Soliman, strategic planning director of HAFF, highlighted the inclusion of six feature films, ten short films and six student films.

Spanning five days, HAFF offered its audience a vibrant experience, including a red-carpet affair, panel discussions on filmmaking and diversity in Hollywood, and, of course, screenings of high-profile films.

The festival also saw several filmmakers singing the praises of Saudi Arabia’s expanding film industry.

L’Abidine, the writer and director of “To My Son,” said: “I’m thrilled to be back again with my second feature film ‘To My Son,’ a Saudi film… I think there is a great evolution of Saudi cinema that’s been happening in the last few years.”


British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening

Updated 15 sec ago
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British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening

  • Ken Loach, Mike Leigh protest Seret film festival’s links to Israeli Culture Ministry
  • ‘Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre’ covers Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack

LONDON: British film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh have pulled out as patrons of London’s Phoenix Cinema in objection to the hosting of an Israeli film festival, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
One of the UK’s oldest movie theaters, Phoenix is set to host a special screening of “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre” on Thursday as part of the Israeli Seret film festival.
Loach and Leigh independently confirmed their resignations as patrons of Phoenix over the airing of the documentary.
Directed by Yossi Bloch, Duki Dror and Noam Pinchas, “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre” tells the story of the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on the Nova festival in Re’im through the eyes of survivors.
An unidentified number of staff and managers from Phoenix, along with pro-Palestine solidarity groups, have demanded that the movie theater’s management avoid airing the film, over the Seret festival’s links to the Israeli Embassy in London and Culture Ministry.
Demonstrations and counter-protests are expected to take place later this evening in front of the Phoenix Cinema. On Thursday morning, the site was reported to have been sprayed with red graffiti saying: “Say no to artwashing.”
In 2015, dozens of artists and movie directors, including Loach and Leigh, had addressed a letter to The Guardian calling for a boycott of the Seret film festival.
“By benefiting from money from the Israeli state, the cinemas become silent accomplices to the violence inflicted on the Palestinian people. The festival is co-sponsored by the Israeli government via the Israeli Embassy in London, creating a direct link between these cinemas, the festival screenings and Israeli policies,” said the letter.
Loach told The Guardian after resigning: “My resignation as a patron of the Phoenix shows what I think of their decision. It is simply unacceptable.”
In a response to the Guardian, the cinema’s trustees acknowledged the disagreement from “two of our patrons” and said that the board had discussed the hiring of the venue again.
“The board’s conclusion is that for all private hires, including this one, the Phoenix should not aim to censor or veto the content of screenings, provided they are legal and, in this instance, unless we are advised by the police that it would be unsafe to proceed,” a statement said.
The trustees said they made the decision “with an awareness of our status as a charity committed to education through the arts.
“We appreciate that some do not agree with our decision. Despite this, we hope that most people will remain committed to our vision of a vibrant, sustainable and independent cinema in East Finchley for our local community and for London.”
Picturehouse and Curzon, other UK cinema chains, had canceled all Seret screenings over safety concerns.


Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet

Updated 23 May 2024
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Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet

DUBAI: US Dutch Palestinian supermodel Bella Hadid made a powerful fashion statement in Cannes, expressing her support for Palestine, while Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani stole the spotlight at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in a gown by Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali.

The star, who attended the screening of Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga,” dazzled in a strapless, voluminous dress that was cinched at the waist from the designer’s ready-to-wear 2024/2025 collection.

Hadid turned heads with stylish appearances in Cannes too. 

She made a bold statement in the streets of the French city by wearing a red and white dress inspired by the keffiyeh, showcasing her support for Palestine

The supermodel was also spotted in a striking silver dress from the DSquared Fall-Winter 2006 collection for Chopard’s “Once Upon A Time” Gala this week.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

She was also seen in a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. 

Hadid wore a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. (Getty Images)

During her time in Cannes, she was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress, with a plunging neckline, from Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2005 collection. 

Hadid was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress. (Getty Images)

For the “The Apprentice” red carpet, she opted for a sheer halter neck dress from Saint Laurent’s Fall 2024 collection. 

Meanwhile, Arab designers have been dominating the red carpet with their creations worn by celebrities from around the world.

Canadian model Winnie Harlow was spotted on the red carpet of French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo,” wearing a black lace dress with a mesh train and purple floral details from the Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad’s Fall 2023 collection. 

Murad, the celebrity-loved designer, also dressed Brazilian model Izabel Goulart. She opted for a white chiffon gown with a black lace bodysuit and floral appliques that was also from the couturier’s Fall 2023 collection.

Rami Kadi also made a splash on the red carpet this week with his designs.

He was championed by US actress Loreto Peralta at the same screening as Harlow and Goulart. 

She wore a mauve, off-the-shoulder gown embroidered with three-dimensional flowers from his “Les Miroirs” collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Juliana Paes (@julianapaes)

Brazilian actress and model Juliana Paes chose a metallic off-white gown by Emirati designer Hamda Al-Fahim. The dress featured side pleats, sequin detailing and a side-attached train.


Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

DUBAI: Saudi film “Norah” had its official screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, becoming the first film from the Kingdom to screen as part of the official calendar at the event.

The movie, filmed entirely in AlUla and directed by Tawfik Al-Zaidi, is running in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival.

The movie is running in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival. (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

The film is set in 1990s Saudi Arabia when conservatism ruled and the prefessional pursuit of all art, including painting, was frowned upon. It stars Maria Bahrawi, Yaqoub Al-Farhan, and Abdullah Al-Satian and follows the story of Norah and failed artist Nader as they encourage each other to realize their artistic potential in rural Saudi Arabia.

“Norah” is in competition with 19 other films from around the world.

The cast, director and CEO and chairwoman of the Red Sea International Film Festival appeared together on the red carpet for French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.” (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

On Wednesday, the cast, director and CEO and chairwoman of the Red Sea International Film Festival Mohammed Al-Turki and Jumana Al-Rashed, respectively, appeared together on the red carpet for French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.”

“Norah” was backed by the Red Sea Fund — one of the Red Sea Film Foundation's programs — and was filmed entirely in AlUla in northwest Saudi Arabia with an all-Saudi cast and a 40 percent Saudi crew.


‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’

Updated 23 May 2024
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‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’

  • The first four episodes of Season 3, in which Nicola Coughlan plays the revolving lead role, reached 45.1 million views during its opening weekend

DUBAI: Irish actress Nicola Coughlan, known for her role as Penelope Featherington in Netflix’s hit series “Bridgerton,” demonstrated her solidarity with Palestine this week by wearing the Artists for Ceasefire pin during an interview with USA Today as she promoted the latest season of the show, in which she plays the lead role.

When asked about the pin, the artist said: “It’s very important for me because I feel like I’m a very privileged person. I’m doing my dream job and I’m getting to travel the world, but then I’m hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah at the moment.”

The actress, whose family lived in Jerusalem in the late 70s, said her father was in the Irish army and was part of the United Nation’s Truce Supervision Organisation which worked towards brokering peace in the Middle East.

@splendiferous Nicola Coughlan speaks about her Ceasefire pin she has been wearing during the Bridgerton Press Tour #NicolaCoughlan original sound - splendiferous

“I feel very passionately about it. I’m Irish also, so it’s sort of a different perspective,” Coughlan added. “I just feel, if I have this global platform, which I do at the minute, I think if I can hopefully raise funds for aid organizations — I have a fundraiser on my Instagram right now for Medical Aid for Palestine and if people would like to donate to that or share it, I think it would be a wonderful thing to do.”

Coughlan has continuously shown her support by wearing the pin during various occasions, including the premieres of the third season of “Bridgerton,” promotional events and her television appearances such as “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “Good Morning America.”

Season three of Netflix’s Regency-era drama has become the most successful season so far based on viewership numbers, Forbes reported this week.

With part two set to drop in June, “Bridgerton” Season 3: Part 1 was the most-watched title on Netflix from the period of May 13 - 18, according to Variety. The first four episodes, released on May 16, reached 45.1 million views during its opening weekend.


Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

Updated 23 May 2024
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Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

DUBAI: Chef John Mark has worked at a number of prestigious establishments over the years, in the Maldives, Mauritius, the UAE, and India, among others. Now, he’s the chef de cuisine at Japanese restaurant Gishiki 45 in The St. Regis Red Sea Resort. 

Here, Mark discusses embracing mistakes, his favorite dish to make, and the importance of a healthy working environment. 

Gishiki 45. (Supplied)

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?  

I love the smell of garlic and the smell of onion. These two ingredients are very important in Asian cuisine; they give the dishes a nice aroma and flavor, and can enhance any dish.  

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?  

I’m not one to criticize any chef or restaurant unless there are mistakes in the dish that I ordered. I respect chefs. I respect people who are working in the hospitality. And if I do need to say something, I make sure to say it in the right manner. 

What’s the most common mistake that you find in other restaurants? 

That the service team and the kitchen are at war. This is the chef’s responsibility. We need to make sure that the service team and the kitchen are one. It’s so important, because, as chefs, we cook, but the service team deal with the guests. The only thing that we want is to make the guests happy. So we need to be a team. 

What’s your favorite cuisine? 

Thai food. I love coconut flavors and Thai food has coconut in almost all the dishes. The flavors and the smell are rich. It makes me happy.  

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home? 

My daughter loves to eat. I let my family try different cuisines, but she really loves pasta. So, I cook pasta for my daughter — and for my wife of course. We also have a famous dish in the Philippines called chicken adobo, and when I am home I like to cook that for my family. 

Gishiki 45. (Supplied)

What customer request most annoys you? 

You cannot be annoyed at your guests as a chef. You need to be flexible. We are here, in this world, to learn, and this is a huge opportunity. I can’t just focus on one thing like a horse; I have to keep an open mind. Why not try what they ask for, if this is what they want? 

What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?  

It’s something we’re famous for in the Philippines. It’s very authentic, you only really see it in the villages. It’s called beggar’s chicken. It’s so delicate. It’s a long process. You need to marinate the chicken and stuff it, then you wrap it in banana leaf. Then, you put mud on it. You cook it in the mud. So, when its cooked, you need to break the mud and open it. It smells amazing.  

As a head chef, what are you like? 

When I started as a chef, there was a lot of tension and a lot of shouting, but I don’t think this is a good environment. I don’t want it to be quiet in my kitchen, but I don’t want tension. Of course, I can be a little strict, but I don’t want anyone to shout at my staff. I have to talk to them nicely. Shouting is not on my menu. 

Chef Mark’s Salmon Batayaki recipe    

INGREDIENTS: 

160g salmon; 1 oyster mushroom 

For the dashi water:  

Mix 100ml water; 5g konbu; 2g katsuobushi 

For the batayaki sauce: 

Mix 2 spoons soy sauce; 20g butter; 50ml dashi water; 1 spoon yuzu juice 

INSTRUCTIONS:  

1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and dust with corn flour. 

2. Heat fryer to 180 celsius and fry the salmon for 2 minutes. 

3. ⁠Prepare a heated non-stick pan. Heat your batayaki sauce. 

4. ⁠Put your salmon and mushroom in the batayaki sauce and simmer until the sauce becomes shiny and has a buttery texture. 

5.  Garnish with crispy leek and serve.