Jeddah university alumna’s film selected for Tribeca festival

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Dur Jamjoom’s graduation film from Effat University, ‘Kum Kum,’ will be shown at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (Supplied)
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Dur Jamjoom’s graduation film from Effat University, ‘Kum Kum,’ will be shown at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (Supplied)
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Dur Jamjoom’s graduation film from Effat University, ‘Kum Kum,’ will be shown at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (Supplied)
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Dur Jamjoom’s graduation film from Effat University, ‘Kum Kum,’ will be shown at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (Supplied)
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Dur Jamjoom’s graduation film from Effat University, ‘Kum Kum,’ will be shown at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 June 2024
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Jeddah university alumna’s film selected for Tribeca festival

  • ‘Kum Kum,’ directed by Dur Jamjoom, has been chosen for the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York
  • Jamjoom completed the film as her graduation project at Effat University in 2022

JEDDAH: Dur Jamjoom’s graduation film from Effat University, “Kum Kum,” has been chosen for the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Founded by actor Robert De Niro, Tribeca is one of North America’s most important festivals. This year’s event began on June 5 and runs until June 16.

Jamjoom completed the film as her graduation project at Effat University in 2022. She said: “I’m incredibly honored and blessed to be the first Saudi female as part of the shorts program at the Tribeca Festival. This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without my incredible team.”

The autobiographical film is deeply personal, centering on the untimely passing of Jamjoom’s best friend in 2012. Just 12 years old at the time, the tragic event introduced her to a range of unfamiliar emotions.

As the story unfolds, each person recounts the event from their own perspective. Jamjoom brings these diverse narratives together to form a cohesive story, highlighting the profound impact of one person’s suffering on the lives of others.

She said: “I was hesitant to delve into the memory of my friend who is no longer with us, fearing disrespect. But I realized I’m actually honoring my friend, who made me into the person I am today.”

During production, Jamjoom faced numerous challenges. “We shot the movie in the sea, but the waves were uncooperative, and many people were getting seasick,” she said.

“The underwater housing case for the camera posed unique challenges I had never encountered before. I had to trust my team and stay focused on directing.”

She hopes the film inspires audiences to see the light after darkness, emphasizing that “where there is grief, there can also be healing, and the transformative power of overcoming life’s challenges.”

Speaking about the film’s deeper meanings, she said: “In the movie, ‘Kum Kum’ serves as a traditional Saudi game that holds symbolic significance. The game metaphorically represents how life presents unexpected moments, and individuals must adapt to the changes. ‘Kum Kum’ explores the intricate connections between faith, suffering, resilience, and personal growth.”

Mohamed Ghazala, chair of the Cinematic Arts School at Effat University, expressed his pride and joy in celebrating this incredible achievement. He said: “Jamjoom, one of our finest graduates, has dedicated countless hours to honing her craft at our campus, passionately writing, filming, animating, directing, and documenting real stories.

“The selection of her graduation film for the esteemed Tribeca Film Festival is a tremendous honor for us and for Saudi Arabia as a whole. To be shortlisted from a pool of 8,000 submissions is a remarkable feat that showcases the incredible talent being nurtured within our institution. We are filled with optimism and enthusiasm as we look forward to witnessing more groundbreaking achievements from our talented students in the future.”

He added: “This remarkable accomplishment is a true testament to the impactful teaching at Effat University, empowering students with the strong tools necessary to bring their stories to life, captivating not only local audiences but also international viewers.”


REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel

Updated 23 July 2024
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REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel

NEW DELHI: Getting lost in a good story is an occupational hazard and a crime in “The Book Censor’s Library,” a dystopian political satire with elements of magic realism. The story follows an unnamed narrator whose life unravels after he reluctantly begins working for an all-powerful government.

With a spellbinding and smooth translation from Arabic by Ranya Abdelrahman and Sawad Hussain, Kuwaiti literary icon Bouthayna Al-Essa’s novel warns against the loss of originality and personal freedoms in its depiction of the transformation of a man into a reader and his inevitable fall down the rabbit hole of books and imagination.

Set in the near future “in a place that would be pointless to name, since it resembles every other place,” the novel follows the book censor in the New World as he combs through manuscripts, looking for any offending word or idea that would render a book unfit to publish.He is a “guardian of surfaces,” and his task is to ensure that books that carry depth and ideas should be identified and removed from the shelves because “one curious person who picked up a volume and read a few lines could poison the entire society.”

In a swift turn of events, the protagonist himself is swept away by classics like “Zorba the Greek,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “1984,” his dreams and waking hours engulfed in the siren song of good storytelling.

As the world around him slowly regains color, he falls into the throes of an existential crisis, torn between doing his duty as a simple cog in the machine and the secret society of “Cancers” attempting to restore books to their former glory and preserve the collective memory of humanity.

Drawing from the power of timeless stories, El-Essa’s Orwellian tale delves into the terrifying heart of darkness to remind us that “cancer cells are the only ones that thrive in a dying body.”


Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival

Updated 21 July 2024
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Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival

  • Abdullah Al-Khazzam highlighted the distinctive features of the Najdi door, which typically incorporates three crossbars, in contrast with the traditional Hail door’s four-crossbar design

RIYADH: The third Beit Hail heritage festival, themed “Your Home Away from Home,” is a vibrant display of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage, with traditional craftsmanship taking center stage.

At the heart of the festival is the “Hail Wooden Door Making and Plaster Engraving” exhibit, which has drawn crowds to the Aja Park Entertainment Center where the techniques and tools used in crafting intricate designs are on show.

Abdullah Al-Khazzam’s specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties. (SPA)

Abdullah Al-Khazzam, a Hail native and registered artisan with the Saudi National Handicrafts Program “Bari,” began his journey into the world of intricate woodworking with a childhood fascination for mud construction, which evolved into a passionate pursuit of mastering the art of wooden door-making and engraving, Saudi Press Agency recently reported.

At the festival, Al-Khazzam showed his expertise, demonstrating the nuanced differences between regional door styles. His specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties.

Abdullah Al-Khazzam’s specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties. (SPA)

He highlighted the distinctive features of the Najdi door, which typically incorporates three crossbars, in contrast with the traditional Hail door’s four-crossbar design.

Festivalgoers seemed captivated by Al-Khazzam’s craftsmanship, marveling at the intricacy of his work, SPA reported.

Abdullah Al-Khazzam’s specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties. (SPA)

Beyond door-making, the booth displays a range of related crafts. Islamic plaster engravings, integral to Najdi architecture, adorn mock-ups of building entrances and the majlis (reception rooms).

Visitors were drawn to the elaborate engravings, patterns and motifs that offer a glimpse into the social fabric of bygone eras. The festival has reported a surge in demand for these traditional designs, with many visitors expressing interest in buying replica doors and decorative pieces for their homes.

Al-Khazzam’s repertoire extends to other traditional items, such as replicas of historical water-raising devices, an ornate camel saddle that was once a common sight in the region, and recreations of the decorative elements that once adorned traditional mud houses.

Some of these designs incorporate Qur’anic verses, proverbs, and ornamental patterns while others incorporate motifs based on local flora.

 

 


Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

Updated 20 July 2024
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Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

LONDON: Thanks in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic, we never really got to find out what audiences made of 2020’s “My Spy,” in which CIA operative JJ (Dave Bautista) is forced to team up with precocious 9-year-old Sophie (Chloe Coleman) to take down an international arms cartel.

The movie’s cinematic release, and subsequent box office receipts, were curtailed by global lockdowns as the film went straight to streaming, and found an audience suddenly a lot more tolerant of decidedly average content.

Anna Faris as Nancy and Dave Bautista as JJ in ‘My Spy: The Eternal City.’ (Supplied)

You wonder if, had audiences been able to vote with their feet first time around, “My Spy: The Eternal City” might never have seen the light of day. For while this is ostensibly a comedy-action romp co-starring a teenager, it is also a weirdly violent, oddly graphic spy caper that does not seem too sure of what it is trying to be.

JJ and Chloe now live in suburban almost-harmony. He has taken a desk job so he can be at home more, while she rebels against his overbearing presence and constant demands she keeps up her spy training. When JJ offers to chaperone a school trip to Italy, he must balance being a cool stepdad with a rapidly unfolding plot to blow up the Vatican in which the pair become embroiled.

Returning for the sequel are Ken Jeong as JJ’s boss, and Kristen Schaal as his nerdy analyst Bobbi. But if you are hoping that continuity of casting means a coherent follow up to the 2020 original, you are in for a disappointment.

Chloe Coleman as Sophie and Dave Bautista as JJ on the set ‘My Spy: The Eternal City.’ (Supplied)

Director Pete Segal (also returning) starts off with the same familiar, comedic beats (and leans heavily on this franchise’s spiritual predecessors “Kindergarten Cop” and “The Pacifier”) but makes the baffling choice to turn up the violence.

The sequence with some attack budgerigars is a particular lowlight, and the bottom-drawer comedy with jokes about bodily functions and a fight involving a naked statue.

It is all a bit of a mess, which is a shame, because Bautista (so good with deadpan comedy in the Marvel movies) and Coleman manage to recreate some of the same chemistry that was one of the few good things about the original.

That film was not great, sure, but compared to this, it seems like a fondly remembered masterpiece.


Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 

Updated 20 July 2024
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Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 

  • We need to ‘stop seeing the Arab world as a block,’ says IMA curator 

PARIS: The latest contemporary art exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris — “Arabofuturs,” which runs until Oct. 27 — is, according to curator Élodie Bouffard, “built around the dynamic of the singularities expressed in the Arab world, and the singularity of each of the artists.” Those artists come from the Arab world and its diasporas, and include Saudi artists Ayman Zedani and Zahrah Alghamdi, Lebanese sculptor Souraya Haddad Credoz, Tunisian artist Aïcha Snoussi, and Moroccan artist Hicham Berrada. 

The show is divided into two parts: “Programmed Futures” and “Hybrid Futures.” In the first, Bouffard explains, the featured artists explore contemporary society, “capitalism, ultra-consumerism, the question of exile, the diaspora, and identities — often through a post-colonial approach.” 

The second part tackles imagined societies — the artists deploy aesthetic fictions that take visitors into organic worlds “that make us travel in time, and reflect on transhumanism, the future of the human, and the resilience of nature,” Bouffard says. 

Saudi artist Ayman Zedani's video installation at 'Arabofuturs.' (Supplied)

Both sections underline that the notion, and perception, of the future is personal, with each artist drawing on his or her personal experiences. 

The exhibition begins with a space dedicated to artwork from Gulf, and an introduction to the concept of Gulf futurism formulated by Qatari-American artist Sophia Al-Maria and Kuwaiti musician and conceptual artist Fatima Al-Qadiri in 2012 as part of a photo series and interview in Dazed magazine. It was, according to the IMA website, “a worried questioning of the accelerated hyper-modernization at work in the region.” 

“This article was a pivotal moment in Gulf futurism, having led the artists to become interested in the question of futures and science fiction,” explains Bouffard. 

Sophia Al-Maria et Fatima Al Qadiri's 'The Desert of the Unreal.' (Supplied)

Al-Maria’s “Black Friday” — a series of photographs and a video installation — questions the standardization of spaces and the loneliness that can stem from it. It is followed by Al-Ghamdi’s “Birth of a Place,” which was previously displayed at the Diriyah Contemporary Art Bienniale, and explores new architectures. 

“She's trying to create a new cosmogony — a new (example) of the skyline, the enhancement of heritage, and the future of metal and glass constructions, in environments where there’s a real material and architectural cultural,” notes Bouffard. 

The aim of this section is to present the different approaches to architecture, heritage, identity, and exile in the Gulf and North Africa.  

A still from Larissa Sansour's 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain.' (Supplied)

“Themes pertaining to the future of societies can be rooted in their past,” Bouffard says. “It is our job at the IMA to stop seeing the Arab world as a block. We wanted to show that there is not just one future. When we talk about the future, everyone thinks of video games and artificial intelligence, but futures unfold in all forms. We thought it would be interesting to reflect on artefacts, paintings, ceramics, and organic material.” 

Al-Ghamdi, for example, used leather, an organic material in “Worlds to Come,” while Berrada used metal to create hybrid masks combining insects, plants, and humans in “Les Hygres.” Elsewhere, Credoz worked with ceramics “to shape coloured magma and build post-apocalyptic organic worlds,” Bouffard says. 

A piece from Hicham Berrada's 'Les Hygres.' (Supplied)

Snoussi, meanwhile, “recreates manifestos that bear witness to past societies that have disappeared, leading to Arabic writing, but also to Amazigh, with a theme of symbolism that recreates bridges between the present and the future.” 

Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour contributes “In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain,” a video from 2015 featuring archaeological activists burying porcelain bearing a keffiyeh motif, an attempt to make future claims on this territory. 

“She highlights the politicization of archaeology in Israel and Palestine in this video, which has a particular resonance today,” Bouffard says. 


Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph

Updated 19 July 2024
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Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph

  • Familiar genre tropes are combined to make a uniquely gripping show

DUBAI: The odd-couple premise of Apple TV’s “Sunny” isn’t particularly promising — in near-future Japan a grieving widow, Suzie Sakamoto (Rashida Jones) teams up with the titular robot to try and solve the mysterious disappearance (and, apparently, death) of her husband and son in a plane crash. So far, so meh.

But “Sunny” is actually a delight. In the three episodes available at the time of writing, it mixes gory violence, humor — both dark and silly, a quirky aesthetic, meditative takes on loss, and explorations of how technology plays on our fears and desires. Jones is excellent as the expat American who come to Japan seeking solitude and instead found love with the kind-hearted Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima), with whom she has a son, Zen.

After their disappearance, Suzie is gifted a “homebot,” Sunny, by her husband’s employers, a tech firm for whom Masa was a refrigeration engineer. At least that’s what he told Suzie. But then she’s told that Masa programmed Sunny especially for her — her first clue that perhaps Masa hasn’t been entirely honest with her.

Suzie is not a fan of technology, so her first instinct is to reject Sunny’s overbearingly cute attempts to bond with her, just as she tries to ignore her mother-in-law Noriko’s cutting tongue and clear disdain for the American her son chose to marry.

But as Suzie uncovers more details about her husband’s work life (at a company party, one of Masa’s minions talks of him fearfully), and his disappearance, she begins to realize that Sunny may hold the key to uncovering a sinister conspiracy.

Suzie is aided in her quest by a cocktail-bar waitress, Mixxy (singer-songwriter and social-media star Annie the Clumsy), who provides another awkward corner to the Suzie-Sunny relationship, as well as a window for Suzie into the underground world of bot-hacking. But while Suzie carries out her own investigations, she too is being stalked and observed by a shadowy criminal gang led by the sinister and scary Hime, who, it seems, also knew Masa.

“Sunny” is a gripping slow-burn, confidently paced by showrunner Katie Robbins and beautifully acted by its mostly Japanese cast. Despite the show’s many strands, Robbins’ deft touch means it avoids drifting into confusion, instead holding the audience’s attention as it leads you into a story that uses familiar elements from multiple genres to create something unique.