Egyptian movie wins big at MedFilm Festival in Rome – Arab News
ROME: A movie by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab was among the top award winners at the 27th edition of the prestigious MedFilm Festival in Rome.
The drama “Amira,” set to the background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, scooped the Amore and Psyche special gong, the Amnesty International human rights award, and also gained a special mention from a jury composed of Rome university students.
Forty-three-year-old Diab’s film tells the story of Amira, 17, and her search for identity. The Palestinian teenager’s world is turned upside down when she learns that the man she grew up idolizing was not her real father.
Meanwhile, the festival’s artistic expression award for best director went to Karim Ainouz, a Brazilian director with Algerian heritage, for “Mariner of the Mountains.” The film is based on a trip he took in January 2019 from Marseille to visit Algeria for the first time and follows an intimate journey through space and time.
A special award was given to Tunisian Leyla Bouzid for the flick “A Tale of love and Desire,” and the latter also secured the Valentina Pedicini award — given in memory of the Italian screenwriter and director who died last year — and the PiuCulture award.
The jury for the international short film competition — composed of 13 students from film schools in Mediterranean countries and three inmates of Rome’s Rebibbia prison — awarded the Methexis prize to Moroccan director Said Hamich’s “The Departure,” that was also crowned best short movie by the students.
Hamich’s drama focuses on the social impact of immigration, an issue rarely out of the headlines in Mediterranean countries.
The Cervantes Rome prize for the most creative short film went to “Holy Son” by French screenwriter Aliosha Massine. In it, the daily routines of a young couple are disrupted by some shocking news, with a strange dream appearing to herald a terrible and, at the same time, wonderful truth.
Special mentions were given to “Have a Nice Dog!,” by Syrian filmmaker Jalal Maghout, for the fantastic dialogue of a man trapped by the war in Damascus with his pet dog, and “Haut les Coeurs” by Adrian Moyse Dullin of France, a story about two teenager brothers who regularly humiliate one another on social media.
The MedFilm Festival, which draws to a close on Sunday, was opened with the screening of “A Tale of Love and Desire,” a story centered on 18-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin Ahmed’s love for Farah, a young Tunisian who has just arrived in Paris.
“The meeting with Farah crystallizes with the discovery of the ancient Arabic love poem and comes to question Ahmed about his identity,” Bouzid told a press conference.
DUBAI: The UAE’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is returning for its 2022 edition with a stellar lineup of creatives including writers Julia Quinn and Serhii Plokhy of the Netflix smash hits “Bridgerton” and “Chernobyl 1986” respectively.
The event, which is set to take place from Feb. 3-12, will also welcome German author Sara Gay Forden of the much-hyped film “House of Gucci.”
There will be a number of Arab creatives attending the festival including Mona Al-Shammari, writer of TV show “No Music at Al Ahmadi,” Emirati animator Mohammed Saeed Harib, creator of “Freej,” and Ken Arto, French-Japanese animator of “Demon Slayer.”
The theme of the festival will be “Here Comes the Sun.”
The majority of sessions will take place at the Habtoor City Hotels.
Ahlam Bolooki, director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, said in a statement: “We are thrilled to be able to welcome international authors back in person, and brimming with excitement about our new venue, our phenomenal programme, and as always, the unforgettable stories the festival will give rise to.”
“We have some very special sessions planned for the coming edition, and I am telling everyone to book early because if you blink, you will miss your chance,” she added.
Other big names in the packed program include US-Belarusian entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck, British author Nadiya Hussain, British comedian David Walliams, Egyptian poet Iman Mersal, British novelist Mark Billingham, Iraqi author Shahad Al-Rawi, British actor and author Ben Miller, Egyptian YouTuber Ahmed El Ghandour and US writer David Baldacci.
PARIS: She’s just returned from her latest film shoot, but Nadia Benzakour is already thinking about her next project. It is out of the question for this Franco-Moroccan actress — who lives between Paris and Casablanca — to take a break. Benzakour has enjoyed a meteoric rise, acting alongside some of the world’s finest, and isn’t about to rest on her laurels.
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As mentioned, a few days before we speak, she was playing one of the main roles in “Tehu,” the latest feature by French director Eric Barbier. That came shortly after taking a centuries-long leap into the past as Poppea, Nero’s second wife — a seductress who sows discord between the Roman emperor and Seneca, his fervent political advisor, committed to moral values.
That was in “Seneca – On the Creation of Earthquakes,” helmed by German director Robert Schwentke (director of blockbusters including “Snake Eyes,” “Red” and “RIPD”) and co-produced by Moroccan Karim Debbagh. Benzakour was in prestigious company; the cast includes Mary-Louise Parker, Geraldine Chaplin, Andrew Koji, and Louis Hofmann, while Tom Xander and John Malkovich perform the two lead roles.
Benzakour remembers the atmosphere on set as being akin to that of a theater production, where the actors form a real troupe. That went some way, she says, to alleviating the stress that most actors are likely to face when acting opposite Malkovich
“I was very enthusiastic; I had already seen him in rehearsal. I had the opportunity to approach him before shooting. He is an extremely simple and humble person. I said, ‘I’m honored to work with you.’ He just replied: ‘Hi. I’m John.’ And I was, like, ‘Yes, obviously.’” Benzakour laughs. “He is very attentive to everything that happens on set; it’s great to get the chance to see him at work,” she continues.
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It’s not the first time that Benzakour has rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in international cinema. She has worked with luminaries including John Rhys-Davies, Rufus Sewell, Mark Strong, Joe Dempsie, Carole Bouquet, Pauline Étienne, and more.
For a long time, Benzakour thought that, despite her passion for theater and film, she wanted to be a lawyer. At least until one of her acting teachers made her question her commitment.
“My sister had told me about the theater school Les Enfants Terribles, which was very close to her home,” she says. “I went to the open days and I was hooked, right off the bat. I started classes and one day I told my teacher that I was going to take time off to prepare for my law exams. Since he knew I was very invested in acting lessons, he replied, “But I thought you wanted to make it your job.” That is when I realized it was more than a passion for me: it was a vocation.”
She hasn’t looked back since. Not long after, she met director Nicolas Liautard, who expanded her knowledge of theater and her vision of what was possible on stage.
Pushed by a desire to explore her art further — and aware of having started her apprenticeship late — Benzakour headed to New York, where she divided her time between a job at the French economic mission and acting classes, hoping to perfect her skills in the home of Broadway.
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Instead, the lover of the stage ended up honing her skills in front of the camera, thanks in no small part to her teacher Mary Boyer (whose own skills would later be on display in “Orange is the New Black”).
The next stop in what she refers to as her “Forrest Gump-style” life (because she’s always on the move) was Morocco, the country of her ancestors. She didn’t intend to stay for long, but that plan changed when “I met a Lebanese woman there who told me about a theatre project that I liked so much; we then embarked on the play by the Italian Dario Fo ‘A Woman Alone.’ Later on, I did several shoots there too.”
One of those shoots was the TV series “Salon Sherazade,” which propelled the actress to nationwide fame in Morocco. It also offered her a path into international productions, including “Sofia,” “Plus Belle La Vie,” “Spin,” “Tyrant” and “Deep State.” The kind of roles she was being offered started to change too.
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“The funny thing is that I was given more and more roles playing seductive women, or protective and strong mothers, whereas before I played a journalist, an investigator, a warrior,” she says.
While Benzakour clearly still enjoys the challenge of inhabiting different characters — her 2022 releases include the TV show “The Colosseum” and the feature films “The Covenant” and “A Song for Juliette” — she has set herself a new goal — working behind the camera. She has already written two films, as well as a musical “on the theme of identity,” she tells Arab News. Given the success she has so far enjoyed in whatever field she has turned her attention to, expect to hear much more about Benzakour the writer-director in future.
– Adapted from an article that originally appeared in Arab News in French
DUBAI: She has been described as the woman who taught Mick Jagger how to dance, the Lioness and the Queen of Rock & Roll. We are talking about the legendary Tina Turner, whose fascinating life and 50-year-long career is told in the new HBO documentary, “Tina.”
Tina (who was born Anna Mae Bullock) is widely revered for her contagiously robust presence on stage, with her slick dance moves and her throaty, wild voice which sends chills down the spine. But, as this gripping two-hour film shows, there was darkness beneath the glamor — family neglect, domestic violence, and a struggle to start all over again.
Directors Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin kick off the documentary by jumping right into the star’s defining relationship with her ex-husband, musician Ike Turner. The Ike and Tina Turner Revue — the couple’s long-running series of one-night shows across the US — became hugely popular in the Sixties and Seventies. But despite the double-billing it was Tina who was the true star, a fact that Ike was increasingly unhappy about.
He became controlling, insecure and abusive, giving Tina a black eye and a broken jaw. In the 1970s, she bravely walked away from him, with no money or property of her own.
Aside from including a wealth of old footage and snippets of audio clips, Tina’s up-and-down experiences are retold in recent, in-depth interviews with the now-retired star, and with her former back-up singers and music producers. Oprah Winfrey and Angela Bassett, who was cast as Tina in a 1990s biopic, make an appearance too.
The film also explores how challenging it was for Tina to reinvent herself as a solo artist in her forties, when she felt truly independent for the first time. “It wasn’t a comeback… Tina had never arrived,” she says of her debut solo album, 1984’s “Private Dancer”. It was even harder separating herself from her traumatic past as the press kept hounding her about it. She eventually found greater success, both personally and professionally, in Europe rather than at home in America.
“Tina” includes some surprising anecdotes from the star’s career; for instance, she admits that she initially hated what would become one of her biggest hits from the 1980s, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” thinking that it was too pop-oriented.
From the girl who picked cotton in the fields to the superstar who packed arenas, Tina Turner made history. This is a documentary that reminds us just how great an artist she was. It’s a film full of emotion and soul that will get your eyes tearing up and your feet tapping.
AMMAN: As borders open again after COVID-19 lockdowns, most of us are likely eager to indulge in recreational traveling. But where to go? And what’s safe?
A wildlife safari in Africa is an excellent alternative to the standard travel destinations, and Tanzania is a welcoming place for Muslims, with many mosques and halal food readily available. All the staff we met were vaccinated, but public adherence to COVID precautions in Tanzania’s cities is lax.
There are 22 reserves, national parks, and protected areas in Tanzania, and deciding which to visit and when depends on several factors. First, how much time do you want to spend? Second, what do you want to see? Birds? The big cats? Elephants? Primates? Wildebeest migration? Third, when do you want to go (basically a choice between the rainy or dry seasons)? And fourth, what’s your budget? Tanzania offers something for everyone, from five-star hotels and high-end lodges with private cabins, through luxury bush camps to tented camps with minimal facilities. Safari categories include budget, comfort, standard and deluxe.
We’d recommend using a safari specialist to tailor your ideal trip for you. Any safari package should include all fees and documentation to enter the game reserves, lodging, a driver/guide, a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and three meals a day.
Those meals are generally buffet-style for breakfast and dinner, with boxed picnic lunches ranging from standard-issue to fine-dining. Special dietary needs can generally be accommodated.
A safari has something for everyone: An education for the young ones, lessons on conservation for everyone, and an opportunity to unplug from life’s stress. Besides the main attraction of the animals, safaris offer a real opportunity to see how the locals live and perhaps broaden your perspective on life.
Arusha was the starting point for our seven-day safari with a morning pickup at the airport and an afternoon drive through Arusha National Park. We then headed west toward Karatu to the beautiful Marera Mountain View Lodge, located centrally on the Northern Circuit, where we spent the next four nights.
Tarangire National Park — our destination on day two — set the bar high for the rest of the trip because of the unbelievable number and variety of animals we saw, especially elephants and zebras. It would prove hard to beat.
For a cultural experience, stop at Lake Eyasi — not a nature reserve but home to two indigenous tribes. The Hadzabe bushmen are primitive hunter-gatherers who will show you how they hunt, dig for tubers, and make fire. The Tindigi grow crops and are metal forgers, making arrowheads for the Hadzabe and bracelets for tourists to buy. Both tribes still live their lives in much the same way as their ancestors did, without the trappings of the 21st century.
We also stopped off at Olduvai Gorge, also known as “The Cradle of Humankind.” This became one of the most important paleo-anthropological sites in the world when fossilized bone fragments and artifacts were discovered in the 1950s that documented the evolutionary history of stone-tool-using hominids over the last 2 million years.
Then it was on to the main attraction of the trip — Serengeti National Park. We started with a short afternoon safari before arriving at Tanzania Bush Camp, where we would spend the next two nights. This was billed as luxury camping. Although “luxury” seemed to be overstating it when tents have to be zipped up tight because hyenas will steal shoes and other “tasty” objects and you’ll likely wake during the night to sounds of wild animals nearby.
Our first full day in the Serengeti started before dawn, and we saw several families of lions and cheetahs feasting on their prey. Overhead, hot air balloons circled. We also saw wildebeest, leopards, impalas, crocodiles, gazelles, ostriches, hippos, zebras, Cape buffalos, elephants, and eagles, vultures, flamingos, and egrets. An impressive collection for a single day.
Our last stop was a journey east to Ngorongoro Crater, the collapsed caldera of an ancient volcano, teeming with animals on the crater floor. Here, on a good day, you might see one of the 50 endangered black rhino that live there.
A safari through Tanzania offers a temporary step back from the modern world and a chance to sit back and reflect on what we actually “need” to exist and enjoy life and on how important it is that we preserve such fragile ecosystems — not only in nature reserves but also in our own back yards.
CHICAGO: Street children disappear overnight and are forced into state-run rehabilitation programs in award-winning author Basma Abdel Aziz’s newest novel, “Here is a Body.” Resembling an Egyptian city, one that is reeling from one revolution and on the edge of another, the novel follows the lives of Rabie, a child whose life in poverty has forced him into a rehabilitation camp, and Aida, a mother, wife, and schoolteacher who has joined the opposition movement against the state in a sit-in. Their lives are at opposite ends of the spectrum and yet both will face the same outcome as they are manipulated by the powers that be.
Abdel Aziz forces readers head-first into a dark alley where a frightening abduction is taking place. As unaware as her main character, the reader follows a path towards an unknown future. Like Rabie, the reader is forced to accept the information fed to the child by his kidnappers. Rabie is bound, gagged, and crying. The street children have been rounded up in an attempt to make them less of a burden on the state, with the intention of transforming them into heroes. The people in charge never ask them their names. Everyone is simply addressed as “body.”
Caught up in convoluted government schemes where businessmen and state officials are allowed free rein to prey on the less fortunate and force them to serve and defend national interests, Rabie and his companions are conditioned by the general — the highest official in the land — and by religious leaders, while being put through rigorous physical training. They have become children of the state and their new purpose in life is to defend the country.
On the other hand, there is Aida, her husband Murad and her son Adam who are in favor of the deposed leader who has mysteriously disappeared. They exercise their right to protest at the Space, where many others have gathered for weeks.
Translated into English by award-winning translator Johnathon Wright, Abdel Aziz’s novel explores a divided city and its politics. Between the government, media, organizations, and ordinary citizens millions of opinions come together to form their own inclusive worlds. Abdel Aziz explores the idea that abuse comes in many forms, including indoctrination and exploitation; especially when an authoritarian ideology is allowed to bequeath nameless, faceless, and choiceless bodies to fight off their opposition. But there will always be those who do not submit to authority, and will do everything they must do for their freedom.