Ten years ago, I came across a figure of elegance, charm and kindness at a gala at the Rubin Museum. The man turned out to be chef Vikas Khanna, a master in the art of cooking but also a wondrous survivor of events that would destroy most of us. Born with a foot defect, Chef Khanna overcame that, with the help of his courageous mother and went on to become one of the most beloved and known names in the firmament of celebrity chefs today.Read More
Most who know me have heard by now what a big fan I am of the recently elected president of the Cairo International Film Festival, Mohamed Hefzy. To learn more about this great cinematic personality and wonderful supporter of film in and from the Arab region, you can read my interview with Hefzy on The National.
But perhaps not as many people know what a huge fan of Ralph Fiennes I am. I mean, the man redefined acting for anyone who frequented the movies from the 1990s onward. One word, or actually two — ‘Wuthering Heights’ — and with Juliette Binoche. I gotcha right?Read More
Finally, I made it by the skin of my teeth to the V & A exhibit “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up.” It was an otherworldly experience and I highly recommend a prompt visit to every woman, and the men who love them, to catch the show. It is up in London’s loveliest museum until the 18th of November. After that, you’ll probably have to travel to Mexico, Coyoacán to be exact, to visit her Blue House, La Casa Azul where the Frida Kahlo Museum is located.Read More
International Film Festival is bringing Robert De Niro to the desert city in Morocco. You know, the favorite home of world renowned fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and one of the most beautiful cities on earth, complete with oasis, luxury and camels, is going to host the wondrous movie star himself! Now that got me thinking about this shot I took above.
But more on that a bit later…Read More
Having just closed its thirty-third edition, the Settimana Internazionale della Critica (Venice International Film Critics Week also known as SIC for short) is the Venice festival sidebar that can boast the discovery of such world cinema masters as Olivier Assayas (SIC 1986), Pedro Costa (SIC 1989), Bryan Singer (SIC 1993), Peter Mullan (SIC 1998), Abdellatif Kechiche (SIC 2000), as well as Ronit and Shlomi Elkabets (SIC 2004). Each year, and year after year since the early ‘80s, the Venice International Film Critics Week has been changing cinema and in the process, also reshaping us and making us better. Because I do believe that cinema is undisputedly the fastest and most efficient way to change the world.
For the past three years renowned Italian film journalist and critic Giona A. Nazzaro has been SIC’s General Delegate, a duty he was elected to by a committee and for which the current mandate expires with this edition. Inshallah, as those of us who have spent more than a day or two in the Arab world are used to saying, he will be reelected to another mandate. I’ve grown quite fond of Nazzaro, in a truly professional way. He’s kind and very talented, but he also has an incredible instinct for discovering the unprecedented. And the past three years have been exciting ones at the SIC.Read More
Back in 1999, at the Festival de Cannes, Bruno Dumont presented 'Humanity' ('L'humanité') a film that caused an uproar among critics, who initially mocked and then went on to three of the top awards from the Competition jury headed by David Cronenberg.
So, in case you were wondering, Dumont seems to always manage the last laugh.
Fast forward almost two decades and Dumont is getting quite a lot of laughs indeed, this time from audiences at the Locarno Festival watching the world premiere of the latest installment of the TV series the French filmmaker started for ARTE in 2014. The original installment was 'Li'l Quinquin', now his characters are all four years older and the second season is titled 'CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans'.Read More
It was the film I most craved to watch at this year's Locarno Festival, and it happened to be the very first film I watched here. It didn't disappoint me!
Dominga Sotomayor's 'Too Late to Die Young' ('Tarde Para Morir Joven') is a beautiful shot, strangely evocative and perfectly soothing piece of filmmaking. Yet it somehow has stayed with me throughout the festival, a meter by which I have been judging everything else I've watched in Locarno.
Sotomayor’s film tells the simple enough yet unusual tale of a teenager, Sofia (played by Demian Hernandez) coming of age in a commune on the slopes of the Andes just above Santiago, Chile and the surrounding cast of characters that accompany her journey all the way to the final climax of the film. It is accented by this etherial cinematography and cool sounds and you can't help, as an audience member, but become wrapped in nostalgia. In this film's case, unlike a Syrian filmmaker once said to me when I interviewed him for his film, childhood is a geographical place and Sotomayor brings us there to experience it along with her. It's her memories of growing up in a community very much like the one in the film.
I caught up with the cool and self assured Sotomayor in Locarno where the film screens as part of the festival's International Competition.Read More
Film and TV titles designer Kyle Cooper was at the Locarno Festival this year to be bestowed with the Vision Award Ticinomoda for his career. In fact, if you research Cooper you will be impressed by how much he's done. Guaranteed. Almost every single title sequence for favorite films and beloved TV series have been designed or influenced in some way or another by Cooper.
From 'Se7en' to 'Indecent Proposal', from 'The Joy Luck Club' to 'Quiz Show', from 'Mission: Impossible' to 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty', and for TV 'The Walking Dead', 'Feud' and 'American Horror Stories' among much, much more, Cooper has been involved in creating those titles.
And if you've ever tried to watch a film without titles, to me it's a bit like traveling without buying a ticket first. Yes, it can be done and you will probably get to the destination desired, but the experience you have set yourself up for won't be quite the same. Disorganized, late and without a clue is never a good way to start off. And arrive.Read More
Just over a month before the Festival de Cannes kicked off on the Croisette, an announcement rocked the world of Arab cinema: Egyptian producer extraordinaire Mohamed Hefzy would be the new head of the Cairo International Film Festival. There are many reasons why Hefzy is the perfect man for the job, since CIFF has had its share of troubles following the revolutions of the Arab Spring. Among them, that he's long been a great cinematic bridge between the Arab world and the West. Also to keep in mind, the movie business in Egypt has gone through changes that would have shut the industry down in most other countries, and yet out of those ashes it is thanks to a visionary producer like Hefzy that Egyptian films are now seen beyond the Arab world.
I can easily quote the 'Yomeddine' example -- a simple, straight from the heart indie-like film that competed for the Palme d'Or this year in Cannes. Yes, in Competition, in Cannes. Not bad for a debut feature film!
So knowing that Hefzy will be at the helm of the oldest and most prestigious festival in Egypt is great news to this lover of Arab cinema.Read More
"I'm in love with everyone I've ever met in one way or another. I'm just a crazy, unhinged disaster of a human being." -- Edie Sedgwick
You can have your Kim Kardashians, your Gigi Hadids, your newly transformed princesses and Instagram sensations, I'll take Edie Sedgwick every day over any of them. In fact, nearly fifty years after her death, she remains for this child of the 70s a favorite fashion icon, an "It Girl" like no other and an example whose style and attitude I always keep in my consciousness.
So why has Sedgwick remained such a star, even though she could appear to have done little more than be born a socialite and die at age 28, of an overdose-slash-suicide after several stretches in mental institutions? Because she once met Andy Warhol, whom with his usual flair for discovering the broken yet utterly fascinating -- see Jean-Michel Basquiat and Candy Darling among many many more -- made of Sedgwick the original reality star. She is the predecessor of the Kardashians, only her reality was captured on film, by Warhol, a master artist of creation.Read More
Ever since last September, when I ran across Abel Odor, the Amsterdam-based fragrance company of New Zealander Frances Shoemack at Pitti Fragranze, I've been obsessed with these natural smelling olfactory creations. In my own philosophy of life, which includes great cinema, quality food and a generous helping of fashion, I find that perfume plays an integral part. It communicates who you are, in just a split second. And I always want my fragrance to say "intelligent, world-conscious and a bit wild" -- a message which Abel creations convey perfectly.
So to celebrate the fact that Abel products are now available in the US, both to order online from Abelodor.com and in select specialty stores, I revisit here my own journey through Abel scents and an interview with its founder -- a fragrance and personal favorite.Read More
I can't help but think of this iconic image of James Ivory at the Oscars this year, wearing the Andrew Mania designed shirt featuring the likeness of 'Call Me By Your Name' co-star Timothée Chalamet. It's everything it should be and more and it's the recognition this giant of the indie film world deserves. What Luchino Visconti was to cinema in the 1960s and 70s, James Ivory -- and his partner, the late Ismael Merchant -- have been to it since then. All the way to 2018! A film featuring either of their names means quality, beauty, poetry and most of all, cinematic dreams galore.
So I wanted to revisit this interview with the Grand Maestro himself, from 2016, which I managed to secure on the occasion of the re-release of 'Howards End', a touching beautiful film about human connections. And love, so much love. In between the serious questions, Ivory and I also exchanged some recommendations on current films to watch -- I suggested 'Elvis & Nixon' which has the feel of a Merchant Ivory production, starring Michael Shannon as, yes, Elvis Presley! -- and I shared my love for 'A Room with a View' the first film I bought on VHS tape, to own and cherish until video went away.Read More
Back in 2014, filmmaker and producer Lee Daniels visited the Dubai International Film Festival. What came out of our chat fueled my love for cinema and made me believe in humanity again. It was the age of Obama then, a different America and a different world.
But I discovered I need to revisit his wisdoms today. They make even more sense now.Read More
The magic of Matteo Garrone's latest 'Dogman' lies in the Italian filmmaker's fantastical vision -- a creativity simply like no other in narrative cinema. There is something about how this Cannes Competition title was shot, almost surrealistic and old timey, and how the story has been told without compromise that left me breathless.
'Dogman' is a true collaboration between two exceptional individuals, Garrone as its director of course and his leading man Marcello Fonte, whom the filmmaker allows to steal the show without any ego or possessiveness to the story he wrote (along with Massimo Gaudioso and Ugo Chiti). In fact, Fonte manages to be even more mesmerizing than the dogs in 'Dogman' and those four legged creatures are plentiful and quite spellbinding themselves. Some would say that by the final image of 'Dogman' Fonte has become one of them, an ownerless dog who just lost his master.
I fell in love with her film 'Salt of This Sea' first, captured by its heroine Soraya, who was unapologetically woman and so perfectly angry. Then I got to interview her during the now defunct Abu Dhabi Film Festival and found her to be as wonderfully real as her film characters are. Once again, one of her films 'When I Saw You' made me dream from my cinema seat and I found its omissions from that year's Oscar race a large oversight.Read More
I've always been a fan of Wright's work, from his unforgettable Tony and Emmy award winning performance on Broadway and TV as Belize in 'Angels in America' to his always welcomed appearances in political thrillers such as 'Syriana', 'The Ides of March' and 'The Manchurian Candidate'. Yet the final straw of my enchantment with this understated actor who is also a relentless human rights advocate, was his performance as Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1996 Julian Schnabel film on the American artist. In one beautiful performance, Wright portrayed all the vulnerability and talent of a man who seemed to live in a world of his own, and yet had his cultural roots deeply planted in the American way.Read More
A good forty-four years after Lebanese director Heiny Srour had her film featured in the Official Competition at the Festival de Cannes, Nadine Labaki once again breaks all records, foregoes all the unspoken rules and becomes the second woman filmmaker from the Arab world ever to be chosen to be part of the prestigious lineup. And in fact, we can count the women directors who have been on that list on the tips of our fingers...
It's no wonder that the cool, glamorous and utterly fantastic Labaki and her crew (including her composer husband Khaled Mouzanar, who lends the music to all her cinematic masterpieces) celebrated the news of her latest 'Capernaum' being nominated for a Palme d'Or with a video that has gone viral on her social media.Read More
“The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.” So Alfred Hitchcock once famously said and no one argues with the Master of Suspence.
Recently, I found that for me the triumph of Warwick Thornton’s ‘Sweet Country’ lies in Ewen Leslie’s performance as Harry March. Part dysfunctional sociopath, part shell-shocked soldier and a whole lot of smoldering angst to fill in the shades of grey in between, Leslie’s performance as the racist, sexual abuser March kicks off with a vengeance this poetic Indigenous Outback western with a Tarantino-esque twist.
I had the pleasure to interview Leslie in person a couple of years ago in Dubai, when ‘The Daughter’ played as part of the Dubai International Film Festival 2015 line-up. In person, the handsome Australian exudes a warmth and kindness which only add to his undeniable charm. And yet, here was this perfect gentleman being a complete bastard in ‘Sweet Country’. I mean, he wasn’t the model dad in ‘The Daughter’ either, but at least in Simon Stone’s film he upheld a certain moral standard. Not so in Thornton’s film, not at all, not as far as the eye can see — for the whole of maybe fifteen minutes he’s on the big screen! Leslie is every bit the perfect villain and more.Read More
On what would have been the late Egyptian actor's 86th birthday, I wanted to revisit an interview from seven years ago, one of my favorite pieces and most beloved encounters. And for me, since then, there have been many. But Omar Sharif was, is and forever will be the greatest Arab movie star. Unequaled and inimitable.Read More
While I interview Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel in Venice I can’t help but feel incredibly vulnerable. For one, I started writing about cinema and attending film festivals after her previous film ‘The Headless Woman’ was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. And I never had a chance to watch either ‘The Holy Girl’ or ‘La Ciénaga’ before that. So I’m a Martel virgin going into her latest ‘Zama’.
But mostly, I feel unguarded, bare in the presence of this quietly powerful woman. She is a filmmaker, an artist, an undeniable trendsetter — Martel smokes a cigar during our interview and of course, there are those trademark cool glasses she wears — but she is first and foremost a formidable woman. I gush constantly and I’ll admit hearing myself on tape to transcribe our interview afterwards is painful.Read More