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
I met Jeff Goldblum in Berlin, where his latest project, Wes Anderson's stop-motion animated masterpiece 'Isle of Dogs' premiered and kicked off the 68th edition of the Berlinale. The actor was dressed to the nines, as he typically is, in the past even having prompted a special quote from his three-time director, "I like the pastel hues of Jeff Goldblum –' That’s the title of something," which remains a personal favorite quote to describe Goldblum.
In person Goldblum is bigger than life but in a way that's not burly or self-important. He simply is the man with the constantly evolving good looks, the actor who has gotten better with age and who, at 65 years old, can still hold a table of jaded journalists spellbound. For the half hour we chatted with him, there seemed to be no one else in the room, even with Bill Murray and Liev Schreiber just feet away at other tables. That's how charismatic Goldblum is. It is a quality that definitely comes across whenever the actor is photographed, like the photographer captured the shot above.Read More
Morgan Spurlock’s latest film ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ is quite simply a perfectly truthful, wonderfully watchable, life-changing and good habit forming example of why movies will always show us the way forward.
Following is the interview I conducted with Spurlock in Dubai, where he talked about the mafia of “Big Chicken”, how poultry farmers get the short end of the nugget in the U.S. and how to vote for better food practices using the power of our wallets.Read More
At our first meeting, when I got up, ready to pack up my recording device after the interview and bid Aamir Khan adieu, the Indian mega star insisted “no please, have a seat. I would like to ask you a couple of questions. Do you have the time?” Of course I did, for the greatest star in the firmament of Indian cinema! And so for the next fifteen minutes, Khan unassumingly asked about my background, my love for Arab cinema and my passion for India.Read More
I meet Danish actor Claes Bang at the Dubai International Film Festival, at the height of the sexual harassment tidal wave of scandals that has engulfed the entertainment industry since early October 2017. Major Hollywood players keep falling around us, left and right and in fact, not even a week after my interview with Bang, another filmmaker whose film is featured at the festival, Morgan Spurlock, comes out with his own confession of wrongdoings, on Twitter.
Yet Bang seems unaffected by the hoopla, his soave behavior unchanged as he gazes deep into my eyes and with an almost unrelenting stare. He also sits quite close to me and doesn't care about crossing into my personal space often, during our interview. I don't mind one bit, it's actually refreshing to talk without reservations about sex with a spellbinding man I'll probably never meet again. I won't even have to go out with him, or have to sit through a glass of wine together, while I struggle to keep quiet and "let the man talk" -- as my BFF has often admonished me -- while sitting on my hands to avoid moving them around too much.Read More
When the line-up for the 73rd Venice International Film Festival was announced, in late July, there was one film that immediately jumped off the page at me, and I knew coming into this edition of the oldest film festival in the world, I just had to watch it. I craved to watch it, in fact, as one craves a good meal or the perfect glass of wine.
In fact, “craving to watch it” is the perfect way to describe the desire that accompanies a film like The Bad Batch, which according to producer Eddy Moretti, was initially pitched by its filmmaker as “a cannibal falls in love with his next meal.”
And right I was to be ravenous about watching Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow up to her modern cult classic (yes, it’s already a classic, in case you were wondering) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Watching The Bad Batch turned out to be so spectacular for me, so infinitely ahead of the majority of filmmakers’ visions and critics’ perception that I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone else was still unraveling their brains, as I am two days later, to fully comprehend it. I won’t use broad statements like Amirpour is a genius, because for such a young and talented filmmaker where would she go from there if I did — but she comes awfully close.Read More
He is part of the official 2018 Competition Jury, and is the subject of Stephen Nomura Schible’s 'RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: async AT THE PARK AVENUE ARMORY', the companion piece, the B side if you will, to 'RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA', a film which screened at the Venice Film Festival in 2017.
When I met Sakamoto in person, inside the Casinò in Venice, I was awe struck. His shiny, perfectly straight silver hair, those tortoise shell eyeglasses and the stylish black suit all made for an image that is so naturally fashionable, hard to forget. Yet Sakamoto is so much more profound than just how he looks, his meticulously styled, outward persona.Read More
In 2009, Cherien Dabis’ first feature ‘Amreeka’ created the perfect buzz at the Sundance film festival where it premiered. The Hollywood Reporter touted it as a film that re-energized the immigrant stories genre with “refreshing wit, honest emotions, incisive observations and a perfect cast she [Dabis] literally flew around the world to find.”
Fast forward to 2017 when Dabis has become a name to be reckoned with in Arab cinema, of course but also, and perhaps more importantly, in Hollywood. The Palestinian-American Dabis is currently a producer-slash-director-slash-writer on ‘Empire’, has written and produced various episodes of ‘Quantico’, ditto for ‘The L Word’ and this is all after writing, directing, producing and starring in her second feature ‘May in the Summer’which also world premiered at Sundance in 2013.Read More
Can a film change the world?
Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi’s latest masterpiece Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea) was awarded the top prize at this year’s Berlinale and jury president Meryl Streep declared the film “urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking,” when handing him the Golden Bear. Fuocoammare also received the Ecumenical Prize and that jury released a statement saying that Fire at Sea is “a film that refuses to allow the status quo to go unquestioned.” If that isn’t changing the world through cinema, then I give up.Read More
For me, James Toback’s ‘The Private Life of a Modern Woman’ — which he shot in just nine days and is only 70 minutes long — is the perfect film. Because it not only combines the talent of actress Sienna Miller with the filmmaker’s wonderful visual sense, but it also offers a view into what it’s like to be a woman in today’s America, and even more specifically in NYC. Those smug stares and taunting looks men bestow upon us on a daily basis to undo us from within, and the subtle violence we face in everyday life, coming at us from all directions, no male reviewer has caught it in their writing. But we women, we know. We feel it and now Toback filmed it, for all to see. If cinema is a way to decode the world around us, perhaps this is a step towards the genuine emancipation of the modern woman — because trust me, we still got a long long way to go to be truly free, to be exactly who we want to be. Even in our good ol’ U.S. of A.Read More
“I don’t want to be defined by it, by that thing.” Those wise words belong to photojournalist Guy Martin, when talking about the 2011 attack in Libya which injured him along with one other photographer, and left both Chris Hondros and documentarian Tim Hetherington dead. In a society that loves to place labels on people, for their achievements but most often for their misfortunes and mistakes, Martin is a perfect example of why such simplistic definitions are just plain wrong.
We are, and we become who we will be by constantly reshuffling and adding up all of our life experiences — the good and the bad, the brave and the scary, the deaths and the births. British-born and Middle East expert documentarian Guy Martin represents a wonderful specimen of the possibilities of humanity’s resilience, and grace under fire.Read More
On a recent sunny afternoon in Venice, I sat in the company of Jim Carrey in a corner of a shaded garden and found before me a human being who is both wise and charming, as well as a handsome fifty-something man who captured my imagination and filled my thoughts for days thereafter. Part spiritual guru, part Saint Francis — yes, there was a bee buzzing around him the entire time, the animal clearly enamored with his scent and the actor unaffected by the imminent danger — Carrey appeared like the romantic hero with a sense of humor I had come across so many years ago. In ‘Once Bitten’ what is probably one of his first and most forgettable films, when I was in my teens and he, well, super young too.
But a few days after our tranquil interview, when we talked to Carrey about his latest project ‘Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond’, a Vice production premiering at the Venice Film Festival, the actor pulled a red carpet prank at NY Fashion Week and all was hilariously-Jim-Carrey-right-with-the-world once more. I imagined Carrey giggling to himself after our talk, thinking “I got that journalist, I really got her good, now she thinks I’m a smooth, great looking mystic and will write the most beautiful piece about me.”Read More
Ladies, get a hold of some waterproof mascara, ‘cause you’ll need it!
In Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, actor Michael Shannon gives everyone a daddy complex, by being the best father we all wished for in our youth, or that fantasy baby daddy we’ve dreamed about in the thick of the night. And the tears, well those are a fabulous byproduct of this charismatic actor’s latest, cathartic performance.Read More
Stephen Dorff has come a long way, from his early stint as a teenage heartthrob on TV sitcoms and playing through the darker side of characters, in sometimes forgettable films.
These days Dorff is navigating us comfortably through his own intoxicating brand of understated sensuality, in roles that span from his turn as discontented superstar Johnny Marco in Sofia Coppola’s touching 'Somewhere', to captured Israeli fighter pilot Yoni who becomes unlikely ally to a reluctant Palestinian teenager in Eran Riklis‘ latest masterpiece 'Zaytoun'. He is, easily, the modern thinking woman’s sex symbol.Read More
The last time I met Rajasthani-born superstar Irrfan Khan was in Abu Dhabi, and as we spoke, sitting in a busy hallway inside the grandiose Emirates Palace, waiters and chefs from India and Pakistan working for the hotel would approach him constantly, to ask for an autograph and get their picture taken alongside their idol. The actor indulged them every time, with grace and class.Read More
Visionary, global, modern, iconoclastic, young and cool, Michel Merkt has revolutionized the landscape of independent cinema internationally and changed the way we go to the movies. Whereas before films like ‘Toni Erdmann’ and ‘My Life as a Zucchini’ would have been relegated to the darkened rooms of arthouse movie theaters, they are now titles that trip off global audiences tongues as easily as any blockbuster or Hollywood rom-com. And for the past decade, producing an average of five titles per year, Merkt has guaranteed his place in the firmament of star film producers.Read More