Looking Back: Arab Celebrities we Lost in 2017

On Nov. 28, Egyptian actress and singer Shadia died at the age of 86. (File Photo)

On Nov. 28, Egyptian actress and singer Shadia died at the age of 86. (File Photo)

DUBAI: As the year draws to a close, it is fitting to look back at the Arab icons who died during 2017 — from Kuwaiti actor Abdulhussain Abdulredha to Egyptian singing sensation Shadia, the Middle East lost some of its brightest stars this year.

On Dec. 12, Veteran Saudi singer and a pioneer of Khaleeji music, Abu Bakr Salem aged 78 after a prolonged battle with a disease.He was last seen during the Saudi National Day celebrations in September but could not sing then due to his illness.

Originally from Hadramout, Yemen, a young Salem moved from Traim to Aden where he met several poets, singers and musicians, namely, Lutfi Jafar Aman, Ahmed bin Ahmed Qasim and Mohammad Saad Abdullah, and eventually started singing.

One of his first famous songs was “Ya Ward Ma7la Jamalak.”

In 1967, Salem left Aden for Jeddah, where he pioneered a new genre of music, called Khaleeji music, along with others such as Tariq Abdul-Hakim and Talal Maddah.

On Nov. 28, Egyptian actress and singer Shadia died at the age of 86.

Born Fatimah Shaker but known throughout her career by her single stage name, Shadia suffered a stroke and later went into a coma.

Shadia has more than a 100 films to her name and hundreds of singles in a career that stretches back to the late 1940s.

Her film roles ranged from those depicting country girls, career women, to comical portrayals of emotionally disturbed women and hopeless romantics.

Her iconic songs have defined the entertainment scene for decades, mostly with hit singles in Egypt’s distinctive vernacular Arabic.
In August, renowned Kuwaiti actor Abdulhussain Abdulredha died in London after he fell into a coma.

The 78-year-old was perhaps best known for his role in the 1981 play “Bye Bye London” in which his now ironic first line was “get off my back, I’m in London to have fun. I’m in London to change scenery and enjoy myself. I’m not in London to be put in hospitals or surgeries.”

The actor also played Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in a play in the 1980s, a role for which he gained critical acclaim.

6 Awful Movies (You’ll Love to Watch This Halloween)

Looks like it's time for seafood. (Syfy)

Looks like it’s time for seafood. (Syfy)

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It’s Halloween tomorrow, which means parties, costumes, Stranger Things, the usual crowd getting worried about Satanism…and movies.

Everybody loves a good movie, but Halloween is a great time for the good bad movies: the blood-soaked laugh-fests that you share a pizza around.

Here’s a list of so-bad-they’re great movies based around Halloween; we won’t be touching on stuff like The Room here because they’re not season-fare.

1. Troll 2

Above: Suggestive of how the movie was made. (Epic Productions)

Here’s the most hilarious thing about Troll 2: it’s not a sequel. It tries to pretend it’s a sequel to 1986’s Troll, but there is no connection between the movies and, you know, despite the title, there are no trolls in Troll 2 at all.

No, Troll 2 started-out because Rosella Drudi brushed against a muse’s angel wings, by which we mean she got angry because her friends became vegetarians.

The movie was doomed from the start, with an American-Italian crew unable to cross language barriers and a production unit obsessed with keeping the film on zero budget. If it isn’t apparent by the visuals, the soundtrack’s repeated one-note leitmotifs drive that point home…again, and again, and again.

Why you should watch it:

Because the acting is Oh my goddddd.

2. Birdemic: Shock and Terror

Above: A still from a 2010 movie. (Severin Films)

Writing a movie about a romantic couple being haunted by murderous birds seems like a really dumb idea, largely because it is a really dumb idea, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying. Some people make it work—Hitchcock’s The Birds isn’t too shoddy, though not nearly the classic some people pretend it is.

But sometimes people who aren’t legends in their fields waddle in with a camera, an idea, and a misguided sense of purpose. These people make movies like Birdemic: Shock and Terror, which is only shocking and terrifying in the sense of how much it’ll make you laugh.

The plot is thus: a slick, successful Silicon Valley prodigy makes big bucks. His old classmate, Nathalie, is a Victoria’s Secret fashion model. Their love life is thrown into disarray after birds start attacking their town.

It sounds like it’s self-aware; it’s not.

Why you should watch it:

Riveting aerial combat.

3. ThanksKilling

Above: The face of a killer. (Gravitas Ventures)

ThanksKilling is a bit of a tragedy: it was going for a horror-comedy mash-up, but the comedy fell flatter than a decapitated chicken and the horror was only half as effective.

Beautifully taglined with a “Gobble Gobble, MotherF#%@ER,” the film begins in 1621, in which a topless Pilgrim is complimented on her, uh, endowment and then killed with a tomahawk by a trash-talking turkey.

Look, nobody expected Citizen Kane.

Why you should watch it:

Here’s to vegetarianism!

4. Plan 9 from Outer Space

Above: The face of a vampire, or a lady who’s just dropped her cake? (Valiant Pictures)

This is the bad horror movie, a mistake wrapped in incompetence inside a fiasco of a production set.

The film is about a group of aliens who hope to stop humanity from creating a superweapon by resurrecting the dead. The ensuing disaster includes: a chase scene in which one side is running away during the day, and the pursuers are just a repeating shot of a zombie at night; a “cigar-shaped” spaceship that looks like a hubcap; and the greatest opening line ever put to film: “We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you…in the future.”

Plan 9 from Outer Space secured its director Ed Wood’s reputation as the worst filmmaker on the planet. It is stupidly fun to watch.

Why you should watch it:

My friends, my friends:

5. The Alone in the Dark series

Above: Yep, that’s Christian Slater. (Lions Gate Films)

If you like video games, you’ve probably heard of Uwe Boll, who made his reputation directing some of the stupidest movies you’ll find this side of cringe.

Alone in the Dark is probably the most recognizable of these, though BloodRayne is a sweet close second, and for the purposes of Halloween, it’s hard not to fall in love with a movie that has Christian Slater react to the line: “If you come down here alive, you’re already dead.”

Amazingly, Slater didn’t return for the sequel.

Why you should watch it:

The Nostalgia Critic did not like it:

6. The Sharknado series

Above: Boom! (Syfy)

There’s a tornado. The tornado has sharks in it. There’s a guy who jumps into the eye of a tornado with a chainsaw.

It’s so awesome.

Why you should watch it:

Check back tomorrow for good horror movie recommendations.

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$1 Million from George Clooney to Fight War Crimes

George Clooney. (Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock.com)

George Clooney. (Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock.com)

George Clooney has donated $1 million to help fight war crimes in Africa.

The Hollywood actor made the generous donation to the Sentry, an investigative group that strives to put a stop to war crimes and has recently launched its Make Criminals Pay campaign, which is focused on bringing war-profiting networks to justice.

In a statement, George – who is also the co-founder of the charity – said: “Our focus is to make sure that war crimes don’t pay. We want to make it more difficult for those willing to kill en masse to secure their political and economic objectives.

“When we’re able to go after the warlords’ wallets and bankrupt those who choose the bullet over the ballot, suddenly the incentives are for peace, not war; transparency, not corruption.”

George, 56, founded the Sentry in 2015 with the help of John Prendergast, a human rights activist.

Meanwhile, George recently admitted he is “scared to death” he will “break” his children.

The acclaimed actor said he is terrified when he holds his four-month-old twins Ella and Alexander – who he has with his wife Amal Clooney – as he fears he will hurt them because they are “so little” and fragile.

He shared: “Listen, I’m scared to death, it’s terrifying. You’re afraid of breaking them. They’re so little.”

Despite this, the twins have recently been introduced to solid food, and George joked about the way in which his kids process their meals.

George – who married Amal in 2014 – quipped: “We introduced the children to solid food on Friday. How that goes in as a carrot and how that comes out the way it comes out is shocking. I don’t know what’s going from here to here. What happens?”

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Arabs Wow London: Middle Eastern Art Show Wins Admiration, Support

Sunset Over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, by Pippa Thew.

Sunset Over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, by Pippa Thew.

Middle Eastern influences were the binding element in the work of four artists displayed at the Janet Rady Fine Art exhibition held at the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London last week.
Rady is a specialist in contemporary art from the Middle East and has 30 years of experience in the international market. She worked on the Art Bahrain Across Borders project (ArtBAB) and is the curator of the “I AM” touring exhibition of 31 women artists from the Middle East, currently on show at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center in Washington.

Dream of a Talismanic Shirt – Elisabeth Bolza

One of the artists showcased at the event on Oct. 12, whose work also features in “I AM,” was the well-established Bahraini artist Mariam Fakhro.
Rady gave Arab News insight into her work.
“Fakhro is very attached to the heritage of her Bahraini background. She is painting traditional houses, which Bahrain is fortunate enough to still have in existence. She talks about how the home is the heartland. For her, it represents her family, her homeland, her background and her security. Her work can be understood by everyone.”
Artist Vaseem Mohammed, who was present at the exhibition, showed off some wonderful examples of his work, including a piece entitled “The Sea (Horizon).” The piece features an inscription reading: “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” At the center of the work lies a beautiful seam of gold, which seems to be suspended between the sea and the sky. When asked about the work, Mohammed explained that it was his tribute to the children who were killed in 2014 when an Israeli missile exploded on a beach in Gaza where they were playing. He said the gold represents their souls ascending to heaven.

Sunset Over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – Pippa Thew

Visual artist Abu Jafar said he appreciated the beautiful soft shades of blue, which he believes conveys the particular color of the sky near the sea in the Middle East — a color that he says is different to blue skies in French or British paintings.
“The artist has succeeded in creating a poem with this piece,” he said.
Another piece by Mohammed that attracted a lot of attention was entitled “The Pinnacle (Moon Splits),” painted in 2017.
Art enthusiast Marie-Aimee Fattouche of Egyptian-Lebanese heritage gave her opinion on the piece.
“For me, what I like about this piece is that the scene looks familiar. I have a sense of home while looking at it. It reminds me of a night stroll… in Morocco or Egypt. This gives a sense of the light that shines at night when you walk through the deserted streets — the time between the end of the busy nightlife period and just before the city awakens again.”

A piece by Bahraini artist Mariam Fakhro.

Speaking about his work, Mohammed said: “My paintings share an expression of isolation while representing a global community. This is an expression of my own feelings of isolation among the Western and Islamic communities.
“I have two distinct styles of which one uses calligraphy at the heart of the piece, juxtaposed on top of modernist, abstract style work. I would describe the calligraphy as a representation of Islam’s stability and presence in an ever-changing world.
“I also draw from my childhood experience of living in the East End of London in the 1970s. That’s what inspires me; I liked dilapidation, paint peeling off and things like that. In my parents’ house, which was more than 100 years old, I used to peel off the wallpaper and there were decades of wallpaper underneath. Subconsciously, I started using that in my work.”
Artist Pippa Thew, who was born in Kenya and now lives in Devon in the UK, has strong connections with the Middle East. She described her first introduction to the Gulf region in a conversation with Arab News.
“My connection with the Middle East started when I had a solo exhibition in Abu Dhabi. I was very fortunate as I was invited out to the royal stables by a granddaughter of the President of the UAE Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
“She invited me to see her racing horses and a stallion and I began to paint the horses. I was also very fortunate to become very good friends with a lot of Emirati people. I do a lot of portraits of my clients and their families, which is something I love to do.
“I love the Middle East, its culture and its people. I think it is a beautiful and fascinating place,” she said.

The Sea (Horizon) –  Vaseem Mohammed

Thew’s paintings on show included “Sultan and Arabian Stallion Fayed” and “Sunset over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.”
“We were coming back on a yacht and it was a beautiful September evening and very hot. The light was catching across the mosque and I just had to paint it,” she said.
Also featured in the exhibition was the artist Elisabeth Bolza, who has, for many years, studied Islamic arts and civilization. Since 2014, she has spent extended periods of time in Saudi Arabia studying its heritage and that of other countries in the region.
She was nominated for the Jameel Prize 2017 and is currently preparing a major exhibition at the Bahrain National Museum due to open on Jan. 20, 2018.
Her work “Dream of a Talismanic Shirt, 2010” was greatly admired by exhibition visitor and video producer Khalil Itani. His company, Visual Story, has covered many major Middle East art exhibitions and independent artist shows. He has a keen eye, developed over many years of training his lens on a wide range of art works.
Commenting on the piece, he said: “The balance of colors is wonderful and this represents mixed media creativity at its best. The combination of colors is subtle and I like the calligraphy — I like the layers and Islamic-Arabian influence in it.”
Rady was asked about the criteria she uses when selecting work for exhibitions, to which she replied: “First and foremost, I look at the art. Which country the artists come from is not relevant. When I am curating an exhibition, I am intent solely on showing superb artists.”

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Comedy is Netflix’s First Foray into the Middle East

Popular Lebanese comedian Adel Karam. (Facebook / Adel Karam)

Popular Lebanese comedian Adel Karam. (Facebook / Adel Karam)

For their first Middle Eastern production, Netflix has decided to join forces with the popular stand-up comedian Adel Karam. The show is expected to launch in 2018.


Via the961

The show has not been named yet, but the Lebanese star is expected to tackle social issues in the Middle East with his great sense of humor. Karam is more than excited to be a part of this project, especially with it being Netflix’s first Middle Eastern production.

Karam is not only popular for being a comedian, he’s quite known for his acting skills. He starred in many big  Lebanese film where he excelled at playing serious roles. One of these films is The Insult, which topped the box office in Lebanon!

WE SAID THIS: Lebanese jokes are going global!

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A Powerful Muslim Woman is on the Cover of Time (and People are Freaked)

Ilhan Omar on the cover of

Ilhan Omar on the cover of “Time.” (Time)

Time magazine has released pictures from their upcoming issue and people were in for a shock—the good kind—because a Muslim woman has graced the cover for the very first time. Women generally—Muslim women specifically—are rejoicing for this major step forwards in the world of acceptance.

Above: The cover is pure class. (Time)

Their theme is “Firsts,” and we’re super excited about it, because this is not a normal print magazine issue, but a 12-cover one that features 12 different women, each one having achieved something in her field that’s a first.

“Our goal with Firsts is for every woman and girl to find someone whose presence in the highest reaches of success says to her that it is safe to climb, come on up, the view is spectacular,” said the introduction to the project on the official website.

Selena Gomez, Hillary Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey are a few of the women featured in the magazine alongside the woman on the cover herself, Ilhan Omar, who is the first Somali-American woman to become a legislator. This spread is inspiring: to Muslims, to women, to any marginalised groups aspiring to greatness.

“Life in Somalia before the civil war was beautiful. When the war happened, I was 8-years-old and at that stage of understanding the world in a different way. We fled to Kenya and ended up living in a refugee camp for four years. We arrived in the US when I was 12. I had to figure out what it meant to be a bridge builder — what it meant to forge relationships that never really existed,” says Omar about her journey.

Above: Ilhan Omar. (Star Tribune)

This issue is a must-read for all women who aspire to greatness. There’s still hope for change and acceptance.

In a time where Islamophobia is spreading like wildfire, this is an upturn for all Muslims just as much as it is for women. It’s a sign that Islamophobia won’t be as vicious as it is now, which is a rleief. It’s acknowledging what we all know: a Muslim is not necessarily a terrorist, and a terrorist is not necessarily a Muslim. It’s a sign that we are moving forward, that the hatred we face can one day end, and that our dreams will no longer be hindered or blocked by the prejudice we face.

WE SAID THIS: This is a major steps towards a better world, and we cannot help but allow ourselves to hope so.

Article edited from its original form by Al Bawaba

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Irony: These Arab Artists were Barred from Talking about Struggles in Arab World…in Britain

Arab. (Facebook / Arab Arts Focus)

Arab. (Facebook / Arab Arts Focus)

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The British Home Office refused visas for nearly a quarter of Arab artists performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, forcing the first ever showcase of contemporary Arab art at the event to cancel or rework several productions.

The Arab Arts Focus (AAF) collective was due to showcase performances portraying different forms of struggle in the Arab world – from political conflict to cultural identity – at the event, the largest art festival in the world.

AAF worked for over 18 months to prepare the shows, which ranged from plays by Syrian and Iraqi playwrights and children’s theatre from Lebanon, to contemporary dance from Palestine and Egypt.

AAF worked for over 18 months to prepare the shows, which ranged from plays by Syrian and Iraqi playwrights and children’s theatre from Lebanon, to contemporary dance from Palestine and Egypt.

But nearly a quarter of artists, actors, dancers, and technical staff were refused visas by the Home Office, some multiple times, preventing the shows from going ahead.

“I did not expect in my wildest dreams that this would happen,” Ahmed El Attar, the artistic director for the Arab Arts Focus, told The New Arab.

“We are used to hardships, much more than people in the West. The lack of funds, or decisions made overnight, we work it out. We just didn’t expect it here.”

AAF spent over £6,000 in their struggle with British immigration services to obtain visas for artists, in most cases applying multiple times to ensure that the young performers could at least attend part of the festival, which runs from 4 Aug – 28 Aug.

The AAF provided documents showing they would take full responsibility for the artists, including accommodation, flights, and other required assurances.

Despite support for AAF from the British Council and Fringe Society, British authorities were completely unreachable to discuss the visa rejections.

“We are very familiar with these opaque systems, we live in them. We thought it was a functioning democratic system. Fear kind of twists things,” El Attar said.

In a statement to The New Arab the Home Office said: “All visa applications are considered on their individual merits and applicants must provide evidence to show they meet the requirements of the immigration rules.”

‘The world is big’

A double dance bill featuring a Sudanese dancer based in Cairo, Nagham Salah, and a Palestinian dancer, Hamza Damra, had to be completely reworked after both were denied visas.

In the end, an Egyptian choreographer who could travel on an American passport came up with an entirely new show with another Egyptian dancer, Mahmoud El Haddad, who was contacted at the eleventh hour to fill in.

The performance was shortlisted for a Total Theatre award despite the fact it had to be reworked in five days.

“Imagine if it was a full show”, El Attar said.

Your Love is Fire, a play written by Mudar Alhaggi and directed by Rafat Alzakout, who studied together in Damascus before the war, was also affected.

Two of the Syrian actors, now in France, were denied visas at the last minute so it had to be rewritten, while Alzakout’s visa was delayed so production was postponed by a week.

“This is not the version of the play we wanted to present. But we lost everything we had in Syria, so we will shout and scream whenever we can,” he told The Guardian.

A Syrian technician based in Lebanon was denied a visa for the play Jogging, while a musician due to perform in the Palestinian children’s play Jihan’s Smile was also refused a visa.

The Elephant, Your Majesty, another show which featured teenage Syrian performers living in Lebanon, had to be cancelled.

“Arabs are much more stigmatised and targeted than other groups. The intelligent move [by the British government] would be to support this show rather than hindering it and putting obstacles in our way,” El Attar said.

‘Fear of the other’

To draw attention to the plight of the artists in obtaining visas, each night at an event called Chill Habibi performers read out one of the refusal letters issued by the government.

On Tuesday, British actress Emma Thompson made a surprise appearance to read one of the letters, asking: “Why would anyone ever want to visit this country?”

After mounting frustrations, time, and the costs of organising what was meant to be a first time showcase of contemporary Arab culture in the UK, El Attar shares the sentiment.

“The world is big. Honestly maybe it’s not worth doing the Fringe festival again,” he said.

“I think that we are all in the same fight in some sense, the regressive mentality and the fear factor is everywhere, fear of the other, here, in Egypt, in the Arab world. 

Everyone has to fight their own fight.”