Nancy Ajram Headed to UAE, Reveals She’s Probably a Nerd

Nancy Ajram in her natural habitat. (Instagram / nancyajram)

Nancy Ajram in her natural habitat. (Instagram / nancyajram)

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She may be a multi-million copy bestselling artist, but Nancy Ajram is still trying to be cool.

The insanely popular Lebanese singer will be taking the stage at Abu Dhabi, performing hits from her seven (indistinguishable) albums this December 2nd. The doors open at 8 p.m.; the show is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. Tickets, available online, start at AED 250 (approx. $68.06) and go up to AED 1450 (approx. $395).

This news follows the announcement that Ajram will appear as a fourth Powerpuff Girl for a special miniseries, playing the role of Bliss, the girls’ long-lost teenage sister.

Ajram said that the experience allowed her to “re-live some of my happy childhood memories in the process. I felt that I was very much in the heart of the action, helping The Powerpuff Girls save the world.”

The Powerpuff Girls debuted in 1998, when Ajram was fifteen. If Ajram is alluding to having watched the show growing-up—a show aimed at children—then hah, loser.

Or maybe those of us judging others for watching cartoons are the real losers. Who knows.

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The Insult is Essential—a Triumph of Lebanese Cinema

Lebanese movie The Insult is a great film. (File photo)

Lebanese movie The Insult is a great film. (File photo)

One of the most controversial films at El Gouna Film Festival, the Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult nonetheless received El Gouna’s Silver Star and the Volpi Cup Award; it had been nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice after an international premiere at Toronto.

Doueiri, born in 1963, is best-known for his award-winning West Beirut (1998), which won numerous prizes including the François Chalais Award at Cannes, the Best First Film Award at Carthage and the FIPRESCI Award at Toronto. Having left Lebanon at the age of 18 to study in the US, where he became known as Quentin Tarantino’s camera assistant on Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Jackie Brown (1997), Doueiri is now based in France. His last film, The Attack (2012), was partly filmed in Tel Aviv, something that brought him under in the Arab world — though it won the Golden Star at the Marrakech Film Festival and the Cineuropa Award at the Istanbul Film Festival.

With a disclaimer declaring that it does not reflect any official views or policies of Lebanon, The Insult delves into recent and ongoing Lebanese history through an incident involving two neighbours: a Palestinian construction worker named Yasser (Kamel Al-Basha) and a local car mechanic and repairs garage owner, Toni (Adel Karam). Toni lives with his wife Sherine (Rita Hayek) and they are expecting a baby girl, while Yasser — being a refugee — is technically an illegal resident. The story begins when Yasser approaches Toni regarding Toni’s leaking drainpipe, and Toni promptly slams the door in his face. When Yasser fixes it himself to prevent the leaking, Toni makes a point of smashing it. A verbal fight follows, Yasser insults Toni and refuses to apologise.

While working at his garage Toni listens to speeches by Bachir Gemayel, the anti-Palestinian Phalange leader assassinated in 1982. Yasser’s boss, on the other hand, persuades him to supply the required apology to avoid trouble. While trying to do so, Yasser reflexively punches Toni and breaks his ribs when Toni says he wished Sharon had wiped them all out. Toni takes the issue to court, turning it into a national issue of urgent public import, with lawyers volunteering to defend one or the other of the two men. In its second half the film becomes a courtroom drama: Toni is represented by an elderly lawyer named Wajdi (Camille Salameh), and Yasser by an enthusiastic young woman lawyer named Nadine (Diamand Bou Abboud); while they make their theatrical defences it turns out they are father and daughter, an unnecessary cliched nod to the younger generation.

As the courtroom drama progresses with Wajdi being callous and Nadine emotional, the viewer is drawn deeper into Lebanese politics and the Civil War, scenes of which begin to intrude on the court scenes. By the third sequence, the story has gone past the two men. Both are now racked by guilt, feeling that their story has gone too far, reopening old wounds and enabling the lawyers to further their own careers at the expense of people’s pain.

Though too long, the film benefits from a coherent script by Doueiri with Jouelle Touma as well as excellent cinematography by Tommaso Fiorilli. While the trial progresses, a tension similar to that of Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men (1957), starring and co-produced by Henry Fonda — in which a jury of 12 debates the fate of a young man charged with murdering his father — begins to make itself felt. Here too the claustrophobia is compelling, and a simple, classic premise develops into the story of a nation, much as an argument between a father and his daughter in a confined space reflects an entire civil war.

With a whole family of lawyers, Doueiri says if he hadn’t been a filmmaker he would’ve been a lawyer — a feeling he indulged to the utmost in this film, making his mother the film’s legal advisor too. Doueiri wants to take a break from filmmaking, he said at El Gouna, though he wants his next film to be so apolitical, as he put it, it will be about a man on Venus and another on Mars.

Reviewed by Soha Hesham

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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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Party Animals Get Ready to Blow the Top Off Egypt, Lebanon

Party like it's 2099. (Elrow)

Party like it’s 2099. (Elrow)

All the way from España, Elrow is making its way to Lebanon and Egypt this month. After revolutionizing the world of night entertainment, Beirut and Cairo are about to witness one of the world’s craziest parties on the 7th (Lebanon) and 21st (Egypt) of October — thanks to Blurr Entertainment.

From a small café that evolved to an active social hub, offering a variety of activities from Cabaret to Cinema overtime — the concept of Elrow was born. The Spanish fiesta has been dynamically changing the world of dance and musical entertainment as we know it since 1870 till this very day.

  

As they tour the world, the -all day and night long- event usually consists of a single internationally renowned artist on the decks with a setting and theme based on the host country. Nomads, New World is the chosen theme for Cairo’s event, and The Garten for Beirut’s event. If you’re a party animal and won’t miss such an event, you should probably expect a trip back in time with stone-age cave dwellers, Arab Bedouins or a magical garden.

WE SAID THIS: For more info, click here.

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Feature Article: Here are Some Works Based on the Sabra and Shatila Massacre

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From “Waltz with Bashir.” (Sony Pictures Classics)

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Thirty five years ago, Lebanese president-elect Bachir Gemayel was assassinated. In response, a militia associated with the Lebanese Kataeb Party, called Phalange, began massacring thousands of innocent Palestinian refugees and Lebanese Shiites, aided, in part, by Israeli forces who provided night-time illumination and failed to prevent a massacre that occurred on Israeli-occupied ground. The result was what we now call the Sabra and Shatila Massacre—a dark, lamentable chapter in an Arab history full of dark, lamentable chapters.

Here are some works—not all, and only the ones I know—inspired by and based on that tragedy.

A man lies on a makeshift hospital bed in Shatila—a former freedom fighter named Yunes who may never regain consciousness. His companion, a doctor named Khalil, begins a one-sided conversation narrating his storied past, the story slipping into and out of the present in Khoury’s stunning examination of memory’s relationship to violence.

Khoury, born in Lebanon, spent time in the camps to write this book, drawing on the stories of the Palestinian diaspora to try and weave his Palestinian Odyssey. The New York Times said the book, “[holds] to the light the myths, tales and rumors of both Israel and the Arabs with…discerning compassion. In Humphrey Davies’ sparely poetic translation, Gate of the Sun is an imposingly rich and realistic novel, a genuine masterwork.”

They’re right.

This one’s really interesting.

An Israeli Flash cartoon, for starters, narrated by (get this) actual IDF soldiers who witnessed the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Concerning a soldier named Folman who knows he has witnessed the massacre but can’t recall anything about it, Waltz with Bashir pieces together the story of Sabra and Shatila from the memories of his former fellow soldiers, told in little interviews. It’s a compassionate attempt.

Although largely factual, the film is more akin to a fictionalized adaptation of a real event than it is a documentary. This blending of reality and fiction works wonderfully; when I watched Waltz with Bashir at the cinema, my fellow audience members—mostly Canadians removed from the disaster that is the Middle East—greeted the end credits in hushed, almost awed silence.

Perhaps the most famous piece of writing about Sabra and Shatila.

Genet (author of Prisoner of Love, another book about the Palestinian cause) was among the first foreigners to enter the camps in the wake of the slaughter, and experienced the horror firsthand. His vivid, awestruck description of what he witnessed struck a chord—and, lucky you, can be read here for free.

Radwa Ashour was one of the great treasures of Arabic literature, and this, one of her two major works, attempted to tell the entire life story of a Palestinian refugee.

The Sabra and Shatila section is small, but powerful, and I won’t discuss it here for fear of spoiling it. Needless to say, give Ashour’s books a read if you can.

Adania Shibli is the author of two novellas, We Are All Equally Far from Love and her superior effort, Touch.

Touch is an autobiographical book about a young girl who, like Shibli, attempts to understand what Sabra and Shatila actually mean. That’s a subsection of the actual book, which is really about the power of experience—the unnamed narrator’s examination of rust and grass and sunlight. It is the story of a Palestinian family in exile.

Masri hands a camera to two children and lets them tell their stories in this examination of grief, displacement, and horror.

Issa has trouble learning because of a car accident; Farah lives with her family. Both, however, are well-versed in tragedy and loss, children of 1948 and then of 1982 burdened with carrying the memory of Palestine with them, even as the entire world seems to want them to forget.

You can watch Children of Shatila (1998) for free on YouTube.

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Souad Massi Enchants Beirut

Souad Massi performing. (Schorle / Wikimedia Commons)

Souad Massi performing. (Schorle / Wikimedia Commons)

Stopping by Lebanon on her world tour, Algerian-born folk singer Souad Massi gave a laid-back and intimate performance at MusicHall Waterfront Tuesday evening. The open-air concert was completely sold out, with dedicated fans eager to see “The Best Of” Massi, as the show was tagged, boasting a program thick with fan-favorites and hits from her six albums.

Made famous by her 1999 hit “Al-Raoui” (The Storyteller), Massi is known for blending music styles, from folk and classic rock to flamenco and classical Arabic – often singing in French, Arabic and Amazigh (aka “Berber”).

Staged by Liban Jazz and Elefteriades, the concert saw Massi joined onstage by mandolin player Mehdi Dalil and percussionist Rabah Khalfa, both of whom gave fantastic solos throughout the evening.

The seated, dressed-down evening reflected Massi’s down-to-earth profile and simple approach to music, focusing on harmonies, catchy rhythms and meaningful lyrics.

Her full-bodied and smoky vocals had the audience singing along to the soulful “Khalouni,” and stomping their feet to the beat of “Kilyoum,” with several people dancing in the aisles. Many of her fans’ other favorite hits were also performed, including “Houria,” “Ghir Enta,” and “Matebkiche.”

Massi’s 18-year musical career began in Bab al-Oued, Algiers, when her music-loving family encouraged her to accept an invitation to perform at the Femmes d’Algerie (Women of Algeria) festival in Paris. From there she was signed for her first album, “Raoui.”

Working in collaboration with Liban Jazz, the Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture center has been hosting talks with the international musicians performing at MusicHall. Massi was the most recent speaker at these “Talking Music” sessions, always held the day before the concert, allowing people to learn more about the artists and ask questions.

“I used to listen to a lot of traditional Algerian music, which is all about emotion,” Massi told The Daily Star during the talk.

“At 17 I started learning to play guitar. I used to listen a lot to folk, avant-garde music, Umm Kulthum and traditional Turkish songs.

“I was working at an engineering office and received a grant to go perform in Paris and saw what the music scene was like there.”

Although Massi doesn’t always like to take requests during concerts, she’s still happy to perform her old hits with as much passion as when they were new.

“If I create a program then I stick to it,” she said. “When I wrote “Al-Raoui” I had no idea it would become such a big song.

“It’s a big thing to be there for my fans, when they come up to me and say, ‘This song took me back many years’ or ‘It made me very emotional.’ It is a big responsibility. I respect the people who listen to my music. If I ever found a day where I had nothing to say or didn’t feel like being a performer, I should just stop.”

While Massi has carved out a musical identity for herself, she doesn’t feel restricted by the style that initially made her famous, always finding room to experiment and collaborate with other musicians.

“I don’t think too much about this because in my last album I sang in [classical Arabic] in a totally new way,” she explained. “I’m not commercial. I do things that I like, which is the most important thing. I don’t care if commercially it sells or not. I only care that I like it and that people will listen to it.”

Though she lives in Algeria, Massi has not had a concert there for many years, because of her work’s activist bent.

“When I worked on the poems of Ahmed Matar, I wanted to help to get his important work known more, so I lent him my voice. A lot of people discovered him through my song ‘Houria,’” she recalled. “I’ve written a lot of political songs and even till now I don’t have concerts in Algeria because they ask me not to sing certain songs and cut them out of TV screenings.”

Massi says that her next album will be recorded in Paris and feature folk-rock themes, influenced by the work of Kenny Rodgers and Bob Dylan. In the meantime, her next stop will be Istanbul (Sept. 14), after which she intends to tour through March 2018.

Haifa Wehbe’s Indian Twin

Haifa Wahbe...or is it? (FashionStock / Shutterstock.com)

Haifa Wahbe…or is it? (FashionStock / Shutterstock.com)

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It would appear Haifa Wehbe has a doppelgänger.

Specifically, there is Indian TV host, model, and dancer Rakhi Sawant, who features a Double Life of Veronique-esque resemblance, from a certain angle, to the Lebanese super-star.

Sort of.

In actual news that people should be talking about, a Lebanese filmmaker was arrested yesterday. It’s a moral conundrum.

Anyway, pictures here:

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