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Latest in Culture


Philip Roth opens up on art, sex and death

By Emma Charlton / AFP When the young Philip Roth warned his parents to brace for a media assault with the release of “Portnoy’s Complaint” in 1969, his mother broke down in tears: she thought he was suffering from delusions of grandeur. Four decades after the novel shot him to stardom, the American literary giant talks …

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A pretend display of Egyptian graffiti at disappointing Townhouse exhibit

Graffiti has evolved into a fascinating method of self-expression in Egypt these days, emerging calmly a few months before the revolution then exploding with the events of January 25. Commemorating the different sides of graffiti and its applications is an exhibition titled "This is not Graffiti" at the Townhouse Gallery, which opened on Sunday. The …

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Lebanese film wins Toronto festival fans’ award

"Where Do We Go Now?" a bittersweet comedy set in war-torn Lebanon, bested two well-received entries starring George Clooney to win the people’s choice award Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Cadillac People’s Choice award, which also includes a C$15,000 cash prize, is voted on by festival audiences and has typically been regarded …

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Hip-hop is not dead, it just moved to the Arab world

Today’s hip-hop is not all about bling and living large. Arab rappers spanning the region are on the frontline of reviving the lost art of socially-conscious rap, proving that hip-hop is very much alive. Hailing from various Arab countries — including Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Palestine — the artists leading this movement voice similar socio-political …

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Super Heavy: Mick Jagger’s motley crew

What can the Rolling Stones, Eurythmics and the blockbuster Slumdog Millionaire possibly have in common? More than you think — at least that’s the bet behind Super Heavy, a five-strong super group fronted by Mick Jagger whose new album comes out Monday. Five stars from the worlds of rock, soul, pop, reggae and world music …

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Artist William Kentridge on stage in South Africa

South African artist William Kentridge is perhaps best known for his charcoal drawings and videos in which those drawings seem to dance. But he works in a wide variety of media — putting his drawings on stage amid a polyphony of keyboards and brass curious instruments salvaged from antique shops, and text from Shakespeare to …

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Mars Project, open mics and activism

Last week, Mashrou3 Al-Mareekh (Mars Project) celebrated their 18th open mic event hosted at Downtown’s Makan cultural and art center, with visiting presenter and renowned international art activist Anas ‘Andy’ Shallal. According to Mariam El-Quessny, founder of the Mars Project, “The program acts as an umbrella for various initiatives to promote self-expression amongst Egyptians within …

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New book breaks down Muslim ‘monolith’

SHAWNEE MISSION, Kansas: To many non-Muslims, it might come as a surprise to learn that Islam is not a monolithic religion. Practices and observances can and do vary from region to region and from group to group. And headlines in mainstream media, particularly in Western countries, tend to emphasize the less flattering, repressive aspects attributed …

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Amid Greek crisis, young film talent finds accolades

As Greece sinks deeper into a debt crisis that has brought sweeping layoffs, wage cuts and tax hikes, a group of young film-makers are among the few giving the country something to smile about. At the forefront is Yorgos Lanthimos, a TV commercials veteran who made a stunning dash from near-obscurity in 2009 to an …

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Filmmaker Nadine Labaki is new face of Lebanon

Lebanon may be known more for its civil strife than its fledgling movie industry, but Nadine Labaki hopes to change all that. The director-actress is out to transform the way the world sees her native country. So far, so good. Her debut feature film "Caramel" did more to overhaul Lebanon’s bullet-punctured image than a dozen …

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Myanmar democracy leader’s struggle debuts on film

Myanmar’s revered pro-democracy leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is now also a movie protagonist after Luc Besson’s "The Lady" premiered on Monday at the Toronto film festival. The French director crafted a tender story of love and family tragedy, reaching beyond the political struggle by using private files obtained through sources …

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Cramp, ‘The Streets’ and the tragedy of Egyptian modern dance

This past Monday, in Downtown Cairo’s Rawabet Theater, novice dance troupe Cramp Group presented a new two-day contemporary dance performance by choreographer Mounir Saeed titled “The Streets.” “I wanted to re-create on stage the concept of ‘the street’ in Cairo and how each street in common areas of Egypt — such as Imbaba, Ain Shams, …

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Director Emmerich outs Shakespeare as ‘Fakespeare’

Disaster blockbuster director Roland Emmerich is sure to rile fans of Shakespeare with his latest movie, "Anonymous," for questioning the lionized bard’s authorship of preeminent plays. Theories abound. Some point to Shakespeare’s famed contemporaries Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe as the real authors. The film "Anonymous," which premiered on Monday at the Toronto International Film …

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Rachid Koraïchi wins the V&A’s 2011 Jameel Prize

Algerian born Rachid Koraïchi won the £25,000 Jameel Prize for a selection of embroidered cloth banners from a series entitled “Les Maitres invisibles” (The Invisible Masters), 2008. Martin Roth, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Hasan Jameel and Ed Vaizey, MP, presented Rachid Koraïchiwith the prize at a ceremony at the V&A on Monday, …

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Impressive 1,000 maps leading to nowhere

By Mariam Hamdy The Palace of Arts at the Cairo Opera House has inaugurated its latest exhibition, a colossal one man show titled “Memory Maps” by Ashraf Ibrahim on Monday. The opening was quite the happening, with the minister of Culture Dr. Emad Abou Ghazi in attendance as well as the staff of the Austrian embassy. …

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Director Polley examines collapse of a marriage

Divorced and recently remarried director Sarah Polley showed moviegoers an unhappy woman at the end of a relationship in her new film "Take This Waltz," which premiered at the Toronto film festival on Sunday. She insists, however, that the film is not autobiographical. The script was actually hatched on the set of her directorial debut …

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Sokurov: The censored conscience of Russian film

Venice film festival winner Alexander Sokurov has remained an enigma in Russia whose art nearly landed him in a Soviet prison and who was only kept in his country by the beauty of the Hermitage. The 60-year-old Siberian with the penetrating gaze and uninhibited camera began to develop a reputation for poetic but severe work …

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The shallow, misleading revolution of “Thawret El Looool”

I was somewhat surprised not to have heard of the latest publication discussing the contemporary Egyptian art scene released this past August. A book titled “Thawret El Looool: Chats with Young Egyptian Artists” written by Mariam Elias, aims to create links between young contemporary artists, their work and the generation to which they belong. Furious …

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Death and fear in Venice as the film festival winds up

Darkness descends on Venice as the film festival draws to a close, with tales of brutality, callousness, chilling indifference and failed relationships all vying for the Golden Lion award. With only one red carpet to go, festivities in the floating city are winding up, the stream of wild parties with star guests over, as the …

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Toronto film fest mixes stars, music, Oscar bait

There’s a broader vibe than the usual Hollywood A-listers this year at the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the world’s top cinema showcases and a prelude for contenders at the Academy Awards. Stars such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Glenn Close, Robert De Niro and Viggo Mortensen are on the …

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‘Himizu’: love and madness in post-tsunami Japan

By Ella Ide / AFP VENICE: Love gasps for air in Japanese director Sion Sono’s anguished portrait of a post-tsunami Japan in “Himizu,” the hotly anticipated adaptation of a manga novel competing for Venice’s Golden Lion. Haunting images of devastation among the ruins of Ishinomaki in northern Japan after the March 11 disaster set the scene …

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‘4:44 Last Day on Earth’: End it all or stay and watch?

By Ella Ide / AFP As the ozone layer disintegrates and the world prepares for certain doom in “4:44 Last Day on Earth,” man is left with just one question: ‘to be or not to be?’, to commit suicide or stay and watch? Hamlet’s philosophical quandary plagues New Yorker Cisco, the protagonist in US independent filmmaker …

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Spies and drop-outs in Venice for the Golden Lion

By Ella Ide / AFP Spies, torture and betrayal have come to Venice with Tomas Alfredson’s cold war thriller, “Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy” — an espionage whodunit, without a James Bond gadget or femme fatale in sight. The Swedish director’s adaptation of John le Carré ‘s bestselling novel peers into the dark heart of “the Circus” …

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Arnold premiers ‘Wuthering Heights’ in Venice

British director Andrea Arnold describes her experience creating a new film version of Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’s only novel and 250-year-old literary phenomenon, as "a very difficult journey" but one which she couldn’t abandon. The result, in which the character of Heathcliff is portrayed by a black actor for the first time on the big …

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Venice: Greek film ‘Alps’ explores grief

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest film, "Alps," proposes a novel, if disquieting, technique for grief counseling. "Alps" is the name chosen to designate an ad-hoc group whose members stand in for deceased loved ones, purportedly to help the grieving through the transition. The first four sessions are free of charge. So, a blind woman hires …

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You call that a revolution?

By Joseph Fahim The very first Egyptian film I reviewed was “Katkout,” the 2006 Mohamed Saad star-vehicle that became the former king of comedy’s last bona-fide commercial hit. In the years since, I’ve grown to regard mainstream cinema in a different light, driven by an interest in what the story, choice of mise-en-scène and characterization say …

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Women steal the show at Venice film festival

From the red carpet to the big screen, women are dazzling at this year’s Venice Film Festival with the key roles going to female stars who amaze with glamour and sheer chutzpah. Pop diva Madonna crazed the island when she sauntered down the celebrity runway in a striking Vionnet dress with red butterfly motif and …

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McQueen launches sex-addict film ‘Shame’ in Venice

For British director Steve McQueen, there was no better place than Manhattan to film "Shame," his new film that portrays the life of a 30-something sex addict, played by Michael Fassbender in often graphic detail. "Excess and access. New York is the place," McQueen said ahead of his second film’s world premiere in competition at …

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Chastain inspired Pacino’s ‘Wilde Salome’

Al Pacino’s movie "Wilde Salome" is a complicated examination of Oscar Wilde’s once-forbidden play about illicit love and revenge. But his inspiration was simple: Jessica Chastain. "There is Jessica Chastain, who I really believe is the reason I made the movie," Pacino said ahead of the film’s long-awaited world premiere in a side event at …

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Polanski’s ‘Carnage’ wows critics in Venice

Rounds of applause and riotous laughter met Roman Polanski’s grotesque comedy of manners "Carnage" at the press screening in Venice. The screen adaptation of playwright Yasmina Reza’s acclaimed Broadway play "The God of Carnage," Polanski’s film tells the tale of two sets of parents who meet up to talk after their children get into a …

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