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Jordan shoots for a victory at the Oscars

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Amman – A large group of Jordanians were packed into an Amman cafe, paying rapt attention to a television screen mounted on the wall. They exchanged nervous glances and heaved sighs. The tension was palpable.

At last, they heard the word they had been waiting for, and the cafe – packed with crew members for the film Theeb – erupted in shouts and tears of happiness.

Theeb, a Jordanian film, was nominated last month for the Oscar for best foreign language film of 2015. The film, a so-called Bedouin Western set in 1916, now has a shot at Hollywood’s highest honour when the awards are handed out on Sunday night.

Whereas nearby Egypt and Lebanon developed home-grown film industries over the course of the 20th century, Jordan has mostly served as a dramatic backdrop for stories conceived overseas.

Wadi Rum, a desert valley in southern Jordan, was featured in Lawrence of Arabia, and stood in for outer space in The Martian, Prometheus, and many others. The ancient stone city of Petra was famously presented as an unnamed treasure trove in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Jordan’s deserts have also been used to portray Iraq (The Hurt Locker) and Afghanistan (Zero Dark Thirty), as the United States’ Middle Eastern wars have become popular fodder for Hollywood.

But over the past decade, Jordan’s local film industry has developed rapidly. The film scene in Egypt and Lebanon may be more developed, but no filmmaker in those countries has yet to produce a movie enjoying international success on the level of Theeb.


OPINION: Cinema and the condition of coloniality


So how did the industry come so far, so fast? And is Theeb a flash in the pan, or an indication of Jordan’s rising star in global cinema?

Perhaps the most obvious reason for the rapid development of Jordan’s film industry is the fact that so many big-budget Hollywood blockbusters have decided to shoot in the country. Over the years, these sets have served as production master-classes for Jordan’s budding film professionals.

Bassel Ghandour, who wrote and produced Theeb, said Hollywood movies filming in Jordan “paved the way” for this new generation of Jordanian filmmakers. “These films came to Jordan and we crewed up on them. That’s how we learned the craft, that’s how we learned what a set looks like, and that’s how we became really world class.”

I hope the impact will be on local films and the emergence of a film fund, more support for local Jordanian films, and an independent Arab cinema.

Bassel Ghandour, Theeb writer and producer

Theeb co-producer Laith Majali agreed, saying that his film would not have been possible without such an experienced crew. “There is no way we could have made Theeb in the quality we did if it weren’t for our Jordanian crews having worked with some of [Hollywood’s] best directors, such as Ridley Scott and Kathryn Bigelow.”

Majali also produced and edited Captain Abu Raed, which was released in 2007 and was Jordan’s first feature film in decades, after having attended film school in the US. He said the film used “mostly foreign crew – all the main positions and department heads” were non-Jordanians.

Eight years later with Theeb, “80 percent of the crew were Jordanians … we’ve made huge leaps in the quality of our crews”.

In 2003, the Jordanian government established the Royal Film Commission (RFC), hoping to use film to boost Jordan’s economy as well as raise the country’s international profile.

The commission’s mandate is to attract global production teams, both through traditional PR campaigns as well as a tax exemption programme launched last year, which allows foreign film crews to bypass value-added tax.

Chaired by Prince Ali bin al-Hussein – famous for his candidacy for the FIFA presidency – the commission also partners with institutions such as the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and the Producers Guild of America to provide workshops and advice to local educators.

By the end of 2016, the RFC will have launched six film centres throughout the country, for screenings and workshops.

As a non-essential government service, however, the RFC is vulnerable to economic downturns. Several of its initiatives were shut down after the economic crash in 2012 and have yet to be relaunched. “Every year [since 2012] our budget has been cut,” said George David, the RFC’s general manager. “We’re working very hard to relaunch the fund,” he added – but with the Jordanian government as its main benefactor, there is little the commission can do independently.


READ MORE: Exploring the Arab world’s challenges through film


Nadine Toukan, the producer of Captain Abu Raed and Theeb, believes that there is a role for the private sector to play in bringing the cinematic arts to education. “Perhaps the expectation [to support the film industry] ought not be on the shoulders of the government alone,” said the prolific Jordanian filmmaker.

“I believe there could be interesting public-private partnerships and alliances to explore growing this space.”

Theeb may have shown Hollywood that Jordan is more than just a pretty face, but any relationship between the two may encounter complications.

For one thing, Hollywood’s portrayal of Arabs is often grossly simplistic; as “terrorists”, they serve as the bad guys in the familiar battle between good and evil, a formula that consistently sells tickets. Several Hollywood films shot in Jordan have faced this criticism.

But many Jordanians do not share this view. “It’s just work,” said Majali. “You have to distance yourself from that to get the work. I don’t think we’ve had that kind of resentment against American projects.”


OPINION: The other “other” – Reflections on intra-Arab cinema


Ghandour, who got his start as a production assistant on The Hurt Locker, the story of an American bomb disposal expert in the Iraq War, agreed. “[These films] create niche jobs. People in this industry need films like this to come to Jordan.

“You open the TV anywhere here [in the region] and see some big action film where Arabs are being portrayed one dimensionally and wrongly. I guess people watching might feel that it’s not them, but they might not jump a step ahead and think, ‘Is this how the West views us?’”

Oscars: Lady Gaga, Sam Smith & Best Song Nominees Pose For Group Photo

 

While an Oscar win would be an undeniable victory for Jordan’s film industry, many agree that the larger goal is to keep the Jordanian – and Arab – movie-making machine well-oiled, both in terms of funding and communications between different national film industries. “I hope the impact will be on local films and the emergence of a film fund, more support for local Jordanian films, and an independent Arab cinema,” said Ghandour.

Further, local filmmakers value the increased interaction between Arab filmmakers of different nationalities. In Theeb, the cast was almost exclusively Jordanian, and they used a Palestinian acting coach. “I think the emerging Arab film movement is able to cross borders” both geographically and artistically, said Toukan.

“The collaborative nature of the industry forces us to reach across the region to build crews and help each other. It can be a way to get away from our sociopolitical problems.”

Majali believes a victory at the Oscars on Sunday could spark such a connection between Arab national film industries.

“The infrastructure to really move Arabic cinema forward just isn’t there yet,” he said.
But Oscar or no, Theeb’s nomination has already made an impact on Majali’s life as a producer in Los Angeles. “As an Oscar nominee, I can get meetings much more easily now,” he laughed.

-Al Jazeera

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Here Are All The Performers & Presenters For The 2022 BET Awards

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Lil Wayne will perform on the 2022 BET Awards, the network announced Thursday (June 23). Lil Wayne is an 11-time winner at the BET Awards, including five awards in the viewer’s choice category. He is also a five-time Grammy winner.

The show, hosted by Taraji P. Henson for the second year in a row, will air live on BET on Sunday, June 26, at 8 p.m. ET/PT from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Sean “Diddy” Combs is this year’s lifetime achievement award recipient. Combs will take the stage for a star-studded tribute performance, which will feature Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Nas, Lil’ Kim, Busta Rhymes, The Lox, Bryson Tiller, Faith Evans and The Maverick City Choir. The performance will be a retrospective of Diddy’s musical legacy as a producer and artist.

Several of this year’s performers have won BET Awards in recent years, including Lizzo, who won best female R&B/pop artist two years ago; Givēon, who won best new artist last year; Roddy Ricch, who won best new artist and album of the year two years ago; Chance the Rapper, who won best new artist five years ago; and Kirk Franklin, who is a five-time winner (including the last two years) for best gospel/inspirational artist.

This will be the third year in a row that Ricch has performed on the show; the second year in a row that Franklin has performed.

Chlöe, a three-time nominee this year, is also set to perform. Other performers include LattoJack HarlowBabyfaceDoechiiElla MaiFireboy DMLJoey Bada$$Maverick City Music, and Muni Long.

In addition to performing on the show, Harlow is a nominee for best male hip-hop artist. Lil Nas X, Harlow’s partner on the smash hit “Industry Baby,” wasn’t nominated in that category (or any other). LNX loudly protested the snub, which many observers with no self-interest also found hard to understand.

Up-and-coming artists GoGo Marrow and OGI will perform on the BET Amplified Stage. Last year, Tone Stith and Mereba performed on that stage, which BET sees as a launching pad.

Idris Elba, a two-time BET winner for best actor, will serve as a presenter. So will Daniel Kaluuya, who won an Oscar for best supporting actor two years ago for playing Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah.

MC Lyte returns as the ceremony’s announcer. DJ Diamond Kuts returns as the house DJ.

BET will kick off the celebration with BET Awards ’22: Red Carpet Live! on Sunday starting at 6 p.m. ET/PT. Hosted by Terrence J, the pre-show will include performances by Capella Grey, Fast Life Yungstaz, Juvenile, Pheelz, Saucy Santana, and Victoria Monet. The pre-show will feature red carpet correspondent Pretty Vee, DJ Jae Murphy, and more. Affion Crockett will host the BET Awards red carpet Twitter live stream show.

Of the 14 artists who received three or more BET Awards nominations this year, Chlöe is the only one who has been announced as a performer.

Doja Cat is this year’s top nominee with six nods. Doja is this year’s only artist, male or female, to be nominated in both R&B/pop and hip-hop categories, a sign of her broad-based appeal. Ari Lennox and Drake are runners-up, with four nods each.

Baby KeemSilk Sonic, Chlöe, FutureH.E.R.Jazmine SullivanYe (formerly Kanye West), Kendrick LamarLil BabyMary J. Blige and Tems each received three nominations.

The BET Awards is among the most-watched awards shows on cable television. BET calls the awards, now in their 22nd year, “the ultimate platform to showcase the best, brightest, and most beautiful aspects of the Black experience – celebrating Black music’s present and future, and elevating the culture and being a driving force for social change.”

Connie Orlando, BET’s executive vice president, specials, music programming, music strategy, and news will oversee the annual show, along with Jamal Noisette, VP, specials, music programming & music strategy, who will serve as co-executive producer for BET. Jesse Collins Entertainment is the production company for the show with Collins, Dionne Harmon, and Jeannae Rouzan-Clay serving as executive producers.

The BET Awards 2022 will simulcast on BET, BET Her, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV, MTV2, Pop, TV Land, and VH1. Internationally, the show will simulcast on BET Africa, BET France and will be available to watch on My5 and Sky On-Demand in the UK, as well as BET Pluto in the UK and Brazil.

For the latest BET Awards 2022 news and updates, including details on audience selection and eligibility, visit BET.com/bet-awards.

Here are all the main-stage performers:

  • Babyface
  • Chance the Rapper
  • Chlöe
  • Doechii
  • Ella Mai
  • Fireboy DML
  • GIVĒON
  • Jack Harlow
  • Joey Bada$$
  • Maverick City Music x Kirk Franklin
  • Latto
  • Lil Wayne
  • Lizzo
  • Muni Long
  • Roddy Ricch

Here are all the performers for the Sean “Diddy” Combs tribute:

  • Mary J. Blige
  • Sean “Diddy” Combs
  • Jodeci
  • Nas
  • Lil’ Kim
  • Busta Rhymes
  • The Lox
  • Bryson Tiller
  • Faith Evans
  • The Maverick City Choir

Here are the BET Amplified Stage performers (for newer artists):

  • GoGo Morrow
  • OGI

Here are all the presenters:

  • Big Freedia
  • Bleu
  • Carl Anthony Payne II
  • Crystal Hayslett
  • Daniel Kaluuya
  • Ebony Obsidian
  • Eva Marcille
  • Idris Elba
  • Irv Gotti
  • Janelle Monáe
  • Keke Palmer
  • KJ Smith
  • Luke James
  • Marsai Martin
  • Mignon
  • Nene Leakes
  • Ne-Yo
  • Novi Brown
  • Ray J
  • Sanaa Lathan
  • Serayah
  • Tamar Braxton
  • Terrence J
  • Tisha Campbell
  • Will Packer

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Media & Culture

Court Case: The Deafening Silence Of Black Sherif And His Investor

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What is the latest on Black Sherif’s court issue with his investor, Shadrach Agyei Owusu (Chavis)?

Well, Ghana Weekend has been following up on the matter. At least we need to get our audience updated on the issue since it is of great interest to many.

The case

On 11th April 2022, a writ of summons by the plaintiff, Shadrach Agyei Owusu, requesting that Ghanaian artiste Black Sherif be prevented from performing at events without his consent, was sighted by the media.

Shadrack requested an order for the preservation of all funds accrued from Black Sherif’s online streams.

Shadrach Agyei Owusu, the Chief Executive Officer of Waynes Chavis Consult, wanted a receiver to be taking the proceeds of all funds that would be accrued from the activities of the defendant.

This happened at a time when Black Sherif’s latest song ‘Kwaku The Traveller’ was topping global charts, making him the most sought-after artiste in Ghana in recent times.

Why was Black Sherif sued?

This suit came on the back of claims that Black Sherif had neglected his investor after he had injected funds into his career.

Black Sherif was reported to have signed a distribution deal with Empire Music without the consent of his investor, who purportedly had a business management contract with him.

The contract required that Black Sherif conducted all his activities through the investor who came on board to help the artiste.

Court day: May 9, 2022

This was the date set for the court hearing on the matter. So far, little information has been gathered about what became of that particular hearing.

While some of our sources say the case was not called at all, others say, it was deferred to a later date.

Ghana Weekend has tried scooping some information from both sides of the issue, but they are unwilling to really give details of the current situation of this suit.

Our interest

Ordinarily, this should be none of our business, but Ghana Weekend, as a media organisation, is interested in streamlining all facets of the entertainment industry. We saw this matter as a test case of many cracks in artiste-manager deals in the country. We are not on a mission of waking up sleeping dogs. We want precedence to be set for posterity.

Currently, Black Sherif is minding his music business, making money for himself, and growing his music career. Shadrack on the other hand is going about his work. They are both silent about the issue like nothing happened.

Maybe they have squashed their matter in private. Maybe Ghana Weekend is impatient with the outcome of the court hearing.

Maybe, our dear readers need to keep their eyes glued to our platforms as we nose out all details on this matter in our subsequent episodes.

We’ll be back!

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Media & Culture

Feli Nuna’s “Towel” Hits 100K Views On YouTube

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Feli Nuna, Off Da Ground signed artist, released a top-charting song on May 11, 2022.

Shawerz Ebiem produced the song “Towel,” and R.Dee shot and directed the video.

Since its release, the song has become a trending topic in Ghana, with over 100,000 views on the global video platform YouTube.

Watch below.

The video has since featured well-known celebrities such as Efya, Jackie is everywhere, Nadia, Shatta Michy, Christable Ekeh, and others.

Feli Nuna’s towel song is all about taking care of one’s self. Self-care is defined as an individual’s, family’s, or community’s ability to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health by eating well and engaging in stress-relieving activities.

Feli Nuna, real name Felicia Nuna Akosua Tawiah, has performed on major stages throughout Ghana, including the Ghana Music Awards Nominees Concert, the 4styte Music Video Awards, Coke Studio Africa, the Yaws Fashion Show in Gambia, the Asia-Africa Youth Festival in China, and many more.

Follow Feli Nuna on these social handles below.

Facebook: Feli Nuna

Twitter: @FeliNuna

Instagram: @FeliNuna

Tiktok: @FeliNuna

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