Ali Mostafa’s words of wisdom

The last panel on day one of Comic Con featured Ali F. Mostafa along with other guests, a valuable conversation for aspiring scriptwriters and filmmakers in the region. Stay tuned for his upcoming project about friends planning a road trip from Abu Dhabi to Beirut, aptly titled From A to B. Here are some words of wisdom straight from the man who created City of Life.

Ali F. Mostafa, an iconic figure for filmmakers in the region. (Photo by Vivin Oommen)

The power of believing in yourself……..
“Regardless of the film you wanna make, whatever genre is, the most important thing as a filmmaker is to stay true to yourself. Like if you have this idea and you truly believe in it, and I can sit there and have coffee with you and if I could see the passion pouring out of your pores, I would believe you. As an investor I’d probably believe in you”

Success is……..
“Success could be making a lot of money at the box office, or getting international distribution. Then wherever you’re from, whoever’s watching your film, it’s because you put your heart and soul”

For aspiring filmmakers pursuing passion projects, what is it that they shouldn’t do…..
“What not to do, is don’t give up. Regardless of how many doors slam in your face, if you truly believe in it do it, whether it’s in a year or ten years. It took me three and a half years to make and for some people that’s nothing”

On a last note Ali. F. Mostafa admits he’s not a fan of the Star Wars prequels, “I’m a little old school, I grew up loving Star Wars, one of the most iconic themes, costumes and I always wanted to own one and ride around town on my cycle. What I loved about Star Wars is……..(George Lucas) took something when they didn’t really have CGI or special effects and he made something that we can sit and watch till this day……at a time when (you’d think) how can they do that?”

Lets hope his next project gathers more success than City of Life.

Coming up tomorrow, John Rhys Davies’ insider news of The Hobbit and an exclusive 10-minute preview of Peter Jackson’s latest installment to the Lord of the Rings series.


Laurie Holden’s inside scoop on Walking Dead season 3

The charming blond lady playing Andrea in the popular zombie series Walking Dead, dropped by Middle East comic con in Dubai. Her first time in Dubai, she called the visit a magical moment and was thrilled to venture across the city’s first comic con.

Following the hooking season finale of Walking Dead led by a hooded figure, Laurie Holden confirms the figure is indeed a woman, “The comic book fans would know, the figure is a woman, her name is Michonne”(sources have confirmed Danai Gurira to play the zombie-pet owner Michonne)

Regarding Andrea’s relationship with Michonne in the following season, Holden was glad to add, “Although I haven’t read the script, I have been inside the creative rooms and I can say Andrea and Michonne are going to be  amazing friends” Is she afraid the script-writers might hack her character at some point from the story? “It’s really heart-breaking when one of the characters dies because this is a very unique show. It’s very grueling, the weather’s like the sun in Dubai, it’s very emotional and we’re very close with one another, we’ve become very good friends. When one of us is written off the show it’s really rather devastating to say goodbye to a family member………..I’m hoping I don’t have a death anytime soon”

Laurie Holden hopes her character would live longer in season 3 (original photo by Vivin Oommen)

When asked if she thought the show would be a huge success at a time when Vampires and werewolves were the highlight of pop culture, Holden grinned “We didn’t expect such a huge response, I mean vampires are sexy, zombies are not. But they’ve been embraced internationally and I think there’s a reason for that. I think at a time of crisis…… I think there’s a tropical fear that people have and it’s in the air, and our zombies are a metaphor for the global economic crisis, for global warming, when the world’s uncertain”

About her thoughts on Andrea’s journey in season 3, Holden expressed her concern for retaining her character’s empathy “I hope no more people that I love die, I’m very grateful that she’s not suicidal anymore and she’s empowered herself and is becoming more of a survivor. I don’t know how long Andrea’s gonna live but I hope she falls in love, I hope she builds great friendships, I hope she kills a lot of zombies. I hope they build a new life somewhere, with peace at least for a while”

That was Laurie Holden spilling the beans on season 3. Watch out for more spoilers from John Rhys Davies about the legendary Lord of The Rings’ prequel The Hobbit and Max Landis talking about Chronicle 2. Coming up soooon!

Lo galore! Cosplay in Dubai

I would really pity you if you missed out on the most colorful and whacky convention in Dubai. The one place where dressing up weird is ‘in’ and being normal is as good as non-existent. Today’s your last chance to attend and witness the first Middle East Film and Comic Con so rampage your closet, hunt for that weird tee you would never want to be caught dead with and parade around Dubai International Marine Club.

As for my fellow cosplay enthusiasts, here are some of the displays from Day 1 of Comic con (original photos by Vivin Oommen) More photos coming up!

Were you there? What did you think of the first comic con in the Middle East?

Day 1 of MEFCC: Event bio

I believe one day of awesomeness cannot be wrapped up in a single article. I’d rather break it down to three or more articles. The first Comic Con that people in the Middle East have witnessed has only begun. What was expected to be a haven for comic book fans and film enthusiasts was an exciting showdown of costly talent that would’ve never been recognized, graphic artists in the region we never knew existed, some of the rarest comic copies ranging between AED 2000- AED 10,000 (No, joke), comic merchandise we would never have bothered investing and workshops featuring relevant expertise. See why I can’t include everything in one post?

To start off with, let’s talk about the guests and fans attending this event. Comic Con is one event that has centered and focused on fans all over the world. Dubai would be no different, providing access to celebrities Q & A sessions, workshops, autograph signage (a tad bit expensive on that one) and interacting with celebrities throughout the day. Shahbaaz Ali Khan, an avid fan of Walking Dead graphic novels and the live action series was amazed to meet Laurie Holden in person. Max Landis, the most outspoken and animated person I’ve met shared a few spoilers of the Chronicle sequel, John Rhys Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings) commented on how the LOTR catered to an intelligent audience and that The Hobbit would be a 3D experience of it’s own kind. Jason Momoa joined fans for a rather spontaneous and charming Q & A session in the evening. Turns out the tribal leader Khal Drogo is actually a softie in reality, “My wife asks me to do the dishes, I say ‘Yes, mam’….what can I say, I’m a softie”

Laurie Holden describes her visit to Dubai "this is a magical moment to be here" (photo by Vivin Oommen)

Press conference panel featuring John Rhys Davies, Luciana Carro, Sammy Clark, Laurie Holden, Jihad Al Atrash and Ben (organizer of event) (photo by Vivin Oommen)

John Rhys Davies re-enacting a scene from Lord of the Rings (photo by Vivin Oommen)

Max Landis (sreenwriter of Chronicle) surprised that people watched his movie from the Middle East. (photo by Vivin Oommen)

The animated Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) in session with fans. (photo by Vivin Oommen)

Located at the Dubai International Marine Club, there was ample room for the convention hall, an SAE green screen, the grassy arena for main stage activities including cosplay contest, workshop room to learn from the guests, the VOX movie club which hosted Q & A sessions and movie screenings.

The nazi zombie who stole Max Landis' heart at the cosplay contest (photo by Vivin Oommen)

The one place you get to witness and meet comic fans from Dubai, do not miss out on the second day of MEFCC, also the last one. This is history in the making, just the start of the comic world unravelling in the Middle East.

The end of one film festival marks the beginning of another

Another film festival has come to an end and with the closing ceremony has revealed promising talents. The live stream of this ceremony is available on youtube here. Watch the Middle East’s young talent receiving the recognition they completely deserve.
The Gulf Film Festival is one of the few international forums set up for young Arab talent to prosper and spread wings. Competitions set up before the launch of the festival encourage local cinema talent to participate and expose their skills along with fellow aspiring peers.
Although GFF has come to an end, watch out for Tropfest Arabia, the world’s largest short film festival set to begin again at Abu Dhabi.

The daunting choice for women: Family or Career?

   Women have been faced with this question time and again: profession or family. Decades ago, marriage provided a deadline to their careers. Professional life existed only for the bachelorettes, which didn’t last for long.

    Education has not only opened gates to women, but provided them with wings too. Fathers and husbands have become more broad-minded to appreciate a woman having her own life beyond the four walls of home. Although the situation has remained stagnant in many under developed nations, Dubai has witnessed a lot of female staff at office and behind counter desks.

   Coming back to the question: profession or family, women have compromised time and again for their family. What they don’t realize is the effect of their compromise on their children’s future. Although the mother can shower undivided attention and cater to every kid’s needs, what they don’t realize is the kind of future they’re unconsciously setting for their young ones.

     People have the subtle ability to observe ‘how’ someone is performing an action rather than what the action is. The ‘how’ factor is what sets each human apart. Kids observe their parents more than you know. Watching the mother disheartened and defeated by circumstances doesn’t set a good example for their future. Girls are more sensitive towards the little differences in their father and mother’s life. Observing a parent dissatisfied with their life can set a bad impression on the child. Parents are an infant’s personal heroes. They are the easiest source to learn from and seek knowledge about the most mundane activities.

     Women have often sacrificed upon their own health and maintenance to provide their kids with the best. Heard of the phrase ‘Selfishness is a virtue’? Well, it is. Only after feeding herself can a mother breast-feed and nourish her child.  Mothers are known to be closer to children than the father. However, an insecure and disappointed mom would hardly be someone to approach to when the teenager is experiencing some issues. Instead, they reach for support outside home, which may benefit or harm them. Slowly a bubble begins to form where the parent becomes unaware of the child’s life outside home. Although teenagers are stereotyped to be rebellious and uncomfortable with talking to their elders, it depends largely on the parent’s treatment towards various societal issues.

   Sacrifices made by the mother for her children can also become very overbearing and a factor of guilt for many of their decisions. This guilt might protect them from engaging in unhealthy activities, but using the parent’s suffering against the child can devastate their relationship. The mother sacrifices and expects. Nothing is given away for free. And when the grown up children cannot meet her expectations, disappointment prevails, not only for the mother, but the children as well. It can harm their self-esteem and confidence. There’s a clear difference between the performance of a child with proud parents and that of a child whose parents discourage and complain.

   A mother’s personal frustration might be held well behind her walls. However, age makes them weaker, physically, mentally and emotionally. Slowly, their subsided resentment exits those walls in small bouts. And the nearest person is often the victim of her historic pain. Anger outbursts and insults hurled at the younger family members results in an antagonizing environment at home. As such, family dinners grow to the extent of endanger and then to extinction.

   The mother may be the easiest person to blame, but the father or husband has the bigger role to play. They are responsible for forcing the woman to choose. Men easily remain active witnesses to the daily abuses. Supporting their wives and comforting them not only improves her mood, but also gives the right impression of a ‘family’ to the children.

    Adolescents prepare their idea of a realistic relationship based on the one they view daily. Some base their opinion of a partner on the kind of husband or wife their dad and mom are. Hence a healthy bond between parents is essential in building the future bonds between the children.

    Albeit the situation has improved drastically across the world, let’s not forget that this is choice is still expected in a few countries. Let’s hope you’re lucky enough to not face this question, ever. But considering you do, after years, think carefully. You’re not doing a favor for your kids. Neither are they going to benefit watching you wither away in regrets.

“I prefer giving first priority to family as a girl. For girls, I feel compromises just go on for lifetime. When it’s a matter of career, we can have a career by having a mature life and keeping our family happy. If you’re good, your family’s going to be good to you”

 Ilham Naushad, University of Vocational Education, Dubai

“Contrary to the belief that girls are ‘not good enough’ my parents are so happy to have a girl. I’m not just cut out for housework. I can do what I want when I want. If I want to do it, then I can. Depending on his (future partner) financial situation, if I want to do something for me, it is my life. He can’t rule over my life. We are two different people. What he thinks does not have to be right for me, and what I say does not have to be right for him. We’ll work out a middle path.”

 Roohi Ibrahim, Advertising graduate, MU Dubai

Coffee shop review #7: Tim Hortons

Alas! The coffee shop everyone’s been talking about! Me and my friend were excited to check out this beauty at it’s new JBR branch. So we strolled down The Walk and headed inside the most talked about café. Little did we know we had simply picked the wrong branch. I ordered a chocolate muffin while my friend called for their café latte. After receiving the bill, the staff realized their chocolate muffins were out of stock. Is it wrong to believe that when you’ve paid for an item you should receive it? Or at least be warned of its unavailability before paying for it. Nonetheless, my friend substituted the muffin with their chocolate croissant and we headed upstairs with our orders. Perhaps sitting outside would have been a more suitable choice. Let’s just say the view upstairs was nothing out of the ordinary and so was their coffee. Considering the menu, perhaps, students would appreciate the prices, the variety and their efficiency at preparing orders in no time. No wonder, my peers and colleagues have been raving about this place so much! This coffee shop is growing rapidly and is soon to open more branches across Dubai and Abu Dhabi. If you’re a coffee addict, you must check out this bustling café at Sheikh Zayed Road.

Taste of Dubai: A Cinderella tale to a Prince’s appetite


Dear foodaholics, if you missed out on Dubai’s food festival then let me inform you of how big a loss you’ve encountered. Three wholesome days of music, fun and lots of food for everyone! Pardon the excessive exclamation marks you will find in my narration since this was my first time at Taste of Dubai and I still haven’t recovered from the shot of pure-awesomeness that my appetite experienced.  For three days.

  Considering this was my debut at a food festival, I was unaware of the dress code, ethics or the table manners to be followed. So I went with casual in flip-flops and immediately realized just how wrong I was. Contrary to my belief, hundreds of people swarmed around me in the best of their wardrobe: classy and chic and there I was, standing in my jeans and Aeropostale beach slippers. So I decided to make amends for the next day. Little did I realize those weren’t the only amends to be made.

    My friend accompanied me as we discovered this food festival on foot. Stalls, more stalls, fashionable crowd, staff distributing vouchers and pamphlets, goodie bags, a live band which honestly could have performed better, live cooking stations featuring celebrity chefs (oo la la!) and people queued outside stalls on a work-free-Friday. Now that you know the summary, let’s get to the juicy details!

  The food stalls were cleverly arranged to feature retail outlets at the start, a few award winning restaurants further ahead and the world-renowned celebrity chefs’ creations at the very end. Since we were already familiar with PF Changs, Da Shi Dai, Chi Zen and other retail dining restaurants, we decided to invest in the unknown eateries. Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, we experimented with Gaucho, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Seafire and Mahek.

While we indulged in what appeared to be a samosa stuffed with minced beef from Gaucho, our curiosity drifted towards the funny steak from Ruth’s Chris. As for Mahek, I couldn’t ignore the reality behind the name of this luxurious Indian restaurant. Mahek is literally translated to aroma, and that is exactly what attracted us to this fine outlet. We munched on their spicy kebabs dipped in lentil sauce and decided to approach the lamb chops shamelessly with our hands. Which, we realized three minutes later after having sauce spilled on either shirts, was probably not the best strategy when you’re dealing with Indian food.

  And for the highlight of our day, drum roll please…….it’s Seafire! Atlantis is synonymous for having the best restaurants in the city but also the most expensive. And it took us just one restaurant to awaken the delight that such good food does exist in Dubai. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the best steak I’ve enjoyed in my existence: the Atlantis tenderloin wellington served with mashed potato courtesy of Seafire, also awarded as ‘The best steakhouse of 2011’ by TimeOut Dubai. We couldn’t ignore how absolutely delicious Seafire was and given their good customer service we came back for more, and more, until the Atlantis tenderloin was no longer served. It was now time, to move on.

  Live cooking stations were a visible success since people had queued for half-hour and some had to wait as long as an hour. And really, what’s more fun than getting your hands messy in the company of friends. Although we didn’t experience this signature event, our graphic designer Anton enjoyed it “The one-hour cooking session was most definitely the highlight of my day. Due to high demand, we had to queue for over an hour to get our space in the Miele cooking session. Luckily for us, our chef was none other than Suzanne Husseini, a celebrity Arabic chef whose specialty is creating an infusion of traditional and contemporary cooking. Amongst the lucky 30, we spent the next hour cooking meatballs in cherry sauce with honey and spices, in addition to a baklava with a modern twist. Most importantly, however, was to remember the main ingredient “Love”. And the fun didn’t end there; we got aprons and recipe cards to take home. Lots of fun, great idea, amazing utensils and a brilliant chef”

  Taste of Dubai was an interactive exhibition of what’s delicious in town, what’s coming up and where to invest for those occasions! For a noob like me, the three days were a Cinderella-ish fairy tale to a prince’s appetite!

  As published in One Eight One’s April issue. Written by Ayesha Akbar Ali-

My favorite magazines in Dubai

One can always customize the collection of magazines in Dubai. My genre leans more towards education, the youth and particularly in optimizing their potential. There are only so many publications when it comes to university, high school or education. My favs are the ones below:


A magazine for university students, UNI is the most vibrantly designed publications in the region. As such, the graphics only attract more students towards content. Let’s admit, getting students to read is a near-impossible feat, yet this publication manages to do so and with style. Can’t get a printed copy? Why not just check their website here.


Designed more intrinsically for high school students, ‘one eight one’ speaks on the theme ‘for youth, by youth’. The print platform has been a blessing in disguise for high school and university students to allocate their journalistic talent and experiment with it, rather than be showed the door for lack of experience. Covering all interests, one eight one also gathers more popularity in their interest to allow fans or readers to cover events of their choice on behalf of the magazine. Want to know more? Simple go here.


Now this one folks, is a gallery of the best artsy-fartsy work across the region. A local production, this magazine highlights design, craftwork, illustrations, photography and artwork you never thought originated from the Middle East, while some content features international artists. A flashy yet original take on art (and the winner of a bronze award at Dubai Lynx 2011 for Design) I can’t help but flip through the pages with the desire of wanting more…..(The electronic reader version of this magazine is available online here)

Coffee-shop review #6: Gloria Jeans

 A rather oddly placed café inside Dubai Mall, Gloria Jeans has played modestly with brown interiors, leather furniture, and comfortable seating arrangements. We ordered a rather interesting crème brulee macchiato with Tiramisu. Yes, I’d been missing tiramisu for a while and Gloria Jeans seemed like a perfect stop! Besides the rather small portion of coffee, my bare Tiramisu was drenched in more cheese than cake. If you haven’t tried out this heavenly pastry, let me tell you, tiramisu is MUCH much more than just good cheese, it’s the perfect synchronization of coffee, cocoa, sponge cake and cheese. But the pastry that lay in front of me was NOT the tiramisu I worshipped. My friend didn’t find his macchiato any different either. Gloria Jeans, maybe we haven’t found the right combination to discover your magic. Another time, perhaps.