Director Ridley Scott gets biblical in his epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings” retelling of Moses leading his people to ‘the promised land’

exodusPeter Travers

BANISH all memories of a hambone, harrumphing Old Testament Charlton Heston as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, the 1956 campfest that TV shoves at us during religious holidays. DeMille’s once-thrilling parting of the Red Sea plays today like CG primitivism.

Ridley Scott directing Sigourney Weaver in 'Exodus: Gods and Kings'.

Ridley Scott directing Sigourney Weaver in’Exodus: Gods and Kings’.

Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) is determined not to make his Exodus: Gods and Kings old-hat. But he’s after way more than FX pow – although wait until you see that Red Sea heave in 3D and the damage done by those 10 deadly plagues, from crocodiles, frogs and locusts to the death of every first-born in Egypt.

Shooting on location, mostly in Spain, with thousands of non-digital extras, the ferociously cinematic Scott aims to keep things real and raw. He gets that and more from Christian Bale, in rousing form, as a hot-blooded warrior Moses ready to question all comers, including the gods and kings of the title. After learning of his Hebrew identity, Moses rises up against a childhood pal, the pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), and builds the mettle he needs to lead 600,000 Israelite slaves out of Egypt.

excodus1Like Darren Aronofsky in Noah, Scott, who crafted the script with four other writers, departs from Scripture enough to raise hackles. For example, this Moses sees God in the person of an insolent schoolboy (Isaac Andrews), who takes guff from Moses for waiting 400 years to get around to freeing the slaves. In the large cast, including Aaron Paul, Ben Kingsley and John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver stands out as the mother of Ramses. “I don’t want Moses exiled,” she snaps. “I want him dead.” You get the picture. Exodus is a biblical epic that comes at you at maximum velocity but stays stirringly, inspiringly human.

From The Archives Issue 1224: December 18, 2014


Rolling Stones
December 11, 2014

Christian Bale as Moses in ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.'  Photo; 20th Century Fox

Christian Bale as Moses in ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.’ Photo; 20th Century Fox


“Assalamualaikum, Beijing!”, A new Indonesian movie with scenes of Chinese icons

beijin temat
‘Assalamualaikum, Beijing!’, is another film by Guntur Soeharjanto after ’99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa’.

The film is, produced by Maxima Pictures, based on the best seller novel with the similar title written by productive and popular young Muslimah author Asma Nadia.


Assalamualaikum Beijing! is about a woman named Ra/Asma (Revalina S Temat) who betrayed her lover, Dewa (Ibn Jamil), a month before the wedding. Dewa chooses to marry Anita but only until their baby is born. He plans to divorce for the sake of returning to Ra.

On the other hand, Asma meets Chinese youth named Zhongwen (Morgan Oey) while covering in Beijing. Zhongwen depicted as a young man with a firm jaw and intelligent eyes that glow softly. Beads of love grew between them.

Assalamualaikum Beijing tells a love story that is not cliché, Insha Allah. Also how a convert to proceed,” Asma Nadia, the novelist said.

Starred by Revalina S Temat, Morgan Oey, Ibnu Jamil and Lidya Cynthia Bella, it would be released on 30 December 2014.

Some scenes of the film were taken at the Chinese popular tourist sites like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City in Beijing and Ashima sclupture in Yunnan.

beijing postr

See its trailer:

beijing book

Muslims pray to turn Turkey’s greatest monument back into a mosque

aya sofiaAyla Jean Yackley

IT has served as the exalted seat of two faiths since its vast dome and lustrous gold mosaics first levitated above Istanbul in the 6th Century: Christendom’s greatest cathedral for 900 years and one of Islam’s greatest mosques for another 500.

Today, the Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya in Turkish, is officially a museum: Turkey’s most-visited monument, whose formally neutral status symbolises the secular nature of the modern Turkish state.

But tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers gathering there on Saturday hope it will again be a mosque, a dream they believe Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan can fulfil.

There are even rumours – denied by the government – that Erdogan, a religious conservative who is seeking the presidency at an election in August, could lead prayers there one day soon.

“This is a serious push to break Ayasofya’s chains,” said Salih Turan, head of the Anatolia Youth Association, which has collected 15 million signatures to petition for it to be turned back into a mosque.

“Ayasofya is a symbol for the Islamic world and the symbol of Istanbul’s conquest. Without it, the conquest is incomplete, we have failed to honour Sultan Mehmet’s trust,” he said, citing a 15th Century deed signed by the conquering Caliph and decrying as sin other uses of Hagia Sophia.

Built in 537 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian whose rule stretched from Spain to the Middle East, Hagia Sophia – meaning “Divine Wisdom” in Greek – was unrivalled in the Christian world until Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered the city in 1453 and turned it into a mosque. Modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk decreed it a museum in 1934.

Now, renewed interest in praying at Hagia Sophia taps into a burgeoning sense of Islamic identity that Erdogan has encouraged during a decade as Turkey’s dominant politician.

For most of the 20th Century, Western-oriented Turks scorned the imperial past. But Erdogan has promoted celebration of the Turkish conquest that turned Constantinople into Istanbul.

“Conquest is the removal of shackles on doors and in hearts,” he said on Thursday to mark the 561st anniversary of the Byzantine defeat. “Civilisation comes with conquest.”

A 2012 film depicting the Muslim takeover of the Byzantine capital, “Conquest 1453”, attracted an audience of millions. So has the museum’s “Panorama 1453” exhibition, which recreates the event in vivid detail.

Ibrahim Kalin, a senior Erdogan adviser, said there were no plans to alter the monument’s current status.

“Speculation on changing it into a church or a mosque remains speculation. Hagia Sophia has been open to all visitors from Turkey and around the world and will remain so,” he said.

Last year, Erdogan said he would not consider changing Hagia Sophia’s status as long as another great Istanbul house of worship, the 17th Century Sultan Ahmed Mosque, remains mostly empty of worshippers. Istanbul boasts more than 3,000 mosques.

But many pious Turks believe turning Hagia Sophia into a museum denigrated the memory of Sultan Mehmet, who strode into the ransacked cathedral to pray at its altar.


Calls for Hagia Sophia to be restored as a mosque have circulated before but were largely marginal until two years ago, when thousands of worshippers prayed at the monunment. Since then, Turkey’s chief mufti has recruited Istanbul’s most gifted muezzins to read the call to prayer from a sanctuary on its grounds, transmited through speakers on its brick-clad minaret.

The Koranic verses from Hagia Sophia create a soaring call and response with those read from across manicured gardens from the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

In what was widely taken as a hint, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc stood outside Hagia Sophia in November and said he “prayed to God it would soon be smiling again,” then cited a law forbidding houses of worship to be used for other purposes.

A vigorous social-media campaign followed. This month, an independent lawmaker proposed a law to allow Muslim prayer.

A pledge to make Hagia Sophia a mosque may draw some disaffected nationalist and religious voters back to Erdogan in the presidential vote after a year of anti-government protests and a corruption scandal, said Sahin Alpay, a professor of political science at Bahcesehir University and a columnist for the Zaman daily. But he argued it would not be worth the price.

“It would strengthen the mutual suspicion and polarisation between the West and the Muslim world,” Alpay said. “All hell breaking loose is a high price to pay.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bi-partisan advisory panel set up by Congress, said in a statement last week that such a move would threaten Turkey’s international standing and recall its mistreatment of Christians over the last century.

“Whether driven by political considerations tied to Turkey’s forthcoming elections, or for any other reason, opening Hagia Sophia as a mosque would clearly be a divisive and provocative move,” it said, calling on Erdogan to affirm its current status.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, has called for Hagia Sophia to stay a museum.

“If its status is to change and it will be opened anew as a place of worship, then it cannot be forgotten that it was built to be a church, and that requires it be opened as a church again,” Bartholomew told Agos newspaper on Thursday.

Bartholomew’s seat remains in Istanbul, a vestige of the Byzantine Empire, even as his flock in Turkey has dwindled to less than 3,000 among a population of 75 million Muslims. Decades of violence and economic and political pressure forced most Christians to leave after the Republic was founded in 1923.

Turkish scholars and others have gathered just 1,000 or so signatures to petition against a change in Hagia Sophia’s status.


Hagia Sophia attracted 3.3 million visitors in 2012 and is the crown jewel among Istanbul sites on Unesco’s World Heritage List. The U.N. cultural agency has sought clarification from the government on Hagia Sophia’s status and would consider whether a change undermines its value, said spokeswoman Petya Totcharova.

Archaeologists have long complained that relics of the Byzantine era get short shrift, pointing to a lack of a museum dedicated to the empire in the capital from where it ruled over the eastern Mediterranean for 1,200 years.

They say a building boom is bulldozing the pre-Islamic history of a city that was already 1,000 years old when Constantine I gave it his name and proclaimed it capital of the Roman Empire in 330 AD.

Reverting Hagia Sophia to a mosque “would demonstrate … we are privileging and emphasising one historical layer of the monument and not its various layers,” said Alessandra Ricci, a historian of the Byzantine period at Koc University in Istanbul.

“It is like sitting in front of a loom and weaving a carpet. If you turn it into a mosque, you lose the pattern. It’s not the whole story,” she said.

The seemingly weightless dome of Hagia Sophia still serves as the blueprint for Turkish mosques, as it did throughout the Ottoman centuries, said Edhem Eldem, history professor at Bogazici University.

Many Orthodox Christians were never reconciled to the loss of their cathedral. But its transformation into a museum “eased the pain, it removed a thorn,” said Mihail Vasiliadis, editor of Istanbul’s Greek newspaper Apoyevmatini.

“It may be an imperfect fix, but without it, people will no longer come to Istanbul to see where civilisations meet.”

In 2010, Greek Americans aborted plans to pray at Hagia Sophia after Turkish authorities threatened to block their entry into the country.


In a possible omen for Hagia Sophia, two other churches that share its name and served as museums have re-opened as mosques.

In the Black Sea town of Trabzon, the 13th Century Hagia Sophia’s celestial frescoes were obscured with blinds to avoid offending Muslims when the space became a mosque last year.

In the walled city of Iznik, or ancient Nicaea where Christianity’s central Nicene Creed was adopted, authorities reverted a museum called Hagia Sophia to a mosque in 2011.

Like its Istanbul namesake, it was built in the 6th Century under Justinian, converted to a mosque under the Ottomans and became a museum in the 20th Century.

Today, Iznik is a dusty farm town where tractors rumble past a poorly kept 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheatre and goats feed among the pillars of an all-but-vanished 8th Century church burned down during Turkey’s war with Greece in 1922.

Since the conversion, business has taken a hit as Christian pilgrims skip Iznik, a hotel owner said on condition his name was not used. “We are not reconciled with our past, and so we try to eliminate the traces,” he said. “That’s when we lose.”

Fri May 30, 2014

Brunei’s ‘Yasmine’ official movie trailer now available

bru film yas postAdib Noor

ORIGIN Films has launched the official international trailer for the upcoming feature film, Yasmine.

The trailer will give both local and international movie goers a glimpse of what the first international feature film from Brunei has to offer.

The inaugural showing of the action packed two-minute trailer played at Times Cineplex at Times Square shopping centre, Berakas.

bru film yas scenePresent during the launching event were invited members of the media as well as Siti Kamaludin, Brunei’s first female film director and her dedicated team from Origin Films.

With the launch the official trailer can now be seen in cinemas nationwide and on the film’s official website,

Yasmine has been screened as an entry In the Hong Kong international Film and TV Market last March and Le Marche’ du Film’s Festival de Cannes earlier this month. It also has caught the attention of international media with articles featured in international magazines such as the Monocle from Britain, as well as articles in The Guardian and The Hollywood Reporter to name a few.

To find out more, visit its official website or follow their development via Twitter @yasminethemovieofficial, its Instagram, @yasminethemovie and its youtube channel,

The much anticipated international feature film directed by Brunei’s very own Siti Kamaludin is set for general release on August 21, 2014 and will be shown in theatres in Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore.

The Brunei Times
Saturday, May 31, 2014

Brunei’s first female film director, Siti Kamaludin (5th R)and her dedicated team from Origin Films during the official launch of YASMINE, Brunei's first International Feature Film. Photo: BT/Adib Noor

Brunei’s first female film director, Siti Kamaludin (5th R)and her dedicated team from Origin Films during the official launch of YASMINE, Brunei’s first International Feature Film. Photo: BT/Adib Noor

Bruneian awarded weirdest film at Cannes

bru film lobDaniel Wood

BRUNEIAN filmmaker Abd Khabir Zainidi has won the “Weirdest film” award for Lobak at the Cannes Film Festival, the second time his short movie was featured at the invitation-only festival.

The 36-year-old owner of local production house BruRealism Pictures attended the festival, which ended on May 25, to show off two films, Lobak and the recently completed Ostrich.

Lobak was awarded the weirdest movie for a competition within Cannes organised by film colleagues.

“I’m pleased and relieved because I was encountering difficulty towards the end of the Ostrich shoot (in April).

“The reception has been satisfactory mainly because I marketed the film as 100 per cent Bruneian. For that I am proud and the emphasis has always been on low budget,” he said, emphasising that the actors, director, pre- and post-production was made entirely by Bruneians.

Abd Khabir being interviewed on his films by ECU, a European independent festival. Photo: BT/BruRealism

Abd Khabir being interviewed on his films by ECU, a European independent festival. Photo: BT/BruRealism

According to Abd Khabir, foreign directors at the festival gave generally positive reviews about the films, with Canadian director Peter Vronsky (noted for his work on serial killers) saying that “it takes (Bruneian directors) courage to go out there and portray to a larger audience a small country”.

Vronsky was referring also to another Bruneian at Cannes, Siti Kamaluddin, who was premiering Brunei’s first international feature silat film, Yasmine.

“My fellow director also commended me for my style and choice of genre and did not expect Brunei to be able to produce deep storytelling and acting,” Abd Khabir said.

Indonesian journalist Ging Ginanjar had exclaimed that he was surprised to learn Brunei had a presence in Cannes and was even more surprised that Abd Khabir had debuted in Cannes two years ago as Brunei’s first director featuring in the famed festival.

In his article for Tempo, he said “two films at the Cannes Film Festival 2014 for a country without a film tradition like Brunei, is clearly more than good”.

Lobak stars Anwar Rosly and Bruneian singer Dayat. It tells the story of an orphan who embarks on a journey in an orphanage and the strange world of Bruneian jungles.

The three-week shooting happened simultaneously in Paris and Brunei.

The experimental film has been called disturbing and scary by early reviewers.

The Brunei Times
Wed, 28 May 2014