x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

First Syrian film debuts at Cannes

Plus: America has a new Idol, Yousry Nasrallah wants to break taboos, Sharon Stone sued by her nanny, and Lady Gaga angers Thais with fake Rolex tweet.

Syrian director Bassam Chekhes. Loic Venance / AFP
Syrian director Bassam Chekhes. Loic Venance / AFP

Bassam Chekhes is the first Syrian director to ever be in competition at Cannes, with his short film Waiting for PO Box. He said coming to Cannes was "a dream" - and a vital link to other filmmakers around the world. "You can feel the similarity of our humanity, the feeling that we are 30-year-old men who have the same problems all around the world," he said. * AP

Pawn shop worker wins American Idol

The 21-year-old pawn shop worker and bluesy rock singer Phillip Phillips was crowned the new American Idol on Thursday after defeating the 16-year-old student and R&B vocalist Jessica Sanchez, receiving the winning share of the record-high 132 million votes. Among the guest performers in the finals were Rihanna, Neil Diamond, Chaka Khan, Reba McEntire, John Fogarty and Jennifer Holliday, who stole the show with a powerhouse duet of And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going with Sanchez. * AP

Cannes director: Arab cinema trying to liberate itself

Competing for the Palme d'Or at Cannes is After the Battle, by Egypt's Yousry Nasrallah, who said his crew was worried about Islamists who condemn cinema as a sin, so they filmed using a code name to make the movie sound like a romantic comedy. "Arab cinema is trying to liberate itself, to break taboos. Because this is the only way you can make movies," he said. "You don't want to feel the film itself is a prison. You want to feel the filmmaker is liberated and thus liberating you, too." * AP

Sharon Stone sued by nanny

Sharon Stone is being sued by her former nanny, claiming she repeatedly insulted her Filipino heritage and fired her after discovering she had been paid overtime. Erlinda T Elemen's lawsuit claims Stone insulted her accent and other aspects of her culture in the final months of her employment. Elemen worked for Stone for more than four years. The suit also claims Stone forbade Elemen from reading the Bible in the actress's home. "She is obviously looking for an opportunity to cash in," Stone's publicist Paul Bloch said. "This is a frivolous lawsuit for absurd claims." * AP

Lady Gaga angers Thais with Rolex comment

Lady Gaga wants to go shopping in Bangkok - for a fake Rolex. The singer made the comment on Twitter, sparking an uproar on Thursday as some fans called it offensive and insulting. "I just landed in Bangkok baby! Ready for 50,000 screaming Thai monsters. I wanna get lost in a lady market and buy a fake Rolex," she posted. Lady Gaga hasn't wanted for publicity on her Asia tour. She has angered Catholics in South Korea and the Philippines and Islamists in Indonesia. * AP