From left, the actors Forest Whitaker, Brenda Blethyn and Dolores Heredia with the director Rachid Bouchareb at a screening of Two Men in Town during the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. Joerg Carstensen / EPA
From left, the actors Forest Whitaker, Brenda Blethyn and Dolores Heredia with the director Rachid Bouchareb at a screening of Two Men in Town during the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. JoergShow more

Forest Whitaker talks about learning Arabic and playing an Islamic convert in Two Men in Town

Competing for big prizes at this week’s Berlin International Film Festival, the French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb’s latest drama Two Men in Town is a kind of contemporary Western set against a backdrop of immigration and racial tension along the border between the United States and Mexico. Forest Whitaker, who picked up a Black Pearl Career Achievement award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival last October, stars as William Garnett, a newly released convict struggling to turn his life around after 18 years behind bars. In prison, Garnett converted to Islam and chose a path of peace. But he can never quite shake off his violent past, especially when old friends and enemies will not leave him alone.

“I had never explored this type of character before,” the 52-year-old Whitaker says, when we meet in Berlin. “I’ve dealt with suppression of emotions and anger and pain in various movies. but this was different. I’m always excited about a new journey to some room that I haven’t visited before.”

Born in France to Algerian parents, the 60-year-old Bouchareb has a long track record of sympathetic films touching on Arab and Muslim issues. He even succeeded in getting French law changed with Days of Glory, his Oscar-nominated 2006 drama about North African soldiers who suffered discrimination after fighting for France during the Second World War. Two Men in Town is actually a loose remake of a 1973 French thriller with the same title, starring Alain Delon as a former convict trying to live a clean, crime-free life. But Bouchareb stresses his update is a radical makeover that addresses more contemporary issues.

“Alain Delon, in the original film, is not converting to Islam,” says Bouchareb. “I didn’t see the point in just remaking a film that was well-made for its time. So I wrote a new story that deals with the subject matter of immigration and how Islam is seen in the United States and I decided my character would be played by an Afro-American. All these elements were of great interest to me.”

Renowned for his intense preparation for screen roles, Whitaker had Arabic lessons before playing Garnett. “I studied Arabic extensively with an imam so I can do the entire prayer of Islam,” he says. “In fact, Rachid didn’t put most of it in the movie, but in some scenes I would be speaking five minutes of Arabic. I also had to brush up on my Spanish to play this part. Lots of different challenges.”

Garnett wears spectacles and a sharp suit, a look clearly inspired by Malcolm X during his involvement with the controversial Nation of Islam movement. Although Whitaker does not describe himself as religious, he recalls having illuminating conversations with Nation of Islam members in his youth.

“When I was a kid, they used to go through the neighbourhood. They used to come to the door and I would engage in conversations with them and with other religious people who came to the neighbourhood. I was really intrigued by them.”

As Two Men in Town unfolds, despite his best efforts, Garnett is forced to choose between his new religious principles and his old life of crime. The film’s take-home message seems to be that violence is sometimes unavoidable, even for an avowed man of peace. But Bouchareb disagrees.

“Oh no, I don’t say that,” the director protests. “The subject matter of the film is really somebody trying to master all these violent emotions within himself. He’s got to tame this violence, this hatred. In a way, his conversion to Islam is a kind of tool that he is trying to gain – through faith and spirituality. He really hopes he is going to master this violent element in himself. It’s some kind of therapy for him. This is what is being shown in the movie.”

• The Berlin film festival runs until Sunday. Visit

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

The specs

Powertrain: Single electric motor
Power: 201hp
Torque: 310Nm
Transmission: Single-speed auto
Battery: 53kWh lithium-ion battery pack (GS base model); 70kWh battery pack (GF)
Touring range: 350km (GS); 480km (GF)
Price: From Dh129,900 (GS); Dh149,000 (GF)
On sale: Now

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

Company Profile

Company name: myZoi
Started: 2021
Founders: Syed Ali, Christian Buchholz, Shanawaz Rouf, Arsalan Siddiqui, Nabid Hassan
Based: UAE
Number of staff: 37
Investment: Initial undisclosed funding from SC Ventures; second round of funding totalling $14 million from a consortium of SBI, a Japanese VC firm, and SC Venture

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8


Director: Damian Szifron

Stars: Shailene Woodley, Ben Mendelsohn, Ralph Ineson

Rating: 2/5

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Where the Crawdads Sing

Director: Olivia Newman
Stars: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, David Strathairn
Rating: 2/5


Producer: Ronnie Screwvala

Director: Akarsh Khurana

Starring: Irrfan Khan, Dulquer Salmaan, Mithila Palkar

Rating: 4/5


Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Apple Mac through the years

1984 - Apple unveiled the Macintosh on January 24
1985 - Steve Jobs departed from Apple and established NeXT
1986 - Apple introduced the Macintosh Plus, featuring enhanced memory
1987 - Apple launched the Macintosh II, equipped with colour capabilities
1989 - The widely acclaimed Macintosh SE/30 made its debut
1994 - Apple presented the Power Macintosh
1996 - The Macintosh System Software OS underwent a rebranding as Mac OS
2001 - Apple introduced Mac OS X, marrying Unix stability with a user-friendly interface
2006 - Apple adopted Intel processors in MacBook Pro laptops
2008 - Apple introduced the MacBook Air, a lightweight laptop
2012 - Apple launched the MacBook Pro with a retina display
2016 - The Mac operating system underwent rebranding as macOS
2020 - Apple introduced the M1 chip for Macs, combining high performance and energy efficiency
2022 - The M2 chip was announced
2023 -The M3 line-up of chip was announced to improve performance and add new capabilities for Mac.

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 


Company: Vault
Started: June 2023
Co-founders: Bilal Abou-Diab and Sami Abdul Hadi
Based: Abu Dhabi
Licensed by: Abu Dhabi Global Market
Industry: Investment and wealth advisory
Funding: $1 million
Investors: Outliers VC and angel investors
Number of employees: 14

UK - UAE Trade

Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and the UAE in 2022 was £21.6 billion (Dh98 billion). 

This is an increase of 63.0 per cent or £8.3 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of 2021.


The UAE was the UK’s 19th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2022 accounting for 1.3 per cent of total UK trade.


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Asia Cup 2018 Qualifier

Sunday's results:

  • UAE beat Malaysia by eight wickets
  • Nepal beat Singapore by four wickets
  • Oman v Hong Kong, no result

Tuesday fixtures:

  • Malaysia v Singapore
  • UAE v Oman
  • Nepal v Hong Kong
Another way to earn air miles

In addition to the Emirates and Etihad programmes, there is the Air Miles Middle East card, which offers members the ability to choose any airline, has no black-out dates and no restrictions on seat availability. Air Miles is linked up to HSBC credit cards and can also be earned through retail partners such as Spinneys, Sharaf DG and The Toy Store.

An Emirates Dubai-London round-trip ticket costs 180,000 miles on the Air Miles website. But customers earn these ‘miles’ at a much faster rate than airline miles. Adidas offers two air miles per Dh1 spent. Air Miles has partnerships with websites as well, so and offer three miles per Dh1 spent.

“If you use your HSBC credit card when shopping at our partners, you are able to earn Air Miles twice which will mean you can get that flight reward faster and for less spend,” says Paul Lacey, the managing director for Europe, Middle East and India for Aimia, which owns and operates Air Miles Middle East.

Haemoglobin disorders explained

Thalassaemia is part of a family of genetic conditions affecting the blood known as haemoglobin disorders.

Haemoglobin is a substance in the red blood cells that carries oxygen and a lack of it triggers anemia, leaving patients very weak, short of breath and pale.

The most severe type of the condition is typically inherited when both parents are carriers. Those patients often require regular blood transfusions - about 450 of the UAE's 2,000 thalassaemia patients - though frequent transfusions can lead to too much iron in the body and heart and liver problems.

The condition mainly affects people of Mediterranean, South Asian, South-East Asian and Middle Eastern origin. Saudi Arabia recorded 45,892 cases of carriers between 2004 and 2014.

A World Health Organisation study estimated that globally there are at least 950,000 'new carrier couples' every year and annually there are 1.33 million at-risk pregnancies.