Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Them Egyptians


You know, I owe you a lot of writing. In particular, those film festivals in San Francisco, I still need to tell you about the films. With the time it takes for them to become commercially successful, some of them may just be making it into the big theaters now.

For now, I'll introduce a film (and novel) that were very popular at the San Francisco International Film Festival of 2007. Not the best film in the world, but notorious, so it brought long long lines of actual Arabs (as opposed to curious non-Arabs.) The Yacoubian Building. The novel can be bought anywhere i.e. local bookstores. Watching the film is of course, quicker. The director was really young and cute. There's something very French about Cairo, or at least the way Cairo of the "good old days" is portrayed.

I'll tell you more about that Arab Film Festival of 2006. It was sooo full. One of the films people crowded to see was "Kiss Me, Not On the Eyes." Raj loved this film. I didn't understand it, but still liked the sensuousness - dance, colour, beautiful woman, colour, red dress against black hair, dance - in the market, I walked through a place like that in the market in my last week in Cairo, where they sell cheap bras and stuff, and a kid stands on a table advertising, (dancing?)

I just read the synopsis written in the AFF pamphlet for this film. Now I get it!
"Tradition, culture, expression, and passion collide in this sensitive exploration of the changing nature of love and romance in modern Cairo. Young Dunia balances two lives: one as a promising graduate student in poetic arts, the second as the daughter of one of the greatest legends in belly dancing lore. Between intensive studies and even more extensive dance training, she manages to wrestle with intimacy issues regarding arduous suitor Mamdouh, forcing herself to make hard choices between what she wants and what she believes. When she secures the opportunity to work with an esteemed and outspoken literature professor many years her senior, she discovers a new kind of sensuality that challenges every assumption she has ever had about love. A well paced and often hypnotic feature that draws the viewer ever tighter into its inexorable conclusion."
Maybe I'll understand this film better when I'm older. Like how dumb was "Love Story" when I was a kid? I couldn't wait for the chic to die, the film was so boring. Then I watched it again during the holidays in Sophomore year of college, and thought, huh, I guess it's this love story going on, they're not altogether stupid following each other around and then being miserable when one dies. Gosh, I used to hate those misery stories. Like Beth in Little Women...what was her story? She was sick, and then she died. Julianne Moore once said Beth was her favourite. I thought, eeew, what about Jo? She was alive, tough, and she like married the Professor ;)

What else was I going to write? Ah, this chic, Nigerian, named Chimamanda is good. I'm excited for her 'cos she got a MacArthur fellowship, aka money to do whateva, suckas. I'm reading a fiction thingie of hers in The New Yorker and thinking "wow, sweet, I actually want to read more." Then it goes beyond two pages, and I'm starting to feel lazy...still going to read more. Still haven't read either of her novels but that never stopped me recommending her, right? A trusted friend swears "Half of A Yellow Sun" is amazing. Igbo nationalists, hehehe. I recommend and gift "Things Fall Apart" a lot. Read that one. It's by Chinua Achebe, whom Chimamanda obviously loves, understands, and emulates as a writer. You'll learn more in 100 easy pages about "Africa" and her "culture" than in months of seminars with big oyinbo grammatical talk.

I'll be back. Peace and love.

1 comment:

t said...

Re: Chimamanda's writing

I finally read her three titles. Half of A Yellow Sun deserves the praise it gets. The book is better than most of its reviews, although Achebe's blurb on the front cover of the book gets it very right : the writer is brave to have tackled such subject matter. It's not a perfect work, but I have to be fair and say that it is so strong that it is perhaps an instant classic. It will remain one of "the" books in African literature for a very long time.

The short story from New Yorker reappeared in a collection titled The Thing Around Your Neck. I liked it better this time around, even if it was one of my least favourite stories in the quite near perfect and utterly giftable collection.

I found Purple Hibiscus disappointing. I read "Neck" first and thought, wow, she's actually good. I then decided she got too much credit and hadn't it gone to her head and read "Hibiscus" with a very severe eye. Let me admit that it was a very well done novel but not outstanding for story or skill.

Then I read "Sun" and although I would nit-pick, this is a very important book.