Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More Arab Film Festival 2006


I'm still blogging the 2006 Arab Film Festival. What Procrastination.
I'll develop my blog notes from 2007, copied here.
Start with Zozo. Watch it. More than sold out.
Kiss Me Not on the Eyes. I bought the soundtrack. More than sold out.
Seeds of Doubt
Wesh wesh
Bab Aziz
Once upon a time in the Wadi
Khadija Al-Salami
Also post picture give me liberty

Where are they now?

Zozo just worked perfectly as a movie. It made me cry, with its depiction of a boy's childhood in some Northern country (was it Sweden?) Sort of an autobiography. There was a bird that was used to very special effect. Zozo made you laugh too. You can imagine, happy-sad, immigration, very clear white pictures, Q and A with the writer/director Josef Fares afterwards. The Arab Film Festival had used Zozo and Dunia on opening night. The word got out about those films and it was a mob that came to watch them later on in the week. Zozo became Sweden's representative to the Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. More about the Zozo film, including a synopsis. Be sure to check this good blog review.

Dunia (Kiss Me Not on the Eyes) is, as Raj put it, poetic. You hear the cadence of ancient love poetry, you do also taste the souk spices, and feel a little with the girl her escape from repression into sensuality. Unforgettable for me is the drumroll in lak, lak, lak (on the soundtrack CD) to which beat the pro-dancers gyrate without shame, the song which is also used to sell underwear in the market, the market like the one this guy walked me through in Cairo one of my last nights there - not a big respectable market like the tourist souk at Khan El Khalili near El-Azhar, but the place near my house I didn't even know it was there that had a boy up on a table dancing while shaking silky underwear for sale (or did this only happen in the film?) The main actress is very very beautiful, arrestingly sultry, like the best of Catherine Zeta-Jones. The movie is sensuous enough from just having a camera closely following her action, but then add the colours (red especially), the deliberate and slow pace, the storyline, that scene with the bangles and the lesson in fore-foreplay, and now, the fact that I associate Mohamed Mounir's love songs with the film.

Seeds of Doubt (Folgeschäden, original German title) is another thought-provoking immigrant film. This guy is an important doctor in Germany, has been there forever, even thinks he's German really, until something happens that makes people think of terrorists and of course of him with his Arab self. Paranoia all around. The production is very clean and Western really. The actor looks very like the director, who is an Egyptian based in Germany. Maybe even half-German Egyptian based in Germany. Very effective film it was. It was a TV-film and went to a few film festivals. I had a crush on the filmmaker Samir Nasr.

Ahlaam made me want to die in Iraq. Or at least go to Baghdad and eat the completely dry sand. It was melodrama overlaid on cinematography. Baghdad is burning, a woman is crying going mad widowed dying all at once. She drags her messy body from place to place (I think wearing her wedding dress, I think she broke out of prison or lunatic house when the war started) and all I can see is these views of scorching sun and dry earth that is brown like over-burnt sand dunes. Even in the city where the shoot-outs happen under a bridge or across a wide road, there is that sand and it's the sexiest saddest sand I've ever seen and I just want a mouthful of that. The film continues the festival tour - check the Ahlaam Facebook fan group - and has been awarded at many of them. I'm guessing they haven't got an aggressive seller behind the film, really. Mohammed Al-Daradji made the film, there's a nice interview here.
Ahlaam = plural of hilm = dreams. Aflaam = plural of film = films. Gotta love the language.

Waiting. Is about waiting. If you have ever been in a God-forsaken place, where you wait all your life - maybe for a signature, maybe for petrol to arrive so that you can get a pen to give to the officer who will someday arrive and then someday give you the signature... - you will say of this film, yes, this is waiting. About life in Palestine. Always waiting. Bloody good art. (Titles in other languages: Attente. Intizar.) By Rashid Mashrawi.

Wesh Wesh. Was this the Algerian film about the sort of slum-dwelling gangster immigrants in some European town (Paris?) If so, I was not connecting, man. It was gritty, maybe a lot of slang, and a little like that Jimmy Cliff "The Harder They Come" film. To start with, the title has "wesh" which is not any Standard Arabic word. You know how all those mesh, mashi, mafish, mush, words (used to) annoy me. Apparently it means like "what's happening, what a-gwan" The director Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche also did Bled Number One which was popular at that film festival, and completed the multi-award-winning trilogy with Dernier Marquis (2008) The lesson is: Paris has housing "projects" and they suck. I remember the drama now. Watch Wesh Wesh here.
Algéries, mes Fantômes, is
another film from Algeria. It had this escapist aesthetic, a road trip on a divine stretch of coast and some friends simply shacking up at the beach, if memory serves. By Jean-Pierre Lledo. Trailer here.

Bosta. It'sa let'sa havea some-a fun. It was alright, a lot of colour and dancing and colourful dancing. Like Breakdance (feelgood films from the 80s about breakdancing) but in shiny MC Hammer Aladdin trousers, crossed with Zorba The Greek. It was the best-selling film in Lebanon in 2006 and was submitted to the Oscars as well.
Another movie with even shinier clothes was Once Upon A Time in the Wadi, originally Il Etait Une Fois Dans L'Oued. Dude, I wasn't laughing. I guess the crime caper (I learned that term in 2003 watching a preview screening of The Big Bounce) is not my genre.

Although I didn't watch Bab-Aziz, from browsing the reviews in the feedback sheets at the AFF, I still long to have seen it. It seems that it took people's breath away, and they would just comment: WOW, or something like that. On amazon. Directed by Nacer Khemir.
There was another film about music and mysticism with more swirling dervishes, in Morocco. Sound of the Soul, by Stephen Olsson. I must have seen part of it. It must have been beautiful. You can buy it here, and it's been on LinkTV.

Michael Franti's documentary I Know I'm Not Alone (on amazon)shows him taking music and cheer to the streets of Iraq, and Palestine/Israel from an American with love. I think there was footage of Iraq's rock and garage bands etc. Would it take more than music to heal this war? Charming film - what was that simple chant he had everyone singing along - yes - habiibiibii habiibiibii habiibiibii habibi. Habibi simply means friend or beloved. It seems there was a CD with the same title, lyrics here.

Linda and Ali seems like a wonderful film. I still really wish I had watched this documentary about the Qatari wife from Arizona. Curious how their interracial marriage works out. Susie's Big Adventure is a cool blog by a woman in a similarly interracial marriage in Saudi Arabia. It won a Bloggie last year.

Yasmine's Song (good review) is a 20minute short film. More melodrama, more wedding dresses. I remember being touched by this story of lovers separated by *the* wall. I don't remember if the wedding actually happened, with a parade on the street and a skirt of paper to keep some tradition, maybe that was a different film. Najwa Najjar wrote/directed Yasmine TuGhani/Yasmine sings. I suspect The Syrian Bride, a significantly more popular film, (not at that festival) is similar. It features Hiam Abbass.

When you watch The Blood of My Brother (Dam Akhii), you see the life of a family member taken pointlessly by wartime chaos in Iraq and you get angry and you wonder along with those left behind what to do with the grief - work, revenge, be bitter, be silent, be soldiers, what? The blood of a ram or goat was spilled in the film and this upset some in the theater. That it upset them (more than the gunned-down human beings upset them) upset some others. Film by Andrew Berends, available on amazon, reviewed on rottentomatoes.com

Little Beirut (watch here, by Mirella Habr) is a short documentary that is exactly this: reactions of Lebanese expats in a Parisian neighborhood at a pivotal moment in history: the Cedar Revolution of April 2005. It went to Cannes Film Festival.

Le Thé d'Ania (OK film, download here. by Said Ould-Khelifa, Algeria), is really a French film, I missed most of it.
La Femme Seule (Short Film, by Brahim Fritah) is an authentic voice (preview) - the life of a West African housemaid - presented in an original style. I wonder how much the style has been copied now.
Beit Min Lahm (House of Flesh, a short film by Rami Abdul-Jabbar, Egypt) is scandalous and the story is consistent with its dark shadowy closeted images.

When Yemen was back in the news this year thanks to a Nigerian would-be terrorist, CNN/Amanpour showed A Stranger In Her Own City to introduce the world to aspects of Yemeni life. Nijmiya is a star. Nijmiya = like/of Nijm = like a star. Documentary film by Khadija El-Salami, a Yemeni diplomat with a crazy story of her own, a Yemeni feminist that is also famous. I'm going to watch the short film online here (still can't find 2/3 of it.) By the way, Nijmiya is doing free and OK. I love her.

Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority was the big issue documentary. Palestine is the issue. And Israel and the US. None can forget footage of the little diva, this child of about four years, complaining about the artillery spoiling all her things. I adore the filmmakers (The Omeish brothers) and the film is (or at least was) a must-watch-and-get-others-to-watch-too. Watch it online, buy it on amazon.

Goal Dreams
(by Maya Sanbar and Jeffrey Saunders) is simply awesome. Combines "waiting" with humour, hope, and football. A documentary that is really fun to watch, Goal Dreams shows Palestine's forming a national football team to bid for the 2006 World Cup. Among the Palestinians on the team is a dapper Wall Street banker, an Argentine, a player from Gaza strip that may/may not cross the checkpoint in time. The coach uses translators who confuse left and right; when the team plays, obviously not on home soil, it's to an empty stadium, when the home fans would have so loved to watch. Just more occupation craziness wrapped in a very good sports film.

So finally, 44 months after the show, I finished the review. Find the previous reviews here and here.

Monday, May 24, 2010



Been reading A LOT. More on my African Literature findings later.

I went to a mega book reading - slash - book signing called Book Jam on Saturday. Glad to have heard about it. I met a lot of people who were very very kind to me. My first time attending an in-store book-reading, ever.

A year ago, I thought I'd never do the circuit, the artsy-fartsy scene, but by now I know a lot of the literary folk in Lagos. It's cool reading stuff by people you know. More on Lagos events later. Lagos is still lame, like L.A.

My first book is out in a couple of weeks. Yes!
The blah blah on this book:

My first book will be available for purchase from June 12, 2010.
It is a poetry collection titled COMRADE.

COMRADE is a delightful treasure trove of lyric and theater; a call to link arms in our varied, collective struggles; and milk to refresh us as we forge a future of better government and sweeter childhood.

Tosin Otitoju
070 5677 7120 (for press and distributors)

I'm currently reading "Crime and Punishment" - Fyodor Dostoevsky, dead Russian dude - and The Abyssinian Boy - Onyeka Nwelue, Nigerian dude. I met him on Saturday too.

Onyeka lives in India these days. He described a friend in the bookstore as "the black girl?" and I pointed out that errr, in Nigeria dude, so saying someone is black is irrelevant. We laughed. He's cute. I've read the first half of his book and it's, well, very Indian, it feels authentic, down to the Indian-English grammar and very-white paper.

The style is foreign too, very unlike common literature. You know how you watch a Spanish movie by some three-named person like Feliciano Lopez Iñárritu or something and it's not actually like a movie it's this symbol consisting of an embrace (nude, always nude) followed by a swim and the fish swallows the blue rose petal. Like Spanish filmmakers are children of Dali and not descended of Hollywood studios at all. Or like how you read Lolita (Nabokov was Russian too, but he usually wrote in English, I think he worked in America or something) having never read anything so strange and think "is he even allowed that many relative clauses in one sentence?" and wow, this is a lot of psychology, and then the tangents off the digresssions, and though there is a plot, it's secondary to the intimacy you've developed with the inner life of the protagonist (ugly word - protagonist) and the lessons in this and that social science.

Anyway, Onyeka's style is weird. He's Aquarian, no wonder (they are the "unconventional" sign, very eccentric, Age of Aquarius and all that.) I would wish him a Nobel except what do I know about great writing? Plus I haven't read the second half of the book where the plot supposedly thickens :) - the family comes to Nigeria from India. All the time I kept recalling - 1988. The author Nwelue is a c-h-i-l-d, born in '88. How does he even have the sense and exposure to write this? There are a dozen blurbs in review of the book, and all are spot-on, using the same adjectives I would use: stylish, original, mystical? I can't wait to get to the bed and finish The Abyssinian Boy. Laters...

Saturday, May 08, 2010


We Are Africans is a fly and catchy musical video. #1

Then they made a remix. #2

And another remix. #3

Which is your favourite? For me, it's not #2. Maybe the original 1. I like the local remix too #3. It's a worthy remix for sure.

My life is filled with music right now. Hahaha, because I'm supposed to be an engineer. Also been writing poetry so I'm happy. Also been driving up and down - I bleeping hate that. Which is why I bought so much music to keep from being pissed on the commute. A lot of DaGrin (hehehe) in my life. DaGrin media have been rushed to market, like his pre-CEO music, an album of his collaborations, and a collection of videos he featured in. I bet the tributes (like this one by M.I.) will get their own album too pretty soon.

What else have I been thinking about? That Rihanna Rude Boy video is so cheeky lol. And there is real talent on the Jesse Jagz album. The JJ album, it's called Jag of All Tradez, has some stealable lines: I love "M.I. is the lightning, I am the thunder, and Ice Prince is the rain." Very sweet and experimental work. I was also thinking Folasona (my smart ethnomusicologist friend that I keep trying to set up with my little sister) should get in the country and help make sense of all this music.

Thursday, May 06, 2010



President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua died at night yesterday, May 5, on my father's 55th birthday. My father is on TV now commenting on the politics.

Previously there was Muslim prayer being recited musically on TV, with images of Hajia Turai praying alongside her husband. Yar'Adua looked like a humble schoolboy. I thought, she must be so sad, and especially feel so alone. You see, Turai was Yar'Adua's only wife, whereas as a Nigerian Muslim he was free to take more than one wife. This says something of their devotion to each other.

The melodious Muslim sounds made me want to find a mosque to pray in. Maybe I'll let this tugging pass, but like a battering ram, there may yet be another push, until one day, I'll pray as a Muslim. Ram: the most favoured food animal of Muslim festivals in Lagos. Have you ever seen rams fight? Maybe the battering ram is so-called because it's also relentless.

There is too much illogic in religion, so it's not that I want to be very religious. I have attended a Mass a week (thanks to living with my parents) for the past ten months and am now desensitized to Catholic prayer. These days I come to the end of Mass with the thought, wow, I can't remember anything the Reverend Father said. On the other hand, I remain responsive to the sights and sounds of Arabia/Islam.

Another commentator on TV just used the phrase "complete gentleman" to describe Yar'Adua. It is very heartening that we have come this far, from the hoodlums that ruled the country to the era of "gentle" persons. Thank God.