AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: July 2007 (Page 1 of 4)

Palestinian Movie Watch

I am new to the world of Palestinian documentary movies, mainly because I was never much of a movie person. Lately though, we have been getting the chance to watch many such productions, which have been making me think about alternative ways of spreading awareness about the Palestinian case. The diversity of the information that one can represent on audio-visual platforms is amazing. Countless production methods can be equipped and many ideas can be given out realistically and unrealistically. A director also has the freedom to choose his method of output, and how he wants his audience to feel by choosing how he sends out his message.

It is that last particular point, how a director chooses how to send his message, which has been making me think. The three documentaries we watched were very different in that regards.

We watched Hani Abu Assad‘s “Ford Transit” sometime during the beginning of the month at Darat Al-Funun. The story follows young bus driver Rajai around as he brings different people to their destinations in Jerusalem and Ramallah, dodging road blocks, taking risky detours on dirt roads and stopping to pick up counterfeit CDs that he sells on to earn some extra cash. His passengers are diverse, making their meeting point all the more interesting; the mother of a female suicide bomber, French women’s rights activists, former Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi, and Israeli filmmaker BZ Goldberg. The passengers complain about the wives, make jokes about Bush, loudly fight over their bad days, putting in their own insightful, sarcastic, frustrated, and angry conversations and encounters into the documentary.

What I really liked about “Ford Transit” was how humorous it was. Abu Assad successfully managed to give a colorful mosaic of the Palestinian case through public transport, the vehicle becoming a metaphor for attempts to find a way through the chaos of occupation and resistance, all the while giving some insights and avoiding playing the “victim card”. The soundtrack was also brilliant. I think we rated this movie an 8/10 at the time we watched it.

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The second movie we watched was “Sabra and Chatila: The Past Continues” which was screened at Mohtaraf Al-Remal, with its director Lebanese Hicham Jurdi as a guest. The movie follows the desolate refugee-camp lives of the survivors of the 1982 Chatila massacre. Through personal interviews, it clearly portrays the social, emotional, and physical havoc wrecked on the lives of these Palestinians, who still suffer from the consequences of the massacre 20 years on.

My partner and I did not like this movie much. The characters the director chose to interview were both shallow and too simple, perfect players for the “evermore victims” card. Furthermore, Jurdi’s plot was merely focusing on how the Palestinians of Chatila are hopeless victims of circumstances, who do not have any courage or strength to face all the abusive action, and how only fate makes them alive. Regardless of the amount of truth in Jurdi’s stance, I really dislike this depreciation of the Palestinian identity into the choice of living as victims, in the helpless victim mentality. The movie was also not very well directed, and it dragged towards the end. We gave it a 3 out of 10.

Ironically, the audience was mainly made up of limbless Iraqis who were in Amman for the week to undergo medical procedures after sustaining severe injuries in Iraq. The women, men, and children, who all seemed to be in very desolate states, staring blankly at everything but the movie, were invited to the screening. As I watched the movie that was telling the on going tragedies of life 20 years after the massacre, I couldn’t help but feel very horrible for the Iraqis, who are currently living through a constant massacre. Zay kan2eno na2eshom more pain bi 7ayat-hom.

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Last night, we watched our last Palestinian movie for July, “Palestine Blues” at Makan by Palestinian-American director Nida Sinnokrot. This documentary was the only one of the three with a personal touch, where Sinnokrot makes me feel his perspective before he tells the facts. I like that. He follows the construction of a 400-mile barrier began in the Occupied West Bank, whose form changes along the route, and near large cities it is a concrete wall twice as high as the Berlin Wall. Instead of focusing on the Wall as an object, Palestine Blues examines the grassroots resistance movement that has sprung up against it.

In contrast to “Sabra and Chatila: The Past Continues”, “Palestine Blues” is about choosing to stand up and fight, take action, and take control of our lives. It was also very realistic, the characters crawl right into your heart, close enough to remind you of your own uncles, grandmothers, aunts, and neighbors. It portrayed Palestinians like I know them, people like my aunts and cousins, rather than suicide bombers and massacre victims, and I the grounded approach is a fresh breeze. We gave it an 8 out of 10, because it sort of dragged towards the end and because the editing was not very professional. Otherwise, it is definitely my favorite out of the three, although Hani Abu Asaad is the better director.

Have you watched any of these movies?

Half half

46% of this year’s Tawjihi test takers failed.

Tawjihi is Jordan’s Secondary School Leaving Certificate in which you can’t graduate from highschool without passing.

FORTY-SIX PERCENT.

Facebook; my daily dose of amusement

Because of all the visual pollution littering the horizons of Amman due to the upcoming municipality elections (expect a post about that soon), I have been spending some time thinking about alternative ways in which political candidates can market themselves to the relatively politically-naive population in ways other than banners and signs hung haphazardly around town.

So far, I have not managed to come up with a satisfactory solution, so I was really amused when I come across several Facebook groups for the candidates of the Parliament, some with the same amount of members that Tiesto’s group managed to garner!

Amusing, but I don’t think that it can be said that the older generation is finally realizing the importance of digital culture. I’m quite sure it wasn’t the actual candidates nor their PR managers that thought of the idea, probably their children or grandchildren, but I think it’s pretty smart.

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On the Heat

I am seriously confused on whether I should hate the heat or love it. On one hand, it’s the first week of the year where I can actually sit outside at night without freezing my behind off. I mean, it is AUGUST for God’s sake, about time I stop wearing a jacket. The heat also reminds me of Riyadh, and since I do not miss Riyadh at all, it is nice to have that sort of Riyadh feeling while I am in the middle of Amman. People also seem to be staying at home, so the streets are less crowded, and that’s awesome.
Otherwise, IT’S REALLY HOT.
Decisions, decisions.

Ditz Central

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(click to read)

With the help of the Queen of Ditz, Yasmeen.

The Simpons Movie

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Today, we decided to go watch The Simpsons Movie, which was showing at the Century Cinemas (I haven’t been to the movies in over a year, so I recently discovered that Century has become Grande, I guess it will take me some time to get used to it). I have not watched much of The Simpsons, probably under 5 episodes, mostly on YouTube, but I really enjoyed the movie and thought it was pretty funny.

That’s not why I’m writing this post though, cause I really don’t have much to say… I just discovered though that the movie is set for worldwide release on the 27th. That’s like two days away.

Hey, I watched the movie before you did ;)

In the company of Zade

Yesterday, we attended the Zade Dirani concert at the Palace of Culture, where Zade performed some of his compositions as well as covers with a 30-piece orchestra.
As the concert was rather pricey (ranging from 10 to 30 JDs), I did not expect there to be much of a crowd, and I was very surprised to see that the Palace of Culture, one of the biggest of such venues in Jordan, was completely full. It was crowded with men and women of all ages, with their children and parents, all semi-dressed up and ready to enjoy the show. I was also surprised to see Queen Noor in attendance, along with Princess Alia AlFaisal.

As for the actual show, I will go ahead and give Zade the credit of being a very talented individual. He is also rather charming, I really enjoyed how he personalized each piece he played with a little personal story, it helped me feel his music. He also is very passionate about what he does, and it is always wonderful seeing passion.

Otherwise, I am a lot more impressed with the fact that he composes and orchestrates his music than with the music itself. Maybe it is just that I do not have much of an appreciation for this type of style, which reminds me of the music played at business receptions and wedding buffets. Or maybe its that my ears are fresh with the sounds of the Music Matbakh, which was such a fantastic performance. I would not buy his CD.

Here’s a little video of Zade performing:

What do you think?

All in all, it was a lot of fun though, and I greatly enjoyed myself. I decided that I really like the Palace of Culture, and the company I was with was awesome. It was also fun seeing so many people.

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The end of Harry

(Don’t worry, no spoilers)

I was 14 when I first got introduced to Harry. I was out having lunch with my family, and for some reason, I was very bored. Trying to entertain myself, I started paging through “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, which my brother Omar was reading for school. At that time, it wasn’t very popular, so I was very surprised when I started reading and realized how gripping the book was, very unlike a children’s tale. I finished the book in two days, and proceeded to finish the second installment, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, which was even more exciting than the first. I finished the second book just weeks before the third installment , “Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban”, came out, and well, by then, I was officially a fan.

I spent the next year at school milking out the Harry Potter series, not letting any chance of revolving my schoolwork around it slip. I made a Harry Potter doll for a class that year, sewing a little black robe myself, making his glasses with wire, and making wands, hats, and other sorts of wizardly tools. It was hard waiting till the summer, when “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” was scheduled to come out. Of course though, July came, and I was sent the book as my 16th birthday present. By that time, my whole family were Harry Potter fans, as were my friends. Harry was often discussed, especially as there were talks of a Harry Potter movie coming out!

Indeed, 2001 saw the release of the film version of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Coincidentally, it was released around Eid, which we were spending in Bahrain, and so we got to watch the first movie in the theatres of Manama. The movie was brilliantly true to the book, and we all fell in love all over again.

That year on, we all waited excitedly as the movies and books came out alternatively one after the other. Mama got us “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” from Riyadh in 2003, as we were very new to Amman and didn’t know where we could get the book. By the time “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” came out in 2005, several big bookshops had opened in Amman, allowing us to pre-order it from Prime. We stood in line late at night at the mall to get our hands on that book.

Last Saturday morning, eight years after I was introduced to an 11-year-old Harry Potter, my brother Omar and I sat on the back hood of my car at the parking lot of Mecca Mall and paged through the book together, looking at it in our hands.

So here it comes to an end. The epic tale of Harry Potter, now 17, will not have us waiting anxiously anymore to see what happens to the little wizard. In the past eight years, Harry Potter grew up, and with him, his first audience grew up too. I am 22 now, and the14-year-old version of me that paged through the pages of the book in front of her out of boredom might have as well been a different person.

Last night, after a couple of days of giving up several hours from my sleeping schedule, I read the last page of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows”. I closed the book, put it on the chair next to me, and remembered all the hours I spent reading the series; I remembered reading it in the pink rooms of my highschool, in dabkeh practice in the squash courts of our compound in Riyadh, in the plane coming to Amman, at my grandmother’s house in the summers when we still didn’t have a house in Amman, during classes in Jordan University while it hidden underneath the desk, and yesterday, outside in our garden across the street from my grandmother’s house with my feet propped up against the railing.

In the end, it wasn’t about Harry Potter anymore, it was about growing up. For you see, with Harry, I grew up too.

Otbokh-ing Music

Yesterday we went to what was one of the best musical performances I have ever been to in my life; Music Matbakh (which means music kitchen in Arabic), a performance featuring musicians from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and the UK. The lineup combined traditional and cutting-edge, bringing together ancient Arabic traditions with hip hop and electronica. They were playing the oud and the nai, mawaweel and Bedouin accents, with drummers and electronica masters, rappers and MCs.

I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in so long.

The musicale ensemble included:

Mohamed Medhat on the violin from Egypt: he probably performed my favorite bits. I really love the violin, it is the only instrument that affects my senses, and he is an absolutely wonderful player.

Ousso on the guitar, also from Egypt: the first thing I heard today was an excited Y saying that Ousso was the best guitarist she has ever heard live in her life. I agree.

Yacoub Abu Ghosh on the bass guitar from Jordan: as I was watching Yacoub play, I was remembering the first time I saw Sign of Thyme play live. I fell in love with their Ammanite-flavored music then, and over the past 3 years, I have tried to attend as much of their concerts as possible.

Ruba Saqr, vocals, from Jordan:  I have never listened to anything by Ruba Saqr before, and I was quite impressed by her singing. She really does have a beautiful voice, though she needs to work on her stage presence. Ruba performed in some of my favorite pieces, and her Sadaqa piece was absolutely gorgeous.

Asma, vocals, from Lebanon

RGB, vocals, from Lebanon: Arabic rap is at its peak these years. In the past several months, I have been to many Arabic rap performances, and I daresay that RGB was the best one out of the lot of Arabic rappers, even better than DAM.

Essam Rafea
on the oud, from Syria

Moslem Rahhal on the nay, from Syria

Hicham Bajjou
, vocals, from Morocco: Hicham was my favorite performer in Music Matbakh; his energy, his eclecticism, and his charisma on stage were absolutely brilliant.

Skander Besbes
on electronics, from Tunisia.

Lotfi Soua on percussion, from Tunisia.

Andrew McCormack on keyboards, from the UK.

Leo Taylor on drums, from the UK.

My favorite pieces were Tahmil, featuring brilliant solos by some of the musicians, Sadaqa, and Highway.

I’d definitely recommend that you go check the Music Matbakh out if you can, here’s their schedule for the next few weeks:

Jul 24 2007 8:00P
Azem Palace, Damascus, Syria Damascus
Aug 10 2007 8:00P
SOS Music Festival, Marina, North Coast, Egypt Alexandria
Aug 16 2007 8:00P
Tabarka World Music Festival, Basilica, Tunisia Tunis

Does anyone know if there will be a cd available? That’s definitely a cd I want to own.

For more:
Lina’s Blog
Khobbeizeh
British Council Website

Half a second…

It is taking me every single ounce’s worth of self-control to not Google Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. EVERY SINGLE OUNCE.

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