Archive for May, 2012

Cannes Film Festival 2012 Part I

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

“I am afraid you have been taken off the flight, sir,” the British Airways lady says to the Indian couple standing ahead of me in the queue.

I am at Heathrow Terminal 5.

“Customer service might be able to move you to the next available flight.”

As soon as she looks at the print out of my boarding pass, she commences reading from the script.

The helpful customer services lady explains that not only are all the flights to Nice fully booked, but to change my reservation to another would cost hundreds of pounds.

“You’re better off making an entirely new booking.”

And before I even ask her, “your return flight is also cancelled now, as you have missed the outbound part of the journey.”

After a brief chapter of cursing and reprimanding myself for taking so long to leave the house, despite having woken up on time, I remind myself that I am officially on holiday and that I am at the new Heathrow terminal – I have been wishing to fly out of this part of the airport since its chaotic opening week.

I find myself an empty seat and start looking through travel sites on my mobile. I find a relatively inexpensive place that appears to have only just come online.

With the ticket and the hotel bookings re-arranged, I get myself a double espresso and a cheese sandwich; I enjoy the great cavernous facade of the terminal.

On the flight to Nice, I am seated by the window on the small plane. Next to me is an English couple. They are heading to Monaco for the Grand Prix. The man explains to me the physiological reasons for the absence of female drivers in Formula One: “It’s the G forces that drivers have to endure on the neck area, and women just don’t have the muscle mass to handle this sort of punishment.”

He notices his wife and adds, “with great respect!”

My first Cannes encounter is at the Nice airport bus stop. There is a young lady waiting for the bus to head to Cannes. “I am an agent,” she explains as she hands me her business card.

At the end of the line, I hop off the bus and take the tram to Gare SNCF near my hotel. The moment I step off the tram, the rain pours with such ferocity that by the time I get my umbrella out my sweater and shirt are soaked.

A quick shower and change of clothes later, I am on the train platform to Cannes. I notice a young lady with a Cannes badge.

We start chatting, and by the time we reach Cannes, I think she learnt as much about my films – past and future – as my closest friends.

The badge is issued to me within seconds of arriving at Le Bunker, the festival accreditation hall, beneath Palais du Festival.

I meet a friend and we head out for a meal.

I spend the evening acquainting myself with the festival programme.

The next day, I meet Paul Hills, my friend and our executive producer. It takes me a couple of minutes to realise that he is already seated in the canteen at the entrance to the Marche du Film.

As we scan the market catalogue for companies to approach about Mesocafé, I recall the first meeting I had with Paul not 20 yards from where we are seated all of four years ago.

Paul approaches distributors and production companies, pitching the story of our film and singing the praises of this film dreamer.

Paul heads to a meeting, while I continue to work the market.

The assistant of an LA based distributor books me in for a meeting with her boss for the next morning at 10:30.

In the afternoon, I head to Caffe Roma, opposite the Palais du Festival on La Croisette. I have a soft drink, while my friend takes a liking to the chicken salad a waiter serves to the table next to us.

Minutes later, a mutual friend comes over to say hello. He hands my friend an invite to the Abu Dhabi Film Festival party for that evening. He also grants me an invitation.

Time flies by and we find ourselves left with only an hour before the party kicks off.

My friend goes back to her place to get changed, while I walk around the old town.

At the gate of the 65th Plage, we realise that the name of a friend whom we are expecting to join us is missing from the guest list. I ask the young lady in charge to add his name to the list. She kindly obliges by writing his name at the top of one of the guest list pages.

At the party, I meet the Radio Monte Carlo reporter who’d interviewed me after the Gulf Film Festival. She introduces me to the executive director of a film festival in France and to the head of the  Algerian cultural delegation.

Around 11:40, with 20 minutes to spare before the last train back to Nice, I say my goodbyes and walk briskly to the station.

The train station is shut.

I can’t understand how it is that it is already closed when in my previous visits I would regularly catch the midnight train.

I walk back towards the bus station. The gentlemen in uniform inform me that there are no night buses to Nice this evening. “The night bus runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

I thank them and declare, “It is a beautiful evening, it’s not raining and I am at Cannes; all will be well.” They smile.

I head back to the party. There is a queue of people trying to get in.

I am allowed back in thanks to the handwritten name of my friend on the guest list – “You can join your friend.”

The party ends around 2AM.

I head with Paul and the gang to a small bar that has spilled its clients onto the two side streets it overlooks.

At 4AM, my friends head back home. Paul offers me the chance to stay at his place. Realising how cramped the one bedroom apartment already is, I cordially decline his kind offer.

For the remaining two hours before the first train, I hang around at the empty hotel reception where a friend is staying. I am not sure if the hotel owner’s cat likes me. He purrs at me through the window glass overlooking the street.

I take the first train back to Nice.

To be continued..

Peace and love,

Ja’far

May 20th 2012

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Filmwise:

I am getting ready for the Cannes Film Festival where I hope to hold a few meetings about our film’s distribution.

Three women…

With a couple of days off work to spare before the flight to Nice, I didn’t hesitate to invest a whole afternoon at the pictures. In between screenings, I answered the call of nature at the rest room.

From behind the closed door of the cubicle..

Male, British, middle-aged: “Oh, for goodness sake, just use the cubicle. There is no one here!”

Female, British, middle-aged: “What if I come out when someone’s using the urinal!”

“I will let you know. Come-on; the film starts in a minute!”

Soft steps followed by the sound of the door of the only other cubicle in the gents toilets.

Thinking it safe for me to leave to wash my hands, I ventured out and proceeded to the basin.

“Yes, you can come out, he’s only washing his hands!”

The lady practically sprinted behind me to the door.

On encountering her outside, I did the very British thing of pretending that I wasn’t aware of the whole woman-in-gents-incident.

**

The following day, I was at a department store to check the latest DSLR cameras on sale. On the way out, there was a young couple eating ice cream by the doors.

Man – “It will be alright!”

Woman – “So if I get told off!”

Man – “It will be on my head!”

At which point they walked through the doors.

***

On the final stretch of the walk home, I saw a lady struggling with the weight of a large plastic bag and what looked like a wooden fruit box containing groceries. The bag was too heavy and awkward to carry with one hand, and the plastic bag wrapped around the wooden box didn’t provide much of a stable handle.

The lady was reluctant at first to accept the help of this stranger. However, weighing her options, she decided to take the risk and allow me to carry the box for her.

During the walk to the top of her street, it transpired that she is an artist and that she was among the sculptors who had created the Easter Egg Art exhibition that was on display in Covent Garden over the Easter Bank Holiday.

Peace and love,

Ja’far


May 13th 2012

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Filmwise:

Edited, graded and delivered to organisers the reportage on International Women’s Day, which sayyid Kawa and I filmed a couple of months ago. I am relieved and pleased that the lady in charge of the event is happy with our work – “A thousand million thanks to you for the work you have put into making this reportage.”

Cinema-going culture

During my recent attendance of the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai, a young reporter asked me about the cinema-going culture in Iraq. I recounted for her the stories I have heard from my elders of memories of evenings out at the pictures enjoyed by residents of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul before the UN-imposed sanctions (1991-2003) and the post-2003 invasion chaos.

I recalled the chat as I fought the urge to grab the collars of a group of teenage boys and escort them unceremoniously out of the cinema. Their  disruptive behaviour whenever Eva Green appeared on the screen had obliterated any enjoyment any of the full-house audience could possibly have from watching Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows (2012).

Fortunately, logic prevailed and I simply complained to a member of staff.

There are times when we forget how lucky we are to be able to do such simple, and yet wonderful, things like going to the cinema.

Peace and love,

Ja’far


May 6th 2012

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Filmwise:

I continue to follow up on film festival and distributor contacts gained at the Gulf Film Festival.

On a separate note, I have begun editing the reportage on the International Women’s Day, the footage for which sayyid Kawa and I filmed back in March.

“No, no, it’s OK!”

Settling into a seat on the train carriage, I noticed an old gentleman come onboard. Faced with the absence of a vacant place, he walked slowly to the end of the car and rested his back by the front door connecting the two cars. At the very moment that I tried to get his attention by raising my hand, a lady on the opposite row of seats drew his gaze by offering him her place. Possibly, due to the seated lady being obscured by the gentleman himself, another passenger also invited him to his seat.

Faced with with this abundance of chivalry, the gentleman simply responded by waving his hands to both sides of the carriage: “No, no, it’s OK!”.

Peace and love,

Ja’far