Archive for December, 2012

December 30th 2012

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

2012, a story of an international premiere, Dubai, Cannes, a little girl and a tiny mouse..

This time last year, I was in the calm and contented frame of mind of a long-distance runner days after crossing the line. Raindance, competition, a world premiere and a sense of closure had awaited me at the finish line of a three-year post-production marathon.

Over the first quarter of the new year, I completed the re-online process of Mesocafé, and created a new Arabic-subtitled master.

In the following three months, I had the pleasure of attending two festivals – The Gulf Film Festival, in Dubai, and Cannes. The former gifted me the joy of watching my film on the big screen with an audience composed predominantly from members of the Dubai population – total strangers. Discovered for the first time what really touched the audience, made them laugh and brought tears to their eyes. I also learned about those elements in the story and execution that did not work.

At Cannes, my good friend and our executive producer Paul Hills worked the film market, pushing for distribution deals with companies from France, Germany and the USA.

With the rain and horrid weather being exacerbated by the nonchalance of la Croisette and the insistence of the Cannes locals and visitors to persist with the carnival of cinema, I found myself taking refuge beneath the partial canopy of a palm tree. My thoughts were about the next feature project, for I had recently revisited the notes and treatment for a story about a little girl in Baghdad.

That oasis from the rain and the pushing and shoving of the Palais du Festival granted me a moment of lucidity that helped draw the outline of the route to completing my second feature.

Back in London, with a few weeks off work, I was able to pen the first draft of the new script.

Over the summer and autumn, the Cannes documentary climbed in my list of priorities.

For the new year, the plan is to complete at least another draft of the script and finish the Cannes documentary.

For Mesocafé, we will hopefully have some good news.

Wishing the world peace and love in 2013 and beyond.

Ja‘far


December 23rd 2012

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Filmwise: Spent some time with the feature film script, making notes for the second draft.

Sundance

A few years ago, I watched Amreeka (2009), the debut feature of Cherien Dabis, a Palestinian-American writer-director whose short film Make a Wish (2006) had screened at Sundance and at Berlin film festivals.

Well, earlier this week, it was announced that the second feature of Ms Dabis will open the Sundance film festival in January 2013. May in the Summer, written, directed and starring Dabis, features the great Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass, the brilliant British-Sudanese actor Alexander Siddig, and Nasri Sayegh. the male lead in our film Mesocafé.

The news is a culmination of a year-long series of coups by Arab women filmmakers, with official selections at Venice, Toronto, London and Dubai.

Kudos.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

December 16th 2012

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Filmwise: No progress to report. Hopefully, will do better over the festive holidays.

Napkin!

I can’t pin down precisely the reason that led to my leaving the house without drinking my usual cup of coffee that morning. When all is said and done, this Wednesday didn’t have any discernible marks to set it apart from any other Wednesday, or indeed any other day of the working week.

Negotiating the typical random sample of human behaviour (typical and random -  is this a contradiction in terms?) that one encounters in public spaces at the morning rush hour – avoiding the slightly protruding elbows, the train of suitcases that forever threaten to bulldoze over the toes as they taxi behind their mostly flustered and running late owners, and the lost tourists comparing their maps with the cacophony of direction signs, I survived the ticket hall of the station.

Street works had closed one side of the road. So, the whole district’s army of morning office workers was squeezing through on the other side.

At the coffee shop, the young man behind the counter took my money and asked me to wait by the side.

I joined another gentleman.

His pot of porridge and a large hot beverage arrived shortly.

Minutes later, I was dodging people, cyclists and traffic with one delicious smelling cup of coffee in one hand and a warm pretzel in another.

As the coffee began to leak onto my hand, and the pretzel gave way to the pressure of my grip, I had an epiphany: “I am re-enacting the first scene of many a New York-set feature film:

“EXT. 5TH AND 42ND STREET. MORNING: Threading his way through a group of school children, and going past Harry’s newspaper stand, waving back to Harry, ‘Will be back at lunch’, he managed to make it to the main door before a big congregation of Japanese tourists came to halt outside the building. He could hear the small voice of the guide emanating from their midst. ‘Across the street is the New York Public Library. Those familiar with American literature and cinema would…’.

“Before entering his office block, he licked away the spilled coffee from his left hand. ‘Should’ve asked for a napkin!’”

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

December 9th 2012

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Filmwise: Spent a day at the British Library looking through film news and review archives. Hopefully, this will add a new dimension to the Cannes documentary.

I don’t have your number!

Leaning against the counter and nursing a sugar-loaded Coke on the rocks, I couldn’t help but overhear the semi-hushed conversation of a chap on his mobile. He – average height, dark brown hair, casual and yet smartly dressed, with an indeterminate accent – seemed to be imparting some consoling words to the person at the other end of the line.

“I am sure all will be well. Time is on your side.”

Enter young lady, dark brown hair, blue eyes, elegant black dress, escorting an empty bottle of some beverage.

“OK, I will call you tomorrow. I am sure all will be well.”

The young lady was clearly intent on catching the eyes of one of the bartenders.

The young man was intent on catching her eye.

“May I ask…”

He seemed to tail off, momentarily unsure of the syntax of a sentence.

“Yes!”

Almost imperceptibly, her body turned towards him.

“I was going to ask whether there was a story behind the empty bottle?”

Her lips parted into a smile, and her eyes blossomed into a laugh.

I had to step back to allow a group of customers to clamour for the bartenders’ attention.

By the time the congestion was cleared, the young man had vanished. The young lady was back at the table with her friends a few feet behind me.

As I was getting ready to leave – the next screening of Seven Psychopaths (Dir. Martin McDonagh, 2012) was about  to begin – I was surprised to see the young man making his way back from the entrance to the young lady’s table.

“I am sorry, but when you dialed my number, I didn’t get a missed call on my phone!”

Playing the protective role, her friend cut him down, “it’s alright; she has your number!”

Undaunted, “I just wanted you to know that if I don’t call, it’s because I don’t have your number!”

Being the polite lady that she appeared to be, she smiled to him.

Feeling self-conscious, with three women pondering his panting and flushed appearance, he mumbled to himself, “I have a very angry minicab driver waiting for me!”

They all burst out laughing.

I hope she calls him.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

December 2nd 2012

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Filmwise: No real progress on either the Cannes documentary or the Bisan script, despite having taken an extra day off to work on the former. The cold weather and prospect of a whole day spent at home catching up with TV series.. just too enticing.

The highlight of the weekend was going to Soho Theatre to see Arab Nights, a play written by a group of writers turning to One Thousand and One Nights for parables for the present day. Two friends, Hassan Abdulrazzak and Tania El Khoury had contributed two of the six stories, and another friend, Dina Mousawi, was one of the three-actor-cast.

Tania’s piece, The Tale of the Dictator’s Wife, with Dina in the lead, was particularly inventive in its use of space and the audience’s familiarity with social networking sites. Dina was impressive with her energy and ability to peel away one layer after another of the armour that stands between the actor and the character.

The most moving was Raja Shehadeh’s The Tale of the Two Djinnis and the Wall. A Palestinian’s wish to go hiking in his native land is prevented by the Israeli Wall. The Djinnis in question are the faceless voices of Israeli soldiers shouting orders from their watchtowers. The French-Moroccan actor Lahcen Razzougui offered an emotionally fluid performance that was accentuated by his melodic English accent.

The topic of this tale had a particular resonance for the audience this weekend, only days after the United Nations overwhelmingly voted to grant Palestine an Observer State status at the General Assembly.

May all the Palestinian children live in a future of peace where they are free to go hiking unobstructed in their homeland.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far