Archive for July, 2013

July 28th 2013

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Filmwise: The Cannes documentary continues to evolve.

Spoof
Recently, I was reminded of the player brought in by the Ricky Tomlinson character in Mike Basset: Manager. Through a DVD of spectacular goals, the football manager (Tomlinson) had been lured by a shifty agent into signing this footballer. It was only on the day of the player’s first game that it dawns on the manager that the new team member was at the wrong end of those football missiles: he was the goalkeeper.

Well, with the heatwave we’ve experienced over the past week, a hitherto almost unheard of series of practices have been added to the  daily rituals of office life. At my place of work, we’ve grown accustomed to the mid-afternoon company-wide email announcing the arrival of complimentary  cold drinks at reception. “Come and get them!”

So, on Tuesday afternoon,  eyeballs-deep in work,  I was all too relieved to receive the drinks alert. But before I’d downed tools, a colleague suggested that the male members of staff play Spoof for the person who would walk down the stairs and bring up the cold beverages for the whole floor.

With three coins placed in my hand, I was up and running, coming up with numbers. Now, players were being  eliminated at an alarming speed, and I suddenly  found myself among the last two.

At that instance, it finally dawned upon me that my showing the same number of coins in all the previous rounds was not – ahem – particularly clever.

Only a second or two into this state of recognition, I was declared the winner of the final round.

Peace and love,
Ja’far

July 21st 2013

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Filmwise: Despite the lack of time during the week to work on the Cannes documentary, I am forever making mental notes about the edit and structure. In fact, I had a bulb moment on the Tube as it travelled in the overheating gut of the City on Thursday evening.

I think we are on schedule to complete the new edit by the summer’s end.

“So many people take pictures!”

There is a tacit understanding, I feel, amongst the inhabitants of my corner of London that one doesn’t necessarily need to be on a hello-how-goes-it terms with everyone else, for there to be a certain degree of undeclared familiarity in the encounters amongst the locals.

I must have gone past this particular store thousands of times over the years, and must have noticed the owner taking a cigarette break while inspecting her window display hundreds of times.

Last Friday, en route to an evening meeting, I was about to add another instance to the toll of going-past-store-with-owner-smoking-outside, when I ignored the tacit understanding. I stopped and exchanged greetings.

The reason: the window display had a new sign which read, “This is a window; the door is to the right!”

- Do people walk into the window?

- It’s ridiculous. We should stop cleaning our windows!

- I need to take a photo of your sign!

- So many people take pictures!

We laughed, as many years into our no-hellos relationship, we inaugurated the new era of hello-how-goes-it familiarity.

Peace and love,

Ja’far


July 14th 2013

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Filmwise: The Cannes documentary is receiving my full attention. Through the magic of editing, I have been able to improve upon an already well-structured and entertaining chapter in the story.

More time is needed in the workshop, but progress is being made.

“What was that about?”

My slight annoyance for choosing a glorious sun-soaked day to do a ten-hour editing session on the Cannes documentary was somewhat dissipated by the long languid stroll in the still warm evening.

Inevitably, my destination was the local cinema.

With a cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg and the wonderful Mélanie Laurent, opting for Now You See Me (Dir. Louis Leterrier, 2013) was no surprise.

I think what I enjoyed the most about the film was the director’s cinematic use of the vast and epic expanses of the United States geography. There were touches that made this movie spectator look anew to what are familiar cityscapes across the pond.

Where the film fails is at the story level. Too much information is conveyed through – at times – clunky dialogue and story exposition. (Notes to self and to other filmmakers!).

Finally, mademoiselle Laurent’s artistic range is underused due to an underwritten character.

As the end credits rolled, I overheard a voice in the dark whisper, “What was that about? Did you get it?”

Peace and love,

Ja‘far


July 7th 213

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Filmwise: With the little girl in Baghdad script enjoying some respite from my perennial tweaks and rewrites, it is the turn of the Cannes documentary to endure my full attention. First item on the agenda: re-edit the overall film structure. I have set myself the task of completing this new edit by the summer’s end.

Theatre

I first met Stephanie Ellyne long before I started casting for Mesocafé. As I was printing off character sides for the auditions back in 2007, I immediately thought of her for the role of Amy, the senior US embassy official. She kindly read for me, and 18 months later we filmed her scene at our version of the embassy – in a Central London hotel conference room.

Last year, I watched her on stage in Rest Upon the Wind, a play about the life and poetry of Gibran Khalil Gibran.

Last night, I had the pleasure of joining the audience to see her in  ’Peace Mom – Mother Courage Cindy Sheehan’s Real & Imaginary Diary’.

Written by the great duo Dario Fo and Franca Rame, and directed by Sergio Amigo, the piece allows Cindy Sheehan the space to relate to us, and to herself, her story of losing her soldier son during the invasion of Iraq, and her subsequent determined efforts to extract a response from Bush Junior to a mother’s question: what did my son die for?

With its location at the back of a bookshop, the stage in the Calder Bookshop and Theatre  is quite endearing.

The one-woman show’s densely political narrative was made moving and accessible through moments of human interaction between Cindy Sheehan and the myriad of characters that Stephanie momentarily brought to life throughout the piece.

Having watched David Hare perform Via Dolorosa, Simon Callow in The Mystery of Charles Dickens, and Olympia Dukakis in Rose, in Stephanie I sensed the talent and passion that made this one-woman show her own.

In the future, whenever I come across a media report or interview with the actual Sheehan, I imagine I would always think of those nuances about her character and life that the play and Stephanie highlighted.

So proud and pleased for Stephanie.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

June 31st 2013

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Filmwise: I think I may have completed the fourth draft of the little girl in Baghdad script. I say, I think, as there is always the potential for yet another tweak here, and a change there. I will leave the script to breathe for a few weeks, before a read through.

Over the week, I have also been able to spend some more time with the Cannes documentary. With the script put to rest for a while, I now can give myself the prize of spending some time in the south of France through the documentary.

“True to life…”

Long before I took that first course in filmmaking many a moon ago, I was and continue to be a consummate film viewer. I just love the whole theatricality of the cinema-going event: the tickets, the smell of pop corn, the ushers, the adverts for local businesses (alas, no more), and the communal  immersion in the story world.

When I did start to feel my way into filmmaking, I remember being in awe of the young Turks – Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, and Richard Linklater, among others.

The first two had made films that went on to join that roll-call of debut features that propelled their makers into the bosom of Hollywood and mainstream film. Linklater, on the other hand, seemed to marry low  budget innovation in storytelling with narratives that had touches of the Nouvelle Vague and a certain literary sensibility.

Watching Before Midnight (Dir. Richard Linklater, 2013) this weekend made me reconnect with that slightly younger man who watched Before Sunset (2004). For not only was I watching the same lead actors reprising their roles, but I was at the very cinema of almost ten years ago.

Walking out of the auditorium, I got into “how-did-you-find-the-movie” conversation with a retired couple.

“It is more true to life than you think!”, said the man.

Great praise, I think.

Peace and love,

Ja’far