Archive for May, 2014

May 25th 2014

Sunday, May 25th, 2014
May 25th 2014
Filmwise: Finding my way back into the story of the little girl in Baghdad. I have sufficient notes and ideas to embark upon a new – ninth – draft.
At my local mega supermarket, I was sipping coffee and enjoying a few pages from Elia Kazan’s autobiography. The shopping could wait until I learned more about that Brando and Steiger scene in the back of the taxi.
The automated female voice of the self-checkout machine nearby seemed to have gotten muddled somewhat, as it kept repeating, “please choose payment method!”
Leaving Mr Kazan describe how surprised and moved he’d been by Brando’s reaction to his character being shocked by being threatened with a gun pointed at him by his very own older brother, I looked up.
There stood a man in his late 30s, reasonably well-dressed, and quite understated in his mannerism. His card was rejected a second time by the female-voiced machine.
“I’ll be right back!”, he said to the young member of staff responsible for keeping the said automated machines happy.
“Going to the cash-point!”
The filming of the scene between the two screen legends continued in a poorly equipped soundstage – the director and DOP had to improvise and use a shaft of light to make-up for their inability to use back-projection.
Just as I was about to learn more about Mr Steiger’s anger with Mr Brando for not staying behind for the former’s close-up, forcing the director to feed him the lines, the rejected-card customer returned.
Failing to find the automated machines member staff, the customer methodically removed his shopping from the two plastic bags in which he’d placed them. He put them back into the basket and headed to the store’s isles.
A few minutes later, he emerged back with an empty basket which he placed by the wall.
He walked out with no shopping.
Returning to the scene in the back of the taxi, I imagined the gentle and dignified man to be a writer, a reviewer of literary works, a stage actor, or even a filmmaker; one who was going through a rough patch before the next paycheque arrived on his doormat.
I hoped that he would find that payment waiting for him upon his return home.
Peace and love,
Ja’far
May 25th 2014
Filmwise: Finding my way back into the story of the little girl in Baghdad. I have sufficient notes and ideas to embark upon a new – ninth – draft.
Self-Service
At my local mega supermarket, I was sipping coffee and enjoying a few pages from Elia Kazan’s autobiography. The shopping could wait until I learned more about that Brando and Steiger scene in the back of the taxi.
The automated female voice of the self-checkout machine nearby seemed to have gotten muddled somewhat, as it kept repeating, “please choose payment method!”
Leaving Mr Kazan describe how surprised and moved he’d been by Brando’s reaction to his character being shocked by being threatened with a gun pointed at him by his very own older brother, I looked up.
There stood a man in his late 30s, reasonably well-dressed, and quite understated in his mannerism. His card was rejected a second time by the female-voiced machine.
“I’ll be right back!”, he said to the young member of staff responsible for keeping the said automated machines happy.
“Going to the cash-point!”
The filming of the scene between the two screen legends continued in a poorly equipped soundstage – the director and DOP had to improvise and use a shaft of light to make-up for their inability to use back-projection.
Just as I was about to learn more about Mr Steiger’s anger with Mr Brando for not staying behind for the former’s close-up, forcing the director to feed him the lines, the rejected-card customer returned.
Failing to find the automated machines member staff, the customer methodically removed his shopping from the two plastic bags in which he’d placed them. He put them back into the basket and headed to the store’s isles.
A few minutes later, he emerged back with an empty basket which he placed by the wall.
He walked out with no shopping.
Returning to the scene in the back of the taxi, I imagined the gentle and dignified man to be a writer, a reviewer of literary works, a stage actor, or even a filmmaker; one who was going through a rough patch before the next paycheque arrived on his doormat.
I hoped that he would find that payment waiting for him upon his return home.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

May 18th 2014

Sunday, May 18th, 2014
Cannes 2014
Wash, tumble dry and iron four shirts before packing for Cannes. That was the plan for the night before flying out to the festival.
By the time I leave work, it is too late to head to the launderette, and my newly installed washing machine at home is too unknown a quantity for me to attempt a wash at such an unsocial hour.
Faced with the prospect of no fresh clothes for the trip, I decide to grab a couple of hours of sleep – “the world is more rosy after some sleep,” I tell myself.
At 6.15 am, I am on the full plane, accompanied by a small suitcase containing some Cannes contacts, the latest issue of Little White Lies, a brilliant film magazine gifted to me by a dear friend, and a book of essays by filmmakers, a present from another dear friend. And four unwashed shirts.
Outside terminal 2 of Nice airport, I absentmindedly hop on the free shuttle to terminal 1 – “that’s where I normally catch the coach to Cannes.”
Just as the driver is about to shut the doors, a distinctly English accented female voice asks him, “pour aller a Cannes?”
He points her to a big sign on the other side of the road. “Cannes”
I rush off and join the short queue for bus tickets.
The voice turns out to be of an English actor. She is certainly of my indie variety of filmmakers; on top of her suitcase she carrying a pillow. I daren’t ask what sort of accommodation she has found.
“If it’s not the air traffic controllers it’s the baggage handlers or the taxi drivers. We’ve had most of our day one meetings pushed to Monday,” complains an American producer I am visiting at the Marché de Film.
As I hear and read about cancelled Nice-bound flights from London, including one apparently on my own day of departure last Thursday, it begins to dawn on me how lucky I’d been that my journey from London to Nice and through to Cannes had not been affected by this industrial action by several trade unions.
My first meeting this year is at the Dutch Pavillion. It goes well and I learn a couple of important facts about the obstacles that may appear in the path of any co-production between different European countries. Food for thought.
Back at the Marché, I say hello to a young lady (wo)manning the queries desk of an indie distributor. “You can email madam XYZ, and she will write back after market,” is her well- rehearsed response for my request for a meeting with the boss.
I take the card and continue to chat with her about the new films I’ve learned her firm has acquired from Berlin and other markets. Unexpectedly, she asks me about my new project. I give her the brief pitch. She is moved.
I am allowed an audience with madam XYZ for Sunday.
My final meeting of the day is supposed to be at the British Pavilion, but as soon as I take my seat in the back terrace, a polite London accent informs us that this section is to be closed off for a private function.
The pitch goes well, though I learn that one mustn’t overwhelm the listener with too many details from the story.
Back at the British Pavilion, I attend the last half of a panel discussion on women in the film industry. Aside from the expected “men are stupid” prognosis from a panelist, with which I and a couple other men half-agree, the opinions expressed are quite informative.
On the way out, there is a pile of neatly folded  white Tshirts. “In Brussels, they have balls,” shout the letters inscribed on the front. This is a free gift from the Brussels film commission.
I help myself to one, as I still need to wash and iron those four shirts.
I join a queue at salle soixantième for the “Red Army” (Dir. Gabe Polsky, USA 2014), a documentary about the legendary Soviet Ice Hockey team of the 1970s and 1980s. The woman standing ahead of me in the long queue is looking through the programme. “What film are waiting to see?” She asks me. Inadvertently, I misinform her by saying that it’s a Russian film. “Oh, a Russian film, really!”
After some deliberation, she declares “I don’t want to see a Russian film!”
I joke, “you’re not Ukrainian are you?”
“Yes, I am. But it’s not because of that, I just don’t like Russian cinema!” And she walks away.
The main subject of the documentary, team Captain Viacheslav Fetisov, is called to stage by the artistic director of the festival Thierry Fremaux to join the young director.
The festival director introduces the film and then acts as French interpreter for the American director and for the strained English of the retired Russian champion.
When Thierry appears to have missed the end of a sentence from Fetisov, “are you going to translate Thierry?,” chastises the big Russian impatiently.
Laughter from the whole room.
By the red carpet, I am allowed a magical moment, as the six or seven deep crowd parts to allow me a glimpse of Naomi Watts as she glides, carried by the energy of a thousand blinking flash bulbs. In her barrier-reef green dress, standing before a sea of admiring faces and camera lenses at the bottom of the steps, she looks every particle a star.
Peace and love,
Ja’far
Cannes 2014
Wash, tumble dry and iron four shirts before packing for Cannes. That was the plan for the night before flying out to the festival.
By the time I leave work, it is too late to head to the launderette, and my newly installed washing machine at home is too unknown a quantity for me to attempt a wash at such an unsocial hour.
Faced with the prospect of no fresh clothes for the trip, I decide to grab a couple of hours of sleep – “the world is more rosy after some sleep,” I tell myself.
At 6.15 am, I am on the full plane, accompanied by a small suitcase containing some Cannes contacts, the latest issue of Little White Lies, a brilliant film magazine gifted to me by a dear friend, and a book of essays by filmmakers, a present from another dear friend. And four unwashed shirts.
Outside terminal 2 of Nice airport, I absentmindedly hop on the free shuttle to terminal 1 – “that’s where I normally catch the coach to Cannes.”
Just as the driver is about to shut the doors, a distinctly English accented female voice asks him, “pour aller a Cannes?”
He points her to a big sign on the other side of the road. “Cannes”
I rush off and join the short queue for bus tickets.
The voice turns out to be of an English actor. She is certainly of my indie variety of filmmakers; on top of her suitcase she is carrying a pillow. I daren’t ask what sort of accommodation she has found.
“If it’s not the air traffic controllers it’s the baggage handlers or the taxi drivers. We’ve had most of our day one meetings pushed to Monday,” complains an American producer I am visiting at the Marché de Film.
As I hear and read about cancelled Nice-bound flights from London, including one apparently on my own day of departure last Thursday, it begins to dawn on me how lucky I’d been that my journey from London to Nice and through to Cannes had not been affected by this industrial action by several trade unions.
My first meeting this year is at the Dutch Pavillion. It goes well and I learn a couple of important facts about the obstacles that may appear in the path of any co-production between different European countries. Food for thought.
Back at the Marché, I say hello to a young lady (wo)manning the queries desk of an indie distributor. “You can email madam XYZ, and she will write back after market,” is her well- rehearsed response for my request for a meeting with the boss.
I take the card and continue to chat with her about the new films I’ve learned her firm has acquired from Berlin and other markets. Unexpectedly, she asks me about my new project. I give her the brief pitch. She is moved.
I am allowed an audience with madam XYZ for Sunday.
My final meeting of the day is supposed to be at the British Pavilion, but as soon as I take my seat in the back terrace, a polite London accent informs us that this section is to be closed off for a private function.
The pitch goes well, though I learn that one mustn’t overwhelm the listener with too many details from the story.
Back at the British Pavilion, I attend the last half of a panel discussion on women in the film industry. Aside from the expected “men are stupid” prognosis from a panelist, with which I and a couple other men half-agree, the opinions expressed are quite informative.
On the way out, there is a pile of neatly folded  white Tshirts. “In Brussels, they have balls,” shout the letters inscribed on the front. This is a free gift from the Brussels film commission.
I help myself to one, as I still need to wash and iron those four shirts.
I join a queue at salle soixantième for the “Red Army” (Dir. Gabe Polsky, USA 2014), a documentary about the legendary Soviet Ice Hockey team of the 1970s and 1980s. The woman standing ahead of me in the long queue is looking through the programme. “What film are waiting to see?” She asks me. Inadvertently, I misinform her by saying that it’s a Russian film. “Oh, a Russian film, really!”
After some deliberation, she declares “I don’t want to see a Russian film!”
I joke, “you’re not Ukrainian are you?”
“Yes, I am. But it’s not because of that, I just don’t like Russian cinema!” And she walks away.
The main subject of the documentary, team Captain Viacheslav Fetisov, is called to stage by the artistic director of the festival Thierry Fremaux to join the young director.
The festival director introduces the film and then acts as French interpreter for the American director and for the strained English of the retired Russian champion.
When Thierry appears to have missed the end of a sentence from Fetisov, “are you going to translate Thierry?,” chastises the big Russian impatiently.
Laughter from the whole room.
By the red carpet, I am allowed a magical moment, as the six or seven deep crowd parts to allow me a glimpse of Naomi Watts as she glides, carried by the energy of a thousand blinking flash bulbs. In her barrier-reef green dress, standing before a sea of admiring faces and camera lenses, she looks every particle a star.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

May 11th 2014

Sunday, May 11th, 2014
May 11th 2014
Filmwise: More work on the little project.
A vista…
“The new window will be in today!”, declared the tall middle-aged Irish contractor charged with rendering my kitchenette compliant with health and safety regulations.
En route to work, my mind wandered away from the sounds and images of the Central London 8:45 train to that first meeting with the window.
“You can have it from next week!”, the old house-keeper had announced as I climbed the small steps from the landing to the room.
“What a view!”, was my first thought, as I took in the oasis of nature enframed by the old wooden window.
Over the years, through the old glass frame I would follow the narrative of nature, as it transformed the wiry barren tree into a glowing green embodiment of fertility and life.
The cracked wooden frame would watch with me the adventures of the local population of dogs, cats and squirrels, and their collective surprise at the increased presence of roaming foxes.
More than anything, I kept going back to all those instances when faced with a seemingly intractable problem in structure, cadence or feeling of a scene or an academic piece, I would look up to the vista of the tree and and the red brick buildings behind it. Invariably, this would help, either in finding a solution, or in breaking down the issue into its constituent parts.
In the evening, a new, double-glazed aluminium frame window was in place.
All that remained of my old window was the weathered frame broken into a pile of wood leaning against the wall.
Taking in the fissures that time had dug on top of the tree lines of the frame, I wished the wood a new life cradling an all new vista.
Peace and love,
Ja’far: More work on the little project.
Filmwise: More work on the little project.
A vista…
“The new window will be in today!”, declared the tall middle-aged Irish contractor charged with rendering my kitchenette compliant with health and safety regulations.
En route to work, my mind wandered away from the sounds and images of the Central London 8:45 train to that first meeting with the window.
“You can have it from next week!”, the old house-keeper had announced as I climbed the small steps from the landing to the room.
“What a view!”, was my first thought, as I took in the oasis of nature enframed by the old wooden window.
Over the years, through the old glass frame I would follow the narrative of nature, as it transformed the wiry barren tree into a glowing green embodiment of fertility and life.
The cracked wooden frame would watch with me the adventures of the local population of dogs, cats and squirrels, and their collective surprise at the increased presence of roaming foxes.
More than anything, I kept going back to all those instances when faced with a seemingly intractable problem in structure, cadence or feeling of a scene or an academic piece, I would look up to the vista of the tree and and the red brick buildings behind it. Invariably, this would help, either in finding a solution, or in breaking down the issue into its constituent parts.
In the evening, a new, double-glazed aluminium frame was in place.
All that remained of my old window was the weathered frame broken into a pile of wood leaning against the wall.
Taking in the fissures that time had dug on top of the tree lines of the frame, I wished the wood a new life cradling an all new vista.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

May 4th 2014

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Filmwise: working on a little project. More will be revealed soon.

“Never!”
Waiting for a replacement for my two-buckets-and-a-fruit-mixer-motor of a washing machine, for the past couple of months I have become a regular at my local launderette.

Aside from playing spot the mouse with total strangers at the establishment, for this building is notorious for its rodent population, often I find myself chatting to tourists taking a break from sightseeing to wash off the city grit from their garments.

On my last visit, there was a Canadian lady who was slightly puzzled by the organised chaos in which other tourists moved from A to B in London. “I am used to people walking in an orderly fashion, with those going to the right staying on one side of the sidewalk and those going left taking the other side.”

Waving her Kindle for emphasis, “over here, everyone walks everywhere…chaos!”

I attempted to defend my adopted city, but found myself ill-equipped to comment; hadn’t noticed this to be an issue before.

Endeavouring to move to a more Canadian topic, I opted for Bowling For Columbine (Dir. Michael Moore, 2002): “Remember that scene when the director picks a street in a Canadian city, and finds every single main door unlocked?”
She nodded, matter-of-fact-like.

“Well, is it true that you Canadians don’t lock your main doors?”

“Yes, not if we’re home.”

Registering my surprise and admiration, “never!”, she emphasised.

Peace and love,
Ja‘far