Archive for the ‘Cannes documentary’ Category

December 29th 2013

Sunday, December 29th, 2013
A new year..
The past year has been unexpectedly fruitful: have produced four new drafts of the little girl in Baghdad script, and have completely re-edited the Cannes documentary.
For 2014, I hope to continue to work on the script and to finally complete the documentary.
If possible, I would like to make a start on ingesting the footage I have for a second documentary, and find a way into a new script.
Wishing you peace and love,
Ja’far
A new year..
The past year has been unexpectedly fruitful: have produced four new drafts of the little girl in Baghdad script, and have completely re-edited the Cannes documentary.
For 2014, I hope to continue to work on the script and to finally complete the documentary.
If possible, I would like to make a start on ingesting the footage I have for a second documentary, and find a way into a new script.
Wishing you peace and love,
Ja’far

December 8th 2013

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Filmwise: Collating notes on the fifth draft of the little girl in Baghdad screenplay. Have also reviewed the current cut of the Cannes documentary.

“It was a cop-out!”

One of the perks of working for a media company is the opportunity to attend movie preview screenings.

This past week, two colleagues and I were at the new NBCU offices in the West End to watch Old Boy, the US remake of the iconic South Korean film of 2003.

Directed by Spike Lee, starring Josh Brolin,  and featuring the great Samuel L. Jackson, the remake attempts to break free from the shadow of the original, naturally. I will need some time to allow the new version to sink in before deciding the degree of success of the filmmaker to make this his own take on the story.

All in all, where the Chan-Wook Park 2003 film was a visually and dramatically visceral piece that included some fantastically surreal images, the Spike Lee film keeps the drama, but fails to live up to one’s expectations from the director of Do the Right Thing.

As to the new ending chosen in the US version, I am not sure I agree with a fellow audience member who declared to his friends, “it was a cop-out!”

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

October 20th 2013

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Filmwise: Preparing the groundwork for penning the fifth draft of the little girl in Baghdad screenplay. Would like to have it done by the end of November.

The Cannes documentary: After some thought about the structure, I feel I have been through a 360 degree journey of options and narrative trajectories. I am back to the original starting point of the piece. Glad to have explored other avenues. In December, will use the breathing time of the fifth draft of the screenplay to work on the documentary. All good.
A presence…
As part of the London Film Festival, I attended the UK premiere of La Maison De La Radio (Dir. Nicolas Philibert, France 2013) on Wednesday evening.
The film covers a virtual 24 hours in the life of Radio France, starting with the early morning news programme and ending with the final preparations for the same show the next morning.
After the screening, the director explained that the 24 hours were covered in sixty days over the course of six months. Amazingly, despite the being on location for such an extended number of shooting days, Mr Philibert’s total of rushes for the documentary was a mere 100 hours.
It is amazing, not only because the temptation is to film and film footage to avoid heartbreak in the edit suite, but also because the events that occurred during filming included earthquakes, murder hunts and the Arab Spring.
I wasn’t after a news story, for I am making a film, and not a news report, explained Mr Philibert. “Today’s news is no longer of interest tomorrow, and I knew that my film would not be ready for at least a year. So, we couldn’t follow the news events that were covered by the radio station during filming.”
More interestingly, he added that he was interested in the “presence of the people” he filmed rather than their stories. This was evident in the lack of any narrative threads following the lives or interests of the journalists, producers, actors, programme guests and members of the public that feature in the film. Most of the time, we don’t know the name or the exact job title of those filmed going about their work.
As a viewer, I went along with the rationale of the work, and thoroughly enjoyed the piece.
The experience made me wish to go back and watch the first Mr Philibert film I saw, Etre et Avoir.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

October 13th 2013

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Filmwise: Spent some time with the Cannes documentary. I need to get back to the script of the little girl in Baghdad story soon.

May in the Summer

A few years ago, I was at the Young Vic for a play from Palestine. In addition to the great reviews it had received, the piece also boasted a number of the best known Palestinian actors on the world cinema scene.

Among the actors was Yussef Abu-Warda. He had played a main role in Amreeka (Dir. Cherien Dabis, 2009), a quirky comedy about being a Palestinian immigrant in a small town in Indiana.

After the show, we had chatted about the film and about its writer-director Cherien Dabis.

Thanks to the BFI London Film Festival this weekend, I was able to meet Ms. Dabis, and watch her second feature, May in the Summer (2013).

Having opened the international section of Sundance this year, and won over audiences and critics alike, I was thrilled to finally watch the film.

As was discussed in the Q&A session after the screening, I was among many in the audience who were in awe of the epic undertaking that Ms. Dabis achieved in making the film – not only did she write, direct and produce, she also starred in the film. Kudos.

On the surface, this is the story of the young Arab American woman May returning to her mother’s country of birth Jordan, engaged and with a wedding to plan. However, as the director pointed out, it is also a meditation on reverse migration – on Arab Americans returning to the old country, and finding themselves at various levels of discord or loss with the local culture and people.

For me, the best scenes were those in which May and her two sisters (played by Nadine Malouf and Alia Shawkat) reveled in sibling banter and rivalry.

The presence of Hiam Abbass, the go-to lady for strong motherly figures, made this one of the better casts I have seen this year.

Also among the talent was Nasri Sayegh, who plays Yusif in Mesocafé.

Can’t wait for the third feature from Ms. Dabis.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

September 22nd 2013

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Filmwise: The Cannes documentary will need more work, I have decided recently. Despite the many hundreds of hours that I have spent editing the project, I need to avoid falling prey to post-production fatigue. Before brining in other team members for this phase, I need to make certain that I have dealt with the detail of the new edit structure. More time is needed.

“Can you spare any change, please?”

En route home on Friday evening, I passed by a small group huddled around a car bonnet.

A woman in the group was holding her mobile close to the running engine, as the break down mechanic explained to the group: “It doesn’t sound happy!”

Not sure if the mobile was providing extra light, or perhaps an App of some sort was at work.

Two hundred yards later, a homeless man was adding his bit to the urban soundtrack: “Can you spare any change, please?”

On being ignored by the stream of office workers, he picked on a young man running through the crowd: “Run, Forrest, Run!”, he cried after him.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

September 8th 2013

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Filmwise: Having completed the first cut of the Cannes documentary in its new post-structural overhaul version, I am taking some time off the project. Going by past experience, the project would benefit from some gestation.

Three encounters…
Walking from the office to the train station on a warm September evening last week, I was startled from my hobby of studying the architecture of buildings lining the street.
The sound of shuffling footsteps had an odd note to them.
On glancing behind me, there was a middle-aged man, in simple attire, balancing himself on the thin line separating sobriety and intoxication. He wasn’t exactly teetering from one side to the other, but more listing to his right, putting him in a short-term trajectory to walking into the path of fast-moving vehicles.
The destination of the man, however, wasn’t the immediate source of attention of passers-by. It was the orange supermarket plastic bag that was attached to his left foot. Everyone seemed to start by the plastic bag and tilt up to the man and his right-leaning posture.
Personally, I imagined that he had such giddy and walking-over-clouds thoughts, that he was totally oblivious to the bag and the stares of passers-by.
The following day, with the Indian Summer momentarily giving way to the more regular September rain and lower temperatures, I found myself trailing another middle-aged man en route to the supermarket.
The man was in relaxed attire, with comfy cotton trousers and jacket, smart shoes, and a folded newspaper perturbing from his jacket side pocket. All of this was counterbalanced by his angry voice from beneath the umbrella.
Keeping my distance to allow the man his privacy, I wan’t interested in the reason for the man’s anger. It was his affair. It was only when he stopped and glanced sideways at the passing traffic that I realised he was not talking on the phone. With the absence of any visible hands-free device, the gentleman was clearing having a mono-versation/talking to himself.
I would like to imagine  that he was a playwright, reading aloud a particularly visceral exchange between two lovers.
Finally, en route home on Saturday afternoon, I was approached by a well-spoken young lady. Motioning to what I assumed was her grandmother, she said: “Could you please take a photo of us. This is the house where my grandmother was born and where she lived until she was six.”
I knelt by the sidewalk and framed the two generations of women with the steps and black door of the elegant townhouse.
Walking away, I tried to imagine how much the young lady looked like her grandmother when she was young.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

September 1st 2013

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Filmwise: What feels like the most mature and feature-like cut of the Cannes documentary is taking shape. There is still a long way to go, but the task I’d set myself for the summer is within reach. Brilliant.

“Easy!”
While waiting for my turn at the hair salon, I couldn’t help overhear an exchange between my regular hairdresser and a customer.
Holding up a mirror to his back, she asked:
- “Good?”
- “Yes, thank you.”
As he stood up, he seemed to notice another female hairdresser in the far corner of the store.
- “Oh, hello. How are you?”
- “I am fine. And you – still handsome?!”
With the customer smiling and blushing, my regular hairdresser looked at her colleague and whispered:
- “Easy!”
Peace and love,
Ja’far

August 25th 2013

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Filmwise: The long Bank Holiday weekend has a deja vu feel about it; like last year this time, I am working on the Cannes documentary. The good news – the piece has broken out of its former structure, and is the better for it.

“Well, what can I do if my actors are…”

Flicking through VOD available documentaries on the film industry, this weekend I stumbled upon Best Worst Movie (Dir. Michael Stephenson, 2009).

Rather than a compilation of film clips and an assortment of talking heads delivering well-rehearsed lines about how bad this movie is, as opposed to how terrible the other is, this is more of a behind-the-scenes making of – shot retrospectively – of Troll 2 (Dir. Claudio Fragasso, 1990).

While totally feeling for the director of Troll 2, I couldn’t help feel a tad concerned for the whole enterprise of spending time to figure out what’s worst in a cultural form.

For what its worth, the director Fragasso gave as well as he got, calling the group of first-time actors “dogs” – endearingly, I would like to think.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far


August 18th 2013

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Filmwise: More work on the Cannes documentary.

A tale of two movies…
Like many budding filmmakers, the UK release of Overnight (Dirs. Tony Montana / Mark Brian Smith 2003) several years ago allowed me a glimpse of the abyss into which the soul can be plunged at the very first taste of great success.
The film charted (unsympathetically, it has to be said) the journey of Troy Duffy, a young scriptwriter from Boston, from shaking hands with legendary producer Harvey Weinstein of Miramax, to experiencing life in Hollywood paradise, to being unceremoniously ejected from celluloid heaven and the cancellation of the Miramx deal.
The one upside to the story is Duffy’s success in turning his The Boondock Saints script into a feature, with Willem Dafoe in the lead, no less.
Years later, this weekend I finally had the opportunity to watch the film.
As a first-time feature director, I can only empathise with Duffy’s difficulties in guiding his cast and crew to retell a story he wrote on paper on the big screen.
I fear, the pressures may have been too great on the young debutant.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

August 11th 2013

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

Filmwise: This week has been all about the Cannes documentary.

Allow me to elaborate.

With the little in Girl in Baghdad script enjoying a break from my rewrites and edits, my out of office awake hours have been almost entirely dedicated to working on both at the overall structure of the Cannes documentary as well as at the sequence and scene levels.

New to the project has been the introduction of more film history and references. This was purely the result of excavating through the footage captured during the festival.

These new additions are balanced out by the editing out of entire sequences and scenes that do not fit into the new structure.

All good.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far