Archive for the ‘Little Girl in Baghdad story’ Category

August 3rd 2014

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Filmwise: Jotting down a couple of ideas for the little girl in Baghdad story, and revisiting a couple of new treatments. All good.

“Figlio!”

In an interview I read a few years ago, a well-known author spoke of the central place in his mornings that the traditional Italian espresso maker plays. “Two of these last me a whole decade,” he’d said.

Well, this past fortnight, my espresso has been acquiring increasingly loud notes of ash and the aroma of a stale packet of cigarettes. My coffeemaker has had too many summers and winters with me.

At a department store, I opted for the own-brand espresso maker, rather than the world renowned Italian make. “You pay more than double just for the name,” assured me the lady at the till.

Back at home, the proceedings for preparing the maiden beverage came to a sudden halt, when I encountered a bent nozzle inside the contraption.

Back at the  department store, I inspected another identical item and took it to the till.

In the queue, I was ahead of a young Italian couple.

Looking for her son, the mother called out in her beautiful tongue, “figlio, figlio!”.

“Figlio, figlio,” called back a little boy on a skateboard, as he flamboyantly brought his transporter to a stop before his parents.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

July 20th 2014

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Filmwise: Revisions of the ninth draft of the little girl in Baghdad story are complete.

With the office taking over the working week, predictably all things creative are assigned to the weekend – along with the laundry, and the sorting of those books that have been hogging the kitchen floor ever since they had to be moved from the staircase to allow for the building of a bookcase. The latter is now in place. It needs the books to complete its raison d’être.

This Saturday, no creative assignments could be referenced in order to escape the said books.

And so, like every self-respecting Londoner on the happier of the two days off, with a whole 48 hours of freedom stretching before one’s eyes all the way to, what one optimistically believes will be, a ticked off list of many many achievements over the weekend, I made myself a cup of coffee.

The hot beverage found me picking up an old copy of a book  of poetry from the 1960s. Three poems read aloud later, I was looking up more poets and anthologies in the pile of books.

Then there was an Arabic translation of the memoirs of an anti-Fascists fighter which drew me into its colourful depiction of the unfolding Spanish civil war.

And just like that, it was 18:00.

Next stop, the local picture house.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Dir. Matt Reeves, 2014) was good, with solid performances from the men and women beneath the CGI suits, but the most rewarding element in the production was the soundtrack by Michael Giacchion.

Won’t bore you with Sunday; suffice to say, the books continue their kitchen occupation, and I am x number of pages more read than Friday evening.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

July 13th 2014

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Filmwise: Draft nine of the little girl in Baghdad continues to evolve.

“Does he work here?”

This weekend, I was in the company of two friends, in the Arab Quarter of the West End. It’s the Breaking of Fast meal that we have together every Ramadan.

With sunset being at such a late hour, we thought we’d meet early to catch up and decide on the venue for the meal – there are so many new restaurants opening in the area, we felt we should expand the range of our taste buds.

Deep in conversation, and keen to learn more about my friends’ respective families back in Iraq and how they are at the moment, I suggested we throw caution to the wind and sample the very first new establishment we wandered past.

The Eastern-style tiles were gleaming, the bread oven and the selection of fresh herbs and salad, and the food on the menu were all too enticing.

The one issue that crept on us quite unceremoniously was our sudden inability to hear one another.

Looking around us, we found ourselves surrounded by rowdy children, a whole classroom’s worth of decibels.

With the only waitress being too busy with the said kids and their parents to take our order, we politely replaced the seats back into their neat order under the table, and we slipped out.

Right across the street, another Middle Eastern restaurant was all too happy to have our custom.

Half-way through the meal, a gentleman approached us and said hello to one of my friends.

“Hello Sami, how are you?”, said my friend.

Sami left, and we ate to sounds of Arabic music, the gurgle of Nargilah smoking pipes, and the commentary on the ensuing World Cup match between Brazil and the Netherlands.

As we were walking out, my friend asked the owner, “does Sami work with you? You know the guy who said hello to me.”

“No, he runs the new restaurant across the street!”

Peace and love,

Ja’far

July 6th 2014

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Filmwise: Work continues on the ninth draft of the little girl in Baghdad script.

“Clumsy”

Despite my best efforts, my departure from the office on Friday evening was way too late for a 9 to 5 job.

Going past a nice little pub, which several layers of city planning had made it bestride two cul-de-sacs, I found myself walking behind three ladies. From their choice of attire, mostly dark and formal, I gathered they were fellow office workers.

With my mind racing through a new twist in one of the scripts I am developing, I found myself in the process of overtaking the ladies’ high heels speed. One of them tripped and practically flew across the hard concrete pavement. Her attempt to be brave about the clearly painful fall was admirable. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. So clumsy.” Her friends smiled to me, assuring me she’s fine.

At the other end of the Tube line, heading to the local supermarket, I was startled away from the very twist in the script by the the sight of a middle-aged woman slipping and hitting the floor right before me. Fortunately, the fall was broken by the garments, or such like, that were in a shopping bag she was carrying.

I began to wonder whether I should start a new story about an imagined world giving way to the unfolding reality. All en route home.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

June 29th 2014

Sunday, June 29th, 2014
June 29th 2014
Filmwise: negotiating rewrites on the ninth draft of the little girl in Baghdad story.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged,” to paraphrase, “that a man of a certain age must be in need of the treadmill!”
The answer as to whether one has reached that certain age is a point of debate, depending on how well one has slept the night before, mostly.
I have, nonetheless, returned to regular gym visits; as a fillmmaker, at least, good health is not a negative.
Well, halfway through the week, I was on my oh-dear-how-did-I-get-my-self-into-this-pickle stage of the treadmill, when the fire alarm went off.
The middle-aged chap next to me was so immersed in his headphones and sweat-a-thon that he needed the personal visit of the large gym manager to get off his ride.
Passers by were amused by the sight of men and women in various degrees of perspiration and muscle bulk, all loitering on the pavement outside the gym.
The chap who’d received a personal visit from the gym manager was finding his way into a conversation.
“Are you a regular here?”
Easy, tiger!
“Only a month now,” said the young woman, using her towel to wrap herself.
“Oh, have you recently moved to the area?”
“No, up to the start of the month, I was using the Uni gym. It’s the summer break.”
“Oh, have you graduated?”
“No, just finished my first year!”
Seemingly startled by the recognition that he was a man in his forties chatting to a seemingly teenage girl, and one who like him was in sweat-soaked gym-wear, the man couldn’t have been more relieved by the big manager’s announcement: “Everyone, please make your way down to collect your stuff and leave. The fire brigade are on their way.”
Peace and love,
Ja’far
Filmwise: negotiating rewrites on the ninth draft of the little girl in Baghdad story.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged,” to paraphrase, “that a man of a certain age must be in need of the treadmill!”
The answer as to whether one has reached that certain age is a point of debate, depending on how well one has slept the night before, mostly.
I have, nonetheless, returned to regular gym visits; as a fillmmaker, at least, good health is not a negative.
Well, halfway through the week, I was on my oh-dear-how-did-I-get-my-self-into-this-pickle stage of the treadmill, when the fire alarm went off.
The middle-aged chap next to me was so immersed in his headphones and sweat-a-thon that he needed the personal visit of the large gym manager to get off his ride.
Passers by were amused by the sight of men and women in various degrees of perspiration and muscle bulk, all loitering on the pavement outside the gym.
The chap who’d received a personal visit from the gym manager was finding his way into a conversation.
“Are you a regular here?”
Easy, tiger!
“Only two weeks now,” said the young woman, using her towel to wrap herself.
“Oh, have you recently moved to the area?”
“No, up to the start of the month, I was using the Uni gym. It’s the summer break.”
“Oh, have you graduated?”
“No, just finished my first year!”
Seemingly startled by the recognition that he was a man in his forties chatting to a seemingly teenage girl, and one who like him was in sweat-soaked gym-wear, the man couldn’t have been more relieved by the big manager’s announcement: “Everyone, please make your way down to collect your stuff and leave. The fire brigade are on their way.”
Peace and love,
Ja’far

June 15th 2014

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Filmwise: This week, took a break from the ninth draft of the little girl in Baghdad script. Had a short film assignment. All good.

“You choose!”

At my favourite ice cream shop in London, I found myself in the middle of a queue surrounded by what seemed like three generations of an English family. While the youngest, two primary age girls and a boy, were excitedly debating “the red one and the yellow one”, before changing their mind and going for the “orange and chocolate one”, their parents were cautioning, “only one scoop!”

The oldest of the group, clearly the grandfather, was happy to stand back and watch the drama of transient childhood desire and contentment unfold before him for the umpteenth time.

“We just got back from two weeks in Italy,” he announced to me. He must have thought me someone familiar with the country.

“We drove from Genoa to Florence. The coast en route was just breathtaking.”

I made a mental note of a couple of the places he mentioned.

“Two scoops? What flavours would you like?” asked me the young Italian woman behind the counter.

“You choose!”

Peace and love,

Ja’far

June 8th 2014

Sunday, June 8th, 2014
June 8th 2014
Filmwise: The ninth draft of the little girl in Baghdad is under way.
“Screen one is next!”
At my local picture house, the small audience for Godzilla (Dir. Gareth Edwards, 2014) was already out of the door thirty seconds into the end credits.
The three young employees tasked with cleaning the isles off popcorn and other show debris seemed at a loss – in the otherwise empty cinema, I was leaning against a wall, with eyes fixated on the screen.
Noticing their obvious anxiety to get on with their work, I whispered to the nearest, “I am listening to the soundtrack; you can put the lights up, if you need to.”
With evident relief, they turned on the overhead lights.
The finale of the Alexandre Desplat score was my cue to release them.
As I walked out, one of them announced, ’screen one is next!”
Peace and love,
Ja’farFilmwise: The ninth draft of the little girl in Baghdad is under way.
Filmwise: The ninth draft of the little girl in Baghdad is under way.
“Screen one is next!”
At my local picture house, the small audience for Godzilla (Dir. Gareth Edwards, 2014) was already out of the door thirty seconds into the end credits.
The three young employees tasked with cleaning the isles off popcorn and other show debris seemed at a loss – in the otherwise empty cinema, I was leaning against a wall, with eyes fixated on the screen.
Noticing their obvious anxiety to get on with their work, I whispered to the nearest, “I am listening to the soundtrack; you can put the lights up, if you need to.”
With evident relief, they turned on the overhead lights.
The finale of the Alexandre Desplat score was my cue to release them.
As I walked out, one of them announced, ’screen one is next!”
Peace and love,
Ja’far

June 1st 2014

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Filmwise: I am halfway through completing the ninth draft of the little girl in Baghdad story. The main amendments are at a couple of story-beats to add clarity, and also pace to the unfolding narrative. All good.

Prompted by a dear friend, this year I have taken to getting in touch early with connections made at Cannes. Usually, I wait for a couple of weeks, to allow the other parties some unpacking time.

Aside from that, I have been enjoying the improved quality of life that a newly refurbished kitchen, with an automatic washing machine, can bring about.

Not sure how long it will take me before I start missing the random, and sometimes memorable, encounters at my local launderette.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

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