Thursday, December 07, 2006

Notes and Thoughts on Film Week

This has been a very enjoyable week. Tiresome, but very enjoyable. I offer a few comments on each day:

Day 1: Frontiers of Dreams and Fears.
A touching movie, as all movies are that involve children struggling in a hostile world. Mona and Manar, in their open display of emotions, naturally perplexing for teenage girls, made even more so by the complexity of life in the camps, succeeded in touching the heart of every member of the audience. A dilemma in itself, as one viewer commented, since in an age when struggles between Palestine and Israel are intensifying, in an age where we are becoming brutally aware of the futility of this struggle and of the need to find a way that enables the two nations to live in peace, in an age where younger people are drawn into this unfair struggle, it is important to remember that over the past 50 years of conflict, Israel has been winning, and Palestine losing. Maybe a movie like this should touch our emotions in a more subtle way, reminding us that what these children, what all children need, is a peaceful environment.

Day 2: Rachida.
I fell in love with Rachida. Her face, her sadness, her joy, her fear… It was an overwhelming film. Being a teacher myself, films about teachers always attract me. But the attraction to this movie goes beyond Rachida being a school teacher. ‘Thugs,’ as they were aptly termed by a viewer, attack the streets randomly and with no apparent motive, with the mere intention to hurt. And they hurt. Boys with guns. What a dangerous combination. Add to that the element of despair, and the combination becomes deadly. Rachida the teacher, Rachida the woman, however, continues her life, in spite, or maybe because of, these thugs’ incessant attempt to ruin life.

Day 3: Women Who Loved Cinema.
Egypt in the 20s. Such a long time ago. Such glory it had. What happened to it all? Where did all this go? What a wonderfully enlightened place to be at, this Egypt of the 20s. Democracy, social reform, whatever you want to call it, it always damages culture. The Egypt of Kings was a more cultural, artistic, intellectual Egypt. Why does art conflict with humanity?

Day 4: The Circle.
The first reaction to this film was from an Irani woman, angered by the ugly picture the film seems to give of Iran. To her, the picture is distorted and false. To her, Iran is not a prison for its women. But to the rest of the audience, this is indeed the case with Iran as it is the case with most, if not all, Islamist countries. Women without men just can’t do. The Circle intensifies this as it presents us with women who escape prison, women who give birth in prison, women who are pregnant without a husband. There seems to be this utmost denial towards admitting that we hurt. That we might be unjustly treated. That we might be oppressed. We are a nation who refuses to ‘air our laundry’ it seems. We do not have our Oprah and our Springers (such stark comparison). We do not seem to be ready, yet, to admit our own weaknesses.

Day 5: Lebanon: Bits and Pieces.
An interesting exposition of the mentality of a few Lebanese living in the early 90s when the Civil War has just ended but people’s morale were still not very high. Optimism was still a dream. Religious identity and national identity become a debate as we meet those Lebanese men and women who do not yet know if they are Muslims or Christians. If they are Arabs or Lebanese. If they should speak Arabic or French. If they should instill Western liberal ethics in their children, or Eastern traditional ones. Identity became an interesting debate in the discussion that ensued and our film week director ended with what I thought was an insightful and challenging argument, insisting that this holding on to one’s identity needs to be questioned. This need to assert I am Lebanese, I am Kuwaiti, I am Muslim, I am Christian, should all be debated as to its purpose in a global world where we are all mestizas*.

* Gloria Andalzua’s La Frontera/Borderland is an interesting text to read around this issue.