Thursday, 25 September 2014

Grindhouse Article: "Too Bad, Isn't It?"

"Too Bad. Isn't It?"

We owe it to Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez who gave a new non-obscene meaning to grinding. The couple merely made two separate movies to be shown as a double-feature. Death Proof and Planet Terror, respectively. Likewise, this article is a double-feature!

Gadalla Gubara

Gubara @ CBS network 1962

An African muses over his simple but life-consuming film making in an underdeveloped country.
The video which throws some light on cinema making in Sudan, also serves as an incredibly candid retelling of the simple personal story of a family man who was so kind and loving as to involve his whole family in his artistic endeavors to the extent that most of his children went on to become media experts. The one that didn't, his daughter Sarah, swam her way into international athletic fame.

Gubara Up for a Shoot

Gadalla Gubara is deemed one of the founders of African cinema. He started his film career in 1946. He had good exposure to North African and to West African cinema. The latter, he believed, was the one that really counted in his time. He was well-known to have been one of the event directors of the prestigious FESPACO, Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. He befriended such prominent figures as Haili Gerima, Ousmane Sembene and Souleymane Cissé.
Although Gubara worked as a professional with Sudan government's Film Unit of the Ministry of Information and executed several documentaries for the government, he also aspired to make feature films. In 1974 he owned his own private studio. In 1979 he made Tajooje, shot on location in east Sudan. In 2005 he made Hugo's Les Miserables, which was one movie he wanted the French people to see! Find out why in this one-hour video below.
In the process of eradicating all things cultural, the dictatorial regime in Khartoum revoked Gubara's studio license and confiscated his land and property, subsequently he lost his vision.
In spite of his simple way of telling his story, Gubara seemed uninterested in mentioning other Sudanese key players who came into the cinema business, other than cinematographer Mr. Kamal Ibrahim. It seems like he only mentored family members which wasn't too bad, was it?

Mohammed Aljjazar

This is a visionary clip with highly advanced tackling of language differences at the alter of a unifying rendering.
The sounds of Arabic and Amharic languages are so fraternized you can discern the similarities.
The video has such a chocolicious feel to it and the lighting is warm and comforting.
Directed by Ali Altigani
Featuring a song by Sudanese singer/songwriter Mohamed Aljjazar and Ethiopian singer Halima Abdarahman.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Movie Critique: Beats of The Antonov

Beats of The Antonov laid a horrendous preposition!
Its very name poses a formidable paradox. The Antonov is heartless! If you think of deriving beats from it, then your own vocal chords are surely better and safer sound generators. Ok, how about thinking that the Antonov, an airplane, urges people to go find drums and start making beats, you have to remember that Antonovs bomb to kill and destroy! But this last assumption is actually what the film tried to examine!
The movie would have been a great visual research on the link between bombing and singing; One would learn to stop worrying and love the bomb, actually. But of course this hypothetical link between bombing and dancing was not thoroughly examined and resolved because there is always an
easier way to resolve films. That is to finish them!

Beats of The Antonov has no storyline to follow. No narrative. Most images could have been adapted from the official Sudan TV archives, if they still know or respect this word in their campaign to erase as much of secular Sudan as they can.
Not having a thread of narrative is Ok if other intentions are laid out from the beginning. But not
having a story and not abiding by your intentions to prove that people can learn to carve beats and scrape songs from their daily dose of killer bombings is not ok. And it isn't enough to use that generic, ill-trodden term: Music heals!

So how did Kuka and company's film fare to that lovely child waving bye-bye as a closing shot?
Well, nothing easier than to bring in some politicians to talk about genocide, oppression which is really crap when it replaces the
movie's preposition.
The movie resorts to interviewing local musicians who talk mainly about non-musical matters and politics.
The film brings in a Phd holder who thinks that all people in the North of Sudan are sick and 'in identity crisis'.
The second narrator of the movie Alsarah wages a war on skin-lightening creams and even targets a brand name of such types of skin care creams. Ironically the lady from the Antonov beaten area disagrees with Alsarah and thinks the creams to lighten the black skin color are good in certain conditions!
Then, in an apparently political shift, Alsarah wonders: Why Sudanese don't know that 'Black Is
Beautiful'! Who really knows if black women in the country from which she borrows this dictum
..also use skin lightening creams.
Kuka: Winner of TIFF'14's Docu Prize

Kuka's movie has unfortunately replaced the visual and auditory experience its name promises by political one-sided talk on why the Antonov is targeting these wretched human beings living in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains areas of the now divided Sudan.

Alsarah, singer/narrator

Beats of The Antonov won The People's Choice Award at TIFF'14.


* Beats of the Antonov 2014
65 min. Documentary
Director/screeplay writer: Hajooj kuka
Narrator: Hajooj Kuka and Alsarah (singer/songwriter)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

MovieGlobe: Our TIFF'14 Report

Adapted from an article by: Badreldin H. Ali*

TIFF'14 was concluded last Sunday and the Norwegian film "Imitation Game"declared winner of the festival's major award, People's Choice Award which was received by the film director Norwegian Morten Tyldum. On Monday art pages in Canadian press were wondering if the movie would find its way to the Academy Awards (Oscar) as usual for a win.

Cumberbatch in Imitation Game
It is known that six films that had won the major award at TIFF found their way to the finals at the Oscars for best film category with three of these achieving the Oscar. The last of these winning movies was "Twelve Years a Slave" 2013. The TIFF as a festival does categorize movies as 'Best Movie' or actors as 'Best Actress', it rather depends on the highest voting by the audience.
TIFF has about seven other awards and gives a winning documentary a similarly-named award, i.e. People's Choice Best Documentary. Sudanese Cinema had entered the prize race with the documentary film "Beats of The Antonov" by filmmaker Hajooj Kuka which attracted a large number of Sudanese Canadians living in Toronto and nearby cities who interacted positively with the filmmaker's rendering of events in war and famine stricken zones.

Many of the audience, whom I spoke to, believed that the movie deserved an Oscar as it presented a unique cinematic treatment of the question of Sudanese Identity, torn in the everlasting struggle between Arabism and Africanism. The uniqueness of the movie, they believed, stemmed from the movie's approach to the question from a musical point of view that highlighted the role played by beats, singing and dance in healing the wounds of war and hence was the film's name "Beats of The Antanov", drawn from the name of the plane that kept bombing marginalized areas
of Sudan.

Image from "Beats of The Antonov"

Canadian movie "Felix et Meira" from Quebec's Maxime Giroux, which was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section of the TIFF'14 and the San Sebastian Film Festival, won the award for Best Canadian Feature at TIFF. This film had no luck at Cannes 14, competing with the winner of the jury award Xavier Dolan's "Mommy"; himslef a Canadian. In that same competition was Stephane lafleur's "You Are Sleeping, Nicole" which drew the attention of artistic circles and was put among the Fifteen Promising moviemakers.

Maxime Giroux

More on these subjects to come.


*Dramatist and Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Scenitunes: Memorable Movie Scores

Are movies made to be seen once, at the core of design?
I personally think movies, as an art from, usually have a lot embedded in them.
Movie makers such as Stanley Kubrick, Fellini or Tarantino like to reveal that they put a lot of things on their movies. They would like you to go find them out. And this is the author's right to have his viewers look for things that have referential value. It is pretty much like when you go back to a certain dialogue or description in Tolostoi's War and Peace or in Hemingway short story. The author's right to think of an eternal value to his work! Indeed some works like The Shining or Death Proof  merit several revisiting.
Before the rise of the movie maker or director as an author, there was that seemingly secondary element of the feature film that kept movies so memorable and likely seen more than twice. The music. The score. The sound track, the "music that accompanies and helps in understanding the visual".
Music was one major factor in ascertaining that movies are not made to be seen once!
Nowadays music from movies is a lucrative genre and is sold in separate CDs.

The first video is from a movie of the fifties. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. I saw it several times while in Africa. It's clear that Morricone did not introduce the human whistle when he started Sphagetti Westerns in the early sixties! Russian-born Dimitri Tiomkin also composed for great movies such as The Alamo, High Noon, Mackenna's Gold in which Quincey Jones, incidentally, scored a beautiful song for Jose Feliciano "Old Turkey Buzzard". That movie which I saw in a cinema near the Albert Hall while I was visiting London as a 19 year old was packed with great names such as director J. Lee Thompson (Guns of Navarone) and actors Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif and Telly Savalas in addition to Dimitri Tiomkin, Feliciano and Quincy Jones.

Then came The Magnificent Seven 1960! A strong dose from John Sturges though the screenplay was based on Kurasawa's The Seven Samurai. The music score was a perpetual hit by Elmer Bernstein. Such powerful and stunning music.

Then we are again exposed to powerful music in a new look at the legend of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Tombstone 1993 for which Bruce Broughton cultivated this beautiful main theme:

More From Freddy Flores' You Tube Channel on the truth about the Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a gunfight that occurred at about 3:00 PM on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. Contrary to popular belief, the gunfight did not actually occur at the O.K. Corral. In fact, it occurred in a vacant lot behind the O.K. Corral. Although only three men were killed during the gunfight, it is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the Old West. About thirty shots were fired in thirty seconds."

Enjoy superb acting by Val Kilmer and Michael Biehn in Tombstone.

To be continued.....

Saturday, 16 August 2014

MCA: Horizon Shot and What Not

A Brush With Intertextuality

"Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing." Salvadore Dali
“Creativity is just connecting things” Steve Jobs.
 (RIP Jobs this is what I am doing in this post!)
"There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.” Helene Hegemann-Pictured above.

I wanted to share with you a 'horizon shot' that I like to watch from time to time.
But two things came up!
First I lost sound in my laptop for a while now.
The music in that shot is part of the lyrics.
I think it was a brief bass note synchronized with the leap over the horizon of three UN SUVs followed by low-flying Helicopters. The lack of sound will not help me help you appreciate the shot.
Second, some 'what not' came up in the aftermath of the outrageous literary theft committed by a 17 year old German author who copycatted into a book another person's blog and went viral, selling 100,000 copies of the book in 3 weeks. Issues of authorship, originality and plagiarism and what not.
This German author, Helene Heggeman, was so audacious that she said what I quoted above.
She has her lawyer and a host of modern day philosophers on her side!
She also has Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Fin etc.)!

Twain with Keller
In a letter to Helen Keller, St. Patrick's Day, 1903 Mark Twain wrote "The kernel, the soul-- let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances--is plagiarism....a grown person's memory-tablet is as a palimpsest, with hardly a bare space upon which to engrave a phrase."
Keller was accused of stealing a short story from another author.
That will prove to be.....not another story!
There could be an uncountable number of horizon shots in movies, particularly those shot on location or those depicting battles or ancient frontier movies of the John Wayne type. But the one I am sharing today has always been a source of immense pleasure to me. It is from the desert scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
Watch it in this clip from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Will be back in a bit)

But Spielberg was not really the originator of this type of shot which delivers you into
action or ends your tense expectation. The first acknowledged use of this 'horizon shot'
was in Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai  (1954)! It is when the bandits on horsebacks
gallop down the hilltop in their anticipated attack on the village of the helpless farmers!
Watch this clip from Seven Samurai:

Between 1954 and 1977 only Spielberg cared to admit his being influenced by the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in employing the horizon shot which is pretty common in movies.
The use of the term 'influenced' seemed to be so comfortable that many other giant movie-makers stepped forward and announced their being 'influenced' or 'inspired' by Kurasawa! Sergio Leone, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and George Lucas are some of these.

Kurosawa (left) with F. Cappola (middle) and Spielberg
Some prominent European filmmakers did not seem to be much fascinated by the works of Kurosawa. Bergman was quoted as saying: "Now I want to make it plain that The Virgin Spring must be regarded as an aberration. It's touristic, a lousy imitation of Kurosawa." He was talking about his own film!
Obviously terms like inspiring, influencing, quoting, alluding or referencing have nothing to do with violation of intellectual property or with.......plagiarizing!


The other day I was browsing through the photo album of a friend when I found what I thought was another famous 'horizon shot' from Bergman's movie The Seventh Seal  in which Death as a character in the movie leads the plague-stricken Swedes to their doom. I spontaneously asked my friend if it was inspired by Bergman's famous shot. She said she was not aware of a horizon shot by Bergman!
Then I hastened to describe this similarity as a kind of intertextuality but then I realized that, formally, this term is applied to texts and what we were discussing were images!  I liked to call it 'intertextuality' anyhow. Just a gut feeling. No critical pondering over the matter. I relied on the fact that images and texts share this coding nature or have the effect of references which accumulate in our visual memory!
I later found that the informal use of 'intertextuality" in analyzing pop culture elements includes not only texts but also movies, music and their mixes. Formal intertextuality of the Julia Kristiva caliber was concerned with literary texts!
Here is my friend's personal photo shot in Masquat- The Sultanate of Oman 2009.

Below is Bergman's horizon shot from his iconic movie "The Seventh Seal" 1957

The similarities are amazing!
Both are silhouetted, with a grey sky as a background and the people in more than one spot are joining hands!
My friend does not understand that she used Bergman's shot as an intertext to her own image!
"Because," she said emphatically " I never saw his shot!"
I turned to her looking like a Roland Barthes and said: "You don't have to see it to make one like it!"

Helen Keller was acquitted after an investigation.
Helene Hegemanne's case was solved by a settlement between publishers but she did not win the Leipzig Book Prize for which she was nominated.
Horizon shots are so common, you probably will not notice the next one!
Published on Aug 29/2012 @ 4:53 ET

Monday, 4 August 2014

Slideshow at The O.K. Corral

Slideshow at The O.K. Corral*

The paintings and the music,
The smell of East Africa,
the clay of the river Nile,
of distant cultures.
The costumes and aroma.
The scent of a primordial home..

The Artist at Work

* When it comes to art, you are always near and never at.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

MCR: Seul Contre Tous

I Stand Alone

Review by: Sarah Salah

The exoticness of Gaspar Noe's movies is revealed to the world through scratches in their realism that make it hateful to film critics and only tolerated by a few of them.
Carne, the 1991 short movie by Gaspar Noe about a French butcher who owned a slaughterhouse that sold horse meat- which was not unusual in France, was based on what Gaspar's father, an Argentinian by origin, had told his son about eating horse meat in France. Soon enough, the idea of a movie on a butcher selling horse meat came to Gaspar's mind. In Carne, the butcher's partner abandons him and the baby girl she has just given birth to. The butcher takes responsibility for his autistic daughter, and attends to her stages of growth until her adulthood.

Gaspar Noe comes back in I Stand Alone to complete the story of this small family. The butcher has a relationship with a woman who is a barmaid and owner of a place. They have a plan to leave to Northern France where the woman is supposed to buy him a butchery shop after she sells out her place before leaving. Gaspar Noe blinks some signals on how people cheat their way out by activating their instinct for survival. His woman, to whom he has no real feelings, is being one of his means to compensate for his losses, such as his previous slaughterhouse which he had lost due to a crime he committed on a man he mistakenly thought had raped his daughter. Anger, with which this man is so saturated, is a channeling out of what afflicted him as a result of his relationship to this woman who humiliates him because he is unemployed, unproductive dependent on her.
As hinted in his short movie about the butcher having sexual feelings toward his daughter, Noe continues to pursue these feelings to prove that this lust has not dwindled. He goes to work as a night guard in an institution for the care of the elderly where a nurse asks him for help as one of the elderly women almost died of suffocation. The two try to help the woman but the woman dies. While trying to console the nurse, who was saddened by the death of the woman, the butcher remembers his own daughter. He then sees the nurse to her house and goes to a movie theater to watch a "porn" movie.

Noe employs the device of internal monologue to allow us to enter into the ideas of this resentful man who is in love with his daughter and who is now projecting, from his subconscious mind his parents' mistake into the mistake of his own existence.
The 'flaying' of the butcher from his first condition and his lack of interaction give rise to his nihilistic attitude as a failed product of human error afflicted by World War II. Gaspar Noe's anti-hero pays the price for the results of Nazism. His father dies; his family is torn; he does not get an education; he becomes a butcher to proceed with the natural struggle in life. In addition to this, his confidence in women declines except for his daughter who never calls him papa which would generate a sense of paternal responsibility in him. At the same time he sexually desires her in disregard for societal/civilized laws concerning the nature of this relation
in any community. This autistic girl, Cynthia the daughter of the butcher, has not identified with anyone other than her father who has fed and cleaned her until she reached her puberty.

What Are Morals?

The film begins with the words Morals and Justice. In communities where class differences are distinct, the individual resorts to attain the requirements for "survival" and in due course acquires a fierce sense of survival. On the other hand morals are relative and are determined when dealing with a particular other. The movie invites questions on whether we can live by human nature, on our instincts, deny/ approve Gaspar Noe's look at community in determining the impact of public morality as a "law" when interacting with a 'other' who denies human nature.
The film does not show directorial creativity as big as that shown in the other movies by Gaspar Noe such as Enter The Void or Irreversible  because of the focus on internal monologue to reflect the psychology and effects on the main character, the anti-hero. My assessment of the film is 7 out of 10.

I Stand Alone (Seul Contre Tous) (French with English subtitles)
92 minutes; color; France.
Written (in French,)and directed by Gaspar Noe;
Director of photography, Dominique Colin;
Edited by Lucile Hadzihalilovic and Mr. Noe;
Produced by Mr. Noe and Ms. Hadzihalilovic
Actors: Philippe Nahon (the butcher),Blandine Lenoir (his daughter), Frankye Pain (his mistress) and Martine Audrain (mistress's mother).
Other Important Movies by Gaspar Noe: Carne, Enter The Void, Irresistable.
Watch The Short Movie Carne

Sara Salah can be reached at