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

Friday, 20 June 2014

Movie Critic Review: Truly A Dystopian Movie

What awaits a movie after its making?
Critical acclaim? Commercial success?
Which of these is more important for a movie?
Could these two criteria be equal? A point at which a movie is at half way
between hit and miss?
I was thinking philosophical movies were doomed.
Candidates for failure but the stunning fact is most of them were a success in both ways.
For a list of philosophical movies go here Philosophical Films
I am still looking for an Anthony Quinn movie of the sixties which was extremely unintelligable!
And another one with Charlton Heston starring in it.
Anyhow the statistics on "Pink Floyd The Wall" are not encouraging.
So was it one of those "Flop for philosophy" movies or....what?

Pink Floyd The Wall UK, 1982.

95 Min, Color, Genre: Psychedelic Drama
Cast:  Bob Geldof* and others.
Edited by Gerry Hambling
Screenplay by Roger Waters
Animation: Gerald Scrafe
Music: The Group Pink Floyd
Directed by Alan Parker (Sir) who won nineteen BAFTA awards, ten Golden Globes and ten Oscars.

The Group Pink Floyd


"When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look, but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb." From the lyrics of The Wall.

"Better to watch it high or comfortably numb." One viewer's view.
“It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before—a weird fusion of live action, story-telling and of the surreal.”Pink Floyd The Wall Director Alan Parker on the movie’s Cannes premiere.
"The lyrics and cinematography make this movie great." says Me.
Designer/animator Gerald Scrafe was a caricaturist and political cartoonist before he began collaborating with Pink Floyd. His crossed hammer symbol proved so iconic that it was adopted by actual fascist groups!
Director Parker called The Wall “the most expensive student film ever made.”

WARNING: This is not an upbeat or fun movie by any stretch of the imagination.
Yet, it is constructed in such a skillful manner by director Alan Parker (Midnight Express)
that it is hard not to justify its reputation as a work of art.
The movie is a depiction of an existential experience that equates madness, alienation, the atrocities of war, mind-numbing drug addiction, infidelity, fascism to living behind a mental wall to which these negative attributes are just bricks that add to the wall.
It's a treatise on self-pity.
Many critics believe the movie to be a blend of two biographies. That of the late Syd Barrett, one of the founders of the group Pink Floyd and bits from the autobiography
of the film/song writer Roger Waters.
The movie is also thought by many to contain hidden meanings and hence the advise by critics and reviewers to see it more than once or at least watch it carefully. Actually it can be seen from the middle or end or at any given minute which is evidence of its powerful structure.
Bear in mind that a movie engenders more detail, incorporates various visual equivalents
to ideas, memories, whims and desires than other works such as the novel. A filmmaker, unconsciously sometimes, and through light, shade and sound conveys a multitude of details that for the duration of  the movie you won't be able to fully grasp it.
The fact that this movie is a kind of interpretation of the music album "The Wall", one song after another and that the images correlate to the lyrics of each song makes it pretty watchable and encourages repeat watching.


Some artistic renderings that are peculiar to this movie and impart on it a classical importance are those graphic representations which derive from a seemingly psychedelic origin but boost the whole expressive experience of the movie.
Marching hammers sweep the streets in assertive steps invoking the rise of the neo-Nazis while their leader Pink is spreading his word through a megaphone and the legendary song "Waiting for the Worms" provides a superb complimentary!
Two flowers morph into human genital organs, male a female, that writhe and coil into a ritual love-making but suddenly grow vicious teeth and gnash on each other. The female vagina, alas, devours the penis (an expression of female possessiveness, I guess). Then that weird transformation in which beautiful white pigeons change into a gruesome prehistoric black bird.
People are wearing oxygen masks (referring to lethal gas or dangerous bugs). In a sarcasm that is both forboding and grossly hilarious, a paradox ingeniously described is when gas masks fuse with human faces to become one. Had Darwin ever imagined that evolution would ultimately lead to a merger of humans with machines and then regress to walk like monkeys?
All this symbolism and allegory is bound to stick to the viewers mind. The movie barely has any dialogue but is packed with these symbolic representations which are hard to analyze and are open to uncountable interpretations based on the viewer's perspective.
The movie literally and solely uses the songs in the original music album to build its events.
The graphic art (cartoon as there were no CGIs or other computer technologies at that time) augments the aesthetic value of the movie and aptly expresses some wild visions. The political cartoonist Gerald Scrafe scattered his work to total 15 minutes of the movie time.
As mentioned above the graphics are only 15 minutes dispersed across the film to express some of the scenes that can not be reflected otherwise. In fact, if you omit these 15 minutes the whole movie would be flawed!


The rock star Pink (portrayed by the real life punk star Bob Geldof) is presented to us as
an unidentified and a truly depressed person. The camera slowly climbs up toward his face. On his wrist we see a child's watch with Mickey Mouse figure on it (referring to a disturbed childhood). A cigarette between his long trembling fingers is turned into ash without falling, perhaps to signify lost hope or as if he is clinging to some thwarted dreams.
Then a flash-back takes us into the personal life of the rock hero Pink (Bob Geldof)
as a child in the fiftiesof last century. His father was killed in World War Two.
Pink is a sad fatherless child who watches other children enjoying playing in the park with their dads.
Pink remembers these images while he is sitting in a chair in his dark room, very drugged.
In another bout of memories we see him in an underground tunnel watching a train pass by with masked children shouting at him. But the shouting turns out to be from that ugly despotic teacher. He is now in class with the teacher ridiculing him on discovering that he was writing a poem. Here two memorable songs come to brighten the events "Another Brick in the Wall Part Two" and "The happiest Days of our Lives"  But his memories become more annoying when we see through his eyes how children are driven into machines that change them into dolls and minces them into worms and then distribute them under the shouted instructions of the despotic teacher (the establishment)!

The Despotic Teacher
Pink starts to gradually lose his mind after a series of eccentric imaginings. He destroys everthing in his room. Thinking that he is maddened by sexual deprivation he goes to see some prostitutes but does not really have sex with any woman. Here we hear the nice song "Young Lust". And we sense that a certain blonde girl seemed to like him.
Sitting on that chair in front of the TV, Pink remembers his father's farm but he is enclosed  by a fence and surrounded by hammers. He imagines worms in his hands. Then he is detached from reality and we see him watching TV with the child he was, little Pink, sitting next to him. Then Pink's friends break into his apartment as they realize he has not left it for hours. Here the song would be "Comfortably Numb" .
Pink now loses his mind and shaves his eyebrows and body hair. He imagines he is the chief of a neo-Nazi organization and addresses a group of young followers urging them to practice vandalism and to  disseminate his call and compel non-followers to abide by his rules. He takes as a logo the image of two hammers forming the letter X inside a circle. I did the same. See first image up there!
It is evident that he symbolizes coercion and dictatorship (which I don't!). The song "Run Like Hell" tells about the trials and tribulations afflicting his character.
Pink not only loses communication with reality but is now in conflict with his damaged childhood which belongs to the era of World War II. The loss of communication is expressed by adopting physical violence  the embodiment of this lack of human communication. 
The film does not provide any model solution to Pink's miseries and humiliation.
The use of graphic art and animation was the quite compatible with the nightmarish atmosphere of the film. 
To tell about the existential anxieties of human beings borne of the way industry is eroding their human nature and virtues it is apparently best to combine the real, the unreal and the surreal.

* Bob Geldof is well-known as an anti-poverty activist. Ironically, Geldof, who is also the lead singer for
the Irish punk band The Boomtown Rats, was reportedly not a Floyd fan.
Below is a selection of two of the songs from the movie. You can watch the full movie free on YouTube.


Editor's Note

This post was originally published on 5/17/12 10:32 PM Est Time.

Monday, 2 June 2014

MCA: Nightmarish Outcomes of Tyranny

Article by Taha Elkhalifa

Dogtooth, the Greek film is a drama about how dictatorship could affect human behavior and psychology. Re-framing of people, for example, was the mere goal of the Islamist rulers of Sudan from 30th of June 1989 until now. The same process is taking place in many Arab Gulf countries with a continuum of human products that reflect the complete submission to the quiet and negative rejection of the re-framing process.
In Dogtooth words are given different meanings for example zombie means yellow flower, telephone means table salt and pussy (the female genitalia) means lamp and the cat is an extremely dangerous animal. The three adolescents who have no names in the film were taught these meanings by their parents as the plot of the film says. An example of this same naming type was lived in Sudan during the civil war (1989-2007). The directed and controlled media of the Sudanese Islamic rulers practiced some sort of open deception as they named genocide and mass rape Jihad. Jihad as a word comes from the history of Islam. It is actually the name early Muslims gave to the wars of Prophet Mohammed against his people to build his own state in what is now known as Saudi Arabia. Another example from the Sudanese Islamist new dictionary is the “martyr wedding” which is the name given to the mourning period the family of the dead needs to overcome the sorrow of their loss. Families of Northern war victims were prohibited from showing any sign of sadness and were urged to celebrate the wedding of their lost beloved ones to brides in paradise. A third example from the Islamist new dictionary is the name given to hitchhiking which can be translated as excess space on an animal back which was the answer of the Islamic government to the scarcity of public transit in the early nineties of the last century.

People who live under dictatorship are simply intimidated by murder, torture and dismissal from work because of their opposing practices. This fear is not superficial. It is deep and actually absorbed to later be assimilated in small and unnoticeable quantities. This fear works deep into the confines of the submissive mentality. It changes human behavior and later controls it. In addition to that, it triggers a set of protective and defensive yet active patterns of behavior that identify with the suppressor. People in the Arab Gulf countries were not forced to be obligated to a dress code but they wear dresses that are similar to the costumes of their rulers. This type of practice is a good example of identifying with the suppressor. They do that to protect themselves from being considered as opposing the government which means death, torture or dismissal from work. In Dogtooth the adolescents were intimidated by a mythical cat that would rip off their skins and make them bleed to death, same as what happened to their elder brother who actually never existed! The parents used this story to keep their adolescent children within the fenced mansion; controlled by their own fears.
Fear replaces respect in the mentality of the finished products of prolonged periods of tyranny. So they abide by the rules, for example rules of safe traffic, not because they respect these rules or care for other users of the road. They actually do that because they are intimidated by what would happen if they did not follow the rules.
Dictatorship and re-framing produce a human being that has been fully emptied from moral content and only has fear as a deep, unseen and unspoken of motive for his/her unfortunate behavior.
Sex in Dogtooth is also an element of control and re-framing of humans and has a much unexpected turn in the lives of the film's main characters just the same as it had when used by religious institutions to control human behavior for the welfare of the socially privileged class.

Dogtooth brought its maker Yorgos Lanthimos, the prize for the best film shown in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2009 Cannes. 
Read interview with the filmmaker

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

MCA: A Knock On a Hot Steel Tank!

"How a movie ends must be a condensation of the director's attitude towards its events."
Tawfik Saleh.

Explaining realism, the late Egyptian filmmaker Tawfik Saleh said: "It is the picking up of details and personalities from real life and linking them with a certain 'concern' and presenting this in form and filmic presentation that will raise the awareness of the recipient of that concern."

With only six or seven feature films, Saleh was able to rank high in the list of pioneers of realism in Egyptian cinema, along with Youssif Chahine, Salah Abuseif, etc.
But Saleh was not a very happy filmmaker, not because of his own belief that he was hated 'in and out and for no obvious reason', but because of his trials and tribulations with authorities and bureaucracies of the Arab world in the late sixties and early seventies when the best production finances had to come from the 'public sector'-read the government! When he wrote the screenplay for a famous novel by fellow Egyptian Tawfik Elhakim Dairies of a Country Magistrate, it was rejected and labelled 'against the police'!After a lengthy negotiation, he was told he could fix things by making a short movie highlighting the police services to be shown right before his

feature movie! The feature movie Dairies of a Country Magistrate was banned from viewing until it had been seen by the head of state! But still, Saleh was intimidated by employees in the 'public sector' to the point of leaving Egypt, his country.
The next story by Tawfik Saleh is even more appalling.
When he read the novella Men in The Sun by Palestinian acclaimed writer Ghassan Kanafani, Saleh decided to make it into a movie. Now that Nasser was dead, the 'men in the public sector' turned down his proposal by asking him a very difficult question: This is a Palestinian story, right? What have we got to do with it? I am pretty sure the man was stunned by that question because everybody knew that Egypt was materially supporting the Palestinians!
Here is Tawfik Saleh telling the story of The Dupes the movie he made out of Kanafani's  Men in The Sun.
"I traveled late in the sixties to Syria because I did not find a job in Egypt. There I got to know Saad Allah Wannous (prominent Syrian playwright) who took me to his father's estate where we stayed several days. We wrote the idea of ​​the film. The idea had to be submitted to a committee to read and approve it! After a long wait, a report came out, but not on what we wrote and submitted. It was to question what an Egyptian director was doing in Syria! The next day Wannous was fired and I was given 48 hours to depart from Syria."

Saadalla Wannous

"They also demanded that I pay back whatever money I had received on signing the contract for my initial screenplay which I did not have because I paid the rent for an apartment for my accompanying family. At this point they suggested that I present a different script. I presented about 12 Syrian stories. Finally they brought someone who had nothing to do with writing a movie script but I rejected his script. They then told me to rewrite a new script! The film was done in such discouraging circumstances and yet it was banned on the grounds that it did not rise to Syrian technical standards as specified by their 'public sector' experts! But, I saw the impact of the film on the audience at the show. It was amazing. I rejoiced .When you see an elderly man cry out of response to your film, you praise God for what you have achieved. I thought - because of this weeping man- that the film will soon be released to the public, but it was not. They even banned it!"
The above were excerpts from Saleh's last interview. He did not live to read it, just like the author of the novella he based his work on who was blown up before he could elaborate on the changes made to his story by Saleh. Tawfik Saleh died in 2013.

Films by Tawfik Saleh (1926-2013)

  • The Dupes 1972. Briefly reviewed below.
  • Fools' Alley Darb el mahâbîl written with Naguib Mahfouz 1955
  • The Struggle of Heroes 1962
  • The Rebels Elmoutamarridoun 1966
  • El Sayed el Boulti 1967
  • Diary of a Country Prosecutor Yammiat Naeb fi Elariaf.
Saleh and Mahfouz
The Dupes 1972 (also The Duped, The Deceived, Almakhdu'uon translit.)

This movie was intentionally shot in black and white as one of the director's visual devices to give the feel of documenting a treacherous reality. In some parts there is a merger of dramatic and documentary footings.
The film is rightly dubbed the 'forgotten masterpiece of Arab cinema'. Over forty years since its making and untl now there is no wide-spread public viewing of it. When it came out in Syria in 1972, it was shown for a few days in exclusive circles. It was never shown publicly in any Arab country, except in Tunisia!

The Dupes is unique in that it was made by an Egyptian from a novella by a Palestinian writer and was filmed in Iraq and financed by Syria, (sounds like a pan-Arabist thing but it also hints at the homelessness of refugees.) Director Saleh who wrote the screenplay said the novella was written in a cinematic way in regard to character portraits, multiple narrative routes and flashbacks. Each of the four characters appear to have been the author's favorite. Saleh saw this as a reference to the mutual fate of the Palestinians in the aftermath of the declaration of the new state of Israel.
The cinematic treatment of Saleh was almost completely faithful to the literary text except for an important change he made in the ending. His dramatic condensation yielded a different end than the one in the book.
So, I can only can give you a tiny summary of the film plot because of the huge spoiler ahead!

Abu Elkhaizaran
The film recalls the stories of four Palestinian refugees from different generations, drawn together in the suffocating heat of a steel tanker as they try to make their way across the desert to Kuwait in search of a better future. They pay an impotent driver to smuggle them from Iraq to Kuwait. This smuggling takes place in an old water tank truck and in the heat of August when temperature reaches 52ْ C. The metaphor of the impotent driver/leader who lost his manhood in battling the Israelis, is quite obvious. The reality of the Arab countries after 1948 was exemplified by this ugly and hot truck and the different individual voices that take part in sharing with us their basic longing for a simple life gradually call for an honest cinematic expression.

The truck in the movie looked more evil than this one!

Earnings, Awards and Prizes 

Saleh, Mona Zaki and Izat El Alaili

  • One of the hundred best political movies worldwide.
  • One of the hundred best Arab movies.
  • Winner, Carthage Film Festival, First Prize (Tanit d'Or) 1972.
  • Winner, Strasbourg Film Festival on Human Rights 1973.
  • Winner, International Catholic Center in Belgium, First Prize 1973.
Ghassan Kanafani

Born in Akka (northern Palestine) in 1936, Ghassan Kanafani was a prominent spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and founding editor of its weekly magazine Al-Hadaf. His novels and short stories have been published in sixteen languages. He was killed in Beirut in 1972 in the explosion of his booby-trapped car. Kanafani as a literary figure was a social realist who belonged to what was known as the 'committed' literary trend. Tawfik Saleh, the filmmaker, was also a socialist.

The Full Movie and References

Read 'Men in The Sun' in Arabic and English
More on The Novella
More on the movie
More on Tawfik Saleh
Find More About My Blog On Facebook

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

MCA: Three Rare Faces of Change

Article by: Taha Elkhalifa*

Watching the 2004 Swedish movie As It Is in Heaven directed by Kay Pallok, starring Michael Nyqvist as Daniel Dareus and Frida Hallgren as Lena, brings to mind two ideas. The first one is about the Quiet Revolution in Canada's Quebec, which denoted the socioeconomic changes in Quebec of the 1960's where the liberals and the leftists were able to ascend to power through election after the death of the late conservative Quebec Premier Duplessis. Those changes from conservatism to liberalism; from economic backwardness to development and progress were made possible by the nationalization of hydroelectric power from private companies and by imposing a public educational system that ended the sad control of the church over schools, colleges and universities. The second idea that the movie brought to my mind was about the magnificent short story written by the late Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez entitled The Handsomest Drowned Man in The World. My deep and heartily condolences go to lovers of narrative art on the occasion of the sad passing away of such a great international writer in April.

M. Nykvist
In the movie Daniel Dareus (Michael Nykvist), an international musician who has been nominated to various awards, returns to his village that is torn apart by domestic violence and a long history of bullying which victimized even Dareus himself. He tries to achieve a dream from his childhood to make everyone sing; to enjoy music by more than listening to it. Michael participates by leading the church chorus. During rehearsals for some scheduled shows change takes place in the lives of the villagers as they find solutions for families that pass through difficult times because of domestic violence, and ideas to resolve the consequences of bullying in the lives of its victims when they become grown ups. Ideas to make the church holds its responsibilities as a beneficial spiritual institution, and ideas to achieve the dreams of young girls such as Lena to find the lover who can suit her aspirations.

Esteban, the name given to the handsome drowned man’s body washed to the shore by the women of the village, was able to cause change in the village as handsome, inspiring and dead. His sudden presence as a dead body in the village transformed it from an arid place on both the natural and social levels to a place flourishing with love and throbbing with life.


As I think, the movie and the short story suggest that the execution of revolutionary change in a community might not always need mass demonstrations and/or military revolutionary actions that would overthrow the existing power and replace it by a new government that achieves programs which meet the demands of people for positive and progressive changes. According to the movie and the short story social progressive change can be brought about through peaceful, subtle and keen social processes that find the chance to impose change by letting creativity do its role in assembling the abilities and efforts of ordinary people to make positive change possible and attainable. Both the movie and the short story represent an account of social change in its broad meaning.

"Heaven is blue; hell is red"

The Quiet Revolution in Quebec was not more than necessary administrational procedures that led in the end to dramatic positive change in Quebeckers lives, the same as the presence of Esteban’s body in the village in Marquez’s story and similar to the return of Daniel Dareus to his village chasing his childhood dreams in the 2004 Swedish movie of Kay Pollak.
In the following YouTube clip, Swedish director Kay Pollak talks about his movie:

Summary of the Movie Plot

A successful international conductor suddenly interrupts his career and returns alone to his childhood village in Norrland, in the far north of Sweden.It doesn't take long before he is asked to come and listen to the fragment of a church choir, which practices every Thursday in the parish hall. Just come along and give a little bit of good advice. He can't say no, and from that moment, nothing in the village is the same again. The choir develops and grows. He makes both friends and enemies. And he finds love.

As It Is In Heaven (2004) 

Genre:  Drama-Comedy-musical, 132 min.
Country: Sweden, Denmark.
Written by: Anders Nyberg, Ola Olsson and others.
Cast: Michael Nykvist, Frida Hallgren, Helen Sjoholm
Music Score: Stefan Nilsson
Directed by: Kay Pollak
As It Is in Heaven was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 77th Academy Awards. It won several European prizes. The movie is available on YouTube in different languages, possibly in English.

* Taha Elkhalifa is a Sudanese Canadian scholar and the winner of a major literary prize in Sudan. He lives in Scarborough, Ontario.
Art by: Seif Laota.