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UFO Text: Cinema By Yahya Fadlalla

Yahya Fadlalla*

Y. Fadlalla
Sakral Joe had two options.
To share with as little as he had in coins in buying a can of Celsion. Actually, he did not have enough to pay a matching share. Shaitan Doe, his good friend, would appreciate his situation.
The other option was to give up the idea of buying the can and try to wet the piece of cloth that lay in his pocket from the gas tank of the nearest car that was unheeded by some one, especially that gasoline had a stronger effect than Celcion.
This way he would be able to buy a third class ticket and enjoy the cowboy film which was showing that night at Banet cinema house. Only a ticket could beat the huge guy nicknamed Amigo who was the ticket controller at the entry and also the cinema thug.

Joe had a series of fights and had tried various tricks to infiltrate the cinema house but he had always had his tricks foiled by this giant of a beast who kept a constant eye him. Joe had always been under so much surveillance that he had to resort to the second option increasingly more times. Keep the coins to buy a ticket and then venture to get some drops of gasoline or appeal to Shaitan Doe's emotions to get a few intense sniffs of Celcion.
Only two options!

Joe's weary day dragged him to its end where he had to await his friend Doe in front of the Banet cinema house.
The other day he managed to escape from being captured by his employee cousin. She happened on him in the Souq market and chased him. Joe knew she was a kind woman who wanted to return him back to the barn but he was so incontinent and steeped into his freedom that he ate, slept and exercised his life as he pleased.
Not only did the lady chase him, but she also backed her chase by recruiting some passersby to join the chase. It was behind a huge iron garbage container that Joe had hid from them. At one time, this cousin (Sawsan) had him involved with one of those organizations that cared for the homeless, but he manage to escape from their premise which resembled a school he had left years ago.
Joe snatched a handful of roasted Tsali (roasted seeds)  but suffered a fierce look from the vendor. Wandering around, he thought of a third option. At the bus stop, he stood before the buses heading to Omdurman. He tried begging once, twice and thrice but was met with frowns or indifference that made him feel the taste of failure.

This is  not war-stricken. It is just neglected!

Joe went back and sat in the shade of the cinema's wall. He pulled out the piece of cloth from his pocket and sniffed at it violently, searching that comforting sensation that sniffing caused to his mind. He could not find it! he moved to where a man was selling chewing tobacco. He made a ball of tobacco and inserted it behind his lower lip. "Sakral Joe! Waiting for the cinema show from now?" asked the man. "How come farda (buddy)? You don't know? Tonight its Ringo! Guilliano Gumaa!" He meant the famed Italian Spaghetti Western film actor Giulliano Gemma!

Giuliano Gemma

Cinema audience create names for cinema stars so hot and intimate. Gemma was easily turned to Gumaa which is a common name! Cinema was cinema in all regions of the country. No city differed from the other in terms of how movies or films were watched. How movies were renamed. Names given to film stars were the same in all cities Wad Medani, Port Sudan, Obayid, Berber or Kadugli. You would also find nicknames like Abu Sinna (The one with a bad tooth), scarface or Abu Taweela (the tall one).

Kadugli, Eidal Fitr 

The first day after the fasting month of Ramadan.

The cinema house was fully packed with people in all sections of seating (terso, Salle or  loge). It was an Indian film (Hindi). We knew Hindi movies. They told one and the same story. Songs, dances, adventure, car chases, motorcycle chases, motor boat chases, trains, airplanes, horses. The Indian movie director made everything chase everything. Close to the end of the film or movie the hero and the villain are wrestling in a helicopter in the air. The hero's sweetheart is suspended into an abyss. She is hanging from the edge of a cliff by one hand. Down there, it is a wild water-fall. The audience become breathtaken and keyed-up and strung between the fight in the helicopter and the hanging lady. Of course the hero's sweetheart is also sweetheart for all the audience. The battle in the helicopter goes in stages until the two men reach a rope hanging from the airplane. The two men resume their fight after they shift from the airplane to the rope while the lady is still stuck at the edge and is screaming for help: Bijaw, bijaw! She is calling for help! This must mean a call for help. The audience are wide-open eyes, panting chests and faces drowned in sweat. At last, and as expected, the hero is able to throw the villain down that deep abyss. A huge but brief cry of relief from the audience which quickly regress to tense quietness and anticipation. The hero approaches his lady and tosses the rope to her which she manages to grip-Suddenly the phrase The End appears on the screen. The film tape terminates at this point.

All sections of the cinema give out a terrible outcry of protest. Then sections intermingle into a huge human block. In the face of all types of  categories they are united against the cinema administration. The police force inside the cinema are unable to control the emotional outburst. They withdraw. The cinema manager comes out wearing a white expensive garment and a white head cover. He stands at the top of the staircase and waits for the shouting to subside. Then he addresses the audience: "Sorry folks! The hero will save his woman and they will marry soon after. But as you have seen the tape ended just before this point."
Someone gives out a loud shout: "Are you telling us the film? You..." and a big brick turns the manager's face into a bloody mask. Then people get really mad. Smashing seats. Lights, projectors even doors on both sides of the cinema house are rammed open. The manager and two of his ticket masters are hurriedly taken to hospital. The mob also vandalises the cinema cafeteria. Dishes, glasses, wooden seats, all are destroyed. The workers and waiters suffer cuts and bruises. Then the riot extends to reach the cinema owner's house which, unfortunately, is very close to the cinema. His family members are smuggled out of the house through a back door. Everything in the house is shattered.
For more than six months, Kadugli City cinema house, remained closed as a result of the open-ended narrative of this movie. Open-ended works of art are always so poignant that positive feedback to them is never guaranteed! The audience cannot tolerate questions that illicit such endings!

Huge traffic at the ticket booth. The entrance door was also crowded.
Joe carried his ration of Celcion and his immense sorrow for having been forced into this partnership by Doe.  He approached the door and tried to sneak in but Amigo blocked the door with his massive body repeating his mantra: " Hey you illusion! Not even an ant can pass through this door! Keep on line!"
At the ticket office, Joe tried to beg. He failed. At the nearest restaurant he tried to manipulate the owners emotions without avail. He walked around the four walls of the cinema house trying to find a spot on any of the walls from which he could jump all the way to the inside of the cinema. He returned to the crowd at the entrance door. He saw Doe among the people who had already entered. doe waved his ticket at him and a smile. "Lucky you!" He could not bear this deprivation. He could not imagine being unable to see Giuliano Gemma! Could not bear the idea of not dancing that collective dance performed on that particular song which would be broadcast before the movie and at the interval. Why was he condemned to stay out of the herd? The flock he had chosen by himself for himself after he fled his family kinsfolk.

Nice Movie Theater in Cairo

Joe wiped two tears with his soiled and dusty shirt and walked away from the crowded entrance door. The cinema loudspeaker started to broadcast the song. Joe approached the wall located right behind the big screen. Carefully, he gathered a number of bricks and stacked them against the wall. He moved away to check no one was watching him. Then he climbed the bricks and with one leap his hands grabbed the top of the wall. He lifted his body and and there he was sitting on the top of the wall. He smiled triumphantly, rested a bit, then rehearsed his dance to the featured song. He also checked his other potentialities and pulled the can of Celcion from his pocket and took a long sniff. His mind began to unfold. He put the can back in his pocket and moved on to the crowd. Groups of homeless people were dancing on the stage in front of the big  screen.

Joe yelled out a beautiful cry and took to the crowd of dancers but the strong hand of the cinema inspector seized him by the ear. The inspector knew Joe and all the homeless cinema-loving people in town. The inspector silenced the echo of that cheerful scream. Suppressed the great sense of victory and dragged Joe to hand him to Amigo.
Joe's teary eyes never left the scene of dancers. His inner self was filled with the kind of anguish that only great lovers could feel.
A sudden slap on the face, a kick with the mighty foot of Amigo and Joe found himself lying on the ground outside the cinema. A fit of crying shook his body. He rose heavily, feeling for the can in his pocket but kept crying.

The show had started. The commercials and trailers. The most important part of the show. Joe circled the building several times. Every time a sound from the cinema struck his ears, he cried louder. He drank a little from the potted water in the nearby restaurant and picked some charcoal pieces. He went and sat against the cinema wall which faced several shops and had a reasonable amount of light falling on it. He pulled out the can of Celcion and took a prolonged sniff. He breathed deeply, wiped his tears and took another sniff. A deeper one. He stood up holding a piece of charcoal. After wiping the wall with a piece of cloth he found on the dirty ground, he tried the charcoal piece on the wall. He drew the hero in full attire and the villain with a thick moustache. He did not forget the pistols on the side of each. He drew the hero's sweetheart and his horse and the villains horse. He drew hills and mountains and trees. He drew and drew and drew. He sat down and sniffed more and more gazing at his drawings.

Courtesy Iman Shaggag

The film had started.
He sniffed the sounds of the film from the blowing wind. He looked deeply at his drawings. He felt the sounds and the unfolding of his mind. His drawings started to move. To do everything. To chase each other. The sounds of bullets came from inside, the bullets from his drawn pistols (!)
He was able to match all the sounds to his moving drawings. He felt immense pleasure. He realized that one could make his own film. He got something to brag about. To feel arrogant because he saw a film no one else would see.

* A Sudanese-Canadian dramatist, poet and short story writer. He lives in Canada.


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