Film [Part 2]

robert de niroIt’s the small things I tend to notice in films that often make my friends and family chuckle when I recall scenes. It must be the impressions I make of gangsters often with grapes in my cheeks. I could literally forget what happened in a film, plot wise, but still, I’ll remember what I want to remember. Like when Robert De Niro’s girlfriend in ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ is late, and arrives wearing a beautiful white dress. They’re walking to the car when she asks him apologetically ‘‘been waiting long?’’ The gangster that is De Niro, puts his arm around her snug, and gazes into her eyes lovingly. ‘‘All my life!’’ he says smiling. As most probably do, I often notice the random person who may be walking through the background, the detail on the outfits the characters are wearing, and the difference that subtitles can make to a movie experience. My forte includes noticing the extras in a film and what they are up to, or the woman’s blouse that goes from ironed to creased within the same scene. The skill is seeing the first time that Kenickie in ‘Grease’ slouched during the entire movie so as to appear shorter that the lead character Danny Zuko. danny and kenickie

There’s something so distinguished though about eighties films, so much so, that I feel I should have been a teenager back then, wearing high-waisted mom jeans and riding my bike, unburdened by technology. These films are like a bottle of mascara at the end of its life; still useful, still great and full enough to leave a mark. The slow tempo of the eighties comes through in films like ‘Three Men and A Baby’ (1987), ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ (1986) and ‘The Breakfast Club’ (1985). In the early nineties, I was a pup learning to be human, so I caught up on cutesy films like ‘Father of the Bride’ (1991) ‘Groundhog Day’ (1993) and ‘Mrs Doubtfire (1993) at a later stage. Sunday films at my mother’s house over time became traditional, an opportunity to get everyone together. I would often call a family movie, a ‘Sunday film’ because a Sunday film meant an eighties soundtrack, possibly Eddie Murphy with rolled sleeves undercover in ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ his laugh reminiscent of the donkey in Shrek. It may mean Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner in 1984’s ‘Romancing the Stone’, a great action film set in Columbia. Or it means watching 1985’s ‘The Goonies’, a film my friend Roshni made me promise to watch, so that we could be cool again and she would speak to me again on Monday. A film on my mother’s Arabic cable box can bring the family together. The comforting face of Adam Sandler in ‘Spanglish’ on MBC4 with Arabic subtitles may be playing on a Sunday. How my mother would say ‘‘that was a nice film’’ meaning that it bought a serene mood into the room, one that made her grown children cuddle with her on her king size bed.

Why do we switch off the lights when we watch films? To limit distraction or to celebrate
darkness? There’s no handling of things and your body is not moving through or over places when watching films; you’re essentially a tourist through just the eyes, windows of a house. You cannot touch what you’re feeling. But there is such impression, such elevated heart rates and waves of emotion. Simply put, a cinematic experience. You think you’re able to distance yourself from the murderers, bad luck in love characters or cancer patients. But are you really? Don’t we watch films to understand, empathise but mostly to relate. I’m sure, more often than not, that we reach for the films we have the most in common with. The films we don’t necessarily choose to watch but watch anyway, are sometimes the ones we cannot relate to. It’s like dealing with something you shouldn’t have to deal with. Like sitting in the cold when there’s a heater in the room. We suddenly become toffee-nosed critics, expert professionals and we know everything there is to know. Your place in the world is solid in that moment, so you’re fine to pry on fictional characters lives with no issue, because you are comfortable in your alcove but not so comfortable in your obligations maybe?mullholland

I once overheard my colleagues discussing a film called ‘HellBoy’, and I couldn’t help but laugh. ‘‘He’s not tryna be a monster though is he. He’s just tryna be a guy’’ Sometimes the movies we haven’t watched, are as appetising as films we decide to re-watch. When people describe them, though I haven’t experienced them, they sound like something I may have once felt, and I’m completely sold on the idea. Like putting weight on a swollen body part, if its bad you feel pain. If it’s good, it can soothe the itch. Listening to my colleague describe David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive made me think of ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ but on crack. My university lecturer describing the first scene of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ had me momentarily arrested in thought of first scenes, brutal openings and the art of creating shock. I find that I return more frequently to films that do not open with a bang because I feel I know what’s coming around the corner. I’ve been there, bought the t-shirt. It’s the openings that are subtle, that we miss like a friend, that we come back to like you would a beloved clothing item, that become timeless.

There’s a film that begins in New York City on a grey morning and an orchestra plays a
popular melody, an overall sense of weariness and want fills the moment. A yellow taxi cab is pulling in and a wonderfully glamorous woman steps out of it. She wears a black evening dress and the bones of her back are peeking through. She’s wearing pearls, black chic sunglasses and her hair is in a up do. She’s outside a store and we see that she is poised and elegant; simply incandescent like the summer morning she’s entered. New York is asleep. Her beauty is offset by what she carries. It appears to be a doggy bag and a take away coffee. She reaches inside the bag and hangs a croissant from her mouth as she fiddles with her coffee and returns to watch the window display. The music is as pretty as the actress, as lovely and warm. She longs for something in the window, her head bent left in the shot as she eats in a pretty way. She walks away begrudged, but in a regal fashion and in comparison, you notice that the city is grubby. She is Holly Golightly; the orchestra is playing ‘Moon River’ with violins and this is ‘‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ Like a perfume you find impossible to describe, I know this opening and entire film is a classic. I only ever want to give it my perched head and the attention it deserves.

Once, I went to a drive-in cinema in Mississauga, Canada on an evening when I had just
flown in, desperate with jet lag and dissatisfaction. We watched ‘Dark Knight’ and the experience was peculiar to say the least. I sat in a car with my cousins, no indication or warning of how important my seat choice would be before we squeezed in, all four of us in the back, two in the front. I sat behind the driver, eyes dragging. My cousin who was driving, paid a clerk who let us roll through and so we parked in what looked like a park in the day, a lonely climbing frame to my left had been wrecked with sand, scarred with sandal burns. Suddenly, my cousin tuned her stereo to a number she had written on a bit of paper, and there it was. We could hear everything coming from the glowing screen ahead quite far in the distance, blowing out of the radio speakers. I was impressed to say the least, now able to tick this off on my bucket list, but also at the mechanics of this thing. Then, I was quickly irritated as I moved my neck to try and get comfortable, practically pushing my sister to get a middle view that was veering near impossible and believe it or not, I ended up falling asleep and missed most of the film. Heath Ledgers death had been the first celebrity death to have really rocked me, and I refused to watch his last movie with tired eyes. I was supposed to come to my first outdoor cinema or drive in with the love of my life. In my head, we would procrastinate about things we had not yet finished, and we would slip out to watch something in a vintage car with a topless roof, the summer nearing the end, yawning. I never imagined watching my first drive in movie with a car full of teens, one with her shoes off, toes in the air, the other bored, head out the window and talking throughout. And there was me falling asleep, unable to stop myself, in two places at once.



Speaking my Language


What I’m saying is that, I’ve considered moving to Korea because I’m aware that at least my emotions have migrated there already. I became a super fan overnight which also, is dramatic in itself. When I say super fan, I mean of Korean culture itself. It all started unplanned on a weekend in June when I watched Korean Drama, ‘Wangs Family’ for the first time on very stuffy Sunday afternoon. Its grip on me was also as instant and close-fitting, as the heat. The sympatico of this unknown language became suddenly proverbial to me, a place for me to rest. Since I’ve entered this biosphere with such intrigue, it’s dented my psyche to the degree where I’m struggling to watch anything in English anymore, simply for the reason that I miss my Korean dramas during the working day, in a way that’s far from fleeting, but more the way you may miss your mothers homemade pancakes —with a wild urgency.


Korean dramas are as comforting as stretching your body in the early morning, or like that first sip of hot tea after a long day. It’s a clean cut, pleasant place to be, to simmer alone while snacking and to watch ‘Wang’s Family’ with the subtitles on. It’s a place that allows you to feel like your leaning on a beanbag, a place to perch over characters woes. Like when Subak apologizes to her family for single handily losing their home, or as her grandmother and mother heatedly discuss relevant family affairs that foreshadow the entire show. I’m emotionally invested when characters like Sangnam frets over his life troubles, like his lack of education when approaching Gwangbak’s family to propose marriage, and they ungracefully decline. I too, sit with the Wang family at dinner, cross legged on the living room floor of their home in Seoul, and consider the depth of their father’s voice, Bong Wang, as he scolds his adult children for not following the family motto of ‘putting yourself in the shoes of others.’ I wince when this sixty year old man, cries to his wife that he feels he has not raised his children well, when they all simultaneously disappoint him.

What I’m picturing is the intensity of Minjuing’s face in episode #6 where he looks as though may burst a vein in his neck, enduring his wife’s Subak’s Banshee like screams when she finds out he’s now bankrupt, proclaiming ‘‘How can I handle this?’’ Then, her further cries when they move to a small, cheap apartment where she clarifies that she regrets marrying him, and regrets their children ever being born even. And in her desperation, succumbs to using a chamber pot as a bathroom equivalent. Subak is a horror to watch, and her words though stinging, are also phonetic poetry to my English ears. The contraries in her tone when speaking Korean are as telling as moods, sharp sometimes, tapered at others, but always true to the situation. The drama however does not mask what the shows unshakeable purpose is —the capacity to understand and sympathize with your family at least, but above all to show respect to all.

It’s reflected in the show, this idea that throughout life, things happen, things made to clip our tolerance, and to ration our understanding. In Korea, it seems to be things like financial strain, marriage ideals and cultural norms that though dramatic, Korean dramas house the notion that we are highly aware anyway of life’s intensities and their effects. The events that transpire in Korean dramas, are real to Korean culture and eye opening to the western eye and ear. For example, if a character is upset, her distress is realistic because she is shown to be troubled in real time, for four, five, maybe even six episodes even.

wangs familyThese days, I could be at work, and hear down the corridor the faint hum of noises from an everyday conversation, and it will get me wondering about the honorific form; pronouns used in Korean, meaning politeness and humbleness. Ultimately, there’s something about the imagery of the side dishes, chopsticks and of the clean city of Seoul, about how you must bow when you see your parents and grandparents that rearranges me. Check out Wang’s Family Episode 1 below:


Loving Julia Roberts Wholeheartedly- Pt 1

julia-roberts-pretty-womanI understood obsession and awe early on in life when I first watched Julia Roberts on screen. Let’s look at Julia Roberts. As a whole I mean, really look at Julia Roberts. She’s perfect. That slightly pinched nose, her very normal smile accompanying that odd hysteria in her laugh, that green vein that dances on her forehead when she cries. That hair is iconic of course, but only due to the nostalgia. It’s as if the raging jealous vapours of the early nineties had rested on her head literally. If you look closely, there’s a pain in her eyes too. The question is, is there a lesson to be learned from loving women who are not always graceful, not always happy? Capture

I watched ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ a lot in my teen years on VHS and would label it my favourite movie. Not that I preferred to be pessimistic necessarily, but even as a teen, the realism that the protagonist did not get the man she wanted, stayed with me. He was never hers to keep. He simply wasn’t meant for her. I’d rewind the first scene and analyse the bounce of her hair; the red that was not ginger and not brown, but a flushed red hue. I then watched ‘Pretty Woman’ for the first time also on VHS, a copy my mother had bought a long time ago from Germany with no label, no cover, just a guarantee that it was ‘that film with the lady with the red hair and those long black boots.’  I thought how brilliantly simple that title was, how achingly true. How pretty she must have been for him to want to attempt to change her.  How charming was Richard Gere! How innocent I thought could a film about a prostitute could be? Not very. I recall, even in my teens feeling disappointed that Julia took on such a role. julia-roberts-945

Many other movies with Julia can still send me reeling, but more so the classic ones. In ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’, I wanted Julia’s eyebrows and her large Cape Cod beach house, minus the abusive husband of course. I hated her in ‘Stepmom’, in turn, hating myself for hating on Julia. How dare I? Still, I thought she held a coolness by virtue that I wished we all had inside us. In ‘Mona Lisa Smile’, I felt just as those young female students did; inspired by her will, her need to prove people wrong as she also did in ‘Erin Brokovich’ when she was an absolute badass and I loved it! Here, I realised not only was she naturally beautiful, but I decided that I respected her as an actress.    I encountered bliss when I went to see ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ with my best friend as we succumbed to Julia and her charms yet again, except this time we were women, grown women and we appreciated her tale of loss and discovery so much more because we had both encountered it in plain sight. nh

I walked through Notting Hill with my partner in the summer. The heat was subtle, rivalling the days earlier hot spell, offering an overall gist of serendipity in the air. I was happy, and it was summer in London. I felt the slight ripples from Julia’s coolness and the smell of old books blended like a family through the summer breeze, as I took slower, bigger steps. My sandals clicked, as if walking through Notting Hill meant I was now an actress, a music video extra. I wore a dark green maxi dress and shades and I felt like a movie star, in awe of a place I had come to know as belonging to, or I had at least visited before in my head many times.

The sky gawped at us blissfully, appearing to be powder like and sprinkled with marmalade as we thought of how the movie ‘Notting Hill’ had affected us both. He wrestled with a decision, choosing to call it ‘a nice movie’ though I knew it meant more to him. It was veiled in his voice when he said he would watch it again. Men sometimes assume women are drawn to toughness. But like how a hard sweet is better when it softens, displaying rations of sensitivity is often preferred. In comparison, I expressed that to me, the film was ‘perfect and made me cry.’

In the noughties, my movie collection began simmering as if a Bouillabaisse in a pot, as soon as I saw the title of ‘Notting Hill’, watched the trailer and noted that Julia was involved. These essential ingredients came to pass when I finally watched it. London, the bookshop, the girl in tears, the love – that line!

“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

There’s nothing wrong with a film that makes you cry. Why invite shame? To be set off by a movie and to cry is to observe beauty that has maybe dislodged you, or there’s a sadness that you’re temporarily managing which is okay to feel. The film has summoned blue feelings, some tenderness you are expressing as a token of your investment in these characters. You’re laying siege to their lives and to their woes which are maybe yours too. Or maybe you had a bad day, and you want to cry, and Julia Roberts is on TV shivering and requesting that this man who has just rejected her, please love her. It hits a nerve in you. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m wrong for blubbering at ‘Notting Hill’, for letting it all out.


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‘‘It’s much funnier in Somali’’- Somali Entertainment and its Ingenuity

ololSomali films and on stage productions are integral to the rich history of the Somali arts culture, and entertainment industry. Not only the latter but these pictures are held very dear to many Somalis hearts. The striking bright, confident colors, the original singing voices and the on stage story-lines prove nostalgic for the older generations. Classic songs, memorable quotes and over exaggerated movement on stage, reinforces the originality and essence that resonates within Somali actors and actresses.  Far from organized, Somali productions have a chaotic nature, a rugged temperament which one cannot simply overlook; which you will and can only find in a Somali riwayad. This includes the classic old Somali style long microphone wire, the band onstage nowhere near the background, quite the opposite actually. They are often mesmerized or simply unmoving as if they were back stage. Then comes the awkward, sometimes noisy pauses between scenes in addition to the sometimes unintelligible sound quality. Nevertheless none of this deters us from watching, singing along and enjoying the stories, creating a space for these titles in our memories.

More exciting for the younger Somali generation is the growth of ‘Somaliwood’ which originated and developed in Columbus, Ohio wherein there exists a prominent, thriving Somali society. Production companies such as ‘Olol films’ (meaning flaming hot films) have gained success in America and the U.K with some great relatable titles. These films have been taken to, considerably well and their success has led to the production of even more great titles which has paved the way for the Somali communities worldwide to explore contrasting issues within their societies.

For example Rajo (meaning hope), is a depiction of American Somalis by Olol films, directed by Abisalaam Aato. This is quite a modern film, which tells the tale of Omar, a young Somali man who has settled in Columbus, Ohio. The film touches on numerous topics such as rebuilding lives once groups have fled Somalia to the west, American gang culture which young males statistically have become heavily involved in, sometimes unbeknownst to them as the film reveals. It also deals with the matter of employment, love/relationships and family. Integrally though, the recurring theme is hope of a better life which is the forthright meaning of the title. If first watched when it originally was released around 2009, this was an entertaining, funny and original plot that lacked the production funds which had the potential to make it great. The absence of dollars however gives the film a surprising charisma which Rajo possesses in abundance, predominantly due to the casting. If you are interested in similar storylines which involve themes of love, family and culture VS religion in Somali cinema, recommendations include Ismaqabato, Ali and Awralah and Flight 13 which focuses heavily on culture vs religion.

Flight 13 refers to groups of Somalis who arrived from Somalia pre 1997 and post 1997 to reinforce their newness and the film reflects this well. Other titles include the classic scary story of Araweelo adapted into ‘Xaaskayga Araweelo’, ‘Qabyo’ which is a play and ‘Qabyo 2’ which was made into a film. Also, ‘Gabar Haloo Doono’’ also produced by Olol films which centers on the bachelor lifestyle of two young Somali brothers who have settled in America and how difficult they find it dealing with their old fashioned mother coming to visit, who in turn cramps their style.

Somali movies are sadly mostly not copyrighted and distributed through homes on illegally downloaded copies as opposed to being distributed legally, which is why the industry is failing fiscally. It is no way due to lack of talent which clearly the industry is brimming with. However, it must be said that these films are not an accurate representation of all Somalis and is fiction after all. There sometimes appear exaggerated versions of a stereotypical Somali and clearly does not always represent everyone. However, they are found to be highly entertaining and the topics these stories delve into do resonate throughout our lives, which is why we can relate and appreciate them in our homes, surrounded by a family that just might remind you of that character on screen.

I watched Gilmore Girls season 5 again and here’s what I learned:


”She interrupts me, wild-eyed, begging for coffee..”- Lukeseason 5

Snuggly autumn theme, extreme coffee drinkers and boutique inns equals happiness in my world. Having watched every episode of Gilmore girls and loving each and every one wholeheartedly, it tends to get hard when going through withdrawals (I often miss Lorelai) to pick which season to watch again. So, when I randomly chose the rose pink box set, with a cup of coffee in tow, I was not ready for my new understanding of these flamboyant characters. There was such trepidation on my end, simply because it felt like forever since I last watched the aftermath of Rory and Deans unspeakable affair, and honestly, I shocked myself with how much I identified with Lorelai this time round. Here’s what I learned:

season 52The first majorly awkward storyline rears its ugly head as Lorelai and Rory argue for the first time and it’s so so bad! Still, it’s even more uncomfortable to watch knowing they will fall out again down the line again. I relived the shock and dismay I felt the first time – the time when Rory decided to ignore the simple fact that Dean was married. I could sympathize the first time round because all I could think was that Rory was young, she was attached and in love with this six foot heartthrob but now, I suddenly acknowledged and understood Lyndsay’s POV! This was clear and obvious. Anyway, I found myself also in agreement with Lorelai’s in that, this was forbidden and I couldn’t shake how mortified I felt at Rory’s awful plan there. I felt it was extremely uncharacteristic of her the first time and this time it just screamed unacceptable.

Lorelai on the other hand begins the season like a new woman! There’s an obvious spring in her step, a kind of contagious bounce making her seem all the more successful, and as gorgeous as ever. She still drinks too much coffee of course (who doesn’t), and she’s still the most fun mother on earth and maybe too polite to Kirk (it hurts sometimes). She’s got a new man now, new business and for the first time not the one with the relationship complications. There’s no doubt that Lorelai puts out fires constantly, but she does her best to avoid them this season at her dismay.

Rory however begins the season painfully, so much so that she’s almost tainted from the start. Portrayed as weak from the jump, she’s seen as stubborn and a definite brat. Not only does she have an affair with a married man (Dean) and fight with her mother, but she then moves on very quickly to her new rich boyfriend Logan. Her role on the Yale Daily News is pivotal this season, cementing her further career choices to becoming Christiane Amanpour, but there are definitely obvious changes in her character due to Logan and the Life and Death Brigade. She really goes to town with the college experience, slowly leaving behind the importance of Dean and Stars Hollow while embracing the halls of Yale and Logan’s lifestyle unequivocally.  Rory’s sweet nature is so darn contagious though, so we learn to forgive and love her all over again while we join her on her new experiences.

logan etcEmily and Richard are acting weirder than ever, their surprising separation cementing their love ironically and we begin to understand them better as single characters rather than an entity. Similarly, we get the opportunity to dote on Zack and Lane, single and as a couple. Christopher appears to have Houdini like qualities and pops up when he is least needed and wanted. Rory’s initial dismissal of his company is intriguing as there was a time when she and Lorelai would have killed to have him in their lives. The lovely Michel and Sookie are so consistent in their friendship to Lorelai, it’s beautiful to watch from the kitchen and lobby of the Inn. Paris is still one of the most well written characters to me; constant in her pursuit to be the best at everything, even during an unlikely attempt at fasting during Ramadan.

em and richI noticed Luke as more attractive than ever too, now a father figure to Rory, so protective it makes you aww unknowingly. He deals with the Gilmores so well, dinner with Emily, golf with Richard and still remains the sweetest guy ever. Having always been team Jess 100%, I opened my eyes this season and realized Uncle Luke was the main man all along. He’s consistent (backwards baseball cap and all), loving and kind and exactly the kind of man Lorelai needed all along. Their almost perfect relationship distressed me this time because I knew it would be over soon (SPOILER ALERT). Amy Sherman-Palladino, I beg of you, make my prediction true! 2016 is Luke and Lorelai’s year, I feel it.

season 56I genuinely enjoyed the unexpected shocks I had forgotten about, the awkward out of the norm relationships I had grown accustomed to made me feel like I had to pause and remind myself what happened last season. Friday night dinners were no longer the same and I suddenly realized, anything could happen and I would still love this show. The simple fact that I can change my opinion of characters from season to season reminded me how timeless Gilmore Girls is. Thank you Stars Hollow, my age old friend.