Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ban on movies (almost) lift in Saudia

Is the KAS (Kingdom of Arabie Saudia) ready to go for movies? Since a few months, at least last march, the answer seems to be yes. Before long, the local movie fans will not be obliged to travel a thousand miles away to satisfy their passion as cinemas could open in their country. (Or let’s say reopen, as the ban on the movies has been established “only” in the 1970s.)

Some days ago, "Menahi", a Saudi comedy, was distributed in two cinemas in Jeddah and Taef (not far from Mekkah). Al-Hayat, one of the leading Arab newspapers, found the information important enough to publish it - on the web edition – on the first page. Nothing to be surprised in fact, as the movie has been produced by Rotana, the leading producer/distributor of Arabic music and film in the world, owned by prince Waleed ben Talal, also owner of Al-Hayat (among many other things, for sure !)

A success for the Saudi liberals who did not celebrate too ostensibly their victory. On the contrary they insist in saying that “It was a great experience and hopefully the next films we make will just get better," to quote Al-Maliki the most popular Saudi actor.

Even if the screenings have stopped in Taef a few days later, after violent critics from various well-known religious clerics, for many people in the country this is be just the beginning of more to come.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wandering Jewish Arabic Voices in Israel

We don’t hear very much about Antun Shammas, a Palestinian that many specialists considered as one of the best writers in Hebrew. But who has never heard about Samir Naqqash (سمير نقاش), an Israeli Jew writing in Arabic?

His family arrived in Israel when he was 13 years old, like many other Jewish families signing away their Iraki citizenship in order to emigrate to Israel, after bombings in Bagdag that could have been done by some sionist organisations willing to “encourage” the millenarian Jewish community in Irak to flee to Israel.

Samir Naqqash spent his whole life in search of a “better” exile, crossing the Lebanese border when he was 15 years old, then looking hopelessly for a more appropriate homeland in Iran, India, Turkey, Egypt after the Camp David agreements…

He died in 2004, after half of a century in his new homeland where he refused to give up his first language, the colloquial Arabic spoken by the Jewish people of Bagdad. His last novel, Shlomo the Kurd, myself and time, has been published by al-Jamal, an Arabic publishing house in Germany, a good summary of the literary destiny of an Israeli Jewish author writing in Arabic facing the Arab policy toward the Arab Jews and the contempt of the sionist state for the Arabic culture.

But not all the Iraki Jews living in Israel stuck to their native language. On the contrary, most of them use Hebrew, sometimes as a way to promote the Arabic culture through translations. Born in Irak in 1926, friend of the great Palestinian writer Emile Habibi, Sami Mikhail (سامي ميخائيل) has translated into Hebrew Nagib Mahfouz’s famous Trilogy.

His latest book, The pigeons of Trafalgar, offers a rather unusual dialogue with the Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani, assassinated in Beirut by the Mossad in the beginning of the 1970’ and author of the world-acclaimed Returning to Haifa. In his own novel, Sami Mikhail suggests another ending to this story of a couple of Palestinians going back to Haifa in order to enquire about the son they had lost there because of the war in 1948. After the death of her husband in a military operation, the mother of Khaldun/Dov – the Palestinian boy raised as an Israeli – refuses to abandon none of her children and tries to gather them around her in Cyprus.

Not surprisingly, some people have been upset by what they have called the “spoliation” (see previous post) of a Palestinian work but others were obviously interested to see how two voices, doomed to live in two different endless exiles, could, nonetheless, hold such a literary dialogue.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Monday, December 8, 2008

"The Invasion," but not on the Arab screens

The first awards in the “telenovela” category given by the Emmy Awards Academy went to The Invasion, a real surprise as the serials are about the fights in the Palestinian camp of Jenin in 2002, a touchy issue which is tackled from a pro-Arab perspective.

As usual with this kind of work which has been filmed in the Palestinian camps south of Damascus, Arab Tele Media Productions (ATP), the Jordanian production house, has gathered professionals from various countries: Jordanians, Palestinians and Syrians actors, a Syrian screenwriter from a Palestinian family and the successful Tunisian filmmaker, Shawqi Majiri.

ATP, one of the major private production houses in the Arab world, had previously distributed many works to various Arab channels. Among them, Road to Kabul, a serials aired by Qatar TV and other major Arab TVs, whose showing was brutally ended without very clear explanations.

On ATP site, various trailers (see below) give a rather clear idea of the serials, obviously well done and edited according to the best ruling standards for that kind of TV productions. The scenario, based on real facts, follows the destinies of some major characters, with the inescapable love story between Mustafa the Palestinian man and Yael, the Israeli.

Even if the Arab press and Talal al-Awamleh, the owner of ATP, seem more inclined to explain it for political reasons, this Israeli-palestinian love affair could be the real motive behind the fact that The Invasion has been only aired by the Lebanese LBC during Ramadan 2007 (and the Libyan TV later on). And it could also explain why The Invasion won over the juries ot the Emmy awards academy.

Apparently, the multiplication of the TV channels in the Arab world does not mean the same diversification in the programs. But now it has been distinguished by a prestigious international prize, The Invasion will probably make its way to the Arab audiences.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French. You'll find in the "comments" of the French post a link to screen the whole serials on the internet.