Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Looking for Answers

Something I wrote a few years back, to my friend who's looking for answers...

Profoundly from my heart I yearn for answers. Answers that can fill those gaps of darkness dispersed amidst my thoughts preventing them from connecting. I thirst for a truth that is not relative to time and place, a truth that is immovable and absolute. I follow the questions that are most important in my own view to seek the answers that lead me there. Like everyone else around, I search and wonder as to why it's never so easy.

But what good would life be if all who were born into it knew its meaning? If this were true what joy could there be in life? As there is now no joy in knowing that the world is round, and that liquids turn to gas, so will it be if all truths were bequeathed upon us.

Would we each be so different from one another if none of us had their own personal quest for truth and mental rest? Would philosophers cease to exist, or with thinkers cease to think? What kind of life would it be?

The journey of life and character starts with total ignorance and to each his own questions which vary greatly from one person to the next. As we slowly walk through the dark tunnel of life, each of us chooses some candles that light a different corner of the dark. Each will choose questions, whose answers act like these candles unveiling parts of a final picture that once completely visible will reflect who we truly are and what truly surrounds us.

As our thoughts take form and the gaps grow less we find ourselves painting a picture of who we choose to be by choosing what to believe. This quest for answers makes life more complete and gives a change to anyone to have a vision or a dream and irrespective of anything materialistic, he may rise above all others through what he believes.

If life were a foreseen picture we'd have no real art in shaping our own portraits with choices that we've made. It's a maze with a few dead ends and never ending goals. It matters not where we end, only the path we choose. The rout that is chosen is all our life really is. It's a quest into the unknown and a chance to live. Thoughts that are still in darkness start to know the light as each time we're answered the gap that accommodates the darkness slowly loses its blackness and tries to disappear.

My heart still yearns for answers and will probably never stop, but the trick is to find the right questions and seek the right answers and rise above my own understanding and use all my senses to see the better picture and to paint the better picture and to gain the better picture of a seemingly short life.

The meaning of life doesn't seem to have an answer and will never cease to be sought after, but perhaps there is a possibility that the meaning of life resides in each of us finding his own meaning as we venture through this labyrinth of darkness that only dimly lit candles illuminate and where true light chooses not to reveal.

In the end, all will be seen that needs to be seen but only if luck works well with you to lead you to true light that devours all darkness and eradicates the need for al struggling candles.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sea of Crap

Stars sink in the Sea of Stars

After attending the premiere of Bahr El Negoom, I pondered over how one could possibly write an honest review about this movie without being offensive. I decided it wasn't possible…not when a movie is this bad. And why should I be tactful in pointing out the horridness of this movie when its makers were so blatant in their offence to the audience while making it? No effort was made to spare us the torture of having to watch an extended, mindless and poorly implemented advertisement.

Had it not been an invitation I received with the knowledge that the stars would be present, I would not have attended, and even with all that I do regret wasting my time with this movie. Haifa was present at the premiere and I was almost stampeded by people charging at her. Had it not been for 'Gigantor' her body guard, she would have been dead meat. What's all the fuss about a talent-less Barbie doll? I'm talking about artistic talent of course, but we've come to realize that people are just looking for other kinds of 'talents'. I suppose that's what the producers were thinking of and counting on while making this movie.

It's not so much that the movie was bad, it's just that it was so damn ugly and embarrassing. It was ugly in a way that can almost scar the human soul. It was called Bahr El Negoom or Sea of Stars, and rightly so, for it is like a sea where its stars have sunk. Unfortunately for the stars, who were probably paid a hefty amount to sell their souls to the devil, the movie did nothing to increase their stardom, but in effect the little they may have had plummeted to the depth of the sea on account of this movie. I'm sure that all the fans will not take well to being tortured by their favorite artists. Even worse, Pepsi, the sponsoring company might have affected its image negatively, for after the movie, the mere sight of the Pepsi can brought back memories of this torture and made me want to puke.

I never regarded the silliness of making music videos till I saw this movie. When watching a music channel you can ignore the silly moves done by the singers and dancers in the context of watching a song, but when it's within a movie, the absurdity really shines because of all the silliness embedded in reality. All the sexiness of Haifa with her come to bed moves has been lost in the context of a real life; the nervous twitch that Wael Kafoury that looks like interesting camera work in close-ups just doesn't seem that attractive when he's talking in medium shots rather than singing. Carol Samaha was out to prove that she's capable of competing with Haifa's seductive powers, wearing a sexy skirt and top and moving her body to the music, but no amount of shape, curves nor clothes could have camouflaged the monkey dance she delivered. Lotfy Labib, while usually giving performances that I enjoyed very much has really managed to annoy me, but then again it was fitting of this movie.

The pain while watching this movie was so intense that I was worried if I shall be able to retain what remains of my manhood after completing its viewing. But instead of just relaying the pain I felt watching this movie, let me try to present analyze the movie more objectively.

At the very start of the movie, we can see a young boy, Youssef (Karim Mahmoud AbdelAziz), narrating that his story is about 'love'. Apart from the cheesiness of this start, and the fact that his story had nothing to do with love, and the irrelevance of the starting lines with the rest of the story, never has a word been so cheapened as the word 'love' in the start of this movie. There should have been a warning that this movie was not to be viewed for those under twelve, and even then I think the remaining audience would have launched some complaints.

It seems that the corporate producers were given a late tip that 'love' is a key word to lure the young teenagers in, and so perhaps after the lousy screenplay had been completed they had to insert it and found no other place but the start of the movie. The word was even more cheapened with most of the songs being about love, and during the course of the movie, after a singer would sing passionately about love, they'd just switch to the usual and practical bitch mode hence nullifying every feeling they might have tried to put across with the love song.

Youssef's parents had a restaurant that they would lose if they don't pay off their bank loan on time. In order to help them he has to revive an old music festival organized by his grandfather and another famous producer. The festival was called 'Bahr El Negoom' (surprise surprise). He moves on from one star to the other, trying to convince them to sing in the festival and is rejected, five times!! It is so apparent that all the stars will say no, but we had to endure the torture of each dull rejection scene so that each star can get his 5 minutes of poor acting on screen. Now why doesn't Youssef change the way he presents the idea to the stars, five times, just saying the same lame old crap and we have to see the actors rejecting it? Why do we have to endure this nonsense till we're finally offended by the smugness and idiocy of Ahmed El Sherif while he's rejecting the offer?

Anyway, in order to get the stars interested, he makes up two lies on a radio show; the first about a famous producer organizing the show, the second about Pepsi sponsoring the show. The Pepsi contact was apparently unaware that Pepsi was the sponsor, and he had to go to great lengths to find out that the famous producer thing was a lie. Why the great lengths? He was supposedly working in the sponsoring company, wasn't it enough for him to know that they were not sponsoring the event to figure out that all of it was a lie? Supposedly, this young man who was in his thirties it seems knew that famous producer, who had vanished 20 years ago!! No comment. It's not worth the time to point out holes in the plot, for if truth be told, it was not a movie at all.

If all the filming was outside Egypt and almost all the actors were not capable of delivering their lines with an Egyptian accent, then why on earth should you bother to do the movie in Egyptian? The actors were pathetic and I almost felt sorry for them. It's not just their poor delivery of their Egyptian lines, it's their inability to surpass an amateur level performance. The better question of course would be why do this movie when none of the actors in the movie could act for crap? But the answer to that is simple, this movie is an extended corporate ad, with infinite product placement so blatant it has reached a new all time low.

The movie is so shallow and sinister in its intent that one could go back in time to the cheap commercial eighties movies (Aflam Al Moqawalaat) and salute them for not having sunk that low. There was a masturbation of Pepsi throughout the movie and on the one occasion that a character was sipping a hot drink, there was a huge Pepsi logo overshadowing the entire shot.

Advertisements can sometimes be well made and entertaining, sometimes there are ideas that can exist for thirty seconds that make it bearable to finish watching an ad, but not on this occasion, this was the most boring advertisement and not even Haifa's feline looks and curves could change that. With advertisements at home, even though they're forced on you while watching your favorite television show, you can still switch the channel … but not in this movie, there's just no escaping it.

The movie epitomizes this day and age in one sense. It's the celebration of superficiality and consumerism. It represents a battle in the Egyptian Armageddon against bad art. The idea that a soda drink company actually produces a movie is unprecedented and incensing. It is going further down than we've ever been in the artistically void pit we've been in, and trying to get out of, for so long.

Bahr el Negoom sets a dangerous precedent; the malignancy of film making merely for profit seems benign in light of what this movie sets out to accomplish, for there something more sinister than just making money here, it's the disfigurement of art for the sake of consumerism.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hassan & Morkos

Very heavy on the symbols, this much is true… it's what makes this movie drift so far from reality, yet in effect reflecting it. The movie had one of two choices, to elegantly move over items of our daily lives pointing to them in a suave, elegant manner, or bring down the hammer over the points we see every day and blow them up to reflect what's hidden in our society. It chose the latter, probably because of how difficult it is to do the former. In effect, the movie is a not at all elegant, insisting on delivering messages through pounding dramatic effect and repetition, mostly to the masses who prefer their movie messages delivered in this manner.

Abstractly though, the scenes when stripped of their need to reflect reality drive home very directly a message that has tried to be sincere. Its conclusion is delivered through the movie's final scene. It says yes, we do not know each other, yes there are problems, yes there is even hatred and yes we are not one and the same. We're different and we're in chaos and that will not be denied. The lines that separate us have been drawn but worse, the lines prevent us from knowing one another any further. We become our clan, and we're just a bundle of blind resentment.

We're in this battle we've found ourselves in with no hope of a mass salvation. Our masses are doomed and are in chaos due to prejudices and bad history. There is only room for personal and individual salvation. Like the six entwined together in what looks like an average road from hell in the movie's final scene, we cannot fight to change all that's around us, but we need to hang on to each other to get through it. Our salvation is through personal knowledge and through love of one another.

We are not one, but we can intertwine and we can go through the roads of hell together. Amidst this impersonal chaos we can still have each other. There's some elements of human love that transcend religion, for religion should only lead us to those elements. We can survive the violence around us knowing what know about each other.

This was expressed in the final scene that was built up by the movie. It was heavy on allegory and physically distant from reality in a seemingly surreal fantastical kind of way. (Although the choice of Alexandria where such violence took place can defend the aspect of reality) In the remainder of the movie, Hassan we Morkos reflects a hidden prejudice that has become stealthily inherent in our community. They are prejudices based on superficial labels and nothing can be as superficial as the labels presented in the movie. We have a non practicing Christian and beardless and ignorant Sheikh.

These are people under a thin cover. The cover is simply a label, a tag and unfortunately this has reflected that no one cares about anything except that tag. Some of us are labeled one way or another through our names and that serves as all the basis needed for prejudices and discrimination. Some of us with neutral names can really see the discrimination as soon as our labels are discovered. Even Hassan and Morkos, or rather their underlying characters, who epitomize religion, end up judging one another superficially. They warm up to each other based on religion and are discriminated against based on how they appear.

Hassan we Morkos is a funny comedy that has not fully grown into its potential black. Not all points were discussed and there were references to hidden opinions from both sides that rang so true that you couldn't help but laugh. The absurdity of accusations of one party to another was comical to see on screen and yet behind the comedy there was so much truth.

The whole movie of course is based on an improbable plan set forth by the government and while the actual plan of the government was fictitious, the consequences were not. The government has helped to orchestrate the atmosphere for this kind of tension in reality, and perhaps it has in fact hidden who we are from each other. At the end of the day we're left with the ugly situation expressed in the usual cheesy crowd chants but reflecting a reality that's impossible to ignore nonetheless.

The scenes that took place in the south of Egypt were comical to say the least, not reflecting at all the prejudices that exist down there. To talk about these dogmatic prejudices and discriminations would leave no room for comedy as people’s lives are destroyed because of their religion. The movie had no choice but to skip these bitter stories. Over here in the big city, we Cairenes are quick to say, there’s nothing of that sort, there’s no prejudice and there’s no hatred. In Cairo, we’re distant from all that happens elsewhere.

Whether this movie can move any prejudice an inch is not something for me to say or that can even be foretold, although, like everything else, it will just pass as entertainment. For we love our stars on the silver screen, Omar and Adel, but we don't usually extend that love to our loud or obnoxious neighbors. That is why things may fade out as does the music with the ending credits. In real life there's no Yasser Abdel Rahman's inspirational score to move our hearts. There is no camera on us to judge us and there are no lovable stars to love. We're left with one another and that may not be enough.

We need the familiar, our usual stars to love, our usual music and lighting and most of all our same kind. The only way out is through personal knowledge as the movie suggests and the only way towards this is by allowing ourselves to trust. We need to open the door we've locked ourselves in and allow love to salvage us from the utter chaos we've found ourselves in.

There's no camera to watch us but we forget that a label was never a window to the soul. I suppose it's only fair to say that there are so many who have actually moved past all these prejudices that were forced throughout our present day culture. There are some who have fought the dogma of tribalism with the logic of love. There are some whose human bonds are even stronger than that of blood, and transcend the labels that lead us to those sought after pure human qualities. So let us walk in their footsteps and put aside our slogans and hypocrisy and see each other as humans with a choice. As long as we have no choice about our prejudices, we'll always be enslaved.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Great Expectations

Expectations are dangerous. They are thresholds that define how we are supposed to feel. We’re satisfied when they’re reached, happy when they’re exceeded, disappointed when they’re unachieved. They are what make the difference between optimists, pessimists and realists.

Expectations are most dangerous when it comes to people, because on most occasions people don’t know what to expect from themselves, and mostly they don’t know what you expect from them.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that whenever you expect good things from people, you can end up being disappointed, but the worst kind of disappointment is when you realize that the people you expect most from, have nothing more to give.