Valuable vs Profitable Individuals

Every morning from Monday to Friday I see myself surrounded by tens and hundreds of new faces. By Friday some start becoming familiar through the power of luck and schedule: I have to leave home at an exact hour, otherwise I risk missing my train. And just like myself, there are tens of others pulled by the invisible strings of social obligations. And I see them waiting on the platform next to me, or running down the stairs, making sure their mornings are not spoiled by a 5 or 10 minute-delay. There’s a lady whose perfume I simply can’t stand. She’s in her 20′s and my gut just tells me she’s not what you’d call a nice person. A few days ago she just stepped on my right foot, literally leaving a mark. She did not intend it, of course, it was the silly train that arrived a couple of seconds earlier and made people run on the stairs like madmen followed by their own shadows. But she did not bother to say sorry either. She just stepped in front of me waving that black mane of hers and leaving behind a trail of scent that simply does not agree with me.

Then there’s a nice couple – I’d say Turkish, but I’m not sure. They have their good and bad days, sometimes they talk more, other times they are quiet, just sharing the same space and oxygen. But their sight just comforts me. And there’s one smart chap – in his early 20′s I’d say – donning a fashion style my dad would instantly call insane – a smart suit and sandals. And to understand my father’s philosophy here’s his irrefutable argument when it comes to all the youngsters who don’t have a classic haircut, that is a fringe,  or hair combed on one side: “He says he reads so he’s educated, but he won’t full me! He must have missed several good pages with all that hair coming in his eyes!” How I wish I could put my commuter lad in my pocket and take him home to my dad.

But dandy or not, as long as he’ll stand up and offer his seat to a needy person, I raise my hat to him. And I’ll do this to any person, no matter the fashion style he or she prefers, the perfume used or the number of tattoos. It is these small gestures that I think betray a person’s true value. In my early 20′s, a stylish man used to make quite an impression on me. I somehow associated a nice suit to a gentlemanish personality  - too many Bronte novels I guess. It took me several good years to understand that there’s such a discrepancy between the “work person” and the “after work person”. A couple of days ago I happened to have a chat with a fine intelligent gentleman with  plenty of prospects for future corporate development. But the only thoughts crossing my mind were that despite the genteel appearance he’s almost a ruthless individual. So cockish and so in love with his own voice.

That this individual is a successful prototype is a certainty – that he is valuable as a human being, that he nurtures kindness towards his fellow oxygen breathers – that I do not know. I was actually wondering while having this chat with him – or from my perspective just looking at his lips and their movements – why is it that in general people who care less about others and more of themselves afford more financial luxury, while the decent people live the so called ordinary lives? I’m not talking about who’s happier – it’s strictly a financial perspective. Please don’t get me the “it’s a jungle out there” cliche. I was out in the park a couple of days ago and there was a sick pigeon. While feeding on some crumbles, the stronger ones just pushed this unfortunate one aside. Yes, survival of the fittest, but this is it – we’re not animals, so why should the same rule apply? Why should a person’s value be judged in terms of ROI?

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La Source Des Femmes (The Source)

Considering the most recent post on Nadine Labaki’s tragicomedy Where Do We Go Now about the strength of women and their unity faced with religious extremism, I felt it just natural to do some more research on femininity in the Arab world. My heart almost skipped a bit when Radu Mihaileanu’s name and La Source des Femmes appeared in the search results.

Radu Mihaileanu is a Jewish Romanian-born French film director so my excitement was all the more nurtured by the acknowledgement of a shared nationality. He directed Live and Become and The Concert and has already gained appreciation from a large audience.

LA Source Des Femmes

The action is set in a remote Muslim village. The women do all the heavy work, while the men debate politics, drink tea and complain about the difficulties of the present. Illiterate and forced to walk miles to fetch water in heavy buckets, the women suffer injuries and miscarriages. Their purpose is limited to the biological function – pleasing the husbands and procreating. While this certainly feels out of place, breaking a deeply rooted tradition seems out of the question. But it does happen, thanks to Leila and her idea of a love strike when no fondling is permitted until men decide to carry the water themselves.

If not reality, and if not a metaphor for women’s strength and determination, La Source Des Femmes remains an authentic document for various abuses inflicted upon women. Forced sex, corporal punishment and imposed limitations on one’s cultural development are far from being trite matters. The Guardian’s decision to use a paragraph like the below to end its short review of the film shouts mischievous to me.  “We do at least get some sense of real-life rural inequality – the women invariably do manual labour as they scheme against their idle husbands – and there’s some enjoyable interplay between a dream cast of Arab actors. But it feels like a wasted opportunity.”

Once again disappointed but here’s an interview with Mihaileanu and the main female character Leila Bekhti. Briliant!

Also very happy to have come across this review which I wholeheartedly recommend. Or just stick to my simple vocabulary which says this is a great film that resembles a great man: intelligent but humble.



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Laughing and Crying with Nadine Labaki

Where Do We Go Now

I came across Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now by pure accident. But this is one of the accidents I wish would happen more often. While my enthusiasm may not allow for an objective analysis, this remains a film that will scar one’s inner being. No need to worry though – it’s so little spoken about (compared to The Wolf of Wall Street) and other such similar films tailored for glamour, that we are all on the safe side.

There are only a very few Guardian mentionings for this film – and not all of them of a praising nature. According to Catherine Shoard:The implication that if ladies were in charge, the Middle East would be peaceful, feels queasy.

There’s no doubt that the womens’ actions are highly unrealistic, but it’s only through exacerbation that we pay attention to reality – otherwise we take everything for granted. And I doubt that Labaki’s intention was to suggest that if women were in charge, the Middle East would be peaceful.

This film is an eye-opener. It pokes fun at religious extremism (yep, you know I’m religiously embarrassed) and highlights the drama of those who find themselves victims of such a behaviour. Yes, in real life a Muslim woman will not laugh when her veil is blown away while on a motorbike, and a Christian woman will not pretend to be talking to Virgin Mary. Nor would a priest and an imam accept to have all the men literally drugged  by their partners, sisters and mothers, who also decide to change their religion over night. But it’s exactly this impossibility that should make one understand that as long as one respects and loves the other human beings, the name of the religion and its god simply don’t matter. The power of motherhood is unifying – it’s a pity that religion misses this strength. I’d say this is the film’s intention – or maybe I should ask Nadine herself :-)

Also, here’s a brief summary to clarify the story of the film: Christians and Muslims (what has remained of them after a previous fight) live peacefully in a remote village. The news that a religious war broke out in the nearby region permeate despite the women’s efforts of preventing it. Faced with a familiar scenario of losing their husbands, brothers and sons, the women, Muslims and Christians, devise ingenious plans, one after the other, to distract their men and preserve their hard won fragile peace. A broken cross – a mere accident, or some goats and hens that found their way in the mosque, are enough to set the release the rage and hatred in the men – all brothers and sons of the same village.

The real drama happens when Nassim, (it really doesn’t matter whether Christian or Muslim) is killed by accident outside the village. The stupidity of wars (an older post) is once again proven, together with the power of motherhood and sorority.

Pretty old now (2010) – Where Do We Go Now remains a “film of the moment” for as long as there are people killing one another in the name of a dissapointed  and embarrassed god. This is religious teaching!

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