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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Strada Postasului - Decor Postindustrial


Chacun son Cinéma: the Vignette of Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

Chacun son Cinéma: a pickpocket is trying to steal the money from a lady bag, in the obscurity of the movie theater; it happens that the young lady is weeping gently and needs the handkerchief; totally focused on the screen, she takes the hand of the thief and keeps it on her cheek, to wipe the tears. Directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne succeed in keeping the whole story in a delicate key.

The musical background uses the score from Bresson's Au Hasard Balthasar.

(Chacun son Cinéma)


Chacun son Cinéma: the Vignette of David Lynch

Chacun son Cinéma: what happens if the director leaves his work unfinished (forgetting also the editing scissors on the stage) and personages try to clear up the mess, each one on its on? That's it with Absurda, the vignette of David Lynch. You'll be surprised, but the images called in my mind Vertov and his Человек с Киноаппаратом.

(Chacun son Cinéma)


Chacun son Cinéma: the Vignette of Wong Kar-Wai

Chacun son Cinéma: Wong Kar-Wai has a sense of the red pairing Almodóvar. The role is, I think, different: at Almodóvar the red is one of the personages, it participates to the story, it gives its replicas; at Wong Kar-Wai the red is an amplifier, or maybe a catalyst; the feelings are amplified by the red to the just note.

I think no one depicts erotic desire with such poignancy as Wong Kar-Wai does. Think at The Hand, his vignette from Eros. Actually you will not get it with his vignette from Chacun son Cinéma if you haven't watched The Hand. It is a variation here: somehow the same personages (though the interprets are different), playing just another notes in the infinite erotic gamma. A man is watching an erotic movie, closing his eyes, remembering his own erotic past, or desiring the woman on the screen, or projecting what's on the screen in his future, or... Who knows? The only thing that's clear is the painful desire.

And Almodóvar comes again in mind: the same ambiguity, the same dreamy world, the same play over the border of perversity, the same madness. It is our madness, it is our desire, it is our pain: we are the ones walking through the movies of Wang Kar-Wai or Almodóvar.

(Chacun son Cinéma)


Chacun son Cinéma: the Vignette of Théo Angelopoulos

Chacun son Cinéma: Théo Angelopoulos brought Jeanne Moreau in an amazing recital in the memory of Marcello Mastroiani. Everything is perfect: there is the same rhythm in the voice of Jeanne Moreau, in the setting, in the score, in the whole theatrical atmosphere, everything goes with impeccable logic toward the final cut. It leaves you speechless. Three minutes, three shots, three people: that's poetry (bassostolos).

(Chacun son Cinéma)


Chacun son Cinéma: the Vignette of Joel and Ethan Coen

Chacun son Cinéma: Joel and Etan Cohen brought Josh Brolin (rugged features and natural charm) and some perfume of No Country for Old Men in a very classy vignette.

(Chacun son Cinéma)


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chacun son Cinéma

Chacun son Cinéma was made in 2007 to honor the 60th edition of the Festival de Cannes. It is a collection of 34 vignettes, each of 3 minutes, made by 36 acclaimed directors. I will try to present on my blog some of these shorts.


(Cinéma Français)


Variation on a Cherry Blossom Theme

(Washington, District of Columbia)

Kiarostami: Ten (2002)

With Ten, Kiarostami pushed very far the boundaries of his no-plot approach. Even an illusory plot is no more in this movie. There is a video camera mounted within a car. A woman is driving throughout the streets of Tehran, taking occasional passengers, always women (with one exception: her son). Free discussions start every time, about this and that: all take place in the car, no crew is there, no director, only the driver - woman and the passenger - woman. The approach that was taken firstly in making ABC Africa is used here brilliantly: handheld camera to free the movie of all cinematic restrictions and to ensure the interactive participation of interprets (non-professionals, like in all his works).

Nevertheless the spontaneity has inherent limits. The director is not there, but he chooses each new personage and before each sequence he gives general instructions about what is to be discussed. The flow of discussion is subtly controlled by the woman who is driving (who is the only professional interpret, Mania Akbari; in real life she is working in the movie industry, and like the personage in the movie she is divorced; her child plays his own role).

Anyway, each sequence is no more a scene miming reality: it is pure reality. It happens in this movie what happened in the contemporary art: like Warhol and Rauschenberg and all the others who renounced of creating images to represent reality, taking real objects instead, to create art, here in Ten, Kiarostami was able to get this great mirage: he took reality from the street and transformed it into art.

Ten: Part 1/9
(video by symphonyoflove4u)

Ten: Part 2/9
(video by symphonyoflove4u)

Ten: Part 3/9
(video by symphonyoflove4u)

Ten: Part 4/9
(video by symphonyoflove4u)

Ten: Part 5/9
(video by symphonyoflove4u)

Ten: Part 6/9
(video by symphonyoflove4u)

Ten: Part 7/9
(video by symphonyoflove4u)

Ten: Part 8/9
(video by symphonyoflove4u)

Ten: Part 9/9
(video by symphonyoflove4u)

(I'm in the Mood for Kiarostami)

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Abbas Kiarostami: ABC Africa (2001)

ABC Africa: A stands for Abstinence, B stands for Be faithful, C stands for use Condom only as a last resort. With such a state-driven propaganda no wonder that Uganda faces an impressive number of AIDS cases. And this does not mean only the number of deaths: there are the kids whose parents died from the disease. Then add the kids whose parents died in the civil war. Taking care of these orphans is the mission assumed by UWESCO (Uganda Women Effort to Save Orphans): women willing to adopt these orphans and to give them the chance of a new family, even if this family has many other kids to feed.

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami was asked to take part in a project of UN's IFAD (International Fund for Economic Development): to make a documentary on the plight of Uganda's orphans and the work of UWESCO to rescue them.

And so Kiarostami arrived there with a minimal crew, with two handheld digital video cameras, and with the intent of making quickly a rough version as a first step in creating the documentary.

What resulted was so original that they decided to keep this first version as the definitive production.

I read the reviews to this movie: some of them reproach to Kiarostami that he missed to depict the real situation, that his view was superficial. I think these reviews missed actually the point. Kiarostami has never pretended to explain the universe he was filming. He gave only, in all honesty, a strict account on what he witnessed, nothing more. It's his truth, nothing but his truth, anything more would be hypocrisy.

It is the style from all his movies: letting each new situation encountered to develop on its own. There is something new here, truly revolutionary: using the tiny video camera gives total freedom to anything, spontaneity becomes fully unrestricted. Spontaneity and interactivity: the kids are playing with the camera, inventing games and dances, like all kids from any place on Earth.

And so ABC Africa marks one of the most important moments in the history of cinematography: the handheld video camera throws away any conventions and liberates personages and places from the tyranny of the scenario, and ultimately from the tyranny of the director.

(video by FirouzanFilms)

Scene from the Movie
(video by FirouzanFilms)

Seven Minutes of Darkness
(video by faraz1729)

The image recovers its meaning when it faces darkness ... the rainy morning after the painful seven minutes in the dark is a gift to those who have patiently tolerated the dark night until the morning (faraz1729). This scene announces Five!

(I'm in the Mood for Kiarostami)

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A Tarkovskian Dream

This video is authored by faraz1729 who describes it as a pilgrimage through the onirically strange, transcendentally beautiful, and internally liberating time-sculpting of Andrei Tarkovsky. It is compiled from Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Mirror, Stalker, Nostalghia, and The Sacrifice. Music: Brian Eno - An Ending (Ascent), reversed.



Sunday, March 28, 2010

Walter Salles: Loin du 16ème

Loin du 16ème is a wonderful vignette, of elegant, discreet poignancy, created by Walter Salles for Paris, je t'aime: a young immigrant in Paris, waking up every morning in her room some place in the outskirts of Paris; leaving her baby in a daycare; the baby is crying, the mother comes back for a minute to sing a lullaby, the baby is charmed; the mother goes on with her commute to the work place, a family in downtown where she takes care of their baby; the baby is crying, the servant sings him the lullaby, the baby is charmed; and the servant thinks it should have been different.

Qué linda manito que tengo yo,
qué linda y blanquita que Dios me dio
Qué lindos ojitos que tengo yo,
qué lindos y negritos que Dios me dio
Qué linda boquita que tengo yo,
qué linda y rojita que Dios me dio
Qué lindas patitas que tengo yo,
qué lindas y gorditas que Dios me dio

(Cinéma Français)

(Iberic and Iberic-American Cinema)

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Diarios de Motocicleta

1952: Che y La Poderosa
(La Pastera, Museo del Che)
no copyright infringement intended

Diarios de Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries), made by the great Brazilian director Walter Salles in 2004, with Robert Redford as executive producer. A movie following closely the travel notes of a young Argentinean who made in 1952, together with a friend, a long journey across Latin America. The intention was to make it on a motorbike, only old Poderosa was definitely torn out and passed away quickly. The journey went on anyway, as anyone can expect.

After watching the movie I found the book, The Motorcycle Diaries, and I read it at one shot. It’s full of freshness, of that sympathetic craziness that looks true only in your early twenties; it’s full of empathy for every new situation and new encounter. Nothing fake, nothing pompous. The young author of the diary would become after some years well known in the world at large; by that time he was just a young dreamy guy. His name was Ernesto Guevara.

In the leading role a great Mexican actor, Gael Garcia Bernal, very well seconded, in some kind of counterpoint, by Rodrigo De La Serna (who, by the way, is a second cousin of Guevara).

Das Kapital meets Easy Rider, wrote Times about Diarios de Motocicleta. I would rather disagree with this judgment. We all know that the young sympathetic guy from the movie will become Che one day, only he doesn’t know it: the tone is warm and slightly humorous. The future of the personage is only a very discreet allusion in the movie; it is true that the situations encountered on the journey rise questions and suggest roads to follow, and the scene at Machu Pichhu transmits in a forceful way the emotion of the hero, his sudden awareness of what the South American identity means; but the movie succeeds in avoiding to be a political lecture. It is the merit here of the director, Walter Salles; it is also the merit of Gael Garcia Bernal, who is maybe one of the most intelligent actors of his generation.

To understand the spirit of Diarios de Motocicleta I think we should compare it with another movie of Salles, Central do Brasil; a journey through a universe that is, like the heroes of the movie, in the making, open to any outcome, with a destiny not yet crystallized. And the empathy between the heroes and the universe they are traversing is total; both universe and heroes are fully open to each other.

A commentator found, I think, the most perfect tag for this movie:

Nuestra inquietud, nuestro espíritu soñador y el incansable amor por la ruta (Paler23)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 1/13
(video by julianajdg)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 2/13
(video by julianajdg)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 3/13
(video by julianajdg)
jejejeje la cagada (granchapa24)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 4/13
(video by julianajdg)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 5/13
(video by julianajdg)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 6/13
(video by julianajdg)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 7/13
(video by julianajdg)
Me Encanto la manera en que el Muchachito dice Este viene a ser el Muro inca y el Otro el Muro de los Incapaces (que eran los Espanoles).. una broma.. que encierra gran verdad (Rittoshi)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 8/13
(video by julianajdg)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 9/13
(video by julianajdg)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 10/13
(video by julianajdg)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 11/13
(video by julianajdg)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 12/13
(video by julianajdg)
Bom pra caralho ... (elvinoman)

Diarios de Motocicleta: Part 13/13
(video by julianajdg)
Que linda Musica al final del film.. Tan Sudamericana y tan Latina a la vez (Rittoshi)

(Iberic and Iberic-American Cinema)

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Rusakov Workers' Club

Rusakov Workers' Club in Moscow is a fine example of Constructivist architecture. Like all relevant Constructivist works, it was created in the twenties: between 1927 and 1929. The author was Konstantin Melnikov, an outstanding architect of that decade.

In plan, the club resembles a fan; in elevation, it is divided into a base and three cantilevered concrete seating areas. Each of these can be used as a separate auditorium, while if combined, the building seats over 1,000 people. At the rear of the building are more conventional offices. The only visible materials used in its construction are concrete, brick and glass (Wikipedia).

It is interesting to follow the course of his life: in the thirties the Constructivist ideals were no more praised by the Communist regime; the artistic vanguard was far too original and too independent in spirit to be encouraged any more. Konstantin Melnikov preferred to renounce at his profession rather than to obey to the new artistic rules set by the Party. He made a living as a portrait painter and teacher till the end of his life, in 1974.

(Suprematism and Constructivism)

Janine Zacharia in W. Post: Netaniahu in a Bind

As U.S.-Israel rift continues, Netanyahu finds himself in a bind.
Janine Zacharia, the W. Post's Jerusalem Bureau Chief:

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was welcomed home Thursday night with signs reading Obama, No You Can't and Netanyahu Stand Strong after a trip to Washington that appeared only to widen a two-week-old rift between the close allies over Israeli housing construction.
The support expressed by a few dozen people at the entrance to Jerusalem belied widespread doubts here about Netanyahu's handling of relations with President Obama. The premier's tough U.S. visit came during a week in which Israel also found itself at odds with Britain, which on Tuesday expelled an Israeli diplomat over what it said was the use of forged British passports in an alleged Mossad operation.
Netanyahu had hoped to use his visit to defuse tensions sparked by the announcement of Israeli plans to build 1,600 homes in a disputed area of Jerusalem. The announcement was made during Vice President Biden's visit to Israel this month, and it thwarted what was supposed to be a celebration of fresh negotiations on talks toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The Obama administration now says that failure to resolve the Middle East conflict is harming U.S. national security interests in the region.
Over the past year, Netanyahu pushed the envelope with Obama, said Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli peace negotiator, referring to haggling over a full settlement freeze that had precluded a resumption of peace talks. Now that Obama has pushed back, Netanyahu is worried and afraid, Beilin said.

The coalition issue
Some observers speculated that Netanyahu might be forced to consider bringing Kadima, the centrist party led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, his arch political rival, into his coalition to alleviate the tensions with the United States. But Gideon Ezra, a Kadima member, said that might not be possible because of resistance from within Netanyahu's Likud bloc: Incorporating Kadima would mean concessions such as halting construction in East Jerusalem and dismantling unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank, steps that Likud members oppose, Ezra said.
Others said Netanyahu would simply search for ways to buy time until the midterm U.S. elections in hopes that Obama would lose support and that more pro-Israel Republicans would be elected.
The prime minister does not understand to what extent the current government's composition causes damage to its relationship with the U.S. and the international community, said Yoel Hasson, who advised Ariel Sharon when he was the prime minister. I am most concerned about the long-term strategic partnership.

Deficit of trust

What is most clear now as the crisis in the U.S.-Israel relationship continues is that Netanyahu was truly stunned by the Obama administration's unprecedented willingness to criticize Israel over building in the annexed part of Jerusalem and that deferring negotiations on the city's future will become increasingly difficult if the news media continue to report on construction there.
The United States, like the rest of the world, has never recognized Israel's sovereignty over territory occupied in the 1967 war. Still, the two countries always managed to work out a modus vivendi because more compelling strategic concerns trumped whatever they were quarreling about, said Dore Gold, who was a political adviser to Netanyahu during his first stint as prime minister more than a decade ago.
Gold cited Israel's 1997 decision to build the Har Homa development in East Jerusalem just after Netanyahu signed a deal turning over most of the West Bank city of Hebron to Palestinian control. At the time, the United States vetoed two proposed U.N. Security Council resolutions criticizing Israel for the project.
The difference was that then-President Bill Clinton believed Netanyahu could make progress toward peace, observers said. Obama does not appear to share that sentiment. There was trust between the president and our prime minister, Hasson said. Now we don't have it.

Netanyahu under fire
In a pre-Passover toast to city employees Thursday, Jerusalem's mayor, Nir Barkat, said of the current crisis: The whole world is watching us. This obligates us, Jews and Arabs, to work together, without discrimination, to advance the city's interests.
Accomplishing that will prove difficult if Jerusalem remains a flash point between the United States and Israel in the coming months. The demands Obama presented to Netanyahu included continuing a partial settlement freeze once a 10-month moratorium expires later this year and expanding it to East Jerusalem, according to Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest daily.
Beilin said Netanyahu understands, perhaps better than some of his Likud predecessors, that even if he believes he is 100 percent right and the world is 100 percent wrong on Jerusalem, he cannot go on and destroy the relationships with the whole world.
But the prime minister is under fire not just abroad. He is also facing criticism at home.
On Friday, demonstrators plan to gather in Tel Aviv to protest the government's decision to block construction of an underground hospital emergency room in the city of Ashkelon, a move meant to appease an ultra-Orthodox coalition member who had threatened to resign because the facility would be built on an ancient cemetery.
The underground wing of Barzilai hospital was being built to protect patients from rockets fired from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Netanyahu's decision to block the construction led to the resignation of the Health Ministry's director general.
People are really angry, said Nitzan Horowitz, an organizer of the protest and a member of the Israeli parliament from the secular Meretz party. The coalition games Netanyahu is playing we simply can't accept.

(Zoon Politikon)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Forough Farrokhzād: The House Is Black (1963)

خانه سیاه است, فیلمی از فروغ فرخزاد (Khaneh Siah Ast - The House Is Black): it was the only movie made by Forough Farrokhzad. A documentary of 20 minutes length; actually it is a documentary only at the first level of meaning: the disturbing images from a leper colony are meditated in verses that partner what's flowing on the screen. Fragments from Psalms, from Koran, from her own poetry. And her stanzas, sometimes in sync with the images, sometimes in counterpoint, always challenging the versets from the sacred books. One of the greatest poets of the twentieth century, that's what I believe Forough Farrokhzad is.

This movie is a cinematic poem: empathy for the extreme suffering, desolation that we cannot escape from our condition, and, in the same time, awe in face of the beauty of creation.

I think the key of the movie is done by two verses:

Who is this in hell
Praising you, O Lord?

The hell is also part of the world; and it is ultimately beautiful because world is beautiful.

This is extraordinary here in the movie: the subtle impulse to see the Universe as beautiful in all its dimensions, even in its ugliest expressions - to see the splendor of the human condition, even in its most horrible shape.

Or maybe the verses tell us something slightly different: as they are in turn fearful, desolate, bitter, pessimistic, sarcastic against God and praising God, it is here the honesty and the courage of the poet to recognize having all these contradictory feelings. And this speaks indeed about the splendor of the human condition: to encompass everything, to assume all contradictions, to be their sovereign - as the Universe is.

(Forough Farrokhzād)

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

W. Post About US - Israel Disagreements

W. Post:
The two-week-old dispute between Israel and the United States over housing construction in East Jerusalem has exposed the limits of American power to pressure Israeli leaders to make decisions they consider politically untenable. But the blowup also shows that the relationship between the two allies is changing, in ways that are unsettling for Israel's supporters.
President Obama and his aides have cast the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not just the relationship with Israel, as a core U.S. national security interest. Gen.
David H. Petraeus, the head of the military's Central Command, put it starkly in recent testimony on Capitol Hill: The conflict foments anti-American sentiment due to a perception of U.S. favoritism toward Israel. His comments raised eyebrows in official Washington -- and overseas -- because they suggested that U.S. military officials were embracing the idea that failure to resolve the conflict had begun to imperil American lives.
Visiting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received warm applause at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Monday night when he bluntly dismissed U.S. demands to end housing construction in the disputed part of Jerusalem. He was greeted as a hero when he visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
But the administration has been strikingly muted in its reception. No reporters, or even photographers, were invited when Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Clinton Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Biden on Monday or when he met with Obama on Tuesday night. There was no grand Rose Garden ceremony. Official spokesmen issued only the blandest of statements.
The cooling in the U.S.-Israel relationship coincides with an apparent deepening of Israel's diplomatic isolation. Anger has grown in Europe in the wake of Israel's suspected misuse of European passports to kill a Palestinian militant in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the expulsion of a senior diplomat over the incident, an unusually drastic step for an ally. Relations with Turkey, a rare Muslim friend of Israel for decades, have hit a new low.
Obama and his aides have strongly pledged support for Israel's security -- including a reiteration by Clinton when she addressed AIPAC on Monday -- but they have continued to criticize its settlement policies in tough terms. Clinton notably did not pull her punches on the issue when she addressed the pro-Israel group, warning that whether Israelis like it or not, the status quo is not sustainable. The drawing of such lines by the administration has been noticed in the Middle East.
Israeli policies have transcended personal affront or embarrassment to American officials and are causing the United States real pain beyond the Arab-Israeli arena. This is something new, and therefore the U.S. is reacting with unusually strong, public and repeated criticisms of Israel's settlement policies and its general peace-negotiating posture, Rami Khouri, editor at large of Beirut's Daily Star, wrote this week. At the same time Washington repeats it ironclad commitment to Israel's basic security in its 1967 borders, suggesting that the U.S. is finally clarifying that its support for Israel does not include unconditional support for Israel's colonization policies.

Problems from the start
The Obama administration has struggled from the start to find its footing with Israel and the Palestinians. Obama took office soon after Israel's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, which had ruptured peace talks nurtured by the George W. Bush administration. Obama appointed a special envoy, former senator George J. Mitchell, on his second day in office. But then the administration tried to pressure Israel to freeze all settlement expansion -- and failed. The United States further lost credibility when Clinton embraced Netanyahu's compromise proposal, which fell short of Palestinian expectations, as unprecedented.
U.S. pressure at the time also backfired because it appeared to let the Palestinians off the hook. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to enter into direct talks before a settlement freeze, even though he had done so before. The administration had to settle for indirect talks, with Mitchell shuttling back and forth. The recent disagreement has set back that effort.
Administration officials have been careful to turn down the heat in their latest exchanges with Netanyahu over Jerusalem, even as they continue to express their displeasure. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley spoke in clipped sentences Tuesday when asked to describe the hours of private conversations with Netanyahu this week: We have outlined some concerns to the Israeli government. They have responded to our concerns. That conversation continues. This is a dynamic process. There's a lot of give-and-take involved in these conversations.
Crowley argued that the only way to ultimately resolve competing claims, on the future of Jerusalem, is to get to direct negotiations. He said the administration faces a series of pass-fail tests: Can it get the two parties to join direct talks? Can it persuade them to address the vexing issues surrounding the final status of Jerusalem? And ultimately, do we get to an agreement that is in the Israeli interest, in the Palestinian interest, in the interest of the rest of the region and clearly in the interest of the United States?
Arab leaders have long said that a peace deal would be possible if the United States pressured Israel. But many experts say such hope is often misplaced. In the case of East Jerusalem, Netanyahu believes that a halt to construction represents political suicide for his coalition, so no amount of U.S. pressure will lead him to impose a freeze -- at least until he is in the final throes of peace talks.
U.S. pressure can work, but it needs to be at the right time, on the right issue and in the right political context, said Robert Malley, a peace negotiator in the Clinton White House. The latest episode was an apt illustration. The administration is ready for a fight, but it realized the issue, timing and context were wrong. The crisis has been deferred, not resolved.

(Zoon Politikon)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Meditating a Movie

The House Is Black, the unique film made by Forough Farrokhzad: I intend to write in near future some sensed words about it. The English subtitles are very difficult to read, sometimes it's white text over white background: versets from the Bible and Koran, and also verses written by Forough Farrokhzad. I succeeded to copy most of them and I tried to translate some in Romanian: in the movie Forough Farrokhzad is reciting the verses in parallel with the flow of images, sometimes in sync, sometimes in counterpoint. Here is what I got:

The English version:

I said if I had wings of a dove
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would go far away and take refuge in the desert
I would hasten my escape
From the windy storm and tempest.
For I have seen misery
And wickedness on Earth
The Universe is pregnant with our sorrows
And has given birth to time.

How would I escape from your face?
Where would I go from your essence?
If I hang on to the wings
Of the morning breeze.
And reside in the deep of the sea,
Your hand will still weigh on me.
You have made me drunk with indecision.

How awesome are your deeds.
I speak of the bitterness of my soul.
From my silent screams all day long.

Remember that my life is wind
I have become the pelican of the desert.
Out of the ruins
And like a sparrow I am
Sitting alone on the roof.

I am poured out like water
My eyelid is the shadow of death
As those who have long dead.

Leave me, leave me,
For my days are but numbered.
Leave me before I set out
For the land of no return.
The land of infinite darkness.

O God, don’t entrust the life
Of your dove to the wild beast.
O God, remember that my life is wind
And you have given me a time of idleness
And around me a song of happiness.

The sound of the windmill and the brightness
Of the light have vanished
Lucky are those who are harvesting now
And their hands are picking sheaves of wheat

Let’s listen to the soul in the remote desert
One who sighs and stretches his hands out saying,
Alas, my wounds have numbed my spirit.

O, the time-forgotten one,
Dressing yourself in red and wearing golden ornaments
Anointing your eyes with coal
Remember you have made yourself beautiful in vain,
For a song in the remote desert
And your friends who have denigrated you

Alas, for the day is fading,
The evening shadows are stretching
Our being, like a cage full of birds,
Is filled with moans of captivity.
And none of us knows how long he will last

The harvest season passed,
The summer season will come to an end,
And we did not find deliverance.
Like doves we cry for justice…
And there is none.
We wait for light
And darkness reigns.

O, overrunning river driven by the force of love,
Flow to us, flow to us.

And my Romanian translation:

Mi-am zis ca de-as avea aripi de porumbel
As zbura departe, la loc de odihna,
As ajunge hat departe si mi-as lua de adapost pustia.
Mi-as grabi scaparea
Din calea vijeliior si furtunilor.
Pentru ca mizerie am vazut,
Mizerie si netrebnicie, pe Pamant.
Universul era fecundat de rautatile noastre
Si a nascut timpul, sa le induram.

Cum as putea sa scap de fata ta?
Cum as putea sa ma indepartez de esenta ta?
De m-as atarna de aripile zefirului de dimineata
Si mi-as gasi salas in adancurile marii
Mana ta inca m-ar cantari.
M-ai faurit astfel incat sa umblu beat, sa fiu imbatat de nehotarare.

Aminteste-ti ca viata imi este prada bataii vantului
Am devenit pelicanul desertului
Departe, dincolo de zidiri daramate.
Si ca o vrabie stau singuratec pe acoperis,
Sunt varsat precum apa ce o arunci,
Pleoapele mele sunt ca umbra mortii
Asemenea celor care au murit de mult.
Lasa-ma, caci zilele mele sunt numarate,
Lasa-ma, inainte sa o pornesc
Spre taramul de unde nu este intoarcere,
Taramul intunecimii nemarginite.

O, Dumnezeule, nu incredinta viata porumbelului tau fiarei salbatice
O Dumnezeule, aminteste-ti ca viata mea in bataia vantului este.
Tu mi-ai daruit vreme de zabava,
Si pus-ai imprejurul meu un cantec de fericire.
Dar sunetul morii si stralucirea luminii au disparut.
Fericiti aceia ce acum isi culeg roadele,
Ale caror maini impletesc snopi de grau.

Sa ascultam sufletul celui aflat in desertul de deaprte,
Cel ce suspina si-si ridica mainile zicand,
Vai mie, ranile mi-au amortit cugetul.

O, timp uitat de demult,
Imbracandu-te in rosu si cu podoabe de aur,
Miruind-ti ochii cu carbune
Adu-ti aminte ca ti-ai ingrijit frumusetea zadarnic
Pentru un cantec doar, din desertul de departe
Si pentru prietenii ce s-au lepadat de tine.

Vai mie, caci ziua sw stinge,
Si umbrele inserarii isi arata taria.
Iar fiinta noastra, precum ccolivia plina d epasari,
umpluta este de gemete de robie
Si nimeni dintre noi nu stie cat va mai dura,
Antimpul culesului roadelor a trecut,
Anotimpul verii va ajunge si el la capat
Iar noi nu vom gasi izbavire
Ne cerem precum porumbeii dreptate
Dar nu exista.
Asteptam lumina,'Iar intunericul domneste.

O, fluviu preaplin, impins de forta iubirii,
Revarsa-te spre noi.

(Forough Farrokhzād)

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Roger Cohen About Iran's Exiles

Roger Cohen in today's NY Times:

First Negar Azizmoradi contacted me and then I read about Mohammed Reza Heydari: two Iranians, two exiles, one truth of a people defrauded and denied.

I’ll take Heydari first. He’s the brave Iranian diplomat in Norway who defected, having been asked to change the vote tally he’d certified: 650 votes cast at the Oslo embassy, of which 540 (or 83 percent) were for the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, a result consistent with cable traffic he saw from other embassies.

The will of the people was clear Heydari told The Wall Street Journal’s Margaret Coker. I believe it was. Change this number, change that number — and soon enough you can pluck President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fantastical 62.63 percent from the air.

Three days after that result in Iran’s June 12 election was announced, I met Negar for a few minutes. She was beside me by chance on the avenue between Enghelab (Revolution) Square and Azadi (Freedom) Square in central Tehran. Side by side we walked in a crowd later estimated at over two million people, an Iran that had arisen to protest the theft of ballots.

Seldom have dignity and indignation coalesced in such resolve as on that Monday, June 15. Where is the 63 percent? asked one banner. I turned to Negar. There has been a big cheat, she said. We were hoping that after 30 years we might have a little choice.

Negar smiled and was gone — forever I thought.

Nine months have since passed, time enough to birth the largest popular protest movement in the Middle East, time enough for killings and mass arrests, time enough for hope to surge and recede, and time enough for many who were not there last June to opine that the protesting crowd was smaller or that Ahmadinejad’s triumph genuine.

Sometimes you have to smell the truth, breathe it. Heydari lived it. Something was rotten then in the state of Iran. It still is. A historic mistake was made. It gnaws at the Islamic Republic’s core. The crowd has dispersed but not changed.

That dispersal has been hard. I’d like to talk about Negar’s nine-month odyssey. There’s been time enough, too, for the upending of lives.

Iran chatter gets very abstract, all those words molded around so much opacity, theories mushrooming in inverse proportion to facts. Bombing Iran can begin to sound like a decision with all the moment of going down to Chinatown for lunch. Put the words nuclear and Iran together often enough and the notion the place is atomically armed (it’s not) self-propagates.

But after Iraq we should be very careful, try to stick to what we know, not what we imagine or is fear-mongered. Here’s something I know. Iran is full of people like Negar. She’s 32, a movie editor. She hates the regime. She doesn’t want her country to be attacked, a return to the wailing sirens of the Iran-Iraq war of her youth (in which Israel supported Iran.)

Negar contacted me the other day from a town in central Turkey. She lives there in limbo as her application for refugee status is processed by a U.N. agency. Her story returned me to the road from Revolution to Freedom.

It’s just an ordinary Iranian story — of waste.

On July 17, 2009, she was in a protesting crowd when security agents grabbed her, rammed her head into a water channel, broke her hand. Her camera and bag were taken. I knew they would come for me.

She managed to get her passport renewed, flew to Istanbul, and decided to seek asylum in Britain. Her parents borrowed money and she paid $10,000 for a fake Italian passport. The people-smuggler said she should travel to Nairobi, and from there to London: That way she’d look like a tourist.

So Negar headed for Africa, spent four days wandering Nairobi — and was arrested at the airport. Deportation to Iran loomed. No, said Negar, a convinced atheist, they might kill me. She was put on a plane back to Istanbul via Dubai.

In Dubai, the authorities wanted to deport her to Iran. She prevailed again and proceeded to Turkey, where she was detained and held for five weeks. Under the terms of her release she had to move to central Turkey to await the result of her refugee application.

History’s whirlwind got her.

Negar’s heart is in Iran. It was a great moment, changes came, she told me. People are motivated, this stupidity cannot continue. Before we were hidden, now we have found each other. The day I met you was incredible, so much serenity. I realized: Iranians care about their destiny.

Negar now wants to come to the United States, pending the new Iran she considers inevitable. I asked why. Because there I can be the way I am.

Negar does not want her country bombed. It would be a big, big mistake. All Iranians would unite in anger.

Her own government stifled Negar’s voice. But the world must listen. It’s her country after all — and the ballot-counting Heydari’s.

(Zoon Politikon)


Google Closes Its Mainland China Service

Google China closes its mainland China search service and moves it to Hong Kong (The Guardian).

W. Post: Google announced Monday that it would stop censoring search results on its site in China, forcing authorities in Beijing to decide whether they are willing to forsake one of the most important tools of modern technology so that they can maintain their iron grip over the flow of information.

In negotiations with Chinese authorities over the past two months, Google had tried to determine whether it could operate an unfiltered search engine in China under the country's laws. But Chinese officials, the company said Monday, made it crystal clear . . . that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.

As a result, Google has made what analysts described as a shrewd but risky business decision -- to redirect users in mainland China to its search engine based in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China that operates its own economic and political systems. The company described the move as a sensible solution.

This move is entirely legal by Chinese law and Hong Kong law, and that is important to know: that we are abiding by the law, a source at Google said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Still, the decision puts the Internet search giant, which has a huge financial stake in China, on a collision course with Beijing. Despite Google's intention to keep some of its business operations in China, the government there could shut it down, block all of its sites or even take action against some of its 700 employees there.

That concern was evident in Google's announcement Monday, which stressed that all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them.

The move drew a quick and angry response in Beijing, where an unnamed government official said that the Chinese had been patient with Google but that the company had nonetheless violated its written promise to censor search results, according to the state-run New China News Service.

We're uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations, said the official, a spokesman for the office of the State Council, China's cabinet.

As of Tuesday morning in Beijing, China had started blocking results for sensitive searches on Google's Hong Kong-based site, Google.com.hk. Searches for sensitive subjects such as the banned spiritual sect Falun Gong or Tiananmen 64 -- shorthand for the June 4, 1989, crackdown on student-led protests in Beijing -- produced a blank screen or an error message. Earlier in the morning, results were generated but the links were blocked.

Google and the Chinese government have clashed repeatedly over the past year. China blocked one of Google's sites, YouTube, last March in an apparent attempt to stop people in China from viewing videos of anti-government protests by Tibetans and Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group in China's northwest Xinjiang region.

In June, after the government accused Google of making pornography available on the Internet in China, company officials were hauled in to explain. Then in December, the firm said its computer system had been the target of sophisticated attacks originating in China.

The attacks, combined with further attempts to limit free speech in China, led Google to to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on google.cn, David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, said in a post on the company's blog Monday.

Internet users in China can, with some effort, get around what is known as the Great Firewall. But government barriers have prevented tens of millions of mainland Chinese from seeing vast segments of cyberspace. Chinese in Hong Kong -- beneficiaries of Beijing's one country, two systems policy -- have had access to unfiltered results.

Google's decision Monday, some experts said, threatens to reveal to mainland Chinese that the government has effectively operated a parallel set of unequal Internet universes.

If China allows sensitive queries to go through, mainland Chinese users are going to find out that there are Chinese who are part of China who have a freer Internet than they do, said James Mulvenon, an expert on the Chinese military and cyberspace and director of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis at Defense Group Inc.

The spokesman for China's State Council said that officials had met with Google representatives twice since January. Google, in its statement detailing its decision, acknowledged the difficulty of figuring out how it would stop censoring results.

Rebecca MacKinnon, a China expert and visiting fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, suggested that Google knew that negotiations with China would be unsuccessful but that they were necessary.

If Google had stopped censoring immediately, it undoubtedly would have exposed its Chinese employees to an immediate threat of retribution.

So what they did instead was to enter into negotiations with the Chinese government to operate as an uncensored search engine in China, she said. They asked and were rejected, but they had to go through that process.

Human rights groups hailed Google's decision to stop self-censoring, casting it as an important challenge to the Chinese government's censorship system.

As a practical matter, it means that they may have to leave, but they're going to force the government to choose between an uncensored search engine and kicking Google out, said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch.

Observers have suggested that Google's fate in China could have implications for other U.S.-based companies, especially at a time of heightened tensions between the government and the Western business community.

For now, the Chinese have insisted that Google's case will not affect the investment environment in China. Microsoft, among the U.S.-based tech firms with extensive operations in China, said it has no plans to halt operations there. We appreciate that different companies may make different decisions based on their own experiences and views, spokeswoman Kim Kuresman said in a statement.

The Obama administration said Monday that it was disappointed that Google and China were not able to reach an agreement that would have allowed the search engine to operate its services in mainland China through Google.cn. But Mike Hammer, spokesman for President Obama's National Security Council, said the White House respected Google's decision.

We have previously raised our concerns about this issue directly with the Chinese government, Hammer said in a statement. As both President Obama and Secretary [of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton have stressed on several occasions, we are committed to internet freedom and are opposed to censorship.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Hip-Hop Subway, Waiting for Passengers

Bucharest subway system has very elegant cars for most of the lines. Old cars were nevertheless kept for two lines. They adopted the Hip-Hop & Rap genres and so, if you have a ride, let's say, towards Anghel Saligny (as I had today), you feel a touch of Philadelphia.

Rio Hau Hau

At the outskirts of Bucharest

(a long lost good friend of mine was living in Catelu and taught me once that the actual name was Rio Hau Hau... we all were so young... and life is so great when you are young... )

Haaretz about Perception of Obama in Israel

According to a Haaretz-Dialog poll, some 27% of Israelis believe US President Obama is Anti-Semitic, while 56% believe he is not.

Says Yossi Verter, on the whole, Obama's popularity may be declining in American public opinion, but a sweeping majority of Israelis think his treatment of this country is friendly and fair.

(Zoon Politikon)

Lilly Rivlin: The Tribe (1983)

An old photo, dated 1983: 2,500 Rivlin family members from around the world attended a reunion in Jerusalem where some of them had lived for 200 years since their arrival from Shklov in Eastern Europe. Lilly Rivlin made a touching movie: documenting the coming together of the Rivlins, exploring their lineage and meditating about their destiny and Jerusalem.

Said Matty Meged, if you study the Rivlin family you understand the genealogical reckonings of Genesis.

A new reunion of the tribe is planned to take place soon.

Here is the trailer of the movie:

(Lilly Rivlin)