Hello all.

2015 is upon us like a Shakespearean mist enveloping my city, Amman, in the month of January.

The following words that you will read in script format are part of a project that was never to be for many reasons. I hope you enjoy reading them.

They are part of my attempts of dreaming big and yet failing to bring these dreams full circle; I won’t disclose the circumstances that led to this failure, however, I acknowledge that my biggest failure in the past two years was helping others fulfill their own dreams neglecting my own.

Time to move on and forward.

Sardine, a.k.a, Mike V. Derderian, or the man behind the Brick in the Head dashboard

2015

 

Chapter One: 1911 – 1920

The Ottoman Empire

EXT. DESERT – Day

 

Prologue:

What came before that shot?

A bright horizon gives silhouette to erected enormous tents. A group of heavily armed men just arrived. A dignified bearded man dismounts from his camel.

The shot that shaped this piece of sacred earth.

 

The bearded man’s back is to the crowd. He reaches down to a handgun strapped around his waist in an embroidered gun holster.

The shot that united them all under one flag and turned them all into brothers.

He opens the pistol. There are no bullets in the chamber. He turns around and gestures to one of his men; a broad shouldered Bedouin.

 

The shot whose symbolic echo was far louder than the actual one.

The broad shouldered Bedouin, who was talking to a group of tough looking men, walks towards the bearded old man.

The shot that ricochets to this day.

The old man is locking the gun. He turns around scanning everything in sight: The tents, the mud houses, the camels, the horses, the men and the women, and the children, who are playfully running around. He eventually fixes his eyes at his man.

 

The Bearded Man, Sharif Hussein bin Ali:

“I don’t seem to have any bullets left? Hassan! Go ask Hamed for a couple of bullets.”

Hassan:

“But I have bullets with me my lord!”

The Bearded Man, Sharif Hussein bin Ali

“If he tells you that he hasn’t any tell him the Sharif knows.”

Hassan:

“Very well my lord!”

Hassan runs off and disappears amidst a sea of white, gray and black fabric – the attire of the converging Bedouins come out like extensive waves of fabric through which children can be seen playing.

The serenity is broken with a crescendo of shouts. Two men drag a third and throw him in the middle of a circle of men.

Man 3:

Please don’t. I only did because I had to feed my family. You would have all done the same.

Man 1:

Sell us all to the Turks for a couple of golden coins! You will die for this. Your family will not bear the brunt of your treachery. They will be taken care of.

The second man pulls out a pistol and shoots the man, the collaborator, in the head to the cheering of the crowd. Someone throws a cloth over the dead man. Everyone gets back to doing what they are doing.

Two kids approach the body and try to take a look. Hassan angrily chides them. They run away.

Hassan (to himself):

You are too young to stare death in the eye. You will in time.

Sharif Hussein bin Ali stood from afar watching. He was waiting for Hassan to return with the bullet.

Hassan:

“Here you go sir. He gave me 20 bullets.”

The Bearded Man, Sharif Hussein bin Ali:

“I only need one.”

Hassan:

“But how did you know!”

The Bearded Man, Sharif Hussein bin Ali:

“Yesterday, I saw him bag two ammunition belts from a dead man. We need every bullet to succeed. Ask the men to converge. It is time.”

The Sharif takes the bullet and slides it into the pistol’s chamber. He approaches an elevated makeshift platform.

The Bearded Man, Sharif Hussein bin Ali:

“People of Ma’an, do you know why we are gathered here? Today, we will write with our own blood as ink new sentences into the book of history. Let this shot be our shout to freedom. Remember it well and tell your children so that they in turn tell their children about it.”

The Sharif draws his pistol and fires it in the air. The crowd cheers as the Sharif and his men head to his camel. He and his men ride out of Ma’an and into the horizon of a red sunrise.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

1985

On route to Damas

EXT. A Bustling CITY. It is midday. American MUSCLE CARS, that travel the Damascus and Beirut route, line the sides of the renowned Abdali Street.

Old travel agencies are everywhere.

A thick mustachioed MAN can be seen leaning over cars that come in proximity to the parked travel cars. He comes too close to a TAXI that was slowly approaching an old and poorly furnished travel agency.

Man:

Syria! Beirut! Do you need a car?

The YOUNG PASSENGER hesitated for a second before nodding. The man smiled as he gestured to the taxi DRIVER to pull over.

Narrator: 

Nothing would prepare Ismail to what he and others in the Arab world will experience in 20 years.

Not even the most skilled coffee cup soothsayers saw it within the coagulating black trails.

I did not see it coming. No one will see it coming.

When it comes everyone will see it, feel it and live it.

The man quickly tried to pry the passenger away from his suitcase and backpack but he couldn’t. The young man, Ismail, dropped the suitcase in the trunk.

Man:

Give me your passport!

Ismail:

Wait a minute. It is in my backpack. Here you go.

The man quickly runs to the office. In the meantime Ismail decides to buy a falafel sandwich for the road. He peeks into the oil basin where FALAFEL DISCS bubble into a crisp.

The Falafel VENDOR picks up three discs that he smashes inside a half-folded circular BREAD sheet. He quickly, and quite elegantly, twirls the sandwich inside a perfect paper wrap, before slipping it into a YELLOW plastic BAG.

Ismail:

Thank you.

He heads to the parked DODGE and places his backpack at the right side of the backseat. He stands next to the door.

Ismail:

God I am tired. I cannot wait for the driver to take off. I miss Damascus. I just wish …

The man and the DRIVER, a burly fellow, dressed in a pair of dark jeans and an unbuttoned brown shirt, approach the car with a young woman. Distracted by her beautiful features Ismail did not notice the TWO MEN who slipped into the front seat.

The Driver:

Time to head out! You guys have to sit in the back. Come on.

MAN 1:

But we came first!

The Driver:

Would you want your sister to sit next to stranger? Come on, to the back.

MAN 2:

As my friend said we came first. We already told your office we want the backseats.

The Driver (rather angrily):

It is my car; my rules. Do you want to get to the Syrian border before 11 or do you want to stay here?

Both men give in and head back to backseat and sit next to Ismail, who made sure he is sitting next to the window.

Narrative Box:

Like a beast running through the open plains. The Dodge roared its way into the Jordanian checkpoint. Two hours later it was parked next to a Hafez Al Assad statue.

EXT. DODGE parked in front of the statue.

INT. Inside the DODGE.

Man 1:

Do you always drive at 110 miles per hour?

The WOMAN:

What’s all this commotion? Why are we waiting in line? We’ve been stuck here for the past 20 minutes.

The Driver:

It seems they caught a water tank that was attempting to smuggle three men into Jordan.

Ismail:

If they caught them then why haven’t they moved the tanker?

The Driver:

They all died. They suffocated from the unbearable heat and no one is daring to go inside the tank.

The Woman:

Such a sad fate!

Ismail:

A fate that you only read in passages taken from a tragic Palestinian novels!

The Woman:

How deep! Are you studying in Syria? You look like a student.

Before Ismail can answer the woman, and to his dismay, the Driver growls.

The Driver:

Alright! Everyone out of the car! Grab your passports and get them stamped. See you all in a bit. Give me your passport Miss Serene. You can stay in the car until they call your name.

The Woman:

No I will come with you.

INT.PASSPORTS BUILDING

It is gray and decrepit. The glass windows are stained. Its corners are covered with FLIES. PASSENGERS, DRIVERS and ARMY and SECURITY PERSONNEL fill the place.

Narrative Box:

Cascading rivers of black cover the whiteness of her shoulders. She is a goddess traveling with a band of mortals. Her glances pierce throw the most gilded of armors.

INT. Ismail is leaning on the queue rail. He is standing next to the two men, who are traveling with them. To his opposite is the woman.

INT. Passports BOOTH. An officer approaches the glass and starts addressing the crowd.

 Ismail:

Finally! I am going to see my lovely Sham!

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

2001

Joha’s Nail

Ext. A busy street in Beirut’s Al Hamra St. The BUILDINGS are alive. Women and men are going in and out of their balconies. Some women are hanging wet clothes on laundry lines. Some are sitting drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.

Narration Box:

It is 2001. In a couple of hours an event with cataclysmic effects will sweep through the United States of America and then the Middle East.

Lives will be affected and changed.

Anyone who has read The Prophecies of Nostradamus will know what just happened.

Having gone through a dying empire, a foreign occupation, a Civil War and Zionist aggression the Lebanese, of all Arab people, learned how to live.

INT. In a different neighborhood an old looking CAFÉ is filled with elderly gentlemen and young men, who are playing CARDS, smoking HOOKAH and drinking COFFEE and TEA.

A television hanging by a metallic extension from the wall is playing Um Kholthom.

All is quiet until the BUSBOY rushes to the television and changes the channel. He is quite nervous. Once he finds the channel he raises the volume. Everyone at the café is now listening to the NEWS ANCHOR.

NEWS ANCHOR:

Two planes just crashed into the Two Towers, or what is known in the financial world as The World Trade Center Buildings, in New York.

A moment of silence follows before a MAN wearing Glasses yells “Allah Akbar.”

Man wearing glasses:

Allah Akbar ya shabab! Finally someone gave those Americans a taste of their own medicine.

Other men join in and shout “Allah Akbar.”

An OLD MAN sitting at a far corner does not join the crowd in their cheers and congratulatory hugs. In front of him are stacks of RUSSIAN LITERATURE BOOKS and some POSTERS in A4 format.

Narration box:

Hakim suddenly remembered how the men and women of their time cheered whenever an operation against the Israelis proved to be a success.

If he learned anything over the years it is that politics, foreign politics, is like quicksand. Every time his people attempted a move it sunk their bodies deeper into the sand.

Hakim:

Cheer as much as you want. The powers that be will turn this victory into a victory of their own.

He looks around with sad eyes. He feels sorry for them. He then takes a look at his watch. He is expecting someone.

Hakim:

Fools! Do you ever learn! Our fight is no longer a fight of the gun it is a fight of knowledge. Haven’t you heard of Joha’s nail! Where is that journalist?

At that moment a young man carrying a BAG filled with PAPER rushes into the loud café. He looks distressed.

Young man:

Hello sir. I am sorry I am late. Everyone has gone mad over the Twin Tower bombing. I just got a call from my editor asking me to report to the office. I told him I have to meet you first.

Hakim:

It is okay Ismail. I am sure this will enrich our conversation about the Palestinian resistance and my involvement. Different times; different weapons! Tell me have you heard of Joha’s nail?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Where Art Thou My Beautiful Sham

EXT. CUSTOMS BUILDING. JORDANIAN BORDER: JABER – NASEEB border. An establishing shot.

INT. Customs Building. The place is filled with anxious PASSENGERS, who are standing in long lines.

Some are shouting. Some are crying. Some are angry.

A man nearing his mid 30s, ISMAIL, pushes his way through a sea of passenger. He clings on to the MARBLE edge of the passports BOOTH. He uses it to leverage himself closer to an OFFICER, who is trying to calm people.

Ismail:

Sidi! Sidi! Sidi! Sidi!

The last Sidi came closer to a shout filled with anguish.

Officer:

What? Why are you shouting?

Ismail:

What do you mean the border is closed?

Officer:

It is closed we just received government orders.

Ismail:

But I have family there. I have to be there today!

Officer:

Sorry. You all have to get back to Amman.

Elderly Woman:

But I have to get back to my family.

Officer:

Sorry Hajeh. There is nothing we can do.

Ismail looks to his left after hearing a WOMAN hold an ELDELRY woman.

Woman:

Don’t worry mother! We will find a way.

Elderly Woman:

There is no God but God. I am going to miss the burial of my dear husband; your father. I am afraid they will bury him without me. I won’t be able to kiss him goodbye. Oh my Ghada!

Woman (Ghada):

We will try to catch a plane to Syria tomorrow. Come on mother. The driver told us to head back to the car.

A younger MAN turns back and talks to the two women with a haughty voice.

Man:

What is the loss of a husband compared to the loss of Syria as a mother? How many of her children died.

Looking at the shocked women Ismail ignored the man.

Man:

What is the death of your husband?

Ismail this time decides to take action.

Ismail:

I don’t think they want to hear what you think about the death of their loved one. Why don’t you remind them of the children of Gaza? They are dying too. Why don’t you shut up and leave them alone.

Man:

And who the hell are you?

Ismail:

A man unlike you! Now shut up before I show you your worth. Leave these ladies alone.

The man glares at Ismail for a minute before he pushes his way out of the line and outside the Customs building.

Ghada:

Thank you!

Ismail:

You are welcome!

Ghada:

You could have gotten into trouble. Everyone is a preacher nowadays.

Ismail:
If there is something I hate: It is those who trade religion and morals. Excuse me!

Ismail re-focuses his attention at the officer and yells.

Ismail:

I just have one question Sidi. Do you think the airspace is open? Can I travel by plane?

Officer:

Do I look like a flight attendant to you? Go back to Amman. You will know.

Ismail (to himself):

Idiot! I cannot believe this is happening. Three hours away from my beloved Sham.

As Ghada held the hand of her mother she couldn’t resist talking to this stranger one more time before heading to the car.

Ghada (to herself):

Come on say something.

Ismail notices how the woman is looking at him.

Ghada:

Good luck with seeing your family. Once again thank you for putting that man in his place.

Ismail:

It was my pleasure. I apologize on behalf of the real men of this world. I hope you reach your father’s funeral in time. I am sorry I just overheard your mother.

Ghada:

Thank you. I hope so too. The world has gone mad. Who would have imagined this happening to Syria?

Ismail:

As they say, “from the rubbles a new city shall rise.”

Ghada:

In Syria’s case it is a question of when will it end before everyone rises from the rubbles to build this new city! I never dreamt of a divided Syria. Hate and death knocking at the gates of Arab unity!

The women’s taxi driver in quick footsteps approaches the ladies.

Taxi Driver:

Miss Ghada and Madame Agha please we need to head back now before the rush.

Ghada:

Good luck again and goodbye.

Ismail:

Goodbye.

Ismail watches as the two women leave the customs building.

Ismail (to himself):

Goodbye Ghada Agha!

He looks at his Jordanian passport and flips one of its pages.

Ismail (reading to himself):

His Majesty The King Of Jordan requests all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely and without let or hindrance, and to afford them every assistance and protection necessary.

Only to those who bear it! Hmm!

A few moments later he realizes he is the last to leave the customs building. The atmosphere is desolate and lethargy governs the motion of everyone within the premises.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Late 2013

Sham

Ext. QASA3 neighborhood in Damascus, Syria. A MORTAR ROUND just landed on a CAR. PEOPLE are running in the streets.

Another explosion rattled adjacent buildings. A lot of windows shattered due to the pressure resulting from the explosion that left TWO vehicles in flame. It was a car bomb.

A WOMAN over forty with beautiful features and body rushes to her house’s balcony; what is left of it.

The woman falls down to her knees as she realizes that her home is torn open.

A MAN, her husband, rushes to the room.

Man:

Fadia. Fadia! Oh my God. Sham was sitting on the balcony with Yosra.

He leaves

Narration box:

The night before Sham dialed an international number. She did not know it would be the last time she talks to the man she fell in love a year ago on the campus of Damascus University’s Dentistry Faculty.

Sham:

I know how hard it is for you to book a flight to Beirut now. I wish to see you.

Ismail:

I know. I am just not sure about the drive from Beirut to Damascus. I haven’t told you but I already booked a ticket for next week.

Sham:

Are you serious? Ismail are you sure you want to come. The flight from Amman to Beirut is rather safe but I am worried about the taxi trip.

Ismail:

I’ve made up my mind. If my idiot government did not close the borders I would be in Damascus with you and all the mortar rounds that are hanging in the skies won’t stop me from taking you to Al Nofara Café in Bahb Thoma! I miss you.

 Sham:

I miss you with every single cell in my body.

Ismail:

Did you set up the Skype account as I told you!

Sham:

Yes!

Ismail:

My father and mother will call your parents tomorrow to ask your hand in marriage. I want to take you away from this madness.

Sham is taken aback by the last sentence. Ismail’s voice faintly echoes through the telephone speaker.

Sham:

I want to be with you more than anything in this burning world but we talked about this.

Ismail:

I know but I want us to be together.

Sham:

Let us talk about this later. In the meantime have you been daydreaming?

Ismail:

Yes and writing too. I am writing a collection of short stories. It is called Sham’s Jasmine.

Sham:

Is it about someone I know!

Ismail:

No! It is about someone I know.

Sham:

Listen it is getting late. I have an early lecture tomorrow. I will call you after the lecture.

Ismail:

Do you have to go to the university? If it is up to me I would lock you in the house.

Sham:

And give what those bastards want? Our lives! I have to graduate this year so I can start a practice. Don’t you want to marry Doctor Sham Jamal?

Ismail:

I do! I do! Very well but you be careful and try to get home as quick as possible.

Sham:

I will. I love you. Good night habibi!

Ismail:

Goodnight.

Narration box:

And that’s how a life in the making ended; with a hopeful note of a better tomorrow. Fate had other plans. A day of mourning was in the making for a lot people in different countries.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Late 2008

The New Iraq

Ext. The SUN is two hours away from setting. Gray BUILDINGS line the BAGHDADI HORIZON. A large dust CLOUD indicates a nearby EXPLOSION.

Narration box:

Baghdad never looked more tired. Car bombs and suicide bombers have spread like blisters on the skin of a leper, who just refuses to die. The city’ gray concrete color comes out as broken skin, and its people are the blood flowing through its vein-like streets.

EXT. An old BUILDING façade reflective of the architecture style of the 70s. A MAN can be seen looking down from one of the building’s windows. He looks rather composed. His name is Masoud Daoud, he is one of the lawyers, who worked in building a case against Saddam. He is talking to his secretary; a woman with distinct handsome Iraqi features.

Masoud:

Not a day passes without a cowardly suicide bombing. What do they benefit from killing people, who just finished praying to Allah? Iraq is heading to nowhere Maram.

Maram:

We cannot lose hope Mr. Daoud. You of all people should feel proud to have been part of Iraq’s liberation.

Masoud:

  What liberation Maram? The tyrant, who many in the Arab world now mourn, is gone but far more vicious monsters have come in his place. Iraq is filled with Hydras and no Hercules.

Narration Box:

They found Saddam Hussein but they haven’t found his cache of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Saddam Hussein, a much feared and loved Arab leader, dictator and executioner, was hanged on Saturday 30th December 2006.

INT. MEN CLAD in BLACK MASKS approach a MAN, whose hands are tied, from behind. SADDAM can be seen with a rope on his neck. His EYES are as brutal as ever.

Narration Box:

It is 2008 and they still haven’t found the excuse that Bush and his administration used to divide and conquer Iraq.

Maram:

You make it sound like you failed sir.

Masoud:

You make it sound like I’ve succeeded. Have you heard of Joha’s nail Maram?

The telephone rings. Maram picks it up.

Maram:

It is Richard from the Green Zone. George Bush has arrived and they’ve requested a meeting with you.

Masoud:

Great! Just what I and Iraq need at the moment: A puppet. How I wish if that shoe hit him in the face! You have to hand it to him the idiot has moves like Jagger!

Maram laughs. She adjusts Masoud’s tie and bids him farewell. He leaves the office. Maram heads towards a rusty filing cabiet and starts sorting out some files.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Late 2008

The New Iraq

Ext. The SUN is two hours away from setting. Gray BUILDINGS line the BAGHDADI HORIZON. A large dust CLOUD indicates a nearby EXPLOSION.

Narration box:

Baghdad never looked more tired. Car bombs and suicide bombers have spread like blisters on the skin of a leper, who just refuses to die. The city’ gray concrete color comes out as broken skin, and its people are the blood flowing through its vein-like streets.

EXT. An old BUILDING façade reflective of the architecture style of the 70s. A MAN can be seen looking down from one of the building’s windows. He looks rather composed. His name is Masoud Daoud, he is one of the lawyers, who worked in building a case against Saddam. He is talking to his secretary; a woman with distinct handsome Iraqi features.

Masoud:

Not a day passes without a cowardly suicide bombing. What do they benefit from killing people, who just finished praying to Allah? Iraq is heading to nowhere Maram.

Maram:

We cannot lose hope Mr. Daoud. You of all people should feel proud to have been part of Iraq’s liberation.

Masoud:

  What liberation Maram? The tyrant, who many in the Arab world now mourn, is gone but far more vicious monsters have come in his place. Iraq is filled with Hydras and no Hercules.

Maram:

You make it sound like you failed sir.

Masoud:

You make it sound like I’ve succeeded. Have you heard of Joha’s nail Maram?

Fin … for now!

Thank you for reading my words.

Once again never help others build their dreams on the expense of your very own dreams.

Sardine, a.k.a, Mike V. Derderian, or the man behind the Brick in the Head dashboard

2015

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