Posts Tagged ‘Cinema’

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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Teaser 3

 

So I finally got around to launching my Society6 store a few days ago. Hurray!

Recently I launched my 12th t-shirt with Mlabbas, the Tah Smiley tee, that you can see on the lower right of the above snapshot from Society6, so I realized it was time to go online; and hopefully beyond Amman, Jordan.

No, I am not swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck ;-})

With each new line I draw I learn more about myself as an illustrator. The illustrations that I’ve uploaded are the pieces that I think are good in terms of themes and execution.

Teaser 4

Society6 allows anyone to purchase my posters/prints/tshirts with the push of a botton – okay, now I am bordering on shameless self-promotion, which is in a way the objective of this blog.

I will soon get back to fighting crime; I promise ;-})

Until then … to visit my Society6 store just click on this blue … I mean red … magical link: http://www.society6.com/SardineArt

Good day all …

Sardine a.k.a Mike V. Derderian a.k.a A Brick in The Head 

2014

 

I haven’t written a movie review, or a blog post for that matter, in ages.

So here is a short one!

It would be great to do a comparative study of Kasabian’s Empire (2006) and The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tony Richardson (1968).

 

Empire’s color, light and texture is so reminiscent of the 1960s cinematography and the grainy texture that can be attributed to the manner by which a film stock is developed.

Both films, the music video and the motion picture, also present a case study of the lives of generals and soldiers in that era, in 1854, and of course the overall futility of war – I am thinking from an existential view point rather than a moral one.

Evil must be fought, however, sometimes those who give the orders are no less evil than the ones they are fighting.

Here is trailer for The Charge of the Light Brigade.

 

Guess this is my way of saying I really love Kasabian, their music and their approach to shooting music videos.

Honorable mention: Vlad The Impaler.

 

I apologize for not posting regularly but I’ve been going through a lot in terms of work and career changes.

I also been listening to more music part of my life as a radio Disc Jockey and news presenter at Radio Jordan’s 96.3 FM, The English Service.

My shows are on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays between 9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Hope you are doing well in this crazy beautiful world that is plagued by blood thirsty idiots.

Good day all …

Mike V. Derderian

Writer & Illustrator

http://www.facebook.com/SardineArt

May 2014

DSC_0072

By Mike V. Derderian

“Ahla we sahla.”

“How are you Sami?”

“Fine. Zaman 3anak. What about you?”

“All is well. Drawing more and more.”

“Have a seat.”

“Thanks mano!”

“So what do you want to drink? How about ginger with lemon? It is quite good!”

This is how Sami Nazer, the owner of WIDE:SCREEN, and my friend greets me every time I pay him a visit. I try not to visit him a lot. Why? I always end up buying a comic book from his impressive and ever growing collection.

DSC_0071

You think this shelf is impressive. Wait until you see what the other shelves hold.

I have been meaning to write this blog post about Sami from a long time. Sami is an amazing friend. Let me give you a short background check about Sami – or at least a background check of what I know best about Sami.

Here we go:

One, he graduated from the American University of Beirut (A.U.B) with a degree in Graphic Design.

Two, he founded WIDE:SCREEN a couple of years ago.

Three, he is extremely cool under pressure.

Four, he is awesome.

Five, he knows his books and films.

Six, he gives great pieces of advice. Pieces of advice that I now listen to; or try to.

Seven, he is into photography.

Eight, he is a year younger from the founders of Samandal, a brilliant artsy comic book anthology that gets published in Lebanon. They went with him to the A.U.B.

9, he is a mean designer.

I met Sami four years ago. I met him when I walked into his place in hopes of selling advertising space for WAW Al Balad during my tenure as Managing Editor. It was sometime around 2009.

Launching WAW Al Balad, and producing it from scratch was an amazing experience – plus having an office in Al Balad Theatre was awesome. I produced four issues before moving on.

Now, back to my dear friend Sami. Sami did not place advertisements of his establishment in WAW Al Balad. Instead he came to the three day Marilyn Monroe screening I held at Al Balad Theatre.

Since I got to know him more Sami printed event posters for me, part of a project I was working on – a project that I am still working on it between jobs; made sure I had my fix of comic books; and remained a good friend, who I like to visit every now and then.

Of course going to his place in Swefieh opposite Al Wakalat Street is not just about buying comics. I really enjoy the conversations we have about design, illustrations, comics, his time at the A.U.B, and my background as an English literature student among many things.

How can you not like a man who gifted you Andy Riley’s The Book of Bunny Suicides when he paid your home a visit? To hell with plants; bottles of wine – I meant grape juice; and sweets. Bring me books.

So the answer is no you can’t. Then again maybe he was sending me some hidden messages.

“Here is a book to give you some ideas Mike!” No, he didn’t say that!

By the way Sami, if you are reading this, I really enjoyed it. Hopefully I will be able to produce something as good. Note to self: Take a bromance photograph with Sami the next time you visit him and post it at the end of this blog post.

At WIDE:SCREEN, and thanks to Sami, I finally got to meet Tank Girl, created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin.

Tank Girl started kicking the world’s ass back in 1988. I was nine years old. Back then I was reading Mickey, Majed, Tarazan, Superman, Batman, Tin Tin , Tin Tin (the magazine), Lucky Luke and The Magic Carpet anthologies (a collection of translated Franco-Belg comics).

tank_girl

Tank Girl is kick ass and totally un-pc. She would  most probably hate 2013. Then again she wasn’t that much into the 90s either.

DSC_0117

I bought all four Tank Girl collections in chronological order. I bought a part every time I finished one.  

I now have the complete re-released anthology. I still have one book to buy. Actually a couple of books come to think of it.

These photographs were taken when Ibraheem Alawamleh and I paid Sami a visit.

I called Sami and told him that Ibraheem and I wanted to pass by for coffee. By the way Ibraheem happens to be a very talented cartoonist. He does crazy cartoon mash-ups with very slick lines.

Once we got there Sami ordered coffee for us and we started talking about comics. As our coffee arrived, a man and a woman entered the place and Sami had to look after them.

Ibraheem and I spent the following minutes going through the titles that Sami had just brought in. Nothing beats talking to another cartoonist about the art of cartooning and good comic books.

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Chew, written by John Layman and illustrated by Rob Guillory, is one of the awesome titles that you can find at Sami’s place. The idea of a detective solving crimes by munching on dea … you know what? Get the book and read it. I never inserted spoilers in my movie reviews and I am not going to start now ;-}) 

The best part about going to WIDE:SCREEN is how Sami allows you to go through the titles he has at ease.Whenever I found myself facing a last copy that was neatly wrapped, Sami without hesitation would tell me to tear through the wrapper.

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If you get to visit Sami make sure you pick up The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, written by Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance), and illustrated by Gabriel Bá. It is one of those comics that you have to read.  

The moment you enter WIDE:SCREEN you will find yourself leafing through titles from different comic book imprints. You will find yourself turning into the same eight year old, who stood facing a kiosk in Down Town Amman, where hard and soft cover comic books were hung on a laundry line to entice potential buyers.

At Sami’s place you will find Japanese, French, British and American comics. A Japanese comic book of course is referred to as Manga.

Nothing beats reading a well-written and a beautifully illustrated French comic book. If it weren’t for Sami’s place I would have never read the beautifully layered The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert; or the surreal You Are There by Jean-claude Forest and Jacques Tardi. My love of French comics dates back to the first time I read Hergé’s Tin Tin, at my cousin’s place. You should try some!

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I am not that into Manga. I cannot say that I have read enough to say I love it or hate, but you can give me Osamu Tezuka, Yoshihiro Tatsomi, Shirow Masmune and Hideshi Hino comics any time of the day. You know what forget that first sentence. I fuckin love it!  

So there we were , three guys  who are into comics, art books and cinema, sharing our thoughts; and here I am sharing with you a friend I so much cherish; a friend who can spend hours talking to you about art, comics, illustration, design and film.

Note to self: Don’t forget the bromance photograph with Sami.
Photographs by Mike V. Derderian (Sardine). 

Tank Girl Cover Art by Jamie Hewlett

Godzilla With IBO

ظهر غودزيلا من سقف السيل. الصراحة العقبة بعيدة والبحر الميت حر كتير. ذهل الجميع! صرخ صاحب كشك موبايلات، “يما! سحلية!” تجاهله غودزيلا و مشى باتجاه الرويال. عالطريق لقط غودزيلا باص كوستر خبط باصبع رجله. شل بخت السواق و المحصل. بصريح العبارة أكلهم! “شوفلك هالبدعة الامريكية التافهة؟” صرخ مثقف واقف عند زاوية في شارع بسمان بيقرأ جريدة صفراء عفنة! سمعه غودزيلا و قال، “يا بهيم أنا ياباني! ياباني! أنا شو ضربني و زرت عمان. خليني ارجع لطوكيو! تكسي!” رفض التكسي يطلع غودزيلا. “يا حبيبي شارع الرينبو بيخرب بلاطات السيارة؟” قال السواق المتباكي. دعس غودزيلا عليه و كملها مشي. يتبع

The above shorter than short story is part of a collection of short stories that I write for my Facebook page Thoughts from Within A Sardine Can (خواطر من داخل علبة سردين) that I started writing a few years ago.

This is the link to my page that is dedicated to writing in Arabic.

http://on.fb.me/16dRjaa

I am quite fond of the Arabic language. I started reading in Arabic before I switched to English during high school. However, I do still read Arabic books that I pick up from Al Jaheth Bookshop (مكتبة الجاحظ) and the Friends Bookshop (مكتبة الاصدقاء), that sells used books; and elsewhere in Down Town Amman (البلد), where I spend a lot of time walking.

I hope you enjoy my humble absurdist writings through which I try to explore the psyche of man and existence.

So why the title GodzillaBig in Amman?

In addition to the obvious homage to Alphaville’s Big in Japan my Big in Amman is an idea for a t-shirt design that I am working on, and that pays homage to Godzilla and the black and white horror B-Movies.

As for the above photo/illustration collage it is from a quick draw that I did when my friend Cartoonist Ibraheem Alawamleh was paying me a visit. Click on his name and you will find yourself at his Facebook page.

We were discussing creating a photo/cartoon collage and this was a quick practice.

Translation:

Can someone tell me where the Luzmila Hospital is? That son of a bitch Mothra bit me … 

By the way if you don’t know your Godzilla you won’t get it ;-})

Thank you for following my blog and for visiting my head in spite of all the mental vomit :-})

Respects and appreciation …

Mike V. Derderian,
A Homo sapien, a writer, a comic artist and a fierce windmill slayer trying to get a hold of a banana in a world governed by apes …

After putting the finishing touches on a cockroach I was illustrating for a poster I realized that I had to head out to the Royal Film Commission’ Filmhouse. It was almost eight o’clock. I was running late. Still, I went on foot; it was a great evening for a walk in Rainbow Street. When I saw Nadine Toukan in the street I felt good as it meant they still haven’t started screening When Monaliza Smiled, the latest feature length film by Fadi G. Haddad, produced by the RFC, Nadia Eliwat and Toukan.

This was one film I did not want to miss. I don’t know why! Call it a gut feeling. I quickly spied a seat close to the screen. It was anything from a private screening. The place was packed with a lot of familiar faces but I was no longer in the mood to be familiar.

The moment the funny and unexpected prologue of When Monaliza Smiled ended and the audience and I found ourselves in a modern day Amman, where a shy woman who goes by the name Monaliza lives, I realized this is going to be an enjoyable piece of cinema.

This was a few weeks ago.

Tonight I decided it was time to express my love for this beautifully made film with a blog post/review that I was supposed to write directly after the screening.

What happened? Upon returning home I found myself illustrating a minimal poster that came to my mind halfway through the film and that I finished the following day. The poster that you see in this blog post is my way of showing how much I loved When Monaliza Smiled. Anything that inspires you to produce a visual or written statement is good and this romantic comedy is beyond good.

To say Haddad’s film will teach us, Jordanians, how to smile is a naive statement. We know how to smile but we don’t smile as often as we should and you can thank our esteemed Jordanian government for that. My statement will probably come out as naive too but When Monaliza Smiled celebrates life and is in a way Haddad’s Cinema Paradiso.

I say Cinema Paradiso because every single frame, piece of dialogue, character behavior and plot twist reveals Haddad’s passion for cinema especially in the more fantastical moments that unfold in When Monaliza Smiled.

This Jordanian feature film celebrates the breaking of the inane social norms that govern our lives; it celebrates coexistence; it celebrates compassion; it celebrates humor; and it does all this as it tears down racial prejudice; religious prejudice, and most important of all the thunderous hallow figures of authority and power.

Haddad writes real people and the characters in his film are as real as it gets. Other characters in his film are a balance of reality and cliched stereotypes like the Armenian photographer. The moment Haddad told me in an e-mail that there was an Armenian photographer character I told him, “Hope you didn’t go for the cliched Ana/Inti typecasting of Armenians ;-})”

“Actually it is the stererotype ana/enti armenian dude. Lol! But it is intentional the whole film kinda plays around stereotypes. That is somehow the point of the film. I hope that doesn’t offend the Armenian community! :S” he replied back.

Well it didn’t offend this Armenian. Funnily it made me proud because it was a bold statement reminding the world that photography in Jordan was pioneered by my ancestors, and Haddad paid homage to that. My grandfather and father are photographers who spent their lives capturing faces and moments in time at Photo Paramount, a photography studio that used to exist between Jabri and Al Qudus restaurant.

Watching how that poor photographer (Nabil Koni) tried to make the mild mannered Monaliza (Tahani Salim) smile took back me to how my father used to position the faces of people in his studio, asking them to reveal their set of pearls, sometimes to no avail.

Plus Haddad wrote some cliched Jordanian stereotypes like the governmental employee, Nayfeh (an amazing Nadera Omran), who is very real and gives other hardworking government employees their bad reputation.

A good comedian pokes fun at himself and this is what Haddad did as a filmmaker; he placed a magnifying glass on a large section of our society; on us.

Eliwat, the producer, asked anyone who will be writing about their film not to give away important plotlines so in short and not wanting to spoil the film that is slated for commercial distribution here is the synopsis that you will find on the Facebook page, “WHEN MONALIZA SMILED is a romantic comedy about a love story between Jordanian Monaliza, and Egyptian Hamdi, set in present day Amman among a community of nosy stereotypes and quirky characters.”

The writing and dialogue is natural like something you overhear in a bus heading to Abu Nsair or in a traditional restaurant in Down Town Amman. The acting is fluid thanks to a good casting call. There isn’t a single miscast actor or actress in this film.

Shady Khalaf as Hamdi gives a brilliant powerful performance as the Egyptian underdog, who is struggling to make a living in Jordan. Through Hamdi’s character Haddad sheds light on an issue that is seldom tackled on screen or in news reports and which is the lives of Egyptian citizens in our country.

Haifa AlAgha as Afaf, the overprotective sister of Monaliza, gave out a sincere performance that bordered on psychosis. Suha Najjar, who played the neighborhood’s foxy lady Rodayna, boldly reminded us why we should never judge a book by its cover or in the case of Homo sapiens a human by its skin.

Tahani Salim’s Monaliza characterization was fun to watch especially with her awkward disposition and inability to smile. Creating a central character who is unable to smile even though her name is synonymous with the act of smiling and putting that character through a series of circumstances, one of which is the Jordanian society, and that are beyond her control like falling in love was brilliant.

Fuad Al Shomali, who zealously played the role of Abu Sara, Monaliza’s work supervisor, at the end of the screening said that “Fadi had a beautiful eye and knows what he wants with every scene.” He was 100 percent correct and Samer Al Nemri’s cinematography most certainly had something to do with that.

The color tints were delicious and fresh giving the film a dream-like sequence quality that was accentuated by the score. When Monaliza Smiled is a happy film and it will make you feel happy as films should at times.

What is left to say about this lovely piece of Jordanian cinema I will say to Fadi G. Haddad sounding like a cliched Armenian character in a celluloid world: Fadi G. Haddad Inti Wahda Shatra!

Bravo to you and to everyone who worked on this piece of cinema that won’t be forgotten long after the credits rolled.

By Mike V. Derderian

Written for On Campus‘ 2011 December issue

Writer’s Note: With all the fanaticism out nowadays I wanted to share with you what I think of this amazing movie that decries religious fanaticism in favor of a humanitarian approach to life.  

Lebanon will be submitting it to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards in 2012; it premiered in Cannes Film Festival section Un Certain Regard and won the Cadillac People’s Choice Award in the Toronto International Film Festival this year, so will anything I write about Nadine Labaki’s masterpiece, O’ Hala La Wein? (And Where Do We Go Now?), add to this amazing piece of cinema?

I just said masterpiece and amazing so that must tell you something.

O’ Hala La Wein? stars Claude Moussawbaa, Layla Hakim, Antoinette Noufily, Yvonne Maalouf, Adel Karam and Nadine Labaki as Amal, a Christian woman who has feelings for a Muslim man Rabih (Julian Farhat), both of whom live in a secluded village inhabited by Christians and Muslims.

This 110 minute cinematic caramel sticks to one’s mouth long after the credits end. Every word of dialogue spoken resonates like a gunshot, every single body gesture shakes the earth upon which it stands within the frame of the camera, and every scene takes you to the other with a flow that matches that of a river.

Not a single frame is a waste; you just sit there waiting for the next epiphany to come out of the mouths of the village elders and youngsters.

To say that this film that titillates the imagination and astounds the heart with the bravery with which Labaki attacks sectarianism—a better verb would be maul—is faultless might be deemed an overstatement by some but it is; it is faultless, enjoyable and most of all memorable.

Labaki leaves no stone unturned: Sectarianism, religion, war, sexism, brainwashing, drugs and love. She takes all of the above and blends it into a well constructed work of cinema that will be much talked about and inspire future generations of young filmmakers.

Viewers will find themselves fully immersed in the lives of villagers living in this out of time and out of place Lebanese village that can only be reached by going through a land mine and a narrow passage over a deep ravine.

How do they survive in such a secluded village? Everyone sends their produce of vegetables and homemade products like conserves with Naseem and Rowkus, the village’s chivalrous errand boys, who ride out into the unknown on their tricycle. They also bring back the villagers their supplies of cigarettes, newspaper, pantyhoses and hair coloring products.

The women of the village, along with Amal, who owns a café, try hard to keep the men in the dark so as to keep the embers of sectarian strife away. They, Muslims and Christians, are at peace with each other, unlike the men, who are constantly looking for an excuse to bludgeon each other.

Mild spoiler ahead!

The lengths that these women, from both sides, many of which are widowed, and have lost loved ones to sectarian violence, go to preserve peace are immeasurable: They fabricate a religious miracle, bring Ukranian showgirls to preoccupy the men’s minds and even resort to drugs. They even sabotaged the village television set that the Naseem, Rawkus with the help of other boys fixed and readied for village evenings, cut the radio wires and started burning the newspapers.

These moments of feminine solidarity and attempts to stay in the past without touching on the present remind us of Wolfgang Becker’s 2003 Good Bye Lenin! in which a young man tries to keep his mother, who just woke up from a prolonged coma, under the illusion that her East Germany is still strong so as to not traumatize her.

A few minutes into the film that started with a very strong scene –will leave that for you to find out—the lovelorn Amal and Rabih perform an imaginary tango in their heads that reflects their yearning and inability to connect because of their religious difference.

Listening to Khaled Mouzannar original music one cannot but drift away especially with the sing and dance scenes that are reminiscent of great Hollywood musicals in the vein of Carol Reeds’ 1968 Oliver.

Christophe Offenstein’s lush cinematography and the natural acting of the cast, a well balanced blend of comedy and tragedy, accentuate the story written by Labaki, Thomas Bidegain and Rodney Al Haddid.

Of course religious fanatics from both sides of the fences will have a bitter after taste from Labaki’s in-your-face moralization and that comes out as a condemnation of the process of politicizing religion more than religion itself.

In simple Where O’ Hala La Wein? deserves to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Great job Nadine Labaki and everyone who worked on this unforgettable film!

Must-See-Scene: 

A mental tango that takes place in the head of two people, who cannot touch or speak out their love in public, is but one scene that will blow your mind with the smoothness with which it runs on the screen.

Nadine Labaki and Julian Farhat break into the sensual dance at her café where he is helping her paint and renovate. He is a Muslim and she is a Christian and sparks are bound to happen and I am not talking love sparks.

Will love conquer all? O’ Hala La Wein? opens with a visually strong scene and ends with a stronger one that will turn your mind around; or so Labaki hopes after you watch her film.

It is packed with scenes that are worth watching: Scenes of villagers watching a newly connected television set while women try to drown the news of sectarian strife by picking up a fight, scenes of a clergy and a man of the cloth who find harmony in order to save their village.

Yet another spoiler ahead!

My favorite scene is the one in which the women decide to bake drugs into food so that they can intoxicate their men into religious coexistence.

Labaki and the female cast break into a jolly sing along that sarcastically glorifying yet another ancient weapon: Drugs. Composed by Labaki’s brilliant composer, Khaled Mouzanar the film’s original music is being lauded by everyone who watched the film. Just try to watch it at the movies!

Most Memorable Line:

Yep! This month’s Cutting Celluloid is dedicated to one of the best Arabian films you will ever see.

Nadine Labaki’s brilliant film comes out as a bitter-sweet morality play that rips sectarianism apart as it did to Beirut times and again. You will leave the theatre remembering every single word of dialogue that reminds you of your one week long stay in Beirut, where cussing is like saying hello.

The Lebanese people aren’t shy about cussing, and neither are some of the first time actresses in this movie. To be honest that’s an aspect I very much admire as it is very real and reflective of life.

Upon realizing that their village will fall into the clutches of sectarianism the women of the village resort to sex to preoccupy their men. Spoiler ahead! Sex has been the weapon of both genders since the dawn of man and the women of the village very well know that so they end up asking Rawkus and Naseem to hire the services of Ukrainian showgirls to the chagrin of the Mayor’s hot tempered wife Yvonne (Yvonne Maalouf).

The following line spoken when Afaf, the village women and the Ukrainian showgirls take a swim in the village’s water reservoir is but one of hundreds spoken throughout the duration of this beautiful film.

She is poking fun at the skeletal frames of the European women, who start to empathize with the women’s ordeal.

Cast:

Laila Hakim … Afaf

Dialogue:

Afaf :

The smallest breast in our village would feed half of Ukraine!

P.S: In addition to writing the Cutting Celluloid page for On Campus Magazine Mike (ana/I/moi/yes) is also the writer of Go Out and Go Home pages for Go Magazine. He has been reviewing cinema professionally since 2002 through Cinerama, a movie column that he wrote for The Star Weekly until 2009. It all started when his mother found the ideal babysitter for him: Films, both technicolor and black and white, on television.