Friday, August 27, 2010

"Amreeka" a National Geographic film

"Amreeka" a film by National Geographic, think Nat'l Geo films and you think documentary, but National Geographic seems to be expanding their film-making, as this is an entertainment film, based on recent historic events.
Cast members include, Nisreen Faour (plays Muna, the lead part), Hiam Abbass (Muna's sister Raghda, she has been in The Lemon Tree and The Syrian Bride) and Yssef Abu Warda (Muna's brother-in-law, a doctor).
Muna's life in the West Bank is filled with anxiety and grief - it takes 2 hours to travel one way to her job, due to the constant security checks crossing out of and into Bethlehem. Her son,Fadi dreams of going to school in America. Her husband has divorced her for a younger, skinnier woman, so when she bumps into her and then her ex, she makes the decision that should it be possible for her to travel to America she will take the chance. Her wildest dream comes true with a letter, inviting her and Fadi to come and stay with her sister Raghda in Indiana. Being naive, and not a world traveler, she innocently packs all her money in a tin, which is confiscated by the U.S. customs agents when she and Fadi land in Chicago. Not wanting her sister and brother-in-law to know this, she immediately embarks upon finding a job. Unfortunatley, their arrival in America coincides with the U.S. Forces storming Iraq (remember the television scenes of the statue of Saddam being brought down?), sentiment is highly against anyone of Middle Eastern background. Nabeel, Muna's brother-in-law, is losing many of his patients due to this, consequently Muna's family now faces economic problems of their own. On the school front, Fadi becomes a target of the anti- Middle Eastern prejudice, Fadi's school counselor befriends Muna, after he discovers her working at the local White Castle fast food place. The last scene in the film revolves around eating in a Middle Eastern restaurant, I could taste the hummus, and smell all the wonderful aromas - and the music left me dancing.
Writer-director, Cherien Dabis, uses family memories depicting what it was like to be in America those first days after the invasion of Iraq.
James and I seem to be watching many films that have a middle eastern tie to them, and the third with Hiam Abbass as part of the cast, and this was yet another enjoyable film.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Syrian Bride" a film by Eran Riklis

"Syrian Bride" a film by Eran Riklis.
James and I watched this film the other evening, by the same director as "The Lemon Tree". Eran, like Atom Egoyan, uses many of the same actors in his films, so many of the faces in this film were still fresh in our minds from "The Lemon Tree".
The bride to be, Mona, will never again be permitted to visit her family in the Golan Heights, nor will she ever be able to leave Syria once married. Mona has yet to meet her groom to be, this being an arranged marriage, as is such the case still in many cultures around the world. Mona has many other circumstances facing her, her father is a recently released political prisoner, by the Israelis, her father does not accept her brother, who has returned with his Russian wife, and their son. The village elders have created all types of situations that will make everyone's life miserable. On what should be the happiest day of her life, poor Mona is not the Happy Bride.
The entire family makes the brief voyage to the border crossing, where due to unforseen events Mona is left standing in "No Man's Land" for the longest time - the Syrians won't accept the stamp on her ID card, the Israelis won't let her leave without it, and the UN agent is sent back and forth trying to work things out, only to be met by a new Syrian who starts the process all over again. With her family on the Israeli side and her husband to be's family on the Syrian side, Mona finally makes a bold decision.
This was another interesting film by Eran, but I prefer "The Lemon Tree" over this one. Perhaps you will find try it, and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Wildflowers of Terezin", a novel by Robert Elmer

Wildflowers of Terezin, written by Robert Elmer.
Robert Elmer's parents, Danish born, used to tell stories of what they remembered of their homeland, Denmark. Using historic accounts of what transpired in Denmark during the Nazi occupation, the author creates a vivid tale of love and horror during that time.
Nurse Hanne Abrahamsen helps shield Lutheran pastor Steffen Petersen from the Gestapo, believing that he is part of the Danish underground, in reality it is his younger brother Henning, who is active in the underground. As the Nazis step up their anti Jewish campaign, the Danish citizens band together to protect their Jewish brethen and foil the Nazi plans.
Would a Lutheran pastor really fall in love with a Jewish nurse? Why not? So goes this story. Hanne and Steffen are about to escape to Sweden on a fishing boat , but their plans have been discovered by the Nazis and they are captured, and separated. Steffen sent to a prison in Copenhagen, while Hanne is sent to the prison camp in Terezin, Czechoslovakia. Steffen is questioned and released, but not forgotten by the Nazis. Steffen finally steps ups and becomes even more active with the underground, and begins volunteering with the Danish Red Cross, in hopes of being able to visit the prison camp to see Hanne.
The author's afterword in this book states that most of the incidents he used in the book did, in fact, occur. Bispeberg Hospital does exist to this day, the incident involving the Jewish Directory did occur. Georg Duckwitz was an actual shipping agent and did warn his Danish friends what was going to happen. The Danish Bishop's speech is word for word accurate. The Danish Red Cross inspection of Terezin did occur. Countless Danish Jews were saved and smuggled out of Denmark by the Danish underground movement, and did use an ambulance, as described in the book, in their smuggling operations.
Hope that you will consider this book. Let me know what your thoughts might be.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Lemon Tree" a film by Eran Riklis

Well, as usual, I was working at the circulation desk returning DVDs, when this little jewel passed through my fingers. Lead actress Hiam Abbass, from the great film "The Visitor", once again performs brilliantly, she won the Israeli Academy Award for Best Actress for this film.
James and I were totally enthralled with this film - to the point that neither one of us moved the entire length of the film.
Based on a true story, Hiam portrays a lonely Palestinian widow, whose son has left to find a better life in America, has only one true companion, her late father's best friend who has, loyally, remained by her side to help her maintain the lemon grove that she inherited from her father. Upheaval to her "quiet" lifestyle occurs when the Israeli Defense Minister and wife move in the house on the other side of the fence barrier - lights, guard tower, secret service men flood the area and take away any semblance of peacefulness in the area. Secret service believe that the lemon grove would be a hiding place for any Palestinian terrorists who might want to kill the Defense Minister, so they order the destruction of the lemon grove. Believing that the widow will just stand by and do nothing, the Israeli judicial system and, eventually the whole world comes to know that she will fight for her lemons and land. Justice is something that Americans really take for granted, this movie brings home the plight of the rest of the world's true experiences with justice.
This film was beautifully photographed, and thoughtfully brought to the screen. Hope you will consider this one, and share it with others.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"The Bolter" a book by Frances Osborne

The Bolter by Frances Osborne, "The story of Idina Sackville, who ran away to become the chief seductress of Kenya's scandalous "Happy Valley set".

As usual, I heard of this book when the author, great-granddaughter of Idina Sackville, was being interviewed by Bob Edwards, one Saturday morning on NPR. Her recounting of Idina's life was absolutely fascinating, so much so, that after her interview was completed, I immediately picked up the phone and called my local bookstore to order a copy.

"Bolters", in 1920's through the 1930's in England's upper society, were married women who "bolted" from, and broke their marriage vows, not caring how conventional society viewed their lack of morals. Idina Sackville was considered to be the most "celebrated of them all."

Idina was married five times, and had countless lovers, more than one can possibly imagine - Hollywood personalities and their affairs are bland in comparison to Idina's!
Most writers of "hot romance" novels would have a hard time coming up with some of the scenarios of her wild sex parties, particularly those at her various homes in Kenya.
As with most of England's upper crust society, Idina "fell" in love with Kenya, she would return to England many times throughout her life, but Kenya always called to her. Her last home was "Clouds" overlooking the great Rift Valley.
This book read like a novel, just couldn't put it down. In addition, I learned quite a bit of history that had been left out of all the history courses I had taken throughout my schooling.
Hope you will consider this book.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Brooklyn" novel by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn, a novel by Colm Toibin.

I had never read anything written by this author before, so I had no idea if I would enjoy his writing or the story, I was pleasantly surprised by the writing and the story.
Starts out in Ireland, in a small town after WWII, Eilis Lacey is a skilled bookkeeper, but jobs in this town are few and far between for her skills. A Brooklyn based Irish priest, Father Flood, convinces Eilis' mother and sister that Eilis' skills would be well used, if she were to travel to Brooklyn, NY. So, with not much say in the matter, Eilis is shipped (literally) off to the New World..... Father Flood is there to meet her when the ship arrives, and proceeds to take her to the boarding house owned and operated by Mrs. Kehoe, from Wexford, Ireland. Mrs. Kehoe has very strict ground rules for her female boarders. Eilis is able to obtain a position at Bartocci's Dept Store, working hard, and proving to her superiors that she is capable, she eventually moves up in the chain. She is encouraged to take further bookkeeping courses at the local college, where she mets Italian (good looking) Tony. After a whirlwind romance the two marry, but this is not going to be happily ever after, as Eilis receives heartbreaking news from her family, so she must return to Ireland, promising Tony to return as soon as she can get things taken care of, however, her family has other plans for her. Trying to keep the peace with her family, Eilis never reveals that she is married, especially to an Italian. Eilis lets her life unravel, to the point that she starts dating a boy she had known before she left for Brooklyn, Jim Farrell, things become very sticky, and Eilis in her heart knows that she must either return to Tony and Brooklyn, or divorce Tony and stay in Ireland. Of course, being Catholic, Eilis has many roadblocks before her.
I enjoyed Colm's writing, his storytelling was very interesting.
Hope you might consider this one. Have placed a hold on one of his other books, hope it will be as enjoyable as this. Other library staff at my branch have read this one, and we have all come away with a positive experience.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Captain Abu Raed" a movie

James and I watched this lovely movie the other evening. What a delightful find going through the delivery boxes at the library. We had never heard of it, so we were totally unprepared for what lay ahead. Also, this is the first Jordanian film we had ever viewed, even after all the years of watching foreign films. We were NOT disappointed, I could watch this many more times.

Basically, Abu Raed an elderly, sad janitor at the airport longs for companionship since his wife has died. Doing his janitorial duties one day, Abu happens upon a discarded airline pilot's hat, and wears it home. On his long walk from his bus stop to his abode, one of the local children notices him with the pilot's hat on, and decides that Abu is an airline pilot. And so a legend is born, if but for a short time. Abu is concerned about the well being of several of the children, two, who along with their mother, are victims of their father's abusive ways. Along the way, Abu develops a wonderful friendship with a young woman, who is from a very wealthy family, and also is a commerical airline pilot. Love comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always romantic.
Watching this film brought back many memories of my childhood in North Africa. Sights, and the sounds of the language came rushing back as if I had just stepped off a plane.
This is one worthy of consideration. Hope you enjoy.