Friday, 7 April 2017

F is for...Fairouz, the gem...and...Films...



is for
Fursa sa'eeda!

- literally 'happy chance' generally used for 'nice meeting you!' And it is - nice meeting you, in whichever language I say it. The A-Z is great for meeting new bloggers and also reconnecting with old friends. Fursa sa'eeda, folks! all who stop by here.


Fairouz!


an absolute icon in the Arab world, beloved across the nations, Fairouz is from Lebanon - here she's performing live at Las Vegas  







Or listen to her sing this golden oldie love song, she's in top form, voice like a cross between velvet and chocolate, ooh! Fairouz means turquoise in Arabic, incidentally...






Films


Because Saudi Arabia does not much dig cinemas, (they banned theatres in the 1980’s there) - therefore, many people have the impression that Arabs are cinephobes. Not so, folks! Arabs are avid consumers of films, they love screen entertainment - the cinemas I’ve been to in Cairo, Dubai and Bahrain run to packed houses regularly. 


But much of the demand for films/entertainment here is met by foreign films. For every screen showing an Arabic film, I’ve noticed another 4-5 English ones. Arabs just don't make many films.


This has puzzled me no end, because they are a super-creative, effusive and expressive people, uber-passionate about art, and with a huge tradition in visual/performing arts and storytelling. Why then, does that not translate to a similar interest, profusion and perfection in moving pictures?


Egypt is the only Arab country where film-making has been consistent for any length of time, but even there the so-called ‘golden age’ is past. More than three quarters of all Arab films ever produced are Egyptian, the total archive of all Arab films is possibly less than 4000. I find this beyond perplexing! (You have to make allowance for me of course, because I come from a culture that makes roughly 800 Bollywood films a year, apart from the very robust numbers of regional language films in Bengali, Tamil, Telegu, etc, so my perspectives are coloured by this)


I’ve been told it has to do with the religious taboo on images, but I don’t really buy that.  That should apply equally to still photographs, and it clearly doesn’t. (Arab work on still photography is as mind boggling as their work anywhere else, believe me!)


Some tell me film-making has suffered from too much regulation, poor funding, inconsistent flip-flops in policies and a lack of distribution. That politics have muscled into studios and thwarted artistic freedom. 


Ennyhoo, be that as it may, this has meant my exposure to Arabic films is more limited than I’d have liked. My initial viewings were basically on the long bus rides from Cairo to Sharm or the Red Sea – usually a film was screened for passenger entertainment. Remarkably similar to the Bollywood formula type was my takeaway – melodramatic, caricature-like characters, loud acting, predictable HEA plotlines, little nuance anywhere.  Not impressed, and more and more baffled. 


Subsequently however, I came across films of independent filmmakers. And some made for exceptionally rich viewing.  

Watch this prize winning short:




or this one which has found its way to the Cannes Festival -



or read about the 10 best Arab films ever, presented there. Click here to read about trail blazing Arab film directors and their acclaimed work. 


Did you know Arabs are fans of a whole swathe of dubbed/subtitled TV entertainment from America, and Turkey? Also films from India? Some of them actually learn Hindi by watching the films and speak it almost fluently!








Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2017 



60 comments:

  1. Love that voice.
    I don't really 'do' films. I often need to stop and think about things, or go back to things... Which means that I can only do films on my own. Books are my preference.
    I think one of the things I learnt after my partner's trips to the ME is that it seems to defy being pigeon-holed into any rigid limits. Immensely flexible, immensely creative, immensely contraditory.
    Another Fantastic A-Z post. Thank you.

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    1. That's my point, exactly! Can't apply one size fits all stereotypes to the Arablands. Immensely creative is what I mostly see, but of course we each see only through the prisms and biases of our own experience.

      I used to be a regular cine-goer at one point of time, a major fan of indie, alternative films. But not much chance to watch those once i moved to the ME, so its kind of petered out. Books have been my first choice of entertainment always since I learnt to read :) Thanks for your support this A-Z, much appreciated!

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  2. Nilanjana, lovely voice there.. thanks for sharing.. I have enjoyed listening to a few singers from the ME and love the songs.. more recently (or a couple of years ago), listened to Alaa Wardi singing Pehla Nasha (am sure you have heard him!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WikcPREx0DM

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    1. I have heard Alaa Wardi singing Hindi songs only. But I believe he has done Arabic as well, have to check those out.. Thanks for the links!

      Fairouz is beyond comparison...I'm a great fan, have been since I heard her first many years ago when I came to the ME.

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  3. F is for fabulous. This post is packed with "enjoyment". Need I remind you were not even half way?

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    1. Thank you Martin, for the morale boost and the support! Much appreciated!

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  4. Intriguing how you connect varying threads in one post.
    http://poojasharmarao.blogspot.in/2017/04/f-fernando-pessoa-inspirational-writers.html

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    1. Not sure that I started out with that intention though :) Thanks for visiting.

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  5. I don't much like Hindi movies. I find them quite silly. Didn't know the Arabic movie industry was almost non-existent. Never gave much thought to the movie worlds of other countries really.
    Happy AtoZing!
    Chicky @ www.mysteriouskaddu.com

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    1. I am not a fan of Bollywood masala...though some great films have been made in recent years without any masala...happy A-Zing to you too!

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  6. I'm not surprised that politics have muscled in on the action and thwarted artistic freedom. Politics forces its company almost everywhere. LOL
    I'm not really a movie person. I prefer books.
    (I haven't been able to listen to any of the music because the speaker plugged into my computer needs to be charged)
    Another great post!
    Thanks, Nila!

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    1. I used to be a film person, but books always take precedence! Is there ever a doubt?? :D

      And yeah, politics forcing its way in everywhere is responsible of many of the messes in our world, not just in art.

      Music is part of every post this A-Z, so you'll be able to listen to some Arabic songs anytime you are here and your speakers are functional :)

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  7. I loved the videos and as always you give so much imformation on your subject making it so interesting to read.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Arabic music I found was great to read A-Z posts to :)) so I've found an excuse to add them in this A-Z..glad you enjoyed the videos

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  8. Hi Nilanjana. I feel like a FOOL on 'F' day for suggesting that I'd take you around Doha to show you 'Arabia' as a reply to your comment on my blog. HA! I say Ha! to myself for being so presumptuous!
    One of my favourite things about living in Doha is the Film festival here. Arab cinema is a treasure chest full of amazingly diverse talents.

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    1. Not at all. Thank you for offering - love seeing any city with a local, nothing like it!

      Totally in agreement with your last statement - indeed a treasure chest and diverse. And it would apply to more than films imho, even more applicable to other artforms.

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  9. I really like your posts.....quite informative....have never seen an Arab film before

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    1. I hadn't either before I came to the ME :)

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  10. Fursa sa'eeda Nilanjana! Thanks yet again for another awesomely informative post. :)
    Moon
    https://aslifehappens60.wordpress.com

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  11. Fursa sa'seeda! as well. Have fun with the challenge.
    My Virtual Vineyard

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  12. I thought you would reserve Fairuz for Q, as in 'Queen'...

    Regarding to films, I think that's changing quickly. At least in Africa, films are, lest's say, trendy. But probably the problem is about distribution. The best Arab films I seen were exhibited in festivals, no ordinary cinemas.

    I'm amazed because here people really don't mind the language of the film, and sometimes even don't bother enough to dub or subtitle films. And if they do, they don't bother which language the subtitles are written in!

    -----
    Eva - Mail Adventures

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    1. Yes agree that best Arab films don't get exposure in the home markets...screened for small select audiences at festivals and private screenings. Number-wise, they are quite tiny still. But encouraging that even among such a small number there are some making waves
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnEd_WSGtWQ

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    2. And I watch/listen to most Arab music w/o any subtitles - minimal understanding of the lyrics :) sometimes none also...Fairouz is an empress of song!

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  13. Replies
    1. Am as baffled as you :) see if you understand -

      http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/24/middleeast/saudi-cinema-haifaa-al-mansour/

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  14. Fascinating as usual. A-Z is a great way to showcase your part of the world; good on you for thinking of doing so!

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    1. A-Z is a great forum indeed. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  15. Interesting insights, especially on theatres. I'm enjoying your Challenge.

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  16. Such a beautiful voice! And I didn't know all that about films there!

    26 Things To Hate About Writing: F is for Fantasy Worlds

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    1. Really Fairouz has a voice truly stunning. Just love her songs totally.

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  17. Very interesting information about Arab films and film-making.

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  18. That's really sad they don't make many films. If it has to do with cost, it must be cheaper to translate foreign films that to make new ones.

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    1. It's a combo of factors - cost is of course a biggie. But I think of the GCC countries for instance, really affluent most of them, if they wanted to invest in films they could do so easily. But as you say, importing and subtitling foreign films work out cheaper.

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  19. They banned theatres in Saudi Arabia? Yikes! That obviously has not put a crimp on creativity through the rest of the Arab world, going by these videos. Fairouz does have a lovely voice. That's quite a reception she got in Vegas!

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    1. No, that's the amazing thing - the diversity and the depth and range of talent here. Fairouz has the voice of an angel! and she's absolutely adored all across Arablands and the diaspora, demographics no bar, all ages, every section of society.

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  20. My mother-in-law has a huge collection of Bollywood films and the few I watched with her were very good. I was one of the few Americans who wasn't confused when the popular Slumdog Millionaire ended with a dance number.

    F is for Fascist Takeover of the US

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    1. All Bollywood films are musicals - song and dance a major thing.Some of the music is quite brilliant too and much attention is given to it, probably more than many other aspects of film-making.

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  21. Fursa sa'eeda has a wonderful meaning. I love learning new words and phrases. :-)

    Cait @ Click's Clan

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    1. Arabic is a very lyrical language. :) I just love listening to the words, even when I don't understand much.

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  22. You are opening doors with this A to Z blog - I'm learning a lot. Fantastic F!

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    1. Thank you. Arabs are people of diverse talents and so rich in history and culture. Such a lot to share. Glad you're enjoying the posts!

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  23. What a lovely voice! And I had no idea ppl enjoyed films so much.

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    1. Indeed, Fairouz is beyond magnificent!

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  24. very interesting that they learn Hindi by watching movies/tv from India. I do the same when I watch German musicals :D

    joy @ The Joyous Living

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    1. Smart learning! :) Watching TV series/films is a great way to hear a language being used in context - I remember one of my teachers recommending a TV series to better my spoken language skills.

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  25. If they've banned cinemas in Saudi Arabia, that might go some way to explaining why there are few films. The producers you showcase here are very brave and should be applauded for pursuing their creativity. Interesting post!

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    1. Saudi is only one nation with a ban on theatres. Their citizens visit the Bahraini cinemas regularly to watch Hollywood films that they otherwise can't see on large screens, they can of course access anything on the net as one of the most plugged in nations.

      Egypt and Lebanon and Syria, where bulk of the Arab film making has happened have never banned cinemas to my knowledge. Of course anyone defying bans in SA has to be very brave indeed, but don't know if anyone has violated this particular one so far. Saudi film makers pursue their art elsewhere, which is a pity!

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  26. It's funny you should mention the Arab love of Indian culture.

    On one of the major TV networks here, which has a blend of Arab and English programming, they often show trailers for Arabic films (most likely Egyptian), and a few of them either take place in 'India' (probably not shot on location) or have a random Bollywood style dance number thrown in where all the characters are in highly stylized (and honestly, borderline offensive) versions of traditional Indian clothing.

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    1. Off topic, but that is exactly why this theme came to my mind! A little inaccuracy in the portrayals of Indians by non-Indian media - and look how annoying we find it!...and those portrayals, while inaccurate, are nothing particularly harmful. They don't result in bans or targetted hate crimes.

      Wonder what it must be like for ordinary Arabs then, faced with the non-Arab media portrayals they are? - all stereotypes of either radicalised angry young people or oil-rich buffoons or evil, ruthless smugglers.

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    2. Very true!

      In general, most ethnicities don't get a fair portrayal in popular media, and alas, the Arabs are getting the worst of it now. Even positive portrayals tend to focus on poor farmers and goatherds rather than doctors or scientists.

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  27. You know, I'v enever truly think of that. We don't see many Arabic films, that's true. That's quite buffling, since I suppose that expecially some countries would have lots of funding for it.

    @JazzFeathers
    The Old Shelter - 1940s Film Noir

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    1. In terms of numbers, a handful are made each year. There are greatly talented film makers but they get exposure and accolades abroad, distribution in the home market is still a problem.

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  28. Hi Nila - I'm sure we've seen "The Edge" here at the film society ... and we do put on quite a few Middle Eastern films - Turkish, Iranian, Moroccan ... and others ..

    in fact we're looking at selecting our films for the next season .. and I see an Indian film, one from Ethiopia, Iranian one ... a varied collection we'll put on. Our chairman is very knowledgeable ...

    Must go - need to check out films! Cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/g-is-for-goose-gobbling-or-otherwise.html

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    1. Morocco is an Arab country of course, but not Turkey or Iran. Much of Moroccan films are shot in french rather than Arabic, at least that is my impression.
      Turkey I understand is very advanced, and what little I've seen/read of Iranian cinema, so are they, but neither country contributes to Arab cinema, though Turkish films/TV is viewed widely here.

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