Egyptian movie night (with English subtitles)

That headline will wake up a few people!
Never in my life would I have thought it was a problem to get an Egyptian movie with English subtitles. Or any Arab movie for that matter. It is a HUGE challenge (google it and watch the amount of chat forums that have discussed this issue). But there is a solution, or rather a new initiative, which – as far as we (the movie club members) know – is completely legal: YouTube!

After sweating for weeks over what movie to watch, YouTube solved all our problems. There are heaps of complete feature films available; all you need to do is use the search for “Egyptian movie, English subtitle”. So we were set. This is how we set up the cinema/my living room for the evening

Four people squeeze onto the sofa, four on the floor and three on the chairs. The arrangement on the floor has now been substituted with a queen size air-mattress; we do like our comfort.

Normally everyone brings a plate for the night and we have a mixed meal. This time Mohammed was so excited that he decided to hit the kitchen and to cook up a storm of Egyptian food. The home-made falafel deserves an  exclusive photo, they were so good.

The dip for the falafel was amazing (tahini base with lemon) and so were the eggs with pastrami, the bean stew and the pasta (Lebanese style!). The potato cakes in the front were brought in as an extra treat by our Ecuadorian member. They are called Llapingachos and were a first for me and a yummy one at that. In addition we had Vietnamese rolls and tons of chips and cake. As I said, we like our comfort.

So what movie did we see? The Yacoubian Building based on the 2002 best selling novel by Alaa Al Aswany. If you need a good read, I can definitely recommend it. You could also just watch the movie. On YouTube.

Lazy! Pure and simple!

I have been lazy. Pure and simple. I have a list of things I could have written about on the blog, but I haven’t. Instead I watched the final of Australian X factor, Inspector Wallander on SBS, followed the third season of The Killing (Forbrydelsen in Danish) on the online Danish TV and on it goes.

Every time I could have sat down to write a blog post, I picked up the remote instead and just disappeared into oblivion. I have decided that I will try to do better, try to pick the blog up again, because I really enjoy writing it. And the posts are being written, but in my head only and then they disappear into the thin air. I wonder if other bloggers go through the same? It wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

PS If you haven’t seen The Killing season I and II you are one lucky person. Go get them and have a blast! I don’t think Season III is out on DVD yet.

Trying to focus

I’ve learnt that I need to start my paragraphs by summarising the content, so forgive me for stating the obvious: I’m not writing much on the blog at the moment. I look at all my earlier posts and I simply don’t know how I found the time to do them. Between bleaching uniforms for a hard-working Mr Husband (think Italian, think tomato), my own work and all the other little things, life just passes by.

I suppose it is also a mind-set, not only to create good posts for the blog, but also to remember them and then write them down. Right now, the only thing I can think of that happened to me in the last few days is that I was electrocuted by a lemon in Woolies. It really surprised me. I expect static electricity in a lot of places, but not the vegetable section of a supermarket.

But tonight is movie-night and so I am excited and want to share the buzz. We are having Funny Movies From England night, because we in need of a laugh. Writing a PhD is serious business and we often find ourselves in a bit of a gloom. I am serving tacos which has no relation to England what-so-ever, but it means I don’t have to cook, just put out a large amount of bowls with colourful items. We are watching “Saving Grace” and “Four Lions” and I know it is going to be fun. I also know that there are plenty of English movies that are probably a lot more fun that those, but Saving Grace still contains my favourite funny movie scene ever: the store scene. Till next time, have a laugh on me:

German movie night

What can I say: it was awesome!

True to the theme, the Germans arrived with two types of potato salad, knackwurst and hot mustard. I had made a salad and baked some bread and the rest of the group flooded the house with red wine, snacks, cake and icecream. We were as set for movies as anyone could be. We had a list of seven movies, which was expanded to eight after my last post. Tina suggested we see Run, Lola Run (we didn’t see it, but I will definitely have to – thank you for the input – keep them coming). The other seven movies on the list were

Das Leben Der Anderen (2006, The Lives of Others)
Das weiße Band (2009; The White Ribbon)
Die Fälscher (2007; The Counterfeiters)
Das Boot (1981)
Jenseits Der Stille (1996; Beyond Silence)
Der Untergang (2004; Downfall)
Goodbye Lenin! (2003)

This is in no way an exhausted list of great German movies, but it is a start. Hopefully it is also an inspiration to anyone wondering what movies German directors have put on the map. We opted for the last two. Both depict important turning points in German history (the end of WWII and when the wall in Berlin came down); the first is a serious drama, the second a comedy of grand proportions.

I really liked both. Der Untergang is rather heavy as it depicts the last days of war in a very realistic fashion. It shows the desperation of the losing side and the actions this leads to. There is no glory, no forgiveness. What makes it so scary in my mind is that, deep down, we know that this is not just about the Germans. This is the story that we do not hear from any war… the horrible tale of the losing side.

I had seen Goodbye Lenin! before and I remembered it quite well. At least I thought I did. Because despite remembering a large proportion of the details, they came together as a completely different story the second time, which led to a very different perception of the ending than the first time I saw it. That was SO weird. Now I’m not entirely sure what the movie is about – though it is still a really really good movie and you should see it if you haven’t already.

I don’t know what will be on the next program for movie night. A few suggestions have been up in the air, mostly related to the nationalities of the movie club members. Egyptian movie night, Brazilian movie night, Peruvian movie night…. let us know if you have any suggestions – themes, movies, the likes!

Movie Club

We have made a movie club! That is my colleagues and I.
It is a really simple club, not much organising really. We meet at my house, bring food/drinks/snacks along and watch a couple of movies together. The whole intention behind the club is that it is to be easy, cheap and just as much about the company as the movie. Most of us are non-Australians, so we are in the process of creating a social life here. Coming together to share food and a movie is great for this.

The first time we met, we decided to watch a Danish action comedy called I Kina spiser de hunde (I had a lot to do with this choice, I will admit that) and the latest movie by Almodovar – a thriller called The Skin I live In. This was a really good start as we now have a better feel for each other. It seems that no one in the group is especially sensitive – to anything really.

The second time we met was last weekend. Cairns was host to the travelling film festival and we grouped up across interests and met in smaller groups during the weekend. I did a marathon on Sunday, where I saw three movies, all which I can highly recommend. Festivals are great for this really – they have gone through a lot of trouble selecting the movies to begin with, so they are almost always entertaining.

The first movie I saw was a documentary on a 1970s singer called Searching for Sugarman. The story is unbelievable, it really is, and the music is fantastic. It was definitely worth the ticket. I don’t want to reveal the story, for two reasons: if I give you the short version the movie sounds so uninteresting it would turn you off. If I tell you the interesting part, you know the plot. BUT, definitely say yes if someone invites you.

The second movie I saw was a Chinese drama about growing old called A Simple Life
Also this was a great movie, playing on the whole spectrum of emotions. It was funny, we laughed out loud many times, reflective, intense and of course sad. My Chinese companion and I cried at the end, so much so that the tissues needed to come out of the handbag for a good noseblow.

My personal favourite was the last movie I saw. It was a Lebanese comedy drama about a group of women, who try to ease religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in their village. It is called Where Do We Go Now and is so funny that my face produces a massive smile, just thinking about it. This movie is not a massive block buster, which is a real shame. It should be. I encourage you to go and look for it, ask for it, drive far to see it and bring your friends. It is worth it.

Tonight we have movie club again. The two Germans in the club will be away for a while (one has fieldwork in Papua New Guinea for 9 months and the other is off for a job in Georgia) so we have decided to do a German movie night. We have listed seven amazing German movies for selection and will decide on the final two tonight. I’m excited. I will let you know how it goes!

I said I like Facebook

I sang an ode to Facebook the other day, but one of the absolute heroes of my life is the guy who invented Skype. And I have met him, as he knew someone who knew someone who knew my friend (because he is Danish… just thought I’d let you know). I shutter to think what I would have done, had I known at the time what a great thing he had created. I didn’t reflect on it at the time. It would not have been beneath me to kiss his feet.

I still remember trying to phone home when I lived in South Africa in 1995. I would get a phone card for 100 Rand, ring up mum and the conversation would go something like: “helloooo hellloooo helloooo” (echo). Then wait for 10 seconds and get a return “Hellloooo hellloooo, how are youuuuu?” (10 secs) “I’m gooood” (10 secs) “whaaat?” (10 secs) “I said I’m gooooood, how are youuuuu?” (10 secs) “we are weeeeelll” (10 secs) “there is no more money, I will call you from Durban” (beep beep beep). Now I just say: “Hang on, I’ll put the kettle on and be back in a tick” and then mum and I talk for hours.

Trust me, Skype is the saver of sanity in many a migrants life. It not only lets us know if our family members are OK, it allows us to connect to them in a much more meaningful way.

And now I’m going to call up their media department (if they have one) an see if I can get a sponsorship dollar out of them. I would be an excellent poster girl… because I mean it!

Who would you take to a deserted island?

I was asked that question just yesterday. If I could choose anyone, who would I spend a week on a deserted island with. Apparently you are supposed to pick someone famous.

Have you ever met someone famous? I have. Heaps actually. And probably a lot more than I am conscious of too. One problem with me is that I tend to be distracted and don’t recognise even people I know. When I DO see someone vaguely familiar, I just think they are a friend of a friend. Like the time in the 80s when I walked by John Taylor from Duran Duran in the street and thought he was a boy from the 10th grade (I was in year 8) and just said a long sentence of rubbish in Danish and thought he was really weird when he didn’t respond (we were in Copenhagen and I said something like ‘fancy seeing you here, is your class on an excursion as well?’). My friend almost passed out of embarrassment and that was the end of that moment.

I once spent half an hour talking to Liam Neeson in a pub in Dublin in the mid 1990’s. I gave a long talk about my observations on poverty in Ireland, as I was on a study trip for that particular reason. He asked what I was doing in Dublin, he got an answer. I had no clue who this partly boring, quite drunk man was until the waiter told me after he had left.

Most times I think it is a good thing that I don’t pay attention to those details. I know I would make a fool of myself if I knew who they were, but had no idea what to say to them. But there has been one or two times where it was embarrassing  Like the time I was invited for dinner by a friend of mine who lives in London. I had a lovely elderly man at my side who kept asking who I was and what I was doing. Then I felt it was my turn to ask and the table fell silent in horror. Apparently he was an actor. Played on EastEnders. He didn’t talk to me for the rest of the evening.

All this experience in check, I never made friends with any famous people. I have made friends with people who have time for me and who I really enjoy spending that time with. Yesterday I wrote about friendship and how precious my friends are to me. Having that in mind and also giving the whole ‘lost-on-an-island-for-one-week-with-a-stranger’ – thing a serious extra though, I came to the conclusion that the person I would most like to spend time with on a deserted island would be a friend.