Nationality: Palestine

Ghazi Hussein: four poems and an interview

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This is I came from the unknown to sing,

a short film about the Palestinian / Scottish Poet Ghazi Hussein
directed by Roxana Vilk camera Ian Dodds, Edited by Maryam Ghorbankarimi and Sound Design and composition by Peter Vilk
Executive produced by Scottish Poetry Library and United Creations Collective
Camera Ian Dodds
Editing Maryam Ghorbankarimi
Sound design and composition Peter Vilk
additional music by GOL

Hussein recites four poems in the film, two in English and two in Arabic: “Next visit,” “I came from the unknown to sing,” “I am an interesting file” and “To Edinburgh,” all from the book Taking it Like a Man: Torture and Survival a Journey in Poetry.

لاعب النرد / The Dice Player by Mahmoud Darwish

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Egyptian student-filmmaker Nissmah Rosdhy’s animation of a section of a Mahmoud Darwish poem of the same title is the winner of the 2014 ZEBRA Prize for the Best Poetry Film. (Though the jury members announced from the stage that they regarded all four of the films they picked for prizes this year as equal winners, the prize sponsored by Literaturwerkstatt Berlin itself was still treated as the first among equals. And having watched all 29 competition films, I wouldn’t argue with that.)

Erica Goss and I met with Nissmah Roshdy the day after the awards ceremony and recorded a twenty-minute interview with her — go watch. The important thing to mention here is that the live recitation with music by the band Le Trio Joubran sparked the film; it’s much more than just a soundtrack. Combine that with a killer animation of Arabic typography and rotoscoped dance moves by the animator herself, and you’ve got an innovative, probably ground-breaking work. Congrats to Roshdy and a tip of the hat to the jury for their inspired selections. (Look for more of those here in the coming days, interspersed with other films from the festival.)

The City by Ghayath Almadhoun and What Gas by Marie Silkeberg

This innovative videopoem about the destruction of Damascus, The City, alternates lines from a poem by Ghayath Almadhoun, translated from Arabic by Catherine Cobham and read by female voices, and a poem by Marie Silkeberg, translated from Swedish by Frank Perry and read by male voices. The readers are people from the streets of Stockholm. Silkeberg composed the sound montage and Almadhoun the montage of found footage from the internet. He mentioned in a recent interview that the film has been screened in more than 150 festivals.

The Celebration by Ghayath Almadhoun and Marie Silkeberg

This is of the best poems about war I’ve ever read (or heard). It’s by the Syrian-born Palestinian poet Ghayath Almadhoun, from التفاصيل (The Details), translated by Catherine Cobhamin, in a film adaptation that he made in collaboration with the Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg—a partnership described in a recent interview in Arabic Literature (in English). The English titling floats and disappears above a bombed-out city: Berlin. As Almadhoun describes it in the interview,

The material you saw, this is Berlin, and nobody saw it before. Not even the Germans. I have thirteen minutes from July 1945, forty-five days after the war, somebody filmed it.

Yes, National Geographic maybe they bought five seconds, and I think in the BBC documentary they bought around seven seconds, because it’s so expensive. Nobody knows how I got it, and I think if they saw it, they will take me to court. Because the owner of this material is one of the biggest companies in Hollywood. But still, I want the people to see this. No one has seen Berlin like this.

I use eight minutes of it in this film.

AL: And the poem?

GM: The poem is written about Damascus. But it has in the beginning something about Berlin. And I feel that there is no difference between destruction and destruction. Yes, the story of Berlin is different — they attacked the world, the world attacked them.

What’s happening in Syria is different. The destruction in Syria is more. If you look at the suburbs of Damascus, you will find that most of the buildings have fallen down. While in Berlin it was only the roofs. So I can compare the situation in Syria for example with Hiroshima or Dresden, only.

Do read the rest of the interview, which was especially interesting to me for its defense of poet-made films, as opposed to some of the very slick animations that are appearing online and at poetry film festivals these days:

Why should I only write my poem and wait until a professional can make a video? He always chooses classic and simple things because he’s not a poet.

I want the poets to make poetry films, and I and I want the focus to be on the poem. If the focus is on the film, then go to the short film.

The quality of the poem should be added to the question. The animations are really beautiful, and some of them are really expensive. I remember one of the films cost maybe one million dollars. They got a prize. For me, if I was on the jury, I would not give them a prize. Because the poem was really bad.

Almadhoun gets to say this, in my opinion, because he is both a masterful poet and a good filmmaker. I’m also grateful to him for making his YouTube channel public and the videos shareable. You can expect to see his other collaborations with Silkeberg here soon.

Post-Operative Complications Following the Extraction of Memory by Taha Muhammed Ali

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The translation by Peter Cole may be read at Poetry International Web. The filmmaker, Lotte Marie Allen, notes that this was

shot in nablus, ramallah, hebron, abu dis, qalandia, jericho, west bank. sinai, egypt. animations from arabic dictionary drawings, postcards, posters, roads and rock formations, my own drawings.

Personal Duty by Mahmoud Darwish

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Talal Khoury’s dramatization of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish won a Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Dubai International Film Festival. In the Vimeo description, he writes:

The film is an illustration of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, who focuses on the tragic side of the human personality of a martyr.

It is a visual journey that combines the public experience and the personal one and follows a couple separated by a death called “heroic”.

It is a tribute to Arabic poetry through the combination of the cinematography and music with the music within the poem.

Nathalie Handal: Poet in Andalucía

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As the first film explains, Palestinian poet Nathalie Handal’s new book, Poet in Andalucía, forthcoming from Pitt, “recreates Federico García Lorca’s journey in reverse (from his book POET IN NEW YORK).”

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