Posts Tagged: Peter Vilk

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.

Music is Made Out of Smoke by Tanya Shirley

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Iranian-British filmmaker Roxana Vilk with a poem by Jamaican poet Tanya Shirley. It’s described on the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival website as a “tribute to Jamaican reggae artist Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and an elegy to the sultry fields of the American South.” The Vimeo description notes that it was “Commissioned for Commonwealth Games 2014 by Scottish Poetry Library, British Council and Creative Scotland and executive produced by Scottish Poetry Library & United Creations Collective.” According to Vilk’s website, it was one of eight short films she directed and produced for her Composing the Commonwealth series in 2014 featuring four different poets, the camera work of Ian Dodds, sound and music by Peter Vilk, and editing by Ling Lee and Maryam Ghorbankarimi. Go watch.

In the Beginning by Zaher Mousa

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“Poetry is the only way to speak during a period of chaos.”
Zaher Mousa

A film adaptation of a poem by the contemporary Iraqi poet Zaher (or Zahir) Mousa produced, directed and filmed by the Scottish/Iranian filmmaker Roxana Vilk, who has built up quite an interesting and varied body of poetry-related work in recent years: bio pics, interviews, and filmpoems, many featuring poets from the Middle East. (I’ll be sharing another example later in the week.) Among other credits, Maryam Gorbankarimi edited, and the sound design is by Peter Vilk with Ilhan Burutcu on the ney. The Scottish poet John Glenday is listed as the main translator, with assistance from Lauren Pyott and James Sandri (who was also the assistant director). The Vimeo description notes:

This film is a result of a commission from Reel Festivals as part of Reel Iraq 2013 and funded by Literature Across Frontiers and the British Council.

Filmed in Shaqlawa and Erbil, Northern Iraq in January 2013.

The plot summary at IMDb calls In the Beginning

an experimental film based on a poem by the acclaimed and award winning Iraqi poet, Zaher Mousa. The poem uses the form of a creation myth and explores the feelings of an Iraqi man living through the realities of life in Baghdad and how the continuing violence and conflicts have affected the way he sees the world around him.

In the Beginning was selected for screening at the 2014 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin. As for Reel Iraq 2013, it was apparently

an overwhelming success and audiences across the UK got a chance to engage directly with Iraqi poets, filmmakers, artists, writers and musicians.

Highlights included workshops in Erbil as part of the Erbil Literature Festival which led to the creation of new translations of Iraqi poets Zaher Mousa, Awezan Nouri, Ghareeb Iskander and Sabreen Kadhim and of Scotland based poets Jen Hadfield, William Letford, John Glenday and Krystelle Bamford. These new translations were performed at venues across the UK.

Musicians Khyam Allami and City of Salt performed to packed venues in Edinburgh and London, and filmmakers Parine Jaddo and Hayder Daffer presented their work in cinemas across the country.

Reel Festivals also commissioned two films based on another poem by Zaher Mousa, “Born to Die,” from filmmakers Alastair Cook and Marc Neys (Swoon). I shared them in a post back in 2013.

Af’a Gilgamesh / Gilgamesh’s Snake (excerpt) by Ghareeb Iskander

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A great poetry film by Roxana Vilk, combining videopoem (with an English translation in subtitles by John Glenday) and a brief explanation of the poem by its author, Iraqi poet Ghareeb Iskander. This combination is one Vilk has used to good effect in other films, too, but for some reason I missed this one until now, when I spotted it thanks to its inclusion in the ZEBRA Poetry Film Club channel on Vimeo. The unusually complete Vimeo description includes Vilk’s description of her process, so let me reproduce it in full:

This film is a result of a commission from Reel Festivals as part of Reel Iraq 2013 and funded by Literature Across Frontiers and the British Council.

Based on a poem by Ghareeb Iskander, Directed/Produced & filmed by Roxana Vilk, Edited by Maryam Ghorbankarimi and Sound Design & Music Peter Vilk, Poem translation by John Glenday, bridging translation by Lauren Pyott and Assistant Director James Sadri.

In January 2013 I was invited to create films inspired by poets and poems I encountered from both Iraq and Scotland as part of the Reel Iraq festival in Erbil. It was an incredible trip and an honour to work with Reel Festivals again.

I first heard Ghareeb Iskander’s poem, during a magical evening in the mountain village of Shaqlawa when the poets were sharing the fruits of the first days of translating each others works over a glass of wine.. or two….

As John Glenday read out in English his translation of Ghareeb’s poem, I was immediately struck by the imagery in it and how the sentiment resonated with how I felt on coming to Iraq for the first time – a mixture of feeling the weight of the history mixed with an aching sense of loss.

I should also add at this point that the poem in the film is an extract of a much longer work (in three acts) on Gilgamesh.

Image wise I was drawn to empty sites across Erbil. First of all the many building sites that lay scattered across much of the city and how they had this haunted quality – almost like abandoned old theatres.

I was also drawn to filming in the empty ancient Citadel in the centre of Erbil which dates back over 3,000 years and had 3 years ago been emptied of its inhabitants to be preserved as a UNESCO site.

Both these locations resonated with the emotional landscape in Ghareeb’s poem for me and also lent visual space to house the images he was creating in the language.

It was pouring with torrential rain for most of our trip which seemed fitting in some way with the sound world of Ghareeb’s poem and one morning I asked him to walk through an empty building site, reciting his poem in his mind, as the rain dripped loudly on the floor of the empty site.

In terms of colour I wanted to reflect back Erbil exactly as I encountered it in January – devoid of much colour and somehow the locations had a monochromatic feel. So our ever sharp eyed editor Maryam Ghorbankarimi and I worked together strip the images back of colour and then use just touches of colour to create contrast.

Sound designer and composer Peter Vilk used the found real location sounds I had recorded Iraq ( such as the rain) which he then treated and manipulated with his software to create his sound design score, alongside a melody he wrote on the piano.

For those interested in technicals – I filmed on a Canon 7D and captured separate sound on a Zoom stereo Mic, synching the sound later in the edit.

Commissioned by Reel Festivals as part of their Iraq Project 2013 and funded by Literature Across Frontiers and the British Council.

For more of Roxana film works please visit roxanavilk.com

Iskander explained the two-step English translation process in an interview at Arabic Literature (in English).