Monday, March 02, 2015

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Palestinian director Rashid Masharawi is a maverick filmmaker of documentaries and features presenting the heartbeat of a national liberation struggle and a people’s path to democracy.

Born in 1962 in Ash-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, Rashid Masharawi is the director of several documentaries and fiction films, including Love Season, Makloubeh, Haifa, Behind the Walls, Tension, Rabab, and Curfew.

He is also the winner of many international prizes, including the UNESCO Award at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. That year, Masharawi founded the Cinema Production Centre in Ramallah, West Bank, which aims to improve and develop the Palestinian movie industry by encouraging and training young Palestinian movie-makers. An innovative artist, Masharawi created the Palestinian Mobile Cinema which has allowed thousands of children to enjoy local and international films.

This edition of MF GALAXY features Minister Faust's interview with Rashid Masharawi conducted in Edmonton in December, 2001, for the screening of Masharawi's documentary Voice of Palestine.

Rashid Masharawi's feature film Laila's Birthday will be screened at the HumanServe International Palestinian Bazaar in Edmonton on Saturday, March 14.

Electronic Intifada film reviews

Screen Daily: Letters from Al Yarmouk


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IZZELDIN ABUELAISH - Fighting hate and occupation with peace and education (MF GALAXY 014)

In January 2009, then-53-year-old Palestinian infertility specialist and peace activist Izzeldin Abuelaish was employed at an Israeli hospital. He took pride in building the personal basis for trust and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. As he told the New York Times in 2009, “I wanted every Palestinian treated in [our hospital] to go back and say how well the Israelis treated them.”

But on January 16, the day after Martin Luther King’s birthday, and 22 days into the 2008 – 2009 Israel-Gaza war that killed 13 Israelis and 1400 Palestinians (during which time newly-elected US president Barack Obama was almost whisper-silent on Palestinian deaths), Israeli tanks twice shelled the house of Abuelaish. After having recently lost his wife to leukemia, in one moment he lost his niece and three of his daughters.

“Who is going to be killed [among] my children?” says Abuelaish via Skype from his office in Toronto, reflecting on his terror throughout the war that any of his children might die. “And then on that day … seconds after I left my daughters’ room, the awful tragedy happened. These were beautiful girls,” he says. “They became [body] parts, drowning in their blood.”

Explaining his immediate thoughts after the explosion, he says he asked himself, “Where is Bisan, my beloved, eldest daughter who took the responsibility of her mother when she passed away? She was only 20. She was my companion, my friend, my manager, my advisor, my teacher. She was supposed to get her BA a few months later. Where is Mayar, who was number one in Palestine in math, who planned to be a medical doctor, to follow my path? She was decapitated. Where is Aya, who planned to be a journalist and the voice of the voiceless, who was 14? Where is Nur, my niece, who came for her fate? She was 17 and planned to be a teacher. … Their pain is running in my ears. I [couldn’t] identify them. Their bodies were shot out everywhere. The human body, which is the most holy thing God created … shattered. Why [was I] saved? If I had stayed a few seconds I would be gone with them.”

As political analyst Noam Chomsky recently noted, while westerners routinely voice outrage about the “savagery” of ISIL (another name for ISIS) for beheading its victims, they’re usually silent about the state beheading by western ally Saudi Arabia, and countless western beheadings-and-dismemberments-by-bomb. Because the cemetery where his wife is interred was under Israeli occupation, Abuelaish couldn’t bury his daughters next to her.

Abuelaish explains how his family numbers among the hellish statistics of modern war: 80 percent of casualties are civilian women and children. He insists repeatedly that militaries cannot create peace, which depends on justice. And justice is his major concern, especially as created by the advancement of women and girls.

While he stayed in hospital with his surviving daughters, he reflected that after God, it’s his daughters to whom he’s accountable. “I will never give up,” he says. “I will never rest. I will never relax until I meet [Bisan, Mayar, Aya, and Nur] one day, with a big gift: justice and freedom for others.” He notes that his mother was his most important teacher: “The mother and the women in this world are the hero. … They make the change, and I believe in them.”

Abuelaish isn’t simply a speaker of easy platitudes. As the author of the acclaimed memoir I Shall Not Hate, and as a teacher at the University of Toronto and a campaigner for peace, he established the NGO Daughters for Life to provide scholarships for Middle Eastern girls and women, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Such refusal to bend to hate or revenge, coupled with tireless work for the betterment of humanity, has earned Abuelaish numerous awards, including the Stavros Niarchos Prize for Survivorship, the Uncommon Courage Award, and the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award of Canada. The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre named him among the world’s 500 most influential Muslims for 2009 and 2010. “Our enemies in this world are ignorance, arrogance, greed and fear,” he says. “We need the light.”

Abuelaish grew up without much of the light he now seeks. Born in Jabbalia Camp in Gaza in 1955, 12 years before the occupation of Gaza, he did not witness the expulsion of around 800 000 Palestinians from historical Palestine seven years earlier. “My life in the camp was a war,” he says. “And no one on earth was tested in his or her life as Palestinian people and refugees. I was fighting on a daily basis just to survive. I never tasted my childhood.”

His family home was a corrugated metal shack without electricity, running water or a bathroom. “I remember after 1970, when our house was demolished by [Israeli general at the time] Ariel Sharon,” he says. “We were 11 people living in one room. I was sleeping under their feet, and studying there on the ground.”

During winters, rain water often leaked through the roof, destroying the homework he painstakingly completed and forcing him to start all over. Hunger was the norm: “I remember if we had one banana, it could be divided among three or four.” Abuelaish currently helps his nieces and nephews just as he used to support his younger siblings. 

“You don’t leave Palestine. … My country lives inside me. It moves with me everywhere I go,” he adds. “I say to people, ‘[They] can oppress, can occupy, can imprison, can torture, can intimidate, can humiliate, can do every bad thing, but no one can prevent us from dreaming.'”


The Guardian


TEDxWaterloo: Izzeldin Abuelaish - Refusing to Hate

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight

Izzeldin Abuelaish - Oslo Freedom Forum 2011

Monday, February 09, 2015

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Film and television director Ernest Dickerson initially achieved fame as a celebrated cinematographer, photographing feature films including The Brother from Another Planet, Krush Groove, She's Gotta Have It, Eddie Murphy: Raw, School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, and Malcolm X. 

In 1992, Dickerson made the jump to directing his own feature films, including Juice, which he also wrote, and which launched the acting career of Tupac Shakur; Surviving the Game with Ice-T, Rutger Hauer, and F. Murray Abraham, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight with Jada Pinkett and Billy Zane, Bulletproof with Damon Wayans and Adam Sandler, Bones, with Pam Grier and Snoop Dogg, and Never Die Alone with DMX and David Arquette. 

In addition to having directed eleven episodes of the smash hit The Walking Dead, Dickerson has helmed episodes of Under the Dome, Revolution, Treme, Sleepy Hollow, Dexter, Low Winter Sun, Stargate Universe, The Vampire Diaries, Law & Order, Medium, The Wire, Weeds, ER, Heroes, The L Word, and Third Watch, among many others. 

In this, part one of our conversation, Dickerson discusses:

  • How Hollywood could be spending its money more wisely to innovate more profitably
  • Why it’s easier than ever to make a feature film
  • His top-secret new movie—his first since 2004’s Never Die Alone
  • The booming Caribbean filmmaking industry
  • Age barriers in Hollywood directing
  • How to get ahead as a Hollywood director, and
  • The outrageous pretext that a director gave for racially profiling him out of a job.

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This episode is sponsored by BOB THE ANGRY FLOWER! Joss Whedon says, “It’s intensely funny. I’ve been laughing like a supervillain for days.”

Monday, February 02, 2015

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In 1967, actor Scott Wilson delivered a chilling performance in In Cold Blood that put him on the cover of Life Magazine when he was only 24 years old. He went on to appear in numerous celebrated films including The Great Gatsby, The Right Stuff, Dead Man Walking, and Monster, and he was a recurring guest on CSI.

But it’s his work on the highest-rated US television show, The Walking Dead, in which Wilson plays veterinarian and farmer Hershel Greene, that has done more than anything before to make Wilson a star. He now earns more from his autograph-signing sessions at conventions than he does from acting, and The Walking Dead is the focus of our conversation: the physical difficulties of playing Hershel; the dramatic power of Hershel’s personality and character arc; and the series’ outstanding acting, directing, and production.

Throughout this episode, Wilson refers to Ernest Dickerson, the acclaimed television and feature filmmaker who directed many of the most action-packed episodes of The Walking Dead. Wilson also refers to Dickerson in the context of the 1992 Spike Lee feature Malcolm X, for which Dickerson was the director of photography. At the end, Dickerson joins us to discuss working with Scott Wilson

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Monday, January 26, 2015

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SCOTT WILSON: The Walking Dead, In the Heat of the Night + In Cold Blood (MF GALAXY 010)

Acclaimed for stunning performances in films such as In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood, actor Scott Wilson is and best known to today’s audiences as Hershel Greene on AMC’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.

Wilson got an early boost from superstar Sidney Poitier who respected his work on In the Heat of the Night. Poitier alerted In Cold Blood director Richard Brooks about the young actor who went on to beat out Steve McQueen and Paul Newman for his role as real-life murderer Dick Hickock. His chilling performance put him on the cover of Life Magazine when he was only 24 years old.

Wilson went on to appear in numerous celebrated films including The Great Gatsby, The Right Stuff, Dead Man Walking, and Monster, and he was a recurring guest on CSI. Although by his own description he was devoted to the craft of acting and never sought fame, Wilson is now so much of a fan favourite that he earns even more from his autograph-signing sessions at conventions than he does from his acting.

Wilson spoke with me via Skype from the backyard of his home in Studio City, California, on January 13, 2015, when he discussed his approach to acting, and how he came to craft his iconic performances in In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood, and The Walking Dead.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

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GENE LUEN YANG: American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints, and Being an Auteur (MF GALAXY 009)

Gene Luen Yang is the celebrated graphic novelist behind the recent LA Times Book Prize-winner Boxers & Saints and the award-winning American Born Chinese. 

Yang is a remarkable force in the world of American comics. He’s the first comic creator to be nominated for the US National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award.

He’s also the writer of the graphic novel sequels to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Somehow while he’s changing the face of American comics, Yang finds the time to teach high school computer science and graduate-level creative writing.

In part two of our conversation, Yang discusses:

  • how and why he joined three previously unrelated stories together to create his career-defining graphic novel American Born Chinese
  • how story and structure drove each other in American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints
  • the anti-colonial movement featured in Boxers & Saints, a militia of traditional Chinese fighters called the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists that the British occupiers blandly described as the “Boxer Rebellion,” since they didn’t know the terms wushu or kung-fu
  • why the Saints volume is so much larger than the Boxers volume, and why his publisher scuttled his plans to publish the Saints volume on deliberately inferior production materials
  • how he created the Saints protagonist Four-Girl, cruelly rejected by her own family and one of Yang’s few female protagonists, who is in fact partly based on one of his own relatives
  • the difference between being auteur on his own properties and the writer who has to explain everything for an artist, including the Japanese female art team Gurihiru that illustrates his Avatar scripts
  • how difficult it is to earn a living through comics, and why he hasn’t yet crowdfunded his work, and
  • his favourite Asian, African, and Indigenous American graphic novelists and writers

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