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Old Cinemas: Abandoned Picture Houses Become Cultural Centers in Lebanon

Qassem Istanbouli, an art and cinema enthusiast from Lebanon, shows films by directors such as Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, David Lynch and Lars Von Trier in his picture houses

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Qassem Istanbouli
Qassem Istanbouli holds a film negative, in Tripoli, Lebanon, July 5, 2017. Istanbouli is restoring old cinemas into cultural centers. VOA
  • An abandoned picture house and its renovation in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli is more than a dream for Qassem Istanbouli
  • The 31-year-old has reopened three such cinemas, two in his home city of Tyre in southern Lebanon, and another in Nabatiyeh, and has transformed them into hubs for film, art and theatre
  • Istanbouli, who was born in Tyre and studied fine arts and directing at the Lebanese University, initially relied on a bank loan and donations from the public for his projects

Tripoli, Lebanon, July 14, 2017: With peeling paint and crumbling plasterwork, an abandoned picture house and its renovation in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli is more than a dream for Qassem Istanbouli.

The 31-year-old has reopened three such cinemas, two in his home city of Tyre in southern Lebanon, and another in Nabatiyeh, and has transformed them into hubs for film, art and theater.

“When I embarked on this journey, I felt I shared this dream with people in my city who are eager to have a cultural life restored,” said Istanbouli, who shows films by directors such as Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, David Lynch and Lars Von Trier.

ALSO READ: Indian Cinema has gone beyond song-dance saga, for International Audience it is still about Cultural Reflection of larger than Life characters

Istanbouli, who was born in Tyre and studied fine arts and directing at the Lebanese University, initially relied on a bank loan and donations from the public for his projects but now gets financial support from the Lebanese ministry of culture, a Dutch NGO and the United Nations force in Lebanon.

Istanbouli’s dream is also driven by a family connection, his father used to repair cinema projectors, while his grandfather screened movies from Greece and the Palestinian territories, projecting them on a wall.

“This is a way to achieve my father’s dream,” he said. (VOA)

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In films ‘Victoria & Abdul’ and ‘American Made,’ Life is Stranger than Fiction

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Actors Ali Fazal and Judi Dench
Actors Ali Fazal and Judi Dench pose during a red carpet for the movie "Victoria and Abdul" at the 74th Venice Film Festival 2017 in Venice. voa

Stephen Frears’ heartwarming drama Victoria & Abdul is about the deep friendship between Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim between 1887 and 1901, and Doug Liman’s American Made about Barry Seal, a 1970s audacious American pilot, who, during the Nicaraguan Crisis worked for the CIA, the DEA and the Colombian cartel.

As different as these two films are, they are both based on true stories, proving yet again that often life is stranger than fiction. Both films feature intelligent plots and superb acting.

Victoria & Abdul

Stephen Frears’ film Victoria and Abdul, opens in 1887, with the festivities for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating her 50-year reign.

Abdul Karim, a young Muslim clerk from Agra, India, is sent to the banquet all the way from India to present the queen with a gift from India, a ceremonial coin. To the dismay of Queen Victoria’s courtiers, the Indian servant strikes a deep friendship with the octogenarian Queen Victoria, defying class and racial boundaries.

According to the movie, Abdul Karim impressed the British sovereign with his depth of spirit and good looks. Soon the unlikely friends became inseparable, discussing philosophy, literature, even Indian cuisine. In a span of 14 years, Abdul Karm became the queen’s confidant and munshi, her teacher, in Urdu.

But the queen’s courtesans and her family, sidelined by Abdul, questioned her sanity and considered her removal.

Historian and author Shrabani Basu based her book of the same title on the queen’s journals in Urdu and on Karim’s private diary. Basu discovered Abdul Karim’s personal diary in possession of Karim’s surviving nephew Abdul Rashid in 2010, over a century after the queen’s death.

This was the only document on the relationship between royal and servant that survived the wrath of Queen Victoria’s children. Immediately after her death in 1901, the royals evicted Queen Victoria’s munshi, burned everything he had received from the queen and swiftly shipped him and his family to India. In 1909 Abdul Karim died in Agra leaving his diary as his only testimonial of his deep friendship with the empress.

Director Frears offers captivating cinematography while Dame Judi Dench portrays a free-spirited Queen Victoria and Indian actor Ali Fazal embodies a charming and loyal Adbul Karim.

Though the film does not depict a romantic relationship between the two, it does hint to it. Dench describes the queen’s reaction to Karim:

“She had a ready eye for somebody good-looking, which he is very, so it was easy to imagine a kind of tired, poor person suddenly looking up and seeing this wonderful good-looking young man. How lovely somebody at last beautiful to look at,” Dench said.

But, author Basu says, “At the heart of this book is a story of friendship, a friendship of two different people from two different specters of this world, one is the Empress of India, one is a clerk from Agra jail, and somewhere they have a bond they find this link and a common space.”

Actor Tom Cruise
Actor Tom Cruise poses while promoting a film in Mexico City. voa

American Made

American Made, by Bourne Identity filmmaker Doug Liman, offers a satirical look at the political crisis in Nicaragua.

It shows the involvement of the United States in the revolution during the late 1970s and 1980s through the perspective of pilot Barry Seal, who, for the right price, delivers guns to Nicaragua on behalf of the CIA, and cocaine into the U.S. on behalf of the Colombian cartel. Somewhere in between, Seal also works for the DEA.

Tom Cruise offers an engaging interpretation as Barry Seal, piloting the plane and doing all the stunts throughout the film. Cruise explains what drew him to the character:

“He just couldn’t help himself,” Cruise said. “He just had to live this life. He literally when you are talking about someone living on the edge, he didn’t even realize he was on the edge. He was just living life and not really thinking of necessary ramifications and what’s going to happen.”

As in most of his action film projects, Cruise pushes his boundaries.

“I don’t make a movie just to make a movie,” he said. “It’s not what interests me. What interests me is the passion of cinema, the passion of storytelling. That’s when it gets very exciting, not just a job. I love this too much.”  (VOA)

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Khalsa Aid: This Sikh Relief Organisation is Restoring Faith in Humanity Since 1999

‘Khalsa Aid’ has also been assisting Yazidi women, escaped from the clutches of terrorist organization ISIS recently, by providing monthly food rations to 250 women

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Khalsa Aid
‘Khalsa Aid’, an international humanitarian aid organization being run by Sikhs, Source: Khalsaaid.org

New Delhi, August 10, 2017: Prevailing scenario across the globe suggests that the cruelty has almost wiped out the humanity and the disheartening greed of human beings has made everyone egocentric. Increasing crime rate, conflicts, corruption, and negligence, are all symbol of this transition.

Despite the widespread selfishness, a Sikh relief organization is fighting hard to preserve the soul of humanity and keeping the hope alive. ‘Khalsa Aid’ is an international humanitarian aid organization run by people of Sikh community and it is setting a perfect example of peace and compassion among people.

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This organization works for providing humanitarian aid to the people affected by disasters or are in conflict areas. Started in 1999 in the United Kingdom with UK Charities Commission, ‘Khalsa Aid’ has volunteers all over America and Asia. They have provided relief aid to most part of the Middle East where the conflicts are much serious. They have led their activities in countries like Lebanon, Haiti, Bosnia, Nepal, and Serbia.

In Lebanon and Serbia, the ‘Khalsa Aid’ has been providing food, medical and educational assistance to the refugees there. It also had supplied food aid to famine and drought struck areas of northern Kenya.

Back in 2015, the organization also rushed to Nepal after severe earthquakes hit the country and arranged food and temporary shelters for the affected citizens. It also helped in conducting missions in rubble clearance and building temporary shelters for 250 families there.

Meanwhile, at the time of Kashmir floods (2014) in India, ‘Khalsa Aid’ had actively taken part in relief measures in flood-devastated parts.

 Similar was its role during Uttarakhand floods and the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013.

Khalsa Aid helping women in need

‘Khalsa Aid’ has also been assisting Yazidi women, escaped from the clutches of terrorist organization ISIS recently, by providing monthly food rations to 250 women.

Ravinder Singh, founder of ‘Khalsa Aid’ was awarded ‘The Sikh of the Year 2014’ for doing humanitarian works all over the world. His first mission was in Albania border where Khalsa Aid provided assistance to the victims of civil war and genocide.

Though there are only a few people working for the welfare of humanity, yet there is a hope and these people are the flag bearer for the same.

– by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter @sumit_balodi

 

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Cinema: How the Idea Turned into Reality!

Cinema was moving from an insecure business to a well established entertainment industry

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Turning of cinema into a reality
Eadweard Muybridge captures movement, the beginning of cinema. Wikimedia
“Films can heal! Not the world, of course, but our vision of it, and that’s already enough.” – Wim Wenders

New Delhi, July 19, 2017: The history of cinema dates back to the end of 1800. It was in 1827 that the first still photograph was taken, and in 1878 that Eadweard Muybridge succeeded in capturing movement after five years of continued efforts. Muybridge was asked to settle a bet as to whether horses hooves left the ground when they galloped. He showed this by setting up a bank of twelve cameras with trip-wires connected to their shutters, with each camera taking one picture when the horse tripped its wire. Muybridge developed a projector to present his finding. By 1891, Thomas A. Edison and his assistant W.K.L Dickson invented their Kinetograph camera, and after two years build a studio to produce films from it.

However, The Lumière family remained the biggest manufacturer of photographic plates in Europe. Brothers Louis and Auguste were once asked to make films which were cheaper than the ones sold by Edison. Louis and Auguste, eventually, designed a camera which served as both a recording device and a projecting device and called it the Cinématographe. The camera shot films at sixteen frames per second, against the forty-six which Edison used. Sixteen frames per second became the standard film rate for nearly 25 years.

Also read: Indian Cinema has gone beyond song-dance saga, for International Audience it is still about Cultural Reflection of larger than Life characters.

Until 1927, there was no sound included in the motion pictures. Motion pictures emphasized just on movement in their first phase. This era is referred to as the silent era of film. There with practically no plot or story either. One of the earliest movie “La Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine Lumière” (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory), a documentary in its most elemental form, showed exactly what the name of the film suggests, a single shot of dozens of men and women, all of whom happen to be wearing hats, leaving a factory for the day. People in Paris were delighted by the early Lumiere presentations, drawing huge crowds.

The first few years of the motion pictures showed the cinema moving from an insecure business to an established large scale entertainment industry.

David Wark Griffith, One of the most dynamic early directors, produced literally hundreds of one-reelers in the period from 1908 to 1912. Griffith and others in the industry wanted to do something different than the regular but the owners were reluctant to change the style of limited story telling. For this reason, they moved to a rural area near Los Angeles. It was at this place, Hollywood, that Griffith and others began to work with long feature films, and eventually, Griffith happened to produce the first full-length feature film, “Birth of a Nation”.

Many countries after that started to get involved in serious film production. Russia began its film industry in 1908. In Italy, production was spread over a number of centres. In Northern Europe, Denmark was the most important film producing country. The Indian film production, as the centenary celebrations suggest, began in 1913. But as a matter of fact, from about 1910, American films share the largest market in all European countries except France.

Cinema indeed was an idea that turned into reality, in fact, a sophisticated reality. It has undergone, without a shadow of doubt, a long course of research, creation and innovation, and because of that, it stands where it is now.

– by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha