Culture

Why Is Banning “Much Loved” The Best Thing Ayouch Could Have Hoped For?

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Amidst heated debate, the ministry of communication has decided to stand on the side of the critics of “Much Loved” and ban the screening of the movie in Moroccan theaters. Ayouch said he was “shocked” to receive the news, but he should probably be happy as the ministry did him a huge favor.

Apparently, universally acknowledged truths exceed a man’s want for a wife to a want for anything that is banned. Human history is rich in examples that illustrate this claim. For instance, the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. during the 1920’s did the country more harm than good. On the other hand, legalizing Marijuana in the Netherlands has been proved to be a healthier choice.

Therefore, banning the screening of “Much Loved” is the most powerful and effective advertising campaign Ayouch could have dreamt of. This ban will certainly generate unprecedented interest in the movie and widen the circle of debate to larger scales. It will also make people even more excited to watch “the movie that scared the ministry!” especially that the ban isn’t based on solid grounds and many people think it was just a response to the public outroar.

Furthermore, it is inevitable that people will find ways to watch the movie just the way they managed to watch banned movies and read censored books before. The highly-wired world we live in, and the accessibility to different media outlets make it really challenging for governments to conceal information, unless North Korea is a role model that we’re looking up to!

Worrying when you put that way, right? But what’s even more worrying is that the ministry decided to ban a movie that they had allowed to be made and filmed in Morocco and with a (mostly) Moroccan team! So, to think that all of these points have gone unnoticed by the ministry leaves much room for interpretation… and WORRY!

Thus, due to this “banertisement,” Ayouch has now become the most famous movie director in Morocco. The ministry has now given him something to brag about and present himself in the image of the liberating hero of Moroccan cinema. In fact, many Moroccans with libertarian mindsets think of him as a hero who should be celebrated. To these people’s joy, Ayouch’s film was invited to premiere at the acclaimed Cannes festival in France. This event didn’t go unnoticed as many of the movie’s supporters interpreted it as a triumph of art and freedom of speech over oppression.

So, Ayouch has now become a renowned director at an international level thanks to a) his gift as a director, and b) the ministry’s gift of baning his movie.

In short, if the ministry is afraid the movie would give a bad image about Moroccans, the ban isn’t going to help alter that image, either. So, instead of thinking of Morocco as a country with many prostitutes, foreigners would now think of Morocco as an oppressive country that doesn’t tolerate freedom of speech and arts. sounds better now? Naah, it’s a lost war!

Ranting About the Rants About “Much Loved”

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Even though I have been trying to keep my mouth shut on the topic, there was a time when I felt a need to have my say on Nabil Ayouch’s “Much Loved.” So, although I know that this post will probably get me more hatred and cynicism than respect and empathy, I just can’t resist the urge to voice my opinion on this matter.

If there’s anything my father taught me as a kid that I could never forget, it was the fact that we can’t judge a book by its cover. Now, what can be said about books can also be transferred to other areas where many people find it comforting to spit out their judgments before they even make informed opinions about those matters. Ask any university professor about the usefulness of making judgments and coming up with conclusions without carrying out any type of research, and you’d probably be asked to review your primary school materials!

With this in mind, I just can’t figure out why so many people are angry because of “Much Loved.” I find it very appalling that people from different walks of life are jumping to conclusions about a movie they haven’t even watched! Making judgments based on leaked out excerpts is the same as reading a few passages from a book and coming up with conclusions and judgments about the book and its writer. Just unbelievable!

In general terms, bashers of Nabil Ayouch’s movie base their opinions on many assumptions, the most recurrent of which are as follows:

  • The movie gives a bad image of Moroccan women
  • The movie encourages sex tourism
  • Nabil Ayouch is supporting and is supported by a foreigner agenda
  • The movie is a threat to our identity and religion
  • We should keep our problems to ourselves
  • etc.

None of these reasons are valid. If we’d find it odd that a movie that addresses education isn’t filmed within the confinements of educational settings, then why would we find it insulting that a movie about prostitution is filmed in casinos and whorehouses? The problem here is that most Moroccans are used to discourses where “la langue de bois” reigns. Thus, most people were shocked to see a film using the language that many Moroccans use on a daily basis. Oh, the irony!

Furthermore, what most critics fail to understand is that the movie is not representative of EVERY single Moroccan woman. The movie deals with prostitution and sex tourism, and it has, thus, limited itself to that particular context. However, people seem to forget that a movie, just like a novel, should be seen under the light of its context.

Taking these points into account, I don’t seem to agree with people who claim that the movie encourages sex tourism. It’s actually quite the opposite. “Much Loved” could be an eye-opener and a call for action so that we put an end to this phenomenon. Sweeping our problems under the rug and turning a blind eye doesn’t exempt us from our role in addressing these controversial issues.

As for those who claim that the movie represents a real threat to our religion and identity, I can’t but think that their identities and religious beliefs are weak already. If a movie succeeds to alter one’s beliefs, then the affected person didn’t really have any belief in the first place. Therefore, one has to be either ignorant or hypocritical to pretend that this can be regarded as an argument against the movie. Moreover, times change and it’s difficult for some people to embrace that change. For instance, in the recent past, men couldn’t accept the idea of women working outside. They saw that as a challenge to their status and presented arguments such as “a woman’s place is inside her house,” while others went to greater lengths by claiming that working women is the sign of the nearness of Doomsday! I think it’s all about NOVELTY. New things scare us, but shouldn’t we have learned from the past?

Finally, playing the “foreigner agenda” card has always bugged me. Most of us try to shift responsibility by putting the blame on other people and circumstances. Many of us justify failures by external factors that might, or might, not be responsible for those failures. On the other hand, very few of us face their problems and try to work them out the way they should.

To cut it short, prostitution, like many other social ills, is rampant in our country, and being in denial won’t do us any good because for a problem to be fixed, it, first, needs to be diagnosed and analyzed. If one has cancer but is in denial, the cancer doesn’t fade away, it just gets stronger and stronger.

PS: I know many will say that the cancer that needs to be eradicated is Ayouch and his likes. (Me included? I hope not! 🙂 )

My Very Informal Reaction to: “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Elizabeth_Gilbert

A “neurotic freak” would be an honest description of Elizabeth Gilbert. If she happens to have any reservations about this description, she might want to reconsider some events in her memoir “Eat, Pray, Love.”

Don’t get me wrong. I really do see the good in Gilbert’s journey of self-discovery and reunion with the divine. Nevertheless, being a man of a considerable amount of common sense and logical thinking, I find it hard to be 100% compassionate with her.

It’s not the fact that she wants a divorce from the man she has vowed to love till the end of time that makes me angry. It’s actually the fact that she’s angry with him because the poor thing “didn’t see that coming!” She’s angry because he chose her as his ultimate dream. She’s angry because he didn’t want everything they struggled for to collapse in a glimpse, and without a prior notice. How inconsiderate of him, right?

Moreover, she feels like she needs a break from her life to start anew, and what’s better than a PREPAID vacation to Italy, India and Bali to do that? She goes on a “cleansing” journey by money from her boss who is expecting a report about the journey in return. Doesn’t this sound like BUSINESS to you? …It does to me! Therefore, I find the authenticity of Gilbert’s work to be highly questionable.

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However, the book is not totally useless. I mean, if you’re bold enough to discard what’s been mentioned above as unimportant details, you can still enjoy the funny style, the imagery, the irony in Gilbert’s life, and you can even identify with her as she indulges in a bumpy search for everything.

Moreover, the book proposes a variety of scenery from different countries and cultures. Add that to Gilbert’s craft in storytelling, and you’ll end up traveling with her through the food paradise that is Italy, mystic India and exotic Bali.

If you’re into meditation, this book can be inspiring. Gilbert’s time in the Ashram in India, her maddening struggle with all the Mantras and Sanskrit, as well as the sleeping until the ungodly hour of dawn can be relatable in our daily lives.  Maybe not necessarily in that same order, or with those very same items, but it’s relatable, still.

So, if I am to give a final verdict, I’d just cut it short and say that if you enjoy shows like Sex and The City, then this book is for you.

Café/restaurant Les Artistes, Rabat.

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Les Artistes is a small but beautiful space in Rabat where you can enjoy food, photography and painting at the same time.

Reading Several Books At Once.

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STUCK!

“Stuck” is the word to use when all you can do to face your inability to cope with your several readings is goggle your eyes. Books of different shapes and languages are scattered around you, and they only accentuate your dilemmas about what to resume reading first. Is it this book in French by that very prominent sociologist, or is it this one in Arabic by this great Egyptian novelist, or maybe you should continue reading either one of those three English novels you started last week…

A Stuck Reader

Finally, you make up your mind and grab either one of those books. However, somehow, the words get blurry and the characters start jumping from one book into the other as if they were circus artists doing amazing confusing stunts! 

You might still want to focus. You’d probably start pondering about the merits of every book and author at hand for some minutes to make a final decision. But if you’re like me, you’d most probably just grab the remote and watch Mr. Bean, instead.

Is this really your idea of enjoying reading? If your answer is yes, then keep doing what you’re doing, and stop reading this post right now… NOW, I said. If your answer is no, then what follows might be helpful.

Hereafter are some pieces of advice you might want to consider:

                • Do not read several books at once:

Yes. I think that for people like myself, we just cannot commit to this kind of relationships. So my advice to you is to take it slow. One book at a time shall do you good.

What we need to understand is that we’re different, and so are our abilities. Reading several books at the same time is not a healthy practice for some people. Some others can do this but some others can’t. This doesn’t imply that my breed are stupid, or that people who can read many books at once are smarter, it just means that we have different skills and intelligences. So, don’t feel bad about it.

(What?… I heard that! And no, I’m not just comforting myself?)

After all, the only good thing about being able to read different books at once is that you can switch books if you get tired or bored. However, the cons of this practice outweigh this single advantage.

  • Do not mix languages:

If you’re going to read many books. Like, if you really really have to, make sure that they’re in the same language. Reading books in different languages at the same time is confusing, especially if you’re a fast reader in some language(s) but a slow reader in other language(s). You’ll make much more progress reading in the language(s) your fluent in, while you’d be lagging behind in the other language(s), which might stir some dissatisfaction and might, in some cases, lead to low self-esteem, depression and then, suicide. Just kidding, but you got the point!

  • Get time to read but don’t force yourself into it:

Make a schedule and try to stick to it. Choose the time of the day that fits you best and plan your readings accordingly. Some people prefer to read at nights, other people prefer to read upon waking up. Don’t forget to make use of your free time and weekends, too.

  • Prioritize:

Some things in life are more important than others, so are books. Start with the book which you have a strong and fresh desire to read, when you get tired of it, try the next book you’re looking forward to read. You should always have interest in what’s between your hands, otherwise, the reading experience would be ruined.

  •  “Prioritize” doesn’t mean ignore:

 If you leave a book for too long, you’d probably forget everything about it. Picking it up again would be kind of meaningless. Hence, if you feel that one of the books your reading isn’t as interesting as the others, leave it for another reading set, or just drop it altogether, but don’t feel compelled to finish it. This will only increase your anxiousness, and we don’t want that, do we? DO WE?

  • Use a timeline:

A notepad and a pencil would be very helpful. Track down the ideas, characters and events of the book. You can add your feelings, expectations and questions about the book. It’s also important to make sure to read your notes every time you want to resume reading, it’ll freshen up your memory and put you in the right mood for that particular reading.

  •  Read (a) whole chapter(s) every time:

Don’t stop in the middle of a chapter. If you do, you’d probably be lost when you resume reading. Think of this as watching a series, what would you rather do, stop watching at the end of the episode and wait for the new one, or stop in the middle of the current one?…There you go!

  • Real readers love challenges:

Eat you broccoli, finish your dish! If you start several books and don’t manage to complete anyone of them, the effect will be very counterproductive. So, go on and finish your books, at least some of them. The feeling is really satisfying, believe me. Remember that if you don’t, you’ll probably have a very low self-esteem, depression and might commit suicide. Just kidding again, but you got the point!

  • Join Goodreads.com

Goodreads is a great reading carrefour. People write reviews and send updates about their readings. You can set up an annual goal and work on achieving it. A little competition would never hurt.

This, dear bookworms, is what I can think of for the moment. I’m sure you can have many other ideas on how to accomplish this task. So, please feel free to share them in the comment section. 

Happy reading, everyone!

Book review: “The ABC Murders” by Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie

Finally, I got the chance to read something by Agatha Christie, the Queen of mystery fiction. “The ABC Murders” is not a fascinating book, but it surely is a good detective story.

We are reading from Captain Arthur Hastings’ narrative. Upon the Captain’s return to England from his ranch in South America, he visits his old friend Hercule Poirot. Poirot is the great Belgian detective who helps the British police solve some of the biggest mysteries they happen to encounter.

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Poirot and his strikingly dull, but faithful, sidekick try to get to the bottom of some mysterious murders committed by a cold-blooded serial killer. The latter is a psychopath who tries to outsmart detective Hercule Poirot by revealing the place where his crimes will be committed.

The plot in the ABC Murders is genuinely sewed. The twists are very complicated, which makes them even more stimulating to the reader. However, unlike the serial killer in this story, I never try to outsmart the author in guessing the identity of the killer because I know my prediction will not be the correct one. Hence the frustration anxious readers might get as they read along.

Nevertheless, if you’re curious enough, you’ll keep perplexing your senses in a try to “help” Poirot and his sidekick, Captain Arthur Hastings to track down the serial killer and solve those complicated cases.

All in all, “The ABC Murders” is a good book, but not the kind of book that leaves you open-mouthed. You know who’s going to “win” even before you start reading, so basically, readers might only be interested  in the plot and its twists rather than the ending, which to me, leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Book Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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I know very well that you can’t judge a book from its cover. Nevertheless, the moment I set my eye on The Kite Runner’s cover on one of my favorite bookshop’s  shelves, I decided it was good. The moment I read the synopsis on the back cover, I decided it was great. One hour later, I was telling myself it was one of the best books I’d ever read!

The Kite Runner Book Cover

Amir and Hassan are bond by a friendship that is closer to brotherhood. Hassan and his father are Hazara Shia who work for Amir’s father who is a Sunni Pashtun. Nevertheless, the alleged superiority of Amir’s descent and religious affiliation, and the continuous molestation of Amir’s Sunni Pashtun neighbors never made him give up on Hassan…until the day cowardice betrayed him.

So, Hassan got raped and Amir couldn’t do anything about it, although Hassan suffered his fate just to secure Amir’s glory after he’d won the kite running competition in Kabul. He could’ve given Assef the blue kite and saved himself but he hadn’t wanted to betray Amir who, on the other hand, just hid there and watched his friend, brother and servant get humiliated in the most awful of ways.

Leaving your friend suffer this atrocious humiliation is a coward deed, indeed. However, and since he’s not a naturally bad kid, his indignation and fury get beyond description and what does he do to redeem himself? He plans to kick Hassan and his father, Ali, out of their mansion! Guilt and disgrace are killing him in the inside and he can’t stand looking Hassan in the eye anymore.

When the Russians invade Afghanistan in 1979, Amir and his father sought refuge in the USA. As years passed by, Amir has succeeded in becoming a published writer. He’s now married to a beautiful Afghan girl with a suspicious past but they’re in love and happy as can be.

…But sometimes, it only takes one phone call to change the course of our lives.

Rahim Khan, Amir’s father’s friend, calls Amir from Pakistan and tells him that Hassan was killed by the Taliban along with his wife and that their son, Sohrab, was still alive in Kabul. Rahim Khan then whispers a phrase that shakes Amir’s world and life: “There’s a way to be good again.”

As it turns out, Rahim Khan knows about everything and he’s now providing Amir with a chance for redemption. Nevertheless, Amir is happy and relatively well-off now. Should he opt for his happy American life or go to Kabul and haunt his haunting past in a city controlled by the Taliban wolves?

As mentioned above, Amir wasn’t a bad kid and he hasn’t grown up to be a bad man, either. Therefore, he  seized the opportunity to reconcile himself with his past and undo his mistakes.

Kabul is not a welcoming city, neither are its rulers. However, true Afghans like the driver Farid and Rahim Khan are there to help. Amir sets foot in Kabul with one goal in mind; finding Sohrab. Sadly, Amir learns the boy is sold to entertain one of Taliban’s big guns, whom, it turns out, is no one but Assef, Hassan’s rapist!

After a big quarrel between Amir and Assef, and with very considerable help from Sohrab and Farid (Sohrab is genius with the slingshot and Farid is an amazing driver,) Amir manages to break free from the Taliban. After an even bigger administrative quarrel, Amir succeeds in getting Sohrab out of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Adult Amir and Sohrab

“The Kite Runner” is a feelings stirring phenomenon. I think that you can hate the book, but you I don’t think you can deny it moved you. The reason I used the word phenomenon is because, up to now, there is not a single person I know  read the book and wasn’t moved by the events. Some people liked the book, others loved it, and a few hated it, but they were all moved to different extents and in different ways. Actually, someone complained that she hated the book because it was TOO moving!

The story in “The Kite Runner” is a complicated mixture of overlapping connections. Friendship, brotherhood, bravery, regret, guilt, redemption, racism, in/justice and love are all heavily presented themes. Hosseini makes good use of his storytelling skills to convey images that actually speak to you. The description is startling yet realistic. The thing about “The Kite Runner” is that the film plays on after one or two lines. I know we can imagine while reading other books but the description and the storytelling in this book enjoy a high quality graphics! Also, the events are enchanting in good and bad ways but they’re all deeply moving. If this book doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will.

As far as the characters are concerned, one cannot but remark that each one of them enjoys unforgettable traits. Amir, Hassan, Baba, Ali, Rahim Khan, Sohrab, Assef, The General, Soraya…are quite different people but whose behavior is very relatable. I think one of the most attracting features in this book is that the characters’ traits are not farfetched. You can see relatable examples of their behavior in everyday life.

However, I think that this novel falls short in describing the Taliban. I’m sure they’re bad people but Hosseini’s description was extravagantly grotesque. Hosseini sure hates them, but the way they are portrayed is surreal. Sometimes, I felt I wouldn’t be surprised if the book said the Taliban had fiery eyes and threw flames of fire out of their mouths!

Holding my copy of the book

Finally, I think that, although it might bring you down to tears, “The Kite Runner” remains one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had. Also, if you’re into writing as I am, then this is the kind of book that when you finish might scream: “This is the book I want to write.”