Tonight, wonderful Cuban food in Dublin including lamb on skewers, a vegetarian paella, and crispy rollitos (some stuffed with chicken, others with goat cheese). After dinner, a trip to a “real” pub (The Long Hall) where there’s no TV, no music, just people talking. Thank u Robert Navan for this lovely treat and all the great conversation. Looking forward to the screening tomorrow, where we will be discussing both the partition of India and Ireland. 2016 is the centenary anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Good screening of A Thin Wall at TVapex studios last night followed by a lively discussion and an interview. It was interesting to screen for British Pakistanis and get a sense of their reaction to the film. Many of them were moved and some offered excellent feedback on the title of the film, its historical context, visual quality, and poetic approach. All great comments 🙂
Saw “People, places, things” at Wyndham’s Theatre last night. What an experience! I was lucky to be seated on stage, close to the action, and therefore all the more blown away by Denise Gough’s electric performance.
She plays an alcohol and drug addict, “caught between wrath and terror” and trying to save her life through something similar to AA’s 12 step program. The fact that her character is astonishingly intelligent (after a rant in which she mentions Foucault and Derrida, her therapist concludes, “So you’re an addict because of postmodernism”) and a talented actress who is more comfortable playing colorful roles than being herself (at her first meeting she begins, very reluctantly, to introduce herself and the background to her addiction, when someone calls her out for stealing from “Hedda Gabler”), make her (and the play) multidimensional and captivating.
The staging is equally fantastic, including the use of video, light and many moving parts that construct and deconstruct scenes seamlessly. One of the most unforgettable visuals in the play is a choreographed sequence representing withdrawal (spoiler alert). All of a sudden clones of the main character begin to crawl out of every corner and crevice on stage, writhing alarmingly and then rising up from under the bed covers, climbing out of the floor, emerging from walls and furniture. Each incarnation is vomiting, shaking, hallucinating, panicking, screaming. It’s a terrifyingly bad trip. And most excellent theatre.
You can say whatever u like about London’s dismal weather but it’s a fact that the London sky photographs gorgeously: a remarkable striation of color, countless shades of grey and blue, dense clouds with whimsical outlines – some sunlit and brilliant white, others dark and ominous. Took some wonderful pictures from the Millennium Bridge that links the Tate Modern to St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Tate Modern wasn’t half bad either, though my favorite area, the Turbine Hall, is closed for construction work. Artwork that stood out: Peter de Francia’s “A little night music” (which connects musical instruments to instruments of torture) and “Romulus and Remus” (which shows modern day military leaders being suckled by a wolf). His work is inspired by Francisco de Goya who too created sinister allegories about the violence and politics of his times. The entire room was filled with works that spoke of “Civil War” (including a detailed figure from Picasso’s Guernica and a hellish scene that portrays figures literally melting into one another (Malangatana Ngwenya’s untitled piece from 1967 about Mozambique’s war of independence against Portuguese colonizers). Sadly all too real, still. Another image that sticks in one’s mind is Richard Hamilton’s “The citizen” which is inspired by IRA prisoners on the “no wash” protest. It draws parallels between the blanket-clad protesters and images of Christian martyrdom.
Finally, the Mark Rothko room was profound as usual. The lights were dimmed to capture the solemn mood and colors of Rothko’s Seagrams murals. People automatically lowered their voices and preferred to view the giant canvases while seated in silence. Such is the effect his work has on many of us.
Movies playing at the local Renoir Theatre: a film about the use of propaganda in North Korea, a film about the radicalization of Pakistani youth in madrassas, a film about the only (American) human rights lawyer in Afghanistan and her uphill battle against insurmountable corruption, and then a film about an Israeli dance choreographer. I guess “Brand Israel” works. And so does Brand Orientalism.
Love the Harlingford Hotel. Stayed here for about 3 weeks a few years ago. It’s in central London, in a lively neighborhood where I feel v much at home – close to St Pancras station, with a small movie theatre that plays independent films, lots of restaurants and shops, fresh fruit and vegetables, an old bookstore, the British Library, and much more. Btw Icelandair is a great way to connect to all major European cities. I didn’t feel too well on the flight from Toronto to Reykjavik but they took such excellent care of everything. People from Iceland are just generically nice it seems 🙂
So I arrive at this hotel in Toronto (am parking my car here and leaving for London in an hour) and the woman at the reception is lovely. She has long shiny hair, the kind Bollywood actresses like to flaunt, and while I’m filling out some paperwork she steps aside and starts talking to her colleague in Punjabi. I ask about a good kebab place and she smiles. I end up at Kandahar Kebab. The young woman who takes my order asks me if I’m a student (ok, that pretty much made my day). I tell her I’m a filmmaker. She inquires about my work and ends the conversation with a warm “mashallah”. The kofta kebabs and tandoori naan are to die for. I dispatch them with fervor. I can’t help but think how I could totally live here.
Screening of A Thin Wall at Festival Cinema Invisible in Schenectady, New York. Excellent questions from the audience followed by a lovely meeting with Waheed, who is originally from Hyderabad, India. He took me to meet his wife Shammi and have an early dinner at their restaurant. He used to be a journalist back in India and once interviewed the great Satyajit Ray. He didn’t let me pay for dinner and promised to invite me to Schenectady once again to screen the film for the Pakistani/Indian community. Such warmth and grace and generosity. Made my visit super special 🙂
this was three years ago, when i joined a u of r class called “theatre in england”: 25 plays in london (mostly) and its environs in 3 weeks, which i got to spend in the center of the city. here i am standing with the legendary dr russell peck, who designed this brilliant course decades earlier, and his beautiful wife ruth peck, a superb pianist who played all the classical music for the film “A Thin Wall.” two of my favorite human beings on the planet.
Jugo verde is the most refreshing drink I’ve ever had. Pineapple, freshly squeezed orange juice, cactus and parsley. Not too sweet, not too acidic, pleasantly flavorful. Perfect for breakfast. Actually, its soothing taste reminds me of the people of Tilcajete who create delicate wood carvings of fantastical creatures called alebrijes. They speak Spanish in such dulcet tones that it melts in one’s ears. Sounds like gently falling rain.
Today: Monte Albán, Mitla and the 2,000 year old, still v green Tule tree.
Besides being one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica, Monte Albán’s importance stems also from its role as the pre-eminent Zapotec socio-political and economic center for close to a thousand years. Founded around 500 BCE, in the next 1,000 years Monte Albán had become the capital of a large-scale expansionist polity that dominated much of the Oaxacan highlands and interacted with other Mesoamerican states such as Teotihuacan to the north. The city had lost its political pre-eminence by the end of the Late Classic era and soon thereafter was largely abandoned.
Mitla is the second most important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca. While Monte Albán was most important as a political center, Mitla was the main religious center. It was inhabited perhaps as early as 900 BCE. Mitla is famous for its small, finely cut, polished mosaics and massive stone pieces which have been fitted together without the use of mortar. The high priest’s room is quite impressive. The doorways into his chambers are intentionally low so people would have to bow in order to get in.
Finally, we got to see the giant, 2,000 year old Tule tree – a stunning Montezuma cypress in the town of Santa Maria del Tule.
We visited the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman in Oaxaca today. It is one of the most lavishly decorated Baroque churches in all of Mexico. Its adjacent convent houses the Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca and contains the Treasures of Tomb 7 from Monte Alban, a Mixtec burial site discovered in 1932. It includes finely crafted gold and silver but what really blew me away were alabaster bowls so fine, so delicate, that they’re translucent. This is the greatest treasure that has ever been found in Mesoamerica and it’s kinda cool that these remarkable pre-Colombian objects are displayed in a convent built by the Spaniards, conquerors who did everything they could to erase that very same culture.
Stopped over in Puebla City on our way to Oaxaca and had the best lunch ever. So mole was invented here. I’ve had it in the US and in other parts of Mexico (like Puerto Vallarta) but mole poblano is something else -incomparable. My husband tried some toasted grasshoppers while we were roaming around the market, but I preferred to focus on the beautiful Talavera pottery. We visited the Church of Santo Domingo and the Chapel of the Rosario. Not since St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican have I seen so much gold and such overwhelmingly intricate work. So many stunning (and mostly blue and white) tiles are incorporated into the facades of buildings here that it sometimes feels like Tunisia or Morocco. Love how cultures and histories intersect in the most unexpected ways.