|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
6 - 12 September 2001
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More than an eyefulTHE 58TH round of the biannual International Venice Film Festival ends this Saturday. Of the many cinematic events the festival has hosted in the last week or so, Macedonian film-maker Milcho Manchevski's Dust, a Balkan ("Eastern") Western featuring Joe Fiennes and David Wenham, deserves mention. The Cain-and-Abel parable of two cowboy brothers who enlist as mercenaries on opposing sides in the Balkan War of 1912, Dust, Machevski's second full-length feature, was conceived in response to present-day conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.
The action unfolds in the wake of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, which parallels the fall of the Eastern Bloc; and the conditions of the war depicted by the film are as complex and inscrutable as those of the present war. Manchevski's debut, Before the Rain, which won the Golden Lion at Venice in 1999, was seen as a warning to Macedonia's various ethnic groups against following in the footsteps of Bosnia. The filming of Dust, Manchevski has said, took place in tandem with the outbreak of war in Kosovo and the arrival of NATO forces in Macedonia.
American film-maker Martin Scorsese brought to this round not an offering of his own (he is currently working on a film entitled Gangs of New York), but two obscure "Little Italy" flicks from the 1930s: Roma Citta Aperta and Bicycle Thieves.
The negatives comprise the latest restoration work of the Film Foundation, which was established in 1990 by Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick and others committed to preserving and promulgating cinematic heritage that would otherwise be forgotten. These two minor classics, which "marked [Scorsese] for a life," are landmarks in the history of Italian American film-making.
On Sunday the festival saw a discussion of Another World Is Possible, a large-scale documentary of the demonstrations during the G8 summit in Genoa directed by 33 Italian film-makers with additional contributions from more than 22 others. Some of these film-makers were present at the discussion, which stressed the fact that "a consistent and representative group of Italian cinematographers with different personal stories, political leanings and from different generations" were collaborating for the first time in many years.
Only two Arab films participated in Venice: Tunisian film-maker Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud's full-length documentary, Alf Sawt wa Sawt Mousiqa Al-Islam (One Thousand and One Sounds: The Music of Islam), and Youssef Chahine's Sukout Hansawwar (Silence, we're shooting). Chahine was honoured along with Manoel de Oliveira and Seijun Suzuki.
'Presence of the head'ON SUNDAY the Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni inaugurated the 13th Youth Salon in the Palace of Art, Opera House grounds, Reham El-Adawi reports, in the presence of the head of the Arts Department Ahmed Nawwar and the Salon's curator Hamdi Abul-Ma'ati.
The exhibition, ongoing till the end of September, includes 263 works that embody the latest developments in painting, graphic art, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, photography and illustration. 186 Egyptian artists are participating, along with the Salon's 29 guests of honour from Palestine, Qatar, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (contributing a total of 68 pieces).
The Salon's grand prize (LE5,000), it was announced, landed in the lap of illustrator Wael Kamal Darwish.
The Salon, Abul-Ma'ati announced, provides for seminars and discussions on the contemporary plastic arts, mediated by the chairman of Dar Al-Kotob Samir Gharib. They feature artists and art critics like Reda Abdel-Salam, Ahmed Nawwar, Mohamed Salmawy, Fatma Ismail, Abdel-Salam Eid and Wagih Wahba.
A suitable placeLAST week Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni's unexpected decision to replace Mohamed El-Qalyoubi as the head of the National Centre for Cinema with another well- known Ministry of Culture figure, Ali Abu Shadi, prompted much wide-eyed debate.
"I found out about the decision from the evening edition of the newspapers," El-Qalyoubi declared. "This is unacceptable professional conduct... I was actually relieved on realising that it gives me much needed time and peace of mind to work as a scholar and director... All these positions," he added, "do not involve real power, anyway. People just receive and implement orders. My position [as the head of the National Centre for Cinema] added nothing to my achievement, all it did was prevent me from pursuing my own work."
"I too found out from the newspapers before I was officially notified," Abu-Shadi said. "I was very pleased... I feel I am on an official mission and my task is to build on what El-Qalyoubi has started."
For his part Hosni explained that the news had unwittingly leaked out of his office before the procedure was underway. "Do I not have the right to make changes in the ministry's institutions," a good-natured Hosni retorted rhetorically. "Must there be a catastrophe behind every change that takes place." For months prior to the decision, commentators explained, Hosni had been seeking out "a suitable place" for Abu Shadi; now, it is said, it is El-Qalyoubi's turn. "We have sent El-Qalyoubi a letter of commendation acknowledging his exceptional contribution," Hosni added. "We might need him somewhere else in the ministry."
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