On Wednesday 25th June 2008 at the Lord Mayor’s Hospitality Suite in Coventry, Save the Children launches a ground-breaking film entitled ‘Zakhme Dil – A Scarred Heart’ – telling the story of a young unaccompanied refugee in the UK.
Written and directed by Shakila Taranum Maan in collaboration with the young people from The Positive Press Project based in the West Midlands, the film tells the story of Ali, a young unaccompanied refugee from Afghanistan and It portrays images of life both in Afghanistan and UK.
The Positive Press project has been running for the past year with an aim to give young people a voice on issues affecting them and to challenge representations of young refugees through the media. Young people participating in the project are drawn from both refugee and non-refugee backgrounds from Coventry and Birmingham. The project was funded by Comic Relief.
The DVD is being officially launched by Save the Children in Coventry and will feature in the “Refugee Week” festival in London.
My article on Peter Doig’s exhibition at Tate Britain has been published by Bohemian Aesthetic. See below:
Peter Doig: in the footsteps of Gauguin?
It’s not often I’d walk away from an artist’s work; and if I do, I try to return to it or I find ways for it not to affect me. In fact, Doig’s work is difficult for me to ignore, and I’ve been at a loss to explain this to myself. I can only do so by trying to recall the wise words of one of my lecturers at film school, the legendary Laura Mulvey, who makes the point to always look for something good in a work of art. In relation to Doig’s work, I’m still looking. Maybe one day I’ll understand it.
Walking in the footsteps of Gauguin (if, indeed, that’s what Doig is doing), his Trinidad series doesn’t share the same terrain—that of intimacy and compassion. Instead, the paintings appear to be distant and cold, murky, entering the filmic realms. But that’s not Doig’s intention; he says, “people often say that my paintings remind them of particular scenes from films or from certain passages from books, but I think it’s a different thing altogether. There is something more primal about painting.” But the fact remains that Doig’s work does resemble still frames from motion pictures. His “Rasta in the Thicket in Trinidad” could easily be a shot out of Predator.
The recent bill-board campaign by the British National Party in London for the Mayor’s election, putting ‘Londoners First’ showing a working white class family – semi obese and content brought to mind Richard Dyers book entitled ‘White’.
In the culture of ‘White is Right’ – where the white majority feel they have to fight back to regain their whiteness and britishness, non-whites are beginning to feel the backlash – recently local council’s are doing away with specialist ethnic community groups in favour of ‘services for all’ and in the process losing vital knowledge necessary to combat racism, especially that of a feminist perspective.
Dyer’s ‘White’ seems somewhat time sensitive. Published in 1997 by Routledge as part of their ‘Cultural/studies/Race and Ethnicity’, much of the writing remains relevant – although it could do with a re-visit by Dyer. The publishers state that ‘white people are not literally or symbolically white. Yet they are called white. What does this mean? In Western media, white take up the position of ordinariness, not a particular race, just the human race… while racial representation is central to the organisation of the contemporary world, white people remain a largely unexamined category in sharp contrast to the many studies of images of ‘black and Asian peoples.’
Richard Dyer in his chapter entitled ‘The matter of Whiteness’ says that ‘this book is about the racial imagery of white people – not the images of other races in white cultural production, but the latter’s imagery of the white people themselves. This is not merely to fill a gap in the analytic literature, but because there is something at stake in looking at, or continuing to ignore, white racial imagery. As long as race is something only applied to non-white peoples, as long as white people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm. Other people are raced, we are just people.’
Moin Shakir’s ‘Women in Muslim Society’ as it appears in ‘Status of Women in Islam’ edited by Asghar Ali Engineer, demonstrates that very few Islamic countries have in fact progressed at the desired pace. Much of what Shakir writes in ‘Women in Muslim Society’ can still be applied today.
Published in 1987, twenty years ago, the question of the position of women in Islam remains pertinent.
Shakir comments that ‘the practice of seclusion or veil existed in the pre-Islamic times. In the same way a number of customs which are now treated as Islamic have nothing to do with Islam. These customs and practices have been the features f the social and cultural life of the people who did not abandon them after embracing Islam. The example of the Indian Muslim social structure may be instanced here. This may be described the folk aspect of religion which may go or may not go against the letter and spirit of normative aspect of religion. In other words religion, normative or popular, is not and should not be viewed as an autonomous and independent phenomenon.’
Status of Women in Islam, edited by Asghar Ali Engineer was first published in 1987 by Ajanta Publications.
Romila Thapar’s ‘A history of India 1’ is worth every re-visit. I had the good fortune of coming across is some years ago, prior to that, I had very little knowledge of the historical make of the modern India, although her work stops at the arrival’s of the Europeans in the sixteenth century.
Published by Pelican, the book ‘traces the evolution of India before contact with modern Europe as established in the sixteenth century. Professor Thapar’s account of the development of India’s social and economic structure is arranged within a framework of the principal political and dynastic events. Her narrative covers some 2,500 years of India’s history, from the establishment of Aryan culture in about 1000 B.C. to the coming of the Mughuls in A.D. 1520 and the first appearance of European trading companies. In particular she deal’s interestingly with the many manifestation of Indian culture, as seen in religion, art, and literature, in ideas and institutions.
Thapar states that ‘the history of India in the first volume begins with the culture of the Indo-Aryans and not with the prehistoric cultures of India.’ She further says that ‘1526 marks the arrivals of the Mughuls in northern India and they were (amongst other things) actively involved in the future of Europe in India.’
In her chapter ‘The Antecedents’, Thapar says ‘wealth in India, as in every other ancient culture, was limited to the few. Mystical activities were also the preoccupation of but a handful of people. It is true, however, that acceptance of such activities was characteristic of the majority… whereas in some other cultures the rope-trick would have been ascribed to the promptings of the devil and reference to it suppressed, in India it was regarded with amused benevolence. The fundamental sanity of Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Satan.’
Just when you were despairing that all the great directors were no longer exploring film language in Hindi cinema, along comes a classic! Khoya Khoya Chand released in December 2007 with a highly accomplished cast of actors from Soha Ali Khan, Shiney Ahuja, Rajat Kapoor, Sushmita Mukherjee and Soniya Jehan, the grand-daughter of the legendry Noor Jehan, shouts from the roof tops that all is not lost in Hindi cinema today. The film is produced by the legendry Prakash Jha.
Sudhir Mishra has created a masterpiece of cinema in the true creative and artistic tradition of film making. And it does what it set out to do; to bring to the audience great actors and directors of the 50’s and 60’s film world in Hindi Cinema.
Shooting in the style of light and shade, akin to Guru Dutt’s cinema, Sudhir Mishra has created his own film language. Here he uses the camera effectively as an observer. Mishra lays out the narrative of Khoya Khoya Chand through an exploration of a classic love story between an actress, Nikhat played by Soha Ali Khan and a writer-director, Zafar, played by Shiney Ahuja. Many have written about the fact that perhaps it was the telling of the story of Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman’s story love affair. Nikhat and Zafar’s coming to the industry are a form of escape and refuge; here Mishra employs great technique and vision of the black and white era where shadows are used colourfully to explore depth and emotions, life experiences and intellect of a character as was the norm within the works of Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, Mehboob to name a few. Mishra uses these when focusing on the characters of Zafar, Nikhat and Prem Kumar, played by Rajat Kapoor.
Each character carries a multitude of shades and as the film progresses, the journeys and transitions forced upon them by the outside world bring to the foreground their darkness. Ultimately the film is about love, loyalty and passion, even within the perceived fickle world of film.
When I used to visit a Sufi gathering in the 80’s with my mother, it was perhaps one of the most mesmerising experiences that I had with her, which I miss desperately since she passed away. Of course then, and as now Islam has not been kind to music or heightened self expression.
My mother and I would sit at the back and listen as the chanting turned into a beautiful rendition of desire and love for the supreme creator. Small children, girls and boys aged 6 and over would go into a trance like state and rock from side to side and I feared that they would bang their heads into one another, causing a bloody explosion.
So when I came across and extract of ‘Mystic Iran’ a documentary by from filmmaker Aryana Farshad’s film exploring sacred locations in Iran, I was struck by the women and their defiance of orthodox Islam that is so prevalent in Iran and that has gripped so many other parts of the world.
The documentary was shot in 2002 and is 52 minutes in length. Aryana Farshad’s ‘Mystic Iran’ is a testament to those who defy conservative and right wing elements in Islam and who continually reach out for a self defined expression of worship.
“The work of internationally acclaimed sculptor Anish Kapoor, derived from diverse forms and materials, leaves viewers spellbound. It also clearly rests within the notions of infinity. His shapes, colours, and subject matter expressly indicate that he has a tremendous understanding of mathematics as Art. (I confess this is a somewhat personal view and not something universally shared by Kapoor followers.)”.
My article on Anish Kapoor can be read in full last month’s eZine; The Bohemian Aesthetic. This is my third article for the section ‘London Letters.’ The Bohemian Aesthetic is published each month on the 15th
“In the introduction of the 1996 publication of his collection, writer/curator Germano Celant encapsulated the profound force behind Kapoor’s work:
“The ordeal of the void, of limbo, is a necessary precondition to gaining mastery over nothingness and the self. It occurs through a dramatic experience of the breath, the unknown fearsome word that rises up from the earth…capturing the force of life, as vortex, as eruption, is the essence of art; and art, in turn, through the principle of opposites, triggers the reading of life. This is the alchemy of creation.”
Created by Pasty Moore, The Bohemian Aesthetic is a remarkable eZine focusing on diverse subject matters in line with exploring works by artists unafraid to act against the status quo.
Patsy Moore is a critically-acclaimed singer/songwriter, poet and essayist, film and television score composer, and humanities lecturer, who lives in Los Angeles, California.
The Bohemian Aesthetic eZine was launched based on an arts newsletter that Patsy published between 1994 and 1995. Along with publishing and editing this project, Patsy shoulders the primary responsibility of producing The World Watch Papers and The Bohemian Aesthetics video supplement, BohoTV.
Shooting “The Winter of Love” (formally ‘A Quiet Desperation’) in Southall was paramount to its manifestation. Without Southall – the film would be meaningless. It was not just the question of the story being played out in the streets of Southall – but enmeshed in it was my long standing relationship with the town.
My connection with films in Southall goes back to the heady days of the three cinema’s on South Road, leading up to the Green starting with Liberty Cinema, with Century in the middle and the Dominion Cinema towards the end. Our journeys to these cinemas were with our parents – larger than life images of Hindi film stars; great movies such as
and Amar Akbar Anthony
played havoc on our imaginations as children. Southall like many small Asian communities throughout Britain created a hub and buzz around Hindi Cinema and made it popular outside of India and brought it to its present day success in Britain and generally in the West – a success that British Asians should be given a full credit for.
With the demise of the cinemas and the rise of video’s that collective viewing soon disappeared along with the closures of the three cinemas – the Dominion Cinema was bought by the Indian Workers Association who renamed it The Dominion Centre. An act of pure charity, the cinema was bought by the IWA with a view that the centre would be funded by the local council and service the entire community regardless of race or gender. As part of the purchase, the IWA in their wisdom demolished a state of the art building and replaced with a monstrosity designed by what can only be described as a creatively deprived architect who created a building without a heart and soul as well as acoustics! But the users and the people of Southall embraced the building as their own and now it operates as the only secular community building in Southall.
Many creative individuals since have emerged from Southall. A key inspirational figure in making a marking on the film and theatre scene was Harwant Bains. And film for a brief moment seemed to have returned to Southall. His ‘Wild West’, shot in 1992 caused a stir amongst the local community as well as nationally. The story is set in Southall where a young Pakistani sees himself as a cowboy and has ambitions of fronting a country and western music band – his dream is to go to Nashville. A zany caper, ‘Wild West’ gave many of us inspiration to create and produce our own films.
Since then a number of documentaries have appeared on television covering various issues around Southall; “A Fearful Silence”, about the work of Southall Black Sisters on domestic violence in Asian communities produced by Azad Productions; Acting our age directed by Gurinder Chadha and a powerful and moving search by Melanie Sykes for a sense of belonging in her Melanie Sykes Southall Stories directed by Fatima Salaria.
Deeply inspirational, Southall has been an example to British Asian communities through out the British Isles and many communities in Europe. My decision to shoot and locate ‘The Winter of Love’ (formally ‘A Quiet Desperation’) in Southall stems directly from a sense of deep belonging to a place that has influenced and shaped my outlook on life.
Southall means many things to many people. Acting as a town near a point of entry (Heathrow) it has traditionally sheltered all immigrants coming into its borders; Jewish refuges from the second world war; West Indian settlers from the Windrush; Pakistani and Indian settlers in the 50’s and 60’s; Ugandan Asian’s escaping Idi Amin’s regime along with Kenyan’s and Asians and most recently Somalian’s.
Southall’s ability to absorb a diversity of life is a testament to its openness and embracing nature. Perhaps we will see many more stories coming from Southall with a Somalian; Polish, Jewish or Irish slant nestled within universal themes.
Visiting Bill Cooke & Terry Tkachuk website, the Southall Film Studios History Project confirmed its place in the creative history of British film making.