Zakhme Dil – A Scarred Heart

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.

There was once a time of no war, of everyday the sun-rising and children going to school. When fathers and mothers would do their job and sisters and brothers played and learnt about how to be in the world. When beautiful buildings stood proud; ancient, historical, with memories. And fragrances that were Greek, Persian, Chinese, Afghani, unimaginable.”   Extract from Zakhme Dil – A Scarred Heart ©Shakila Taranum Maan 2008

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.

For further details contact Joanna Turner on 0121 555 888 or email her on

Save The Children, Save the Children West Midlands, Afghanistan, Asylum Seekers, Refugees, Comic Relief, Refugee Week


Artificial Trees To Save The Planet

I don’t usually write about the environment, but an idea that professor Klaus Lackner of Columbia University advocating building billions of artificial trees to capture the build up of carbon in the atmosphere is difficult to ignore.

Biopact (a pact between Africa and Europe to develop green energy) writes that “carbon capture, in the form of “artificial trees”, is one idea explored in the BBC Two documentary Five Ways To Save The World. But could these extraordinary biomimetic machines help to mitigate our excessive burning of fossil fuels and its potentially catastrophic consequence, global warming? Or would we be better off using real trees in a carbon negative energy system? Let us compare the two ideas.

In 2006, more than 29 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were pumped into the atmosphere. And 80% of the world’s energy supply still relies on fossil fuels. German geo-physicist professor Klaus Lackner of Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, thinks he may have found a way of tackling our current excessive use of fossil fuels.

Click here to read the full article


The Matter of Whiteness

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.’


A Mighty Heart

Directing ‘A Mighty Heart’ Michael Winterbottom continues with his politically relevant cinema. The journey for the director has been one of determination to create the kinds of projects that would have meaning and relevance. Teaming up with Eaton and Jude Law has meant that the director can ensure film projects remain a reality. Producer Andrew Eaton recently said in an interview “how many directors do you know sitting around waiting for a project to happen because they’re waiting for one actor? Once you’ve had enough disappointments, you do start to realise that you could waste your life.”

This is a very well know feeling for majority of film makers in the UK, but instead of waiting for actors, they are waiting for finance or funding or simply someone in the industry to take a risk and properly help with a production so we don’t end up making a substandard low budget movie that no one will watch.

Michael Winterbottom and Andrew Eaton are an exception to the rule of film making in the UK. They have defied box office and have created cinematic work to rival any major studio production internationally. Their ‘A Mighty Heart’ produced by Brad Pitts company is a testament to their dedication and singular approach to create meaningful cinema.

‘A Mighty Heart’ stars Angelina Jolie and tells the story of Daniel Pearl, the doomed journalist who was beheaded in Pakistan whilst researching a story in Karachi. The film also stars the talented British actress Archie Panjabi and the Indian actor Irrfan Khan.

Death Penalty

This month the UN General Assembly are due to meet to discuss the moratorium on capital punishment. I have been trying to get news of this, but so far have failed to do so. If any of you have come across anything please let me know. In the meantime here is an excellent piece from HANDS OFF CAINE published on 30th August 2007.

“It is only a few weeks from the presentation of a resolution on the Universal Moratorium on Capital Punishment at the UN General Assembly by the European Union, an initiative that was inspired by Italy, Hands Off Cain has released its 2007 Report on Capital Punishment in the world, and the picture it paints is chilling.

Notwithstanding protests and humanitarian initiatives, many countries of the world still execute children. And in 2006 the number of countries that employ capital punishment increased from 24 in 2005 to 27. In 2006, there were at least 5,628 executions as compared with 5,494 in 2005. Capital punishment still exists in many Islamic regimes, in some democracies, and even in a European country (Belarus).

Among the 51 countries that still employ capital punishment, China, Iran and Pakistan take the record for executions: at least 5000, 215 and 82 respectively. In 2006 in Iran, seven minors were executed. The United States have put to death 53 people, slightly less than the year before. Between June 30th, 2005, and June 30th, 2006, five executions took place in Belarus. However the surprise comes from Africa, the continent of tribal struggles and uncontrollable genocides. While it is true that there were 80 documented executions in 2006, a sharp increase on the 19 of 2005, it is also true that numerous countries are in favour of the resolution on capital punishment, as Prime Minister Romano Prodi revealed in the introduction of the Hands Off Cain Report.

The Prime Minister describes the commitment in Africa as extraordinary, citing that South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Senegal, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda (whose people have recently witnessed the most serious violations of international human rights) have joined our global campaign. Confirming this is the recognition given to Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, with the prize of ‘Abolitionist of the Year 2007’. It was awarded by Hands Off Cain as an acknowledgement to the person who, more than anyone else, committed themselves to the moratorium on capital punishment and the abolition of the death penalty. Kagame is also the author of the Report’s preface, in which he notes that ‘Rwandans have defeated the leadership responsible for the genocide (the Hutu), the State and the culture of impunity’.

According to Hands Off Cain, ‘the abolition of the death penalty and the support of the campaign for the Universal Moratorium on capital punishment are acts of extraordinary symbolic value. Rwanda has symbolically demonstrated to the world that it is possible to break the absurd cycle of revenge, and that justice and legality aren’t achieved with capital punishment.

Pavarotti No More

The death of Pavarotti was mourned by the whole world yesterday from the East and West condolences and word of his genius and unusual personality remained the topic of news. And of course his incredible and powerful voice.

Pavarotti was an unusual artist and didn’t consider opera to be just for the elite and went out of his way to work outside of the western world that opera continues to inhabit. His stint at the Beijing Opera brought him many admirers, where he encouraged talent to flourish and ensured that opera did not remain solely within the realms of Europe.

Perhaps his most memorable performances fall outside of classical opera where he teamed up with the pop world and worked with a spate of singers and musicians.

With James Brown he sang It’s a Man’s World

with Barry White, You’re the first, the last, my everything

with Queen, he concluded that Too Much Love Will Kill You.

Le Roi De Lahore

“Lahore” – an opera in five acts by Jules Massenet, a 19th century French composer much admired by Tchaikovsky – wrote over 25 operas, and hundreds of songs. Le Roi De Lahore stands out amongst his works because of its unusual theme. The opera was much admired as was most of his work. The libretto of Le Roi De Lahore is by Louis Gallet.

First performed in Paris in Theatre Opera, Lahore was an ode to Sita imploring the God Indra to save them from the invading Muslims led by Sultan Mahmoud. Commenting on the performance, Tchaikovsky, wrote in a letter that; “His opera, however, seduced me for its formal beauty, simplicity and freshness of the ideas and style, as well as for the richness of its melodies and the elegance of the harmony”

The extraordinary expect of this Opera is its confused narrative whilst attempting to be modern – Islamic characters are mixed up with Hindu gods such as Indra. Louis Gallet cleverly uses Sita who is played by Joséphine de Reszké as the protagonist, whilst Indra by Menu, Kaled by Fouquet, Timour by Boudouresque and Alim by Salomon. The creation of the role of Sita is credited to Joséphine de Reszké. A highly divisive piece of work, Le Roi De Lahore works within the tradition of orientalism – a romantic view of India – the mish-mashing of time-lines, the opera explores the invasion of Mogul empire and the demise of Hinduism. 

Perhaps Le Roi De Lahore should be revived so that we may view the mind of the European artist at that time, their perception of historical facts – Timor’s character or Alim for that matter skips a few thousand years evoking the god Indra, above all using Sita as the protagonist. Nevertheless, it was exciting to come across the fact of Le Roi De Lahore by Jules Massenet.

“Act I-Scene I – Before the Temple of Indra in Lahore, groups of men and women press against the temple gates, imploring the God Indra to save them from the invading Mohammedans who, led by the Sultan Mahmoud, are imminently expected to appear before the city. Timour, the High Priest, seeks to reassure them, saying that even if the King does not take the field against the invader, Indra will send them his aid. As the people enter the temple, Scindia, the King’s minister, approaches Timour. He has fallen in love with his own niece, Sitâ, and asks that she may be released from her vows as a priestess of Indra so that he may marry her. When Timour refuses – for only the King has the right to remove a priestess from the temple – Scindia, racked by passion, jealousy and anger, reveals that he has been told that each evening Sitâ is visited by an unknown man as she tends the altar. Timour is incensed, and promises that if she has broken her vows she will be punished. He agrees to allow Scindia to see her, but adds that he will be at hand, ready to appear if she should show sign of guilt. Scindia continues to be torn by conflicting emotions, one moment hoping that Sitâ may prove innocent, the next wishing her dead if she should be found guilty”.