Thursday, June 01, 2006

This program is assisted financially by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State under the authority of the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, as amended, and was produced in association with the Marrakech International Film Festival Foundation under the high patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Continuation: The Collective, the screening and beyond

The Eight Hunter students have formed a film collective and showed their films at a screening at the Imaginasian Theater on May 11th. The Moroccan students are also trying to do the same thing back home.

The best thing is students really found pairs, or even groups of students that they feel a real connection with artistically and this is very promising for future collaborations on films unrelated to the program. They have been discussing ways of flying back to Morocco, or of collaborating across the great ocean.

One thing is for certain, students will be collaborating on the footage that they shot in New York to make complete projects, either about New York as companion pieces to the ones shot in Morocco, or by incorporating footage from both places. Stay tuned....!

Monday: Departure Day

Nonetheless, everyone did something in the morning. Some bought new cameras at B+H, the superstore. Others visited the Statue of Liberty. A few are staying another week.
After they went to see the Statue, they invited her to come see Morocco with them, and here she is, going to visit with them. What a beautiful end to a beautiful story.

Sunday, May 7th: Already?

Everyone to their own devices in the morning. I didn’t see anyone all day. No doubt many adventures were had. When I get pictures and journal entries, they will fill in this blank...Many of the students were in movie theaters all day, as the festival was showing all the winners from the night before.

Closing Pizza Party

However, at night, we all gathered together our farewell pizza party. Everyone signed our beautiful Marrakech/Tribeca Filmmaker Exchange posters for each other as a souvenir.

Lenina�s father came to give us a quick history of Salsa Music, because we were planning on going salsa dancing that evening.

Once he taught us a few songs we were on a roll. You know how this group loves to sing together. Peter and Katayoun Belgari-Scarlet visited and remarked how much we resemble a huge, happy family. All in all a lovely time. Then we went to the salsa club and danced.

Saturday, May 6th: Coney Island and Awards Night

The history of Coney Island is fascinating, and I recommend going to if you would like a detailed history of its different eras. This was the big shooting day as a group and in pairs. Everyone took their cameras out at 10AM and hopped on the F train, which took us all the way to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue. Some rode the Cyclone �at their own risk.� Others played carnival games, walked the boardwalk or the shore, some napped a little because they needed it badly. Others watched the fishermen. I think everyone got some good footage from this journey. Look forward to seeing the outcome in the fall...

That night, no one complained about being tired. Everyone got dressed up and went to the Awards� Ceremony, which was held at the Golden Bridge Chinese Banquet Hall overlooking the Manhattan Bridge.

Then we danced... (seems like a running theme doesn�t it...Dancing and filming...)

Friday, May 5th: Museum of the Moving Image and Group Screening

In the morning the students visited the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, yet another of the five boroughs of New York.

Diana Logreira gave a spectacular tour. The museum is great because it shows the history of the moving image starting with Magic Lanterns, then optical illusion childrens’ toys up to how sound is all redone in a studio these days. They have the original Charlie Chaplin viewing machines, which are just a series of photographs that you wind manually so they act as a flipbook.

The museum spans the entire history of film. Here are some of the first games to play with the idea of putting still images into motion.

Here Simo becomes Frank Sinatra.

This is an original costume, now lifeless, just skin.

Then we rushed back to Manhattan for the Group Screening at the Tribeca Grand. This screening was dedicated to the students� work individually. It was very important for the participants to get to know each others� work when not given an assignment, and when in their own worlds and familiar atmospheres, to understand what they choose to do. It seemed that people were really surprised by these some of the very personal films, as well as with the expiremental ones. The conversation threatened to go on all night long.

In addition, we had Marwan Hamed of The Yacoubian Building with us. This started a lively and healthy conversation about the different film industries, Egypt and Hollywood. The movie is expected to be very controversial in Egypt because it deals with topics that are not often expressed publicly, including corruption in government, homosexuality, rape and polygamy. The conversation turned to the responsibilty of film in its representation of characters, even if fictional, because they become iconic, often stereotypes that are proliferated. Since this film is the first to talk about many kinds of characters, it is important that it be careful in passing judgement on its own characters.

We all can�t wait to hear what the reaction of the country will be to this film. We really thank Marwan for coming and speaking with us.
Afterwards we went to eat sushi! All 20 of us fit in a restaurant on Bleecker St. and Cornelia (I think, if not then Sullivan.) They were great to accomodate us.

I took some people who wanted to experience �true grit� to a country/western bar on the Upper West Side. A good time was had by all. A lot of two-stepping and Johnny Cash.

If you search in the blog for "sandwitch" you will see why I put this in here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Thursday, May 4th: So much, so much!

Thursday was a huge day. First we woke up early and met Madelyn Wils for a private tour of Ground Zero. First we went up into One Liberty Plaza and looked at the most recent plans for the site.

New Freedom Tower model

Thank you to Madelyn for sharing her experience on that day, and for explaining the planning process. A few things I remember are that it took 15 minutes to get to your office even once you were inside the building and past security because there were three elevator banks.

This building next to it was damaged and is thus being removed little by litte. The EPA will not allow an implosion because it will negatively affect the air in the area where there are too many people every day. There is much more, but I�ll leave it to the students to tell their impressions...

Then we went into the family room, which was emotional and touching.

Finally, we went into the still unopened first new building to be rebuilt after September 11th. It�s name is 7 World Trade Center Plaza. We went up to the 50th floor and had a spectacular view, as well as an idea of how tall the WTC must have been if it was 110 floors.

In this shot you can see out towards the East River. This really makes you realize what a dense island the island of Manhatta is. Water on all sides and you can see it all from the 50th floor.

This is a view uptown. The needle shaped skyscraper is the empire state building...

View of the Hudson River. That's New Jersey across the river.

After we left the site, we went up to the Museum of Modern Art where Ferentesh Daftari and Michelle Yun, curators of the exhibition �Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking,� gave us a tour of the exhibition, which includes both Iranian and Middle Eastern artists, and a couple Americans. It was a perfect thing for this program to see.
The students had a great time wandering around the museum, seeing original works of art that they had only seen reproductions of before. We were lucky enough to catch the
Edward Munch exhibition and the Printmaking Now show.

Afterwards, many of the students walked from MoMA to Times Square to shoot footage.

Pedestrians waiting for the light to change in Times Square can seem like a full army, from the old civil war days when the two sides just charged at each other...

the other side

We spent a long time there. Afterall, it is the most analogous place to Place Jema al Fnaa in New York for its amount of traffic and iconicism. Later in the week we will go to Coney Island because it rivals Jema al Fnaa in its spectacles, storytelling and �smoke and mirrors.�

Marvin told us about a great Indian food restaurant near Times Square. It was the first time for many eating Indian food, and most really liked it.

Detail of the evening

We ended the night at a bar in Brooklyn, another borough of New York, where a "Bohemian Marching Band" wooed us with their no-less-than 14-piece jazzy orchestra.

Late nights? OR Early mornings? Who cares? We're in New York "The city that never sleeps."

Wednesday May 3rd: Class, Movie Watching and a Barbeque

In the morning, many of the students went to Hunter to sit in on the highest film class offered there (as George explained to me.) This was their final class and they were holding critiques of the films produced in the class. The Moroccans contributed their views and started some very interesting conversations. They were also impressed with some of the films. Thanks to the teacher for welcoming into the classroom.

Afterwards, the students attended the second and final screening of "Once Upon a Time in Marrakech," at PACE University, which has very large theater that was pretty well packed. Then went to see "Sound of the Soul," a documentary about the Fez Sacred Music Festival in Morocco directed by Stephen Olsson. Afterwards there was a round table with different religious leaders. Some students participated in the lively discussion.

Everyone's got the Miss Rose Hat bug

I turn go out to buy reinforcements for two seconds and look what happens! I can't leave you guys alone for one second...

The Pink Hat Strikes Again!

That night, we went to Kim's fiance's house in the East Village and had a middle-eastern food barbeque. Very American and Moroccan--how well we get along!

The hat is telling her to go somewhere--and she is going to follow it.