Monday, March 23, 2009

Movie Review: Lady Kul el-Arab

A beautiful, dream-filled 17 year old defies her conservative Druze community and enters a beauty contest where she sees a chance to become an international professional model. The Druze community see carnal shame. Her immediate family objects, but they decide to support the young lady once her decision is made. The fireworks begin when an uncle and accomplices are arrested for plotting her murder, her father robs a gas station to pay for his daughter's pageant trip to India, and she and her family are called before the tribal council.

The real issue of this movie is the individual versus the tribe. Because this occurs in the context of a beauty contest, feminist side arguments tend to obscure the core tribal issue, which would be the same, for example, for a gay man deciding to live an openly gay life in an anti-gay tribal community. In the end, the young girl relents and obeys the tribal dictates, choosing the security of tribal membership over ostracism via an irreversible leap of faith into an alternate world of individual achievement.

This was not the story the director -- herself a beautiful young woman -- started out to make, but it is the story that happened. Thus it is full of oddities, ambiguities, and strange twists. Despite a temptation to dismiss the movie as the story of a silly girl, it worth seeing as great food for argument, and for images we don't often see of the Israeli-Arab world.

The director, Ibtisam Mara'ana, was present for an extended discussion on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at Isenberg 137, UMass.

(Israel, 2008, 56 min, in Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Poetry Joke

A UMass professor and his wife were on their way to a famous garden in rural Japan when they met two Hungarians travelling on the same bus:

"What brings you to Japan from Hungary?" asked the professor. "We are selling Hungarian poetry to the Japanese." So, a discussion on the Japanese appreciation for beauty in words, gardens, and art ensued.

When they arrived at their destination, the travellers said their farewells, and the wife skeptical but fascinated by the market for good Hungarian poems, said, "Good luck selling your poetry! "

The Hungarian turned to her and said, "Poultry, m'aam, poultry. "

Movie Review: Bella Martha

Well-acted story of a little girl, her nutty nice aunt "The Chef", and the aftermath of a tragic event. The never-quite-right stereotypes of cold Germanesque perfection and Italian romanticism clash as chefs in the kitchen, while sharing the screen with a befuddled psychiatrist and a very pleasant neighbor architect with clear romantic possibilities for Martha. The happy ending renders this a feel good movie that is familiar but not entirely predictable. Great performances by the young Lina, and lovely Italian songs from throaty Paolo Conte, among others.

Part of an ongoing series of German movies, alternating Thursdays, at Amherst College.

The IMDB scoop: Bella Martha (2001)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Real Jobs for PhD's

Graduating PhD's! Don't let all the talk about a recession get you down. This is a real job:
The Hawaii-based poultryOne Media Group is a specialty media group focused on the fascinating hobby of raising poultry. poultryOne is currently searching for a freelance writer to provide web content. poultryOne needs unique articles about raising the following species: geese, ducks and quail.

Resist any urge to philosophize about chickens and eggs and you will do just fine. Good luck!