Sunday, 2 October 2011

MesoCafe - A palace of emotions (A review)

I'm going to halfheartedly admit it. I tried to stay away-but my efforts were in sheer desperation. The reason being, as soon as I read the description of the 'microbudget' film, my heart sank. It was a love story.

I tried to console myself, by telling myself it would be on BBC Four or the like in the coming year, as part of their cultural films line up, but a nagging voice made me finally give in and buy the tickets.

The last thing Iraqis needed was a love story. But then again, I was enticed by the trailer, the blogger holds a dark and twisted secret, the cafe is a hub of activity, and of course, I was hoping for conspiracy galore when it came to the politics in the film.

It was completely different to my expectations, which I suppose I should be thankful for, because my expectations of it were what hindered me.

Walking into the cinema, the Iraqis had congregated. In patches almost, their kisses and embraces genuine, and their tongues flapping, switching between Arabic and English. Naturally, I sat alone and leafed through whatever was available, while lamenting the location of the cinema.

I'm going to be honest, I don't visit cinemas much. Perhaps the first times I went, was just to say, 'yes I've been to one of those lighted, luxurious cinemas in London'. But after that the novelty wore away.
It took me an unnatural hour of walking around in the sun to locate Apollo cinemas.
And I also had the unfortunate pleasure of sitting in between two food munchers. The type who crackle and crunch. Quoting a line from the movie 'Iraqis love to complain', and I suppose my main complaints are over.

The movie didn't revolve around the love story as such, but the ending was the conclusion of the love story that was ongoing throughout the film. It had been a cheesy love story, but I suppose to a cynic, a love story will always look cheesy.
Aziz Al-Naib's performance as the taxi-driver/caretaker of the young men was the highlight of the film for me, his voice soothing throughout the darkness.

Throughout the movie, there was a tense atmosphere heightened by melodic iraqi maqam, occasionally the female lead would mention 'palace'. I wondered which palace she meant. Another so very-touching aspect was the beaded purses.
The ones that were sown on pieces of sack cloth. My grandma's ones were always black with a religious name sown into them. The only colourful flowery one she had made had been for me. After her death, I had demolished mine. Hundreds of beads had spilled from my hands at 13.

Towards the end, it is dawned to the viewer what palace it was- The Palace of the End. To my unsuspecting seat neighbours, that reference made my eyes sting with tears. Everything suddenly got too close to home for me.

The film has no political agenda as such, but more of a humanitarian one. It touches on the hypocrisy of the sanctions that killed so much iraqi civilians - most of all the children and the disabled. I would have preferred more politics in the film, but I've noticed that discussing dirty politics is like a rabid dog chasing its tail.
In other political news, Libyans will now get 'war trauma counseling'. I am not a jealous or mean spirited person, but hearing that news made me ever so slightly more bitter towards life. Iraqi's have constantly lived through conditions that are quite simply the stuff of legends. And for us there is no counseling. There is only death to bring us peace, as spoken by my grandmother.

The filming brought back vivid memories of last year - it was filmed through the eyes of someone who had just come, who couldn't see enough.

Every time the 'Baghdad Blogger' was mentioned though, I couldn't help think of the myriad of bloggers I've had the pleasure of knowing over the past (almost 3 years)- this blogger was more of a darker character though.

At the conclusion of the movie, the director and actors sat down for a mini Question & Answer session. All I had really wanted to ask, was why the absence of leather jackets.

They all stayed behind, to shake hands with the director. I was the first one to slip away quietly, wondering how I was going to survive my early lectures the next day.