Monthly Archives: December 2012

Travels with Auntie: Filmfesting in Tbilisi

Ahhh – the obligatory stalwarts of the international film festival: girls with thick black rimmed glasses and tousled brown hair, earnest young men in jeans of varying quality, and the director in a black leather jacket. Oh yes, and the producer – being a bit of a twat.

I felt right at home as I queued up in Rustaveli 1 for the five pm showing of “Parada”. Since I speak neither Georgian nor Russian, my choice of film was a bit limited – there were two with English subtitles; one from Belgium and one from Serbia… so Serbia it was.

Bit of a glitch though. As I waited to go in, with my lovely Georgian host Nana, an American in front was saying, “But it says there are English subtitles in the programme…..”. There weren’t, well there were but on a different print. The print the cinema had only had subtitles in Russian and Georgian.
But since I had dragged Nana along, and since I was there already, I decided to put my faith in the power of film to transcend lack of language and stayed put.

I am so glad I did! My favourite film of the year. A very, very macho Serb and his unlikely crew come to the rescue of a small group of gay men and women trying to organise a Pride Parade in Belgrade. It is hilarious, brilliantly visual (it would have to be as I couldn’t understand a word) AND there is a road trip in a pink mini. Bonus!
Really it is a story about tolerance, love and human foibles. There are also some wonderful Ben Hur scenes. And it will probably make you cry.
Definitely worth buying on DVD or downloading


Travels with Auntie: Taxis and Teargas

As excuses for being late for work go, I think that detouring to avoid teargas is a pretty good one.

teargasBut actually that is almost a daily fact of life now round Tahrir Square in Cairo.I was there to train a group of Egyptian and Libyan journalists just as this latest round of confrontations and violence unfolded. First there were the demonstrations to commemorate the deaths of around 45 protestors in Mohammed Mahmoud Street last year. This quickly escalated and I was being terrified in a wild taxi ride downtown when I heard Mohammed Morsi’s speech saying he was taking on sweeping powers. As he gave his speech, I could hear chanting but couldn’t make it out. I assumed it was anti- Morsi – but I was wrong. It was in support of him and his new measures.
A couple of days later and the lawyers and journalists were on strike and out in protest at this presidential resumption of power. And then things escalate really quickly – the draft constitution is rushed through in spite of boycotts and the date set for the 15th. Today, there are tanks outside the Presidential Palace.
So, exciting times if you are an Egyptian Journalist – but also hugely difficult.TV is still the big influencer and there are certainly plenty of channels around. Newspapers also proliferate but face not only all the issues around freedom of speech and censorship (self or external) but also the same economic pressures that we have in the UK. Online is blossoming and slips under the radar a bit. But many people still don’t believe it unless they read it in the paper or see it on the telly. Social networking is endemic – and cleverly used by different interest groups. Rumours and scares abound.
bab zweila
Freedom of expression varies – self censorship is often quoted as one of the big problems, The state says it supports free speech and is setting in place institutions to safeguard the media. But presidential power remains dominant. And on state TV everything stops for a Morsi speech.
Having said all that, the Egyptian Journalists I met and spoke to were hopeful for the future and determined to play their part in it.

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