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|Artist: Nayer Talal Nayer|
Taoufik Ben Brik (born 1960 in Jerissa) is a Tunisian journalist. Brik is a prominent critic of the former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and an outspoken critic of censorship in the Middle East. He has published numerous articles, and collections of articles as books, abroad that describe the difficult economic conditions in the country, political corruption, and lack of free speech. In 2000, he was accused of publishing false information and other spurious charges, and went on a hunger strike in protest. He has been periodically detained in Tunisia and prevented from travelling, and his family has also been harassed as a way to intimidate him and prevent him from speaking out against the regime.
He was incarcerated October 29, 2009, on trumped-up charges of assaulting a citizen after a traffic incident. The Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of nine years on 3 January 2010 in a trial that "confirmed the complete absence of independence of the Tunisian legal system" according to the defendant's French lawyer, William Bourdon.
On April 27, 2010, he was released from prison after serving 6 months. He attended World Press Freedom Day in Paris on May 3, 2010, at the Reporters Without Borders offices and told journalists that he would stand for the presidency of Tunisia in 2014, explaining that President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali would be past the age set in the Constitution of Tunisia. After the 2011 Tunisian Revolution which ousted Ben Ali, Ben Brik declared his candidacy in the upcoming 2011 Tunisian presidential election.
|Art: Nayer Talal Nayer|
Ali Douagi, or Ali al-Du'aji, (Arabic: علي الدوعاجي) (January 4, 1909 - May 27, 1949) was a Tunisian literary and cultural icon who is considered to be one of the pioneers of modern Tunisian literature. He is best remembered as "the father of the modern Tunisian short story". Douagi was also known for his versatility as a sketch artist, songwriter, playwright, and journalist.
Douagi was born to a wealthy family of Turkish origin in the city of Tunis in 1909. His father, al-Hajj Muhammad al-Du'aji who was a wealthy merchant and landowner, died when Douagi was four years old; he bequeathed to his wife and children a sizeable trust fund from which the family was able to live comfortably. His mother, Nuzhat Bint Shaqshuq, gave birth to three daughters and two sons, Douagi being the only survivor of the two sons. Thus, growing up without his father and being the only son, in part, explains why his works had come to be heavily populated by women characters. Douagi received his primary education in a neighbourhood school where he learned both French and Arabic. Upon completing his primary education, Douagi enrolled in a local Quran school (kuttab) but soon discovered that this did not fulfill his interests. His mother encouraged him to pursue a career in business, and for a brief period he worked as an apprentice for a local successful merchant. However, Douagi decided to embark upon a project to educate himself by reading French literature and culture. When he made the acquaintance of Ali al-Jandubi, a prominent literary scholar, he discovered the medieval and modern Arabic history, literature and cultural studies.
When the colonial governments eased upon censorship in journalism in 1936, Douagi started up his own periodical, "al-Surur", though it only lasted a mere six weeks due to his lack of discipline. Nonetheless, Douagi came to be associated with a group of artists and intellectuals, known as the "Jama’at taht al-sur" ("The Beneath-the-Wall Group"), who congregated nightly in the cafes of the Bab Souika neighbourhood of the old madina in Tunisia to exchange ideas and argue politics. The group were committed to creating a modern Tunisian literature and culture that would denounce European colonialism and the cause of social justice and economic and social equality. Douagi was also experimental and especially known for his versatility as a sketch artist, songwriter, playwright, and short story writer.
His Turkish roots and his mastery of the French language, as well as his bourgeois background and financial security, all played a part in crafting a vision of himself and his work. Douagi often depicted and fantasised romanticised strokes of eastern-western encounters. Hence, his stories depicted a peaceful coexistence in which differing cultures and religions coexist; this philosophical stance regarding east-west encounters dominated from his earliest writings. A prominent figure that strongly influenced Douagi was Mahmud al-Bayram al-Tunisi (1893–1961);. the personal and professional relationship between them was one that embraced a vast spectrum of contemporary politics, arts, and ideological currents that electrified the cultural scene in Tunisia during the 1930s. They shared a passion for journalism, for the freedom of the press to lash out at social injustices, religious hypocrisy, and economic inequalities.
Douagi’s most lasting contribution to Tunisian literature, as well as pan-Arabic literature, were his short stories that were collated and published in 1969, twenty years after his death, into a single anthology entitled "Sahirtu minhu al-layali" ("Sleepless Nights, 2000"). On May 27, 1949, Douagi died of tuberculosis. By many accounts, he was abandoned by many of his friends and hardbound bitter disappointment for not being recognised for his work. However, on the tenth anniversary of his death, Zin al-Abidin al-Sanusi published an article entitle "al’Du’aji’s Legacy" which resurrected critical inquiry and public interest in his work. Al-Sanusi reported that Douagi had written in his 163 radio sketches, and that his heirs discovered 60 more among his affects. He also wrote 15 plays and composed nearly 500 songs and poems.
Samuel Barclay Beckett (/ˈbɛkɪt/; 13 April 1906 – 22 December 1989) was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in Paris for most of his adult life and wrote in both English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human existence, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humor.
Beckett is widely regarded as among the most influential writers of the 20th century. He is considered one of the last modernists. As an inspiration to many later writers, he is also sometimes considered one of the first postmodernists. He is one of the key writers in what Martin Esslin called the "Theatre of the Absurd". His work became increasingly minimalist in his later career.
Beckett was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his writing, which—in new forms for the novel and drama—in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation". He was elected Saoi of Aosdána in 1984.
|Artist: Nayer Talal Nayer|
By Richard Corliss
Where does the truth hide?
Truth is my death; truth is my life.
Before the apocalypse comes, I search in vain for a way to protect you,
My Egypt, my homeland.
This song for a land in distress, with lyrics by the poet Abdel Rahim Mansour, comes from the 1982 film An Egyptian Story. It might have been the personal anthem of the movie's writer-director, Youssef Chahine, who died Sunday at 82, six weeks after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. His passing ended a busy, exemplary career that spanned nearly six decades making movies, myths and trouble.
Chahine is not well-known in the United States, even to lovers of foreign films. Few of his 40-plus features achieved any kind of release here, and you'll go nuts trying to find his stuff on DVD. But at film festivals, he was for decades the prime, often the only, representative of an entire continent, Africa, and a world religion, Islam — this though his family was Christian and his ancestors came from Greece and Lebanon. He was born in Alexandria and grew up during a chaotic time for the planet and for Egypt: World War II, when Rommel's Army marched toward his hometown, and the postwar invention of the state of Israel, which the Arab world viewed as a catastrophe. With various shades of commitment and ambivalence, Chahine would dramatize the Arab-Israeli split in many of his films, most notably his autobiographical near-masterpiece, the 1978 film Alexandria...Why?
He was both a nationalist and an internationalist. He loved Hollywood movies — as a young man he went to Los Angeles, studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse — and he learned as much from their robust pace as he did from the gritty humanism of Italian neo-realist films and the romantic sweep of Indian cinema in its postwar Golden Age. He was both an art-house auteur and a director of popular hits, at least in the Arab crescent. He made political points, often different ones in different movies, but his didacticism was typically overwhelmed by his irrepressible urge to entertain.
Chahine established his early rep in the '50s, when Egypt rivaled India as the Hollywood of the Arabic-speaking world, and stars like Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama set moviegoers' heart aglow in Islamic countries from Morocco to Indonesia. In 1954 Chahine cast Hamama, who had been in movies since girlhood, and the 22-year-old Sharif, a recent college graduate making his first film, in Siraa Fil-Wadi / The Blazing Sky / Sky of Hell. This Romeo-and-Juliet drama set on sugarcane plantations was Egypt's entry at the Cannes Film Festival, and a pan-Arabic smash. It established the two actors as the great love pair of their time; their marriage the next year was a star alliance akin to that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the '60s.
Of his '50s films, the one to track down is the 1958 Cairo Station, which documents the tough lives of people peddling newspapers and soft drinks to train travelers. Though it moves on the tracks of tragedy, for much of its brief length the movie has the exuberance of '50s Italian comedies, with bawdy banter, tabloid stories of decapitations, and a saucy heroine (the Lollobrigida-like Hind Rostom) who tries to evade both the rail authorities and a sullen suitor (played by Chahine). At one point the girl sweeps her younger brother from the tracks as a train rushes by — no back projection, no stunt doubles, just plain old daredevil moviemaking. What's Arabic for "brio"?
Twenty years later Chahine made Alexandria...Why, which would launch his own Alexandria quartet; it was followed by An Egyptian Story (1982), Alexandria Again and Again (1990), and Alexandria...New York (2004). The first film is set in Egypt during the war, when Arab nationalists were killing English soldiers and plotting the assassination of Winston Churchill — anything to get the British Empire out of Palestine.
But this sprawling epic is mainly the story of a young man, transparently Chahine himself, who loves Shakespeare and American movies. Before the movie is over, fate will get him to Pasadena. What an elder says of him was also true of Chahine: "The boy knows exactly what he wants. He'll make it." At the end he sails into New York Harbor and sees the Statue of Liberty as Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" plays on the sound track. He glimpses some Hassidic Jews on the deck below him, and the Statue morphs into a heavy-set actress he knew back home. She lets out a ribald laugh — just the reaction Chahine so often wanted from his audiences when they were faced with the historical and emotional collisions of life in the modern world.
I've searched for the truth, again and again.
I've loved so many, yet few remember me.
They're in my heart. Am I in theirs?
I stretch a loving hand — why refuse it?
Chahine loved his country, but he was the lover as critic — the kind who says she's put on a little weight and she didn't hold a free Presidential election for 24 years. Egypt loved him right back, but as a mother adores her son (like Mrs. Iselin toward Raymond in The Manchurian Candidate). When Chahine behaved well and got festival prizes, Egypt was proud; when he criticized powerful political interests, she sent him to bed without supper. His epic Once Upon a Time on the Nile, about the building of the Aswan Dam, was the first Egyptian-Soviet coproduction, but both sponsors were displeased by the director's cut, demanding reshooting and re-editing. The film, begun in 1968, was not released until 1972.
With Nasser, Sadat and Mubarek effectively playing his studio bosses, it's a miracle Chahine could get as much said in his movies as he did. One of the most sympathetic characters in Alexandria...Why is a young Jewish woman who had Hitler's Germany for British Palestine. "I thought I had escaped the Nazi inferno," she says. "Yet in Haifa I faced another." Destiny, Chahine's 1997 a bio-pic of the medieval liberal Muslim philosopher Averroes, was a forthright attack on religious fundamentalism; it begins with a burning at the stake and ends with the burning of books.
Chahine's derision toward fundamentalists goes back at least to Cairo Station, where he portrays them as comic relief: when they see dancers gyrating to rock n roll, the clerics mutter, "God protect us!" and "All these new-fangled ideas lead to Hell!" But Chahine was also a nationalist. His 1963 bio-pic Saladin, about the 12th-century sultan of Egypt and Syria, found a clear connection between Saladin's uniting of North African and Mideast Arabs against the Christian Crusaders and Nasser's formation of the Egypt-Syria United Arab Republic to fight Israel. (Saladin was played by Ahmed Mazhar, who had attended the Cairo Military Academy with Nasser and Sadat.) Several Chahine films, including The Sparrow in 1973 and the 1978 The Return of the Prodigal Son (loosely based on the Andre Gide novel), were set during the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973; there was no question which side the films were on.
His fondness for America, and his reservations about it, found their final expression in Alexandria...New York, where an old filmmaker runs into an American woman he'd loved a half-century before. Yet Chahine always made distinctions between the American people and the U.S. government. In his contribution to the 2002 omnibus film 11'09"01: September 11, shown at the Toronto Film Festival on the first anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, he floats the argument that Islamic militants had the right to kill civilians in the U.S. and Israel — because these are democracies, where the people choose their leaders and thus are responsible for policies that enslave the rest of the world. The hand he stretched out here meant to slap the politicians but instead hit the mourning citizens of the country whose movies had taught him so much.
The problem with considering Chahine's career is that, just when you feel he deserves a good spanking, his movies play the cunning jester, and all is forgiven. Destiny, though its beginning and ending are literally incendiary, is at heart a ripping yarn with much buckling of swashes, and musical numbers, too. The Other, a hit at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival (where Chahine received a 50th Anniversary life-achievement award) and at the Toronto and New York fests, is a delirious blast — a politico-romantic amalgam of melodrama and music, at a pace and pitch that Bollywood directors wouldn't dare dream of.
In fact, it's a shame Chahine's work isn't familiar in this benighted part of the movie world. He was no minimalist Sphinx; he believed less was never enough. Embracing a splashy masala of styles, he threw everything — ideas, people, whole nations and regions — up in the air for the viewer to try to catch. And beyond his movies' entertainment value, it wouldn't hurt for Americans to see the visions of a cosmopolitan filmmaker from the Arab world, who speaks for himself but reflects the dreams and fears of a people whose popular culture is nearly unknown in the U.S. In the lyrics from that song in An Egyptian Story we hear, in all their naked emotion, the national fervor and questing heart of Youssef Chahine.
Your name matters little, nor where you dwell.
Your color matters little, nor your origin.
I love human beings, wherever they come from.
O, oppressed brother, hear my cry! A cry from Egypt.
O, oppressed brother, hear my cry! A cry from Egypt.
Published in Time