Friday, October 07, 2005

Subtext and Bad Egyptian Films

Okay, so now I'm going to start delving into the meat of the matter. Why are most Arabic films bad? Why is Jordan TV worthless when it comes to narrative programs? Subtext. The complete lack of subtext. Let's look at something almost every Arabic film has in common. When a character is sad, the director tells you to feel sad through the actor's behavior, through music, through statement and overstatement (the Arabic cliche "3indi suda3" "I have a headache"). There is no subtelty to the stroytelling technique. That defines bad directing.

So what is subtext? Subtext is anything and everything that is not said by the character. If the TEXT is the line from the script (ie "Hey, it's great to see you!"), then the subtext is the underlying meaning behind that line. Let's say the actor says this line to the other character while walking really fast and away from him/her. The truth of the line is not told by the actual line but by the mannerisms in the performance. The line is almost unimportant in film. Not always, but most of the time. Think about it. Intelligent dialogue is when the writer and director don't undermine the audience's intelligence. As a director, you have a gazillion tools at your disposal to convey the subtext of the scene.

The actor's eyes: they are the window to the truth.
Body Langauge: the actor's body language can be in complete contradiction with the words being spoken. This makes the audience think. It makes them wonder if this person really means what he/she just said. It engages the audience, pulls them into the story, and makes them part of your film. I hate films that dumb everything down. Now I know exactly why I hate Adam Sandler movies. They are the epitomy of bad filmmaking that dumbs everything down for a stupid audience.

So as a director, my job is to find creative ways to guide the actors and the surrounding elements to convey the subtext and emotional truth of the scene without stating the emotion through spoken word.


Blogger Sabri Hakim said...

I agree, there are so many bad things (many) Arabic movies and series have in common, like you said the music and "I have a headache", also the zooming in, the sweat, the heart attacks, the shouting. And another thing, every scene has to start out with action or a conversation every time

1:56 AM  
Blogger Laith said... i wish i can record some of the shows this ramadan, we could die from watching them. Isma3 there is this one show, akkkkhhhh....its contemporary, meaning modern times....guess what arabic they are using....FUS-HA....ya3ni i understand when you do a historical piece, bas contemporary and then the guy jumps and says... got to this topic before i did, bas i am going to post a lot on it.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

I am glad you brought this up Amin and it would be great to see you and other Jordanians create better Arbic movies and dramas, or at least teach them how.

i mean i love watching the egyptian soap operas but the acting, the props, and as you say, the sub text, needs major help. the storylines are great, like last Ramadan "Abas il obyad fe yom il eswad" was awesome. but the directing i guess and the acting needs help.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Amin Matalqa said...

Well, TV is one thing. It's almost expected of TV to be bad. Soap Operas in America are considered consistently bad. But in movies, it will take this realization for Arabic films to become respected on the world front. I will admit, I haven't seen any of the recent Arabic films, so I don't want to judge blindly. But I'm just pointing this out for those who want to create a respectable Jordanian film industry. Jordan is a great place for this because we have a lot of talented people. It's just the importance of the awareness we need to create so that upcoming filmmakers (including myself) don't fall into the trap of stating and restating the obvious to the audience.

12:07 PM  
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3:23 PM  

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