Sunday, October 15, 2006

On Peace in the Middle East

So here's what I think needs to be done for a future of peace in the Middle East. Children have to grow up without hate and fear passed down to them by certain angry parents and organizations. I'm not talking about the upper or middle class of society. I'm talking about the masses. In reaction to my last post, an anonymous person went on an angry rant that just seeped with hatred. More than annoying, it was sad. There are some people who teach their children to hate. Instead of focusing their children on their own future, they teach them to dwell in the past and grow up full of negative energy. That's a problem. A big problem. They learn to express themselves through anger. You can't have dialogue with people like that.

In his last days, my idol, composer Michael Kamen, told me about his symphony, The Ode to Peace, that he was writing. In it, he wanted to have Israeli and Palestinian children singing together about forgiveness, both in Arabic and Hebrew. It breaks my heart that he never got to finish writing it. He passed away in Nov. 2003. If we can learn to forgive and stops being hostile, we can teach our children to look forward to a bright future instead of living in the past. We can have a Palestine where Arabs can live in peace next to Israelis. When will the hate stop? The viscious circle will continue to dwell and more people will die. There will be no victorious side. Just more victims of the conflict. I guess what I'm saying is that hate will breed more hate. Nothing good will come out of that.

I also posted a blog about role models in the Middle East. Children need positive role models. They need people who they can look up to. They need to aspire and actually reach for their life goals. They need to see hope ahead. Hatred is blinding. Hatred and hope don't go hand in hand. Very simple. Very simple. Very simple.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Film and Politics

This whole RSICA debate is interesting. So let me start with some clarity...

I have a problem with Israel. I have a problem with its treatment of Palestinians. I have a problem with what they did to Lebanon. I have a problem with the settlements, and I have a problem with the aggressive Israeli government.

Now that that's clear. Let's talk about how I think the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts will be amazing.

1) First and foremost, it will teach Arabs in the Middle East how to make movies. Hopefully great movies. It's a very complicated art form. Bad movies are hard to make. Great movies are even harder to make.

2) Arabs will have a third choice to dream of. Not everyone will have to become a doctor or an engineer when they grow up.

3) Arabs will have the opportunity to tell their stories and negate the negative stereotypes in Hollywood films.

4) Maybe, just maybe, an Israeli student at RSICA will see that Arabs sitting next to him are good normal people who aren't full of hate, and maybe, just maybe, he will spread that message through a movie he will make. Myabe he'll make a movie with a fellow Arab filmmaker. Co-directing a picture. Imagine that.

5) Maybe, just maybe, the art of storytelling through film will start a dialogue between people.

I can understand all the anger and mistrust that hit my blog over the RSICA debate. When I met an Israeli for the first time (that was last year at AFI), I wasn't sure what I was supposed to think of him. Does he hate me? Does he have some prejudgment about me because I'm Arabic? And then he came and introduced himself, "Hey, I'm Oded, what's up!" I really wasn't sure. I'd had this preconceived notion, this judgment, already in me not to trust Israelis. But you know what I found out as we got to learn more about each other? I got to find out that we're very similar people. And I hope that RSICA will provide that opportunity to Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East. And I hope they'll learn to stop hating each other. I hope they'll learn that there are individual voices that can be impowered to make a positive impact and actually create something that can reach people and let them understand one another.

The power of movie making is tremendous. I know that the lon-term outcome of RSICA will be positive for both sides.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Morning Latte

The teaser poster for my AFI thesis film. I'm really excited about this movie. I just finished writing my final draft of the script, and I'm quite happy with its insanity. We shoot in January. There will be some really fun things in this crazy comedy where a man finds out that his boss that he's trying to kill... is Lucifer.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Role Models

I've been thinking these last couple of days. Growing up in the US, I had a few people I looked up to. They played an important part in my life and shaped my way of thinking. Most of them were composers and filmmakers. I looked up to Michael Kamen, John Williams, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, and Jerry Goldsmith, James Newton Howard, and even Steven Seagal. They all had one thing in common. They were people who worked hard for their art. Jerry Goldsmith would say that if he didn't compose two minutes of music a day, he didn't feel complete. They were all obsessed with what they did. Steven Seagal was a master Sensei of Aikido that dedicated his life to martial arts. His movies were a side thing. Spielberg and Williams... well, I don't even need to explain. The point is that these people made me aspire to be obsessed with creating.

So this got me to thinking, who do we have in the Middle East to look up to? Who shapes our way of thinking? I would love to hear your feedback. All those annonymous writers, please be honest. You don't have to say who you are. Family doesn't count here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Back to Captain Abu Raed

So my last blog got dragged into a political discussion that unfortunately went nowhere. I won't let myself be dragged into useless political rants again. I want to make movies and entertain people. Maybe make them connect to some sort of emotion once in a while. Movies are for those who want to escape for a couple of hours.

So, today I want to share with you this beautiful painiting made by our costume designer, Jamila Aladdin. This is a sketch of Abu Raed in his wardrobe. We're still working on the web site, but when it's up, you'll get to see the paintings of some of the other characters. I just love it. When Jamila showed it to me, I had to sit down. I was moved that here's my character taking shape in a form other than words on a page for the first time. Here was Abu Raed as I could only dream to see him painted.

Thank you Jamila for your art. I had to take this painting home and hang it on my wall in a frame.