As you might guess from the title, I was not a big fan of the film Body of Lies and I regret watching it on our fifth wedding anniversary, of all times! The reason I wanted to see it was because of its depiction of the Jordanian intelligence services as well as the fact that it takes place in Jordan.
What really annoyed me about the whole charade was the director’s decision to film in Morocco and pretend it is Jordan. Who did Ridley Scott think he was fooling when he made the decision to film in Morocco and digitally insert the King Abdallah mosque in a number of shots in an attempt to make it look like Jordan? Did he expect Jordanians or people that visited the country not to notice? Or did he just not care? In addition to the fake scenery, all the extras in the movie looked North African rather than Jordanian. And in more than one instance I noticed Saudi car tags in the streets of "Jordan."
Then there was the scene where Russell Crowe is surprised that DiCaprio wants to stay in Jordan. He asks him something along the lines of "Why? Do you want to eat couscous all day?" I mean, give me a break! Jordanians don’t eat couscous. He should have said Mansaf if anything. Anyway, I’m surprised a movie so centered on Jordan with such a big budget did not employ some cultural consultants or film there. The actor who played the head of Jordanian intelligence was okay but I got irritated by his fake accent. As for the Arabic spoken during the movie, please don’t get me started. It was a mélange of North African, Egyptian, Palestinian and I don’t know what.
In a nutshell, the movie was not worth my money, especially in economic times like these. My advice: Don’t watch it.
Petra News Agency, Jordan’s state news agency, decided to play the role of ultimate censor by altering a photo of Her Majesty Queen Rania of all people. Jordanian blogger Arab Observer exposed Petra’s manipulation of the photo! When will Petra News Agency realize that they can’t get away with this anymore?
Manipulating photos to make them more culturally acceptable should be a thing of the past because nothing can be hidden or altered these days thanks to an army of citizen journalists that has its eyes open all the time. The Slate original picture is on the left. The Petra ‘version’ is on the right:
Can you spot the difference? I have to admit, this post made my day. It is really beyond hilarious.
It was three years ago when I was introduced to the work of Amin Matalqa. It happened when I found a couple of his short movies on the web. I then posted them on my blog. He contacted me and thanked me for highlighting his movies on my site. We have remained in touch since then. A year or so later, he shared with me the first draft of his screenplay for the movie Captain Abu Raed. I felt so privileged because I knew Amin was headed for success. I was not mistaken. His movie has won a number of international awards so far, including one from the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.
A few days ago, I finally got a chance to see Captain Abu Raed at a special screening in DC. The movie was beautiful, managing to portray Jordan in a wonderful light. I especially loved how clearly the movie showed the divide between West Amman and East Amman. I also enjoyed seeing familiar sights in Jordan, like downtown and Queen Alia airport. Nadim Sawalha, who played the role of Abu Raed, was phenomenal. Watching him interact with others on the screen I got this feeling of déjÃ vu, like I knew him in a previous life. Perhaps it was because his is acting was very real, very Jordanian. The young boy who played Murad also gave a stellar performance. I highly recommend this movie, especially for those who are not familiar with Jordan.
Bravo Amin! We are all so proud of you. The movie will be playing in the US, Europe and the Middle East. There are more details on the movie’s website. I also really enjoyed meeting the film’s producer, Emmy-award winner David Pritchard. He was extremely down to earth and very supportive of Amin and his work. During the Q & A that followed the movie, Pritchard told the audience he was sure that the film would receive either an Academy Award nomination or one for a Golden Globe or both. Why not?
Here, in this picture of Amin and I that Jeff took using his cellphone, there is a firetruck, which arrived at the venue (the Goethe Institute) in response to a fire alarm before the screening. The audience stayed outside for a bit before the movie started until that situation cleared. The wait was a great way to catch up with Amin after all these years and congratulate him in person.
I lost hope in freedom of the press in Jordan a long time ago. I can’t remember exactly when but I think it goes back to my early twenties when I first joined the ranks of repressed Jordanian journalists. I have written about violations of press freedom on this blog many times, then I got tired of it. Until when, really? Things seem to be going from bad to worse.
From the whole fiasco of ATV to suing AmmanNet, I do not see any bright future for the press in Jordan. I decided to write about the most recent press violation, the sentencing of four journalists to prison, for two reasons.
Anyway, enough about this. Talking about press freedom in Jordan is simply pointless. There’s more on Lina’s blog.
Here is a quick update to my last post. Compass Direct, which broke the story about the ongoing deportations of Christians in Jordan, ran a follow-up today that I personally found extremely heart-wrenching. Here is a highlight from the article:
While it was unclear what the government considered false in the report, the fact of deportations of Christians was further verified as authorities on February 10 expelled an Egyptian pastor with the Assemblies of God church in Madaba – one of five evangelical denominations registered with the government.
Married to a Jordanian citizen and the father of two children, Sadeq Abdel Nour was handcuffed and blindfolded and taken to the port city of Aqaba. There he was placed on a ferry to Egypt. The previous week an Egyptian pastor from a Baptist church in Zarqa was arrested, held for three days and also returned to Egypt by ship from the port city of Aqaba. The pastor, 43, is married to a Jordanian woman and the father of three children.
If these pastors were working for legally registered churches why would you deport them in such a humiliating manner? The response of Acting Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh to the initial Compass Direct article was: "The authorities have deported a number of people who entered the country under the pretext of performing voluntary work but were spotted carrying out missionary activities."
Was this really the case in the issue of Sadeq Abdel Nour? I wonder.
Frankly, I find these to be dark times for Christians in Jordan. There are obviously discrepancies between what the Jordanian government is saying and what’s actually happening on the ground. The government needs to be more transparent. Handcuffing, blindfolding and deporting a pastor with no explanation should not happen in Jordan or any country that claims to respect basic human rights. I’m angry and disappointed.