Farsi Is A Required Language At Some Lebanese Schools, More Important Than French & English

Khosh Amadid Lebanon Farsi Iran Hezbollah

You gotta give it to us Lebanese, we sure are languages aficionados. Of course, most of us are not born as such but are spoon-fed three languages over the course of a thirteen year education system before we head out to higher education centers. But, as the saying goes, throw us in any country around the world and we’ll land standing.

Add Iran to one of those countries.

Some schools in Beirut’s Southern Suburb are now teaching Farsi, Iran’s main language, as curriculum requirement. Students would then get to choose between French and English as their third language, according to the previously linked source, because – as we all know – French and English have no commonplace in today’s world, being imperialistic languages and all.

The schools in question are all private schools and as such can teach whatever language they want, according to Lebanese law. Public schools, on the other hand, have not had the same curriculum change.

I get that political ties exist between the country where Farsi reigns supreme and the people running the schools that have adopted such curriculums. I get that those political ties are crucial for the well-being of the parties running those schools. I get that those parties sure love Iran, their culture and believe it should be imported over here – but at the expense of the educational well-being of all students attending those schools?

How does it make sense to teach students a language spoken only in one country, a language that doesn’t have any international reach whatsoever? What benefits does teaching Farsi bring to the students who will be forced to learn it? I can only think of them understanding that Farsi MBC channel. How does it make sense to give such a language importance over others than can simply make or break a person in today’s world? Teaching Farsi doesn’t count as “resistance.”

If those schools are so hell-bent on teaching Farsi, let them make it as the third optional language for their students instead of the other more crucial languages they relegated to that level. That way, they’d fulfill the apparent needs of their political ties by giving that culture more importance and still preserving the fundamental right of those students to get the best education that they can get. Our economy and their upcoming jobs are not contingent upon Iran.

Would I have had the same reaction had some schools opted for teaching German, Italian or Spanish as a required second language? Probably not, because this isn’t against Iran and their culture as much as it is keeping intact that last good thing that we  – as Lebanese – have: our global competitiveness. Those languages can help it. Farsi does not.

Khosh amadid to you.

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Les Misérables [2012] – Movie Review

les-miserables-movie-poster

As a person who grew up and went through a French curriculum with Victor Hugo’s novel as its centerpiece at many points, I’ve grown attached to the essence of the novel. I’ve also grown to understand it, know what it contains, understand the message that Hugo wanted to pass on. I’d even joke and say the novel’s impressive spine is a byproduct of Hugo being French – a lot of blabbing for nothing. I’ve taken some of that, as is evident by my wordy blogposts at times. This review will surely turn into one so just skip to the last paragraph if you don’t feel like reading.

My knowledge of Victor Hugo’s most famous 1500-pages novel has led me to conclude that it’s very difficult to turn it into a motion picture. If the previous attempts at this novel weren’t enough proof, Tom Hooper’s take on Les Misérables adds to the growing list of not-nearly-there trials.

The story is known for everyone by now. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is a French man living around the time of the French revolution and is forced to steal a loaf of bread to save a relative’s life. He is subsequently thrown in jail for 19 years at the end of which he’s released on parole. Valjean, however, breaks his parole and ends up making a decent life for himself as the mayor of a small French town in Northern France called Montreuil-sur-Mer. But Javert (Russell Crowe), the prison warden who was in charge of Valjean, appears back in his life during a visit to the factory run by Valjean, now working under a new name. In that factory works a single mother called Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who gets sacked from her job when her secret of having had a child out of wedlock, Cosette (eventually played by Amanda Seyfried), is discovered. Fantine eventually succumbs to becoming a prostitute and is saved by Valjean who promises to take care of her daughter as he runs away from Javert who’d do anything to catch him, to the backdrop of a growing revolution in the streets of the French youth.

Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables is a full-blown musical. No, it’s not a musical in the sense of a talking movie with a few songs interspersed here and there. It’s a musical in the sense of three hours non-stop singing where even “thank you”s are sung, where reading letters becomes melodic and where, if you’re not a fan of musicals to begin with or not entirely sure what you’re getting yourself into, you’d end up wanting to pull your own hair out. Yes, this version of Les Misérables is definitely not for everyone. Even if you love – scratch that – adore music, Les Misérables might prove a very tough pill to swallow. And at times it really, really is.

Hugh Jackman, who can sing, ends up grating around the 120th minute mark. Russell Crowe on the other hand entirely sheds his Gladiator image for a singing Javert and with his not-so-pleasant singing voice ends up entirely intolerable a few minutes in. Russell Crowe even looks entirely uncomfortable to be there and it reflects on his character, making Javert – a central figure to the story – comical at times. Hugh Jackman has to be commanded for a job well done as Valjean. Few actors can say they can deliver performances as he did with the close-ups he got throughout the movie.

In fact, the actors and actresses in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables all performed their songs in the movie live. While a piano played in the background to guide them, they acted their songs instead of recording them months in advance and eventually lip-synching them to film.

The single acting performance in the movie that will absolutely blow your socks off is Anne Hathaway, who’s probably aided by the fact that her character isn’t there for long. Hathaway, as Fantine, is brilliant. She deserves all the praise she’s been getting. Her performance of the Susan-Boyle-made-famous song “I Dreamed A Dream” is gut-wrenchingly stunning. She brings the life into her character and gives Fantine a richness which other actors in this movie with more running time couldn’t bestow upon theirs. Hathaway steals every scene she’s in and ends up being the only reason you might walk out of this movie feeling like you hadn’t wasted three hours of your live. Just to watch her do what she does so beautifully. No one is raining on Hathaway’s parade come Award-season time.

Interesting casting choice include Samantha Barks as Eponine, the daughter of the Thénardiers, played by Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen whose only purpose was to add some comic relief to some tense moments. Barks sings her songs really well and gets you to relate to her character, despite the background. She delivers a nice rendition of “On My Own.”

Les Misérables does have its strong moments, notably the opening scene, Hathaway’s minutes and the ending, but the movie accumulates a lot of off-moments as well that make the result very lopsided. The movie is also extremely long. Thirty minutes (of wailing – singing) could have easily been cut with the story not be affected because few of those songs tell us more about the character and its story, an example being I Dreamed A Dream in which Fantine tells the story of how she reached the misery she was in. The overall result is a movie that feels very in limbo: okay, not great, this is awesome, this is horrible, goosebumps, kill me now. These are all things you will feel while watching Les Misérables.

3.5/5 – – new rating system.

Amour [2012] – Review

Amour 2012 Movie Poster

In an old Parisian apartment, with its yellowing books, rusty sinks and creaky tables, Georges and his wife Anne, two eighty year old former music teachers live. They go about their lives normally, attending concerts of former students, going through family albums that remind them of their younger days and caring for each other after all the time they’ve spent together. “C’est belle, la vie,” Anne says.

One day, as they’re having breakfast, Anne stops responding to Georges’ talk. He looks into his wife’s eyes and sees nothing there – she remains transfixed, unresponsive, a shell of the woman she was a few minutes earlier. He damps up a towel with water and tries to wipe her face but to no avail. As Georges gathers his things to call an ambulance, his wife comes back – but Anne has had a stroke. A carotid-stent operation going wrong later, Anne needs Georges to take care of her all the time, which he’s more than willing to do. A second stroke leaves her with right side hemiparesis, her right hand curled up in a fist. But Georges keeps taking care of his wife. He brings her a nurse three days a week, tries to sing with her “Sur Le Pont D’Avignon” when she can’t speak anymore, tries to get her to drink water when, in the rare lucid moments she gets later on, the only thing she makes him know she wants is to die.

Boasting beyond brilliant performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as Georges and Anne respectively, Amour is a heartbreaking, stunning and chilling portrayal of life in old age. Georges, the husband giving his all to care his dying wife, reaches a point where he knows what he’s doing is not enough but he keeps going anyway. The husband’s resiliency facing his wife’s forced surrender is a contrast that transcends the confines of the previously described Parisian apartment they both live in, which is the movie’s only setting though never feeling claustrophobic. The clash between the wife who wants to die and the husband who wants nothing but for her to live boasts an intense aspect of humanity that many movies fail to grasp even if they tried to. The nuances in the actors’ performances are striking. The way they look at each other through their wire-rimmed glasses, the adoration that radiates off Anne’s cheeks towards her husband… those are things you come across very rarely and you can’t but appreciate them when you do.

One of the main reasons Amour is this brilliant is Michael Haneke, the Austrian director, who has also written this great screenplay of life, love and death. The visual style he gives the movie is masterful. The pace he sets is poignant, never faltering. The movie he made draws you in, grasps and doesn’t let go. His style is shocking at time such as in Georges’ last act of love towards his wife, a stunning scene that will leave you haunted.

At a certain point in Amour, Georges tries to give Anne water, and she lets it roll angrily down her chin with a look of violent denial of life. Georges unwillingly slaps her, then apologizes like the exasperated caregiver he had become. Later on, he tells her stories of a time when he went to camp he didn’t like. He had agreed with his mother to write her daily. If he had liked his day, he’d draw flowers. If not, he’d draw stars. Amour shows us that life is a mix of flowers and stars. The love this old couple has to each other is the true embodiment of in sickness and in health. Amour is so intimate that watching it feels like you’re prying on these people’s private lives. It is so heartfelt that you can’t but feel touched by what you see. Amour shows you love. And it shows it spectacularly.

10/10

The Notre Dame de Paris Concert in Lebanon

Tickets ready, car parked, we went ahead to Biel last night for the Lebanon stop of the Notre Dame de Paris concert. The ordeal to get tickets had caused any enthusiasm we had to get sucked out of us. But man how wrong were we not to be beyond excited for this concert.

Even though it was said the concert would start at 9:00 pm, it started 40 minutes later. I guess they must have accounted for Lebanese people who can’t be on time even if their life depended on it. At 9:40 some people were still trickling in. The seats were a little crammed. Perhaps it’s the venue but a few seats less per row would have made things much more comfortable, despite it being less financially-pleasing.

I had purchased the $100 tickets and thought I had overpaid. The concert proved to me that I had actually underpaid. The orchestra took its place. The conductor struck with the motion to play and Bruno Pelletier came from the crowds to give a brilliant rendition of “Le Temps des Cathedrales.”

And that was the start of two hour long goosebumps. Garou had a rough start in the first act but he brought it back in the second. Patrick Fiori, Julie Zenatti, Helene Segara, Luck Mervil and Daniel Lavoie all gave flawless performances of every single song they sang. They basically showed how a two hour vocal show can be done without a hitch, bringing some crowds to their feet with every note they hit.

I’m not a regular concert-goer because there are very few artists which are brought to Lebanon that I would pay to watch so saying this is the best concert I’ve ever attended wouldn’t be a fair comparison. However, a friend of mine who has attended way more concerts than me said this is by far the best concert she went to.

It’s not very difficult to see why. Each performer had his group of fans rooting for him. Some had even brought out a huge banner for Julie Zenatti which they put up when she sang “La Monture.” She looked at them and smiled halfway through the song.

As the performers left the stage, the crowds started shouting for an encore of the play’s most famous song “Belle.” And that’s what happened. The crowds rushed to the stage. Phones in the air, people singing the lyrics to the song as Garou, Patrick Fiori and Daniel Lavoie gave it their all, before being joined with the rest of the cast to deliver the song’s last chorus.

If you didn’t attend Notre Dame de Paris, let me tell you something: you missed out on a concert that will not be matched any time soon. And I’ve never been more thankful I know French.

PS: I would like to thank my iPhone 4S for filming 11GB worth of videos and pictures and the battery for lasting the entirety of the concert and then some. :p

Let me know in a comment if there’s any particular performance you want me to upload.

Les Apple Addict

A hilarious French video that has went viral in the past couple of days…. “Plus en plus de gens autour de moi qui font l’acquisition d’un mac. Mais pour eux c’est pas un simple ordinateur comme un PC. Non, pour eux Apple c’est une religion!”

Insert 5 minutes of him making fun of the whole Mac/iPhone obsession – even down the the most minute detail, the box. You know you’ve kept your macbook’s box somewhere.

Regardless, iPhones and Mac are awesome! Want a demo? :p

 

 

Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain – Movie Review

Amelie Poulain has led a very sheltered and overprotected life. Home-educated by over-bearing parents, she makes up her own fantasy world. When she eventually grows up and moves out to work at a Parisian Cafe, Amelie finds an old tin box containing a schoolboy’s forgotten memories.
It is then that Amelie decides to help others find love and happiness, which she does in a magical and splendid manner – not knowing that on her path to bring love and happiness to others , she will end up finding them herself.

The interesting thing about the movie is how all the characters interact with each other and how they bring this plot to be. If you take the plot in absolute value, there’s nothing extraordinary about it. But Amelie is an extraordinary movie because the way it handles this plot is brilliant. The chase between Amelie and her love interest is absolutely stunning, to say the least, let alone extremely intelligent.

The first ten minutes of Amelie are absolutely one of the best moments of film-making I have ever watched. Never have I been more positively surprised by a movie than I was with Amelie. You cannot but be instantly captivated with the exquisite narrative: “Le 3 Septembre, 1973, à 18h 28 min et 32 secondes….” It’s absolutely brilliant.
The movie ends with an almost similar style of narrative, giving the aspect of wrapping up the whole thing like a big box with a tidy ribbon.

Audrey Tautou gives a brilliant performance in her role as Amelie. She showcases the strong, independent girl persona perfectly and doesn’t shy away from showing compassion when other characters need it. She’s witty, fast, captivating…

The score by Yann Tiersen is absolutely stunning as well. If you haven’t listened to Comptine d’Eté, n°2, then you really must do so. To say it is a good musical composition would be an understatement. And it works perfectly well in the movie.

Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain is probably the best French movie I have ever watched. It made me appreciate having been taught French so I wouldn’t have to add up closed captioning to the movie and hide out some parts of the screen. It’s a whimsical, fun, care-free and simply happy. I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect movie but it’s pretty close. Everything just falls together in an excellent way in it: the acting, the cinematography, the music, the plot, Paris…
It is a must see for everyone who appreciates movies. And, again, if you’re not hooked by the first minute or so, I advise re-watching it. Because something would be definitely wrong if the absolute wittiness of the introduction sequence doesn’t grab you.