Friday, June 19, 2009
My fourth time judging at an international film festival. (Excited giler, siot!)
It all began in 2006, with the Fajr International Film Festival in Iran. What an experience that was! Tehran was freezing, my skin was so dry that my whole body was itchy, and my poor mother slipped and fell on the sleet-covered sidewalk and cracked her wrist.
On the plus side, I met Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Majidee, and became close friends with Bahman Ghobadi.
Another sunny side to Tehran was meeting a Turkish ulama with whom I shared my experiences on Gubra, and how certain quarters here went up in arms over the idea of a bilal who was very civil towards dogs and prostitutes. His response was, "What kind of Muslims do you have in your country?!"
Then it was Thessaloniki in Greece. This time around, it was my husband who came along. We enjoyed long walks, holding hands, by the Thermikos Bay, and the Greeks took us dining at magnificent restaurants. (Greek salads have no equal on earth.)
Best of all, I got to judge with, and learn from, cinematic luminaries like Fred Roos and Jirzi Menzel.
Next was Berlin. It was freezing again, but thankfully, a lot less dry. And by then, I had already developed such a soft spot for the Berlinale. They had given Mukhsin two prizes the year before, and, as it so happened, just slightly over a week after that memorable, if somewhat traumatic, bout of jury duty in Iran.
And now, Taipei.
I was in Taipei for the Golden Horse Film Festival less than two years ago, when they held a retrospective of my films: Sepet, Gubra, and Mukhsin. It was a charming experience I should never forget.
To start with, each screening was held in a thousand-seater hall, and almost every screening saw a full house. Alhamdulillah.
The programmers had lined up the screenings of my films in the chronological order of Orked's life, starting with Mukhsin, and ending with Gubra. Smart move, I thought.
But the most sensational experience of all happened at the Q&A after a screening of Sepet.
A young man in the audience declared openly, "Hi, I'm from Tainan City, in the south of Taiwan. My friend and I saw Sepet last year and we loved it. He is so sad that he couldn't come, but he asked me to kiss you for him. Would you please let me kiss you?"
The audience roared with wild laughter. Then, just as suddenly, it fell silent, waiting for a response from me. But I was gobsmacked!
First of all, I kept thinking, "How on earth did they get to see Sepet in Tainan?" And secondly, how the hell do you say "No" to a guy who was obviously very shy, but had somehow mustered enough courage to make such an earnest request, in front of 999 people?
After a long, uncomfortable spell of pin-drop silence, I cleared my throat nervously and mumbled into the microphone, "Ok... but can it wait until we're outside?" I swear the hall then literally shook with the thunderous applause and foot-stomping that ensued.
Sigh. Unforgettable city, Taipei.