Archive | Country Matters

The Toils of ‘Fatima’

fatima writing“Fatima” begins slowly and deliberately, and proceeds that way for its entire seventy-eight minutes, like a mother straightening her child’s room. This is appropriate, for it is about an Algerian cleaning woman struggling to raise her two teenage daughters in Lyon, France. The film is a loose adaptation of Priere a la lune (Prayer to the Moon), a short collection of poems and other writings by Fatima Elayoubi, a North African woman who emigrated to France and taught herself the language. Fatima’s onscreen stand-in is played by the nonprofessional actor Soria Zeroual, who really worked as a cleaning woman until being cast in this film.

At times, Zeroual’s lack of acting experience is all too evident – her high, trailing voice can grate; her motions and features can seem frozen – but soon enough you see what director Philippe Faucon saw in her: an unadulterated steadiness that shores her children – and this film – in the face of all adversity. With her veiled head, stricken expression, and broken French, Fatima encounters micro – and macro – aggression daily, yet remains undeterred as she spends long hours cleaning a local factory and the houses of unhappy, wealthy women. Nothing can sway her from the goal of supporting Nesrine (Zita Hanrot), her eighteen-year-old daughter in medical school, and Souad (Kenza Noah Aiche), her fifteen-year-old daughter who is as surly with her mother as she is with her schoolmates and teachers. Continue Reading →

Love and Animals

ruby redI’m trying to climb back on the grid, I really am. I’ve had my computer back for a few days and have completed all my paid assignments. But a lot has happened this month and it all boils down to my realizing how much more I want, and how much Rilke applies if I’m to achieve it.

You must change your life, said Rilke.

In the first and second and third place, I’ve grown powerfully tired of social media. I know this isn’t fair but after a time away it just seems like the worst of 20th century snail mail: chain letters, clippings from college roommates who assume they’re ranting to the choir, notes from bored aunts about everything they ate and aren’t-they-just-the-cutest kittens and babies.

I want more. I want please and thank-yous. I want diagrammable sentences rather than rebuses; polite declines rather than rebuffs. I want declarations and advance invitations and follow-up questions and direct answers. I’d wanted the Summer of Jane but at this point would settle for Dick and Jane. Or just See Spot Run. Continue Reading →

Headphone Honey

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.59.00 PMIt’s the third time it’s happened so now it qualifies as an official pattern: I return from a rural vacation only to discover that somewhere in between my car and apartment I’ve lost my headphones. In addition to being expensive, this a rueful reminder that only in the city are headphones essential gear–vital to my survival and sanity as I move through the honking, hollering, general mayhem. On the plus side: my June dove neighbor, Sweet Baby Blue, was awaiting me on the fire escape when I woke today, as smooth and serene as ever, and newly grown up. A fine ambassador to my reentry, indeed. Nature is everywhere, I guess. It’s just that in NYC we’re too inundated with human nature.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy