Two-part Al Jazeera documentary on the Palestinian Nakba

This 2-part documentary is a highly informative account of the events that led to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, referred to by Palestinians as Al Nakba, or the catastrophe.

The documentary highlights the ways in which the creation of the State of Israel was made possible through several factors, on top of the fact that the mistreatment of Palestinians shockingly (or not?!) started well before the creation of Israel.

Totaling about 3 hours in length, it’s as heartbreaking as it is comprehensive. It’s clearly not easy to stomach all the injustice and atrocities involved, but it’s well worth watching. +

Part I:

Part II:

Other languages: link to the same documentary with Arabic, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles:

The Great Gatsby & stuff…


It’s weird.

Very weird that I can’t quite recall whether or not I read The Great Gatsby in high school. I recall my sister reading it and going on about it… but me?! Eh???? I’m a huge bookworm so this is quite unusual because I tend to remember books I read–whether I loved them or not. It probably doesn’t help that I’m not particularly drawn to the Jazz Age (of any part of the world), but hey, we all got our things.

I initially cringed at the thought of seeing the exceedingly *blinged-out* movie version of a story I was already ambivalent about.



But with that said, it wasn’t half bad either.

I still feel that the whole soundtrack thing was a big no-no for an era so engulfed in jazz, but at least it didn’t dominate the movie’s 2.5 hour long duration. (Thank God!)

Speaking of which…


I also didn’t quite get mentioning Daisy’s daughter early on, only for her to appear for mere seconds at the movie’s ending. (Screams kinda pointless to me.)

I got the vibe that the story line was all ‘coming back to me’ as I was watching the movie, so I’m thinking maybe I did read the book after all? But even if I have, it’s been well over a decade since… And while I may not have cared for it much before, I feel a re-read coming up in the near future.

P.S. I wish I’d counted the number of times Gatsby uses the term ‘old sport’. UGH!


The Magadalene Laundries and Diderot

I was briefly skipping through channels when I stumbled upon a movie called The Magdalene Sisters. Although I pretty much only saw the last 30 minutes or so, what I saw made for quite a shocking film. Based on true events, it follows the story of several Irish girls as they experience life in a Catholic-run institution known as a ‘Magdalene laundry.’

I immediately looked it up afterwards, and found not a few enlightening film reviews on Amazon. I also stumbled upon a 50-minute documentary called “Sex in a cold climate” which features the actual women that inspired the movie.

I don’t know which is worse: the fact that these nuns who are supposed to be full of love for God and His children are the epitome of cruel and twisted, or the fact that so many families were so bent on sending the ‘offending’ members of the family away to such institutions. Just plain heartbreaking.

Link to documentary: Sex in a cold climate

I also couldn’t help but be reminded of French writer Denis Diderot’s novel called The Nun. I read the book for my college French lit class years ago, and for different reasons it really made an impression on me. Although published in 1796, it’s no far cry from the accounts told by Magdalene laundry residents. Regardless of the ‘truthfulness’ of Diderot’s novel–there are speculations that it was made up–I’ve never doubted for a second that at least some of it must’ve been based on facts. And if not, then in a way it seems it turned out to be a kind of creepy–and accurate–forewarning of what can happen in such extremist institutions. (This, however, seems too much of a ‘coincidence’ to me; which is why I believe that Diderot likely had some knowledge of convents). A quick YouTube check revealed that a new movie version of the novel was released in March 2013. Check Netflix to potentially see the film remake, and check out the trailer (in French) below:

Christians face troubles in the Old City during Easter 2013 festivities

Some pretty disturbing videos showing some of the tension during Easter 2013 celebrations in the Old City, Jerusalem.

Christians denied entry at the New Gate. Violence erupts:

The clip below shows an Orthodox priest being roughly handled by Israeli soldiers in the Old City. It speaks for itself:

This one is from Al Jazeera and is in Arabic, but definitely conveys some of the chaos:

A drama-free one, showing Christian Palestinian celebration in Bethlehem:

Happy Orthodox Easter 2013!! And memories of Easter in Jerusalem

Some videos I took from my 2011 Easter experience in Jerusalem. I’ll never forget the intensity of the crowds, how frighteningly packed it was, the energy all around… Definitely an experience to say the least!

This clip below on the Ethiopian lighting of the fire doesn’t have great resolution, but it still conveys the energy and vibe of the moment!

Joan of Arc and Luc Besson’s The Messenger

I finally watched Luc Besson’s The Messenger and my reaction to it is rather mixed. Warning: there are spoilers ahead.

For a long time, I mostly wasn’t interested in seeing it since I’d heard it portrayed a kind of ‘unhinged’ Joan of Arc. I figured it was another way to disrespect her and her message, and by extension anyone who may believe “in these things” and/or be a person of faith. And while I’m glad to see that that’s not the vibe I got from the film, neither do I feel that it’s a particularly great representation of Joan.

The movie basically takes the angle that in the midst of Joan’s quiet childhood as a French peasant girl, the supposed divine voices she heard were not the only cause of motivation to free France from English rule: the death-rape of her sister by the English was another. As the movie progresses, we see an increasingly moody, rather bloodthirsty Joan (played by Milla Jovovich) whose main focus is winning battles and kicking the English out. Through the devil’s appearance in the film (played by Dustin Hoffman), we find her questioning herself during her trial about her claims that she never killed anyone, didn’t enjoy inflicting pain, and even the nature of God’s ‘signs’ to her. It concludes with Joan confessing—to the devil—the ‘true nature’ of her motives, abruptly followed by her fiery demise.

Ultimately, the ending is what cemented my opinion of the film. I didn’t like that, based on the way scenes were set-up, it looked/felt as though the burning at the stake was Joan’s punishment for all her wrongful motives. Perhaps this works for those who like to think of God as revengeful and angry, and taking it out on His children whenever He wants, because they did wrong, etc.—but I don’t share that view. And anyway if that’s the view people want to take, then also pray tell why the same thing didn’t happen to the largely corrupt royal family, who basically used Joan of Arc for as long as they needed her—up until Charles VII’s coronation—and proceeded to ignore her pleas thereafter. Clearly, burning at the stake is a horrible way to die no matter how you look at it, but it’s also true that one’s spiritual views will also affect their perception of these events (if not everything in life in general).

Everything else in the film—her occasionally fiery temper, her doubts, her relentless ways—all made sense in different contexts and can likely be explained in the light of her experiences, no matter how eccentric they may seem. But the view that she may have had doubts about her voices and motives is not supported by historical records, so that’s just one of the many areas where Besson’s creative mind is at work. (For example, Joan of Arc showed remarkable endurance during her trials and could often refer back to specific questions that had already been asked of her, much to the puzzlement and frustration of her accusers.)

Aside from depicting a different view of Joan, it also surprisingly delivered a more sympathetic version of the English-siding bishop Pierre Cauchon. I wonder why? Was Besson’s goal to portray everyone in almost an opposite way from the way they’ve traditionally been known? Records show that Cauchon had no problem tampering with evidence to fit his cause against Joan, so I don’t particularly understand this portrayal. True, I’m indeed focused on the truth—something which I’d assume any historian as well as person of faith should be concerned about—and perhaps the movie merely serves to entertain. But even so, the end result is the same: it’s a dark, depressing view of life through war, politics, people, and God. There are no heroes.

As much as I’m a fan of Joan of Arc—my Belgian childhood was filled with her story—I’ve chosen to stick to books about her as opposed to watching movies on her. In fact, I’ve yet to find a *really* good movie and I’m not sure that I’ll ever see one that truly ‘hits the nail on the head.’

Aside from providing an alternate view of Joan of Arc, Luc Besson’s The Messenger also briefly touches on the role of Yolande of Aragon in the story of the maid; an angle which has recently been taken by Nancy Goldstone’s The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc.