My Current Top 6 Albums

I was nominated by my brother to list the 6 albums that I listen to the most on Tumblr. However, because I have not posted anything music related in a while and I think it is time for a new post, I decided to do it on here instead of Tumblr.

So here it goes! Six albums that I have been listening to a lot recently:

  • Hindi Zahra – Homeland (2015)

I think it is no surprise that this album is on here. Ever since it came out, I have been listening to it rather religiously. Homeland is Hindi Zahra’s second album and it has met all the expectations set by her previous record. In fact, I loved this album so much that I took a night off during my finals week last semester to go see Hindi Zahra’s concert in Meknes that was part of her Moroccan Homeland tour!

  • Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were (2014)

Even the saddest of Ben Howard’s songs make me happy. It’s just one of those things that I am unable to explain. His sophomore album is no exception. Conrad is one of the most listened to songs on my phone mainly because it is one of the rare ones I never skip when it comes up on shuffle.

  • Ibeyi – Ibeyi (2015)

Ibeyi are a French-Cuban twin duo who sing mostly in English and Yoruba or French. I fell in love with their music on the day I stumbled upon their performance of Mama Says Live on KEXP. Lisa and Naomi’s voices, as well as their use of keyboards and cajon, are captivating. Most of the songs are written by Lisa and cover everything from odes to their deceased father and sister to pieces that are heavily inspired by Yoruba folk songs.

  • James Bay – Chaos and the Calm (2015)

I discovered James Bay through my sister Rachel who suggested I should play some of his songs on my radio show last semester. I ended up downloading the whole album and fell irrevocably in love with it. James Bay’s music reminds me of high school and I’m not really sure why. Either way, here is Scars, my favourite song from the album. Honestly, how can you not love it with lyrics like this

But you’re miles away,
You’re breaking up, you’re on your own
It’s hard to take,
I need an hour just to say hello
And I can’t make the truth of this work out for you or me

And for all the pennies in your pocket
We barely get a second just to speak

  • Hozier – Hozier (2014)

I first heard of Hozier in the Spring of 2014. I was listening to a mix on 8tracks and Take me to Church came on. I kept it in my favourites for a little while then forgot about it. About a month later, during a live of Stirs & Bifocals, one of our most faithful listeners requested that we play it on the show. That was even before the album came on, but I have been obsessed with the Irish man’s songs ever since (the fact that he is Irish might or might not have something to do with that).

  • Oh Wonder

This last one isn’t really an album, yet. Oh Wonder are a London based duo that has taken on the project of releasing one song on the first day of each month for a year. They currently have released 10 songs, the 11th one will be online tomorrow so I am ridiculously excited about that! The reason I decided to include Oh Wonder on this list is because I have a feeling that these songs will be grouped together in an album eventually. They do have some exciting news coming up so I’m guessing it must be something along these lines! Either way, I think Oh Wonder’s music is amazing and I find it particularly fitting for midnight drives. I’d definitely recommend checking out their soundcloud.

  • Honourable mention: Amber Run – 5AM

I feel like I should just drop a little shoutout to Amber Run. I am not a big fan of every single song on the album but I still think you should check them out. My favourites are 5AM and I Found.

Review: The Spirit Level on Stage

Theatre production: The Spirit Level on Stage: A Notion of Equality

Ensemble:

  • Rachid Bromi
  • Hajar Chargui
  • Michael Vinsa
  • José Figueroa
  • Moa Westerlund
  • Nina Jeppsson
  • Jamal Nouman

Artistic Direction & Choreography:

  • Asmaa Houri
  • Louise Kvarby

Playwright:

  • Issam El Yousfi
  • Bodil Persson

Set design:

  • Sören Brunes
  • Pelle Wittsäter

Costume design:

  • Pipsa Perrin Poukka

Production:

  • Göran Lidbrink
  • True Rantamäki

I got the chance to see The Spirit Level on Stage last night. It is a piece by Moroccan troupe Theatre Anfass and the Swedish Jordbro Världsorkester and is supported by The Swedish Institute (Svenska Institutet) and the Culture Foundation of the Swedish Postcode Lottery (Postkodlotteriets Kulturstiftelse).

Inspired by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, The Spirit Level on Stage is a piece on inequality and privilege written by Issam El Yousfi and Bodil Persson. It is the result of about a year’s worth of research and rehearsals.

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I only had my phone on me so the pictures are not great but oh well!

For a little over one hour, I was not only seeing a representation of inequality unfold on stage. I was being transported into a multilingual/multicultural discourse on hierarchy, poverty, and violence. The piece was poignant to say the least. From the set and costume designs to the music, everything was captivating. Most of the piece was in a mixture of Arabic, French, English, Spanish, and Swedish, however, the stories and themes treated were dealt with in a more visual and physical manner. I can only imagine how draining the hours of rehearsals and the performances have been on the actors’ bodies. (On a somewhat unrelated not, I was proud of myself for understanding a couple of works in Swedish that I picked up at the Nordic Youth Conference last year)

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Hajar Chargui and Nina Jeppsson did most of the singing throughout the show.

I think my favourite parts have to be the songs which were so perfectly performed by Chargui and Jeppsson. I also loved the somewhat innovative percussion instrument used at some parts. I’d rather not say too much in case you end up watching it because I wouldn’t want to spoil it.

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L-t-R: José Figueroa, Michael Vinsa, Jamal Nouman, Moa Westerlund, Nina Jeppsson, Hajar Chargui, and Rachid Bromi.

It is safe to say that I absolutely loved the take on Wilkinson and Pickett’s book. If I did not work during the week, I would have tried to go see it again in Meknes. The Spirit Level on Stage‘s Moroccan tour still has 3 more dates:

  • Meknes: June 17th Théâtre El Menouni 8:00 p.m. (If Ramadan 9:30 p.m.)
  • El Hajeb: June 18th Complexe Culturel 9:30 p.m.
  • Marrakech: June 20th  Théâtre Daoudyate 9:30 p.m.

I would highly recommend you go and see this piece! For my friends in Sweden, the Swedish tour starts August 19th!

Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

Before I proceed to talking about the book, I would first like to say THANK YOU to all my readers! This is my 100th post on this blog and I just wanted to take the time to say thanks. Whether you have been here since the very beginning or only dropped by to read a couple articles here and there, it means a lot to me. Thank you!

***

Now onto the actual book review

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Publisher: Knopf

Year: 2006

I have read this book on and off over a period of 3 months. That is partly because of how time consuming my studies were this past semester. It is also for a couple more reasons that I will mention below.

First things first, if there is anything this book has made me realize, it’s how western-centric most of our education is. Half of a Yellow Sun is a historiographic metafiction set in Nigeria in the 1960’s. When I first started reading it, I was looking forward to delving into Adichie’s world without a second thought. However, what I found myself doing is looking up the political and social situation in post-colonial Nigeria to be able to keep up with the plot. When I look back at my history classes, none of them covered anything south of Morocco. I can safely say that in my classes, it was mostly Moroccan history, Arab/Islamic history, and European/US history that we actually covered. Any knowledge that I have that is beyond that is simply the results of my own research.

Now, I know I might be talking just for myself, but I feel a bit more African than Arab. So when I sit down and reflect on the fact that part of that African heritage never truly gets to us, it really pains me. It is actually for this very reason that I have been making a conscious choice to read books from countries I wouldn’t necessarily have an idea about (Peru, Nigeria, Afghanistan). And even though I was actually aware of this issue, I just never thought it was this bad. In other words, reading this novel turned into making detailed research about post-colonial Nigeria. It is in fact the other main reason it has taken me so much time to read it.

Having been attracted to Adichie’s writing because of her TEDx talk, I was obviously expecting to see her deal with gender politics as well as culture and race. It is safe to say that I was not disappointed. The way she weaves her way through the plot is so effortless yet poignant. I found myself more than once re-reading some paragraphs or sentences not because I did not understand them, but because of how loudly the truth they held resonated with me. One could easily say that the book is about how the Nigerian Civil War affected the lives of the main characters. However, I see it as much more than that. While part of me wants to detail everything in the novel that deals with each one of this issues, I think I am going to refrain because I believe you should all read the book and discover for yourselves. As a Moroccan reading a book by a Nigerian author, I could very easily relate to a lot of the gendered issues dealt with in an extremely subtle way..

The third and last point I will talk about is the characters and their development. I have be scrutinizing the female characters in almost any media I consume lately and Adichie’s gave me Olanna and Kainene who portray something that I seldom find. They were two women that first seemed like the stereotypical “twins at the opposite ends of the spectrum” but they soon morphed into something a lot more interesting. As a stubborn person, I often found that trait portrayed as something that would eventually have negative repercussions. While that might be true at times, it does not mean that it does not get me where I need to go, one way or another. It was refreshing to read about characters who are just as strong headed as I am without having that be a negative identified. Of course stubbornness is not the only thing that attracted me to Kainene and Olanna. Their passion, ambition, compassion, and all together character development made for an extremely engaging read. They are the kind of strong yet flawed characters that seemed human, not a perfect hologram on paper.

Of course they are not the only characters I cared about. The author did a great job of giving us a somewhat holistic idea of each character. From Ugwu, the houseboy, to Richard, the white Englishman who is struggling to find a place for himself within a national identity crisis. As well as Aunty Ifeka, Arize, Edna, Okeoma, and so many other characters that I could relate to.

All in all, I can say that I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a book that is more than just a story but something that can stick with you. Meanwhile, I will try to find its movie adaptation and see how well it meets my expectations!

ToT on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

For the second year in a row, I had the chance to represent my country at an international gathering of Amnesty International youth activists. This time, it was a training of trainers on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, which a lot of you must know, is a cause I hold very close to my heart. The training took place in Hammamet, Tunisia from May 24th to May 28th in the presence of three delegations: Algerian, Tunisian, and Moroccan.

Group work on the first day of the training. Most of the training was done in small groups such as this one. Photo credits: Lila Bouchenaf

Group work on the first day of the training. Most of the training was done in small groups such as this one.
Photo credits: Lila Bouchenaf

Some members of the Moroccan and Tunisian delegations on our first time in Hammamet. Selfie by Omar Benyassine.

Some members of the Moroccan and Tunisian delegations on our first time in Hammamet. L-to-R: Ayla, Oussema, Omar, Soukaina, myself (my head sticking out in the back), Douaa, Sabri, and Zineb. Selfie by Omar Benyassine.

Over the span of four days and a half, we had the chance to reinforce our prior knowledge on Sexual and Reproductive Rights. This covered everything from going over the My Body My Rights campaign again to discovering sexual orientations and identities. We also had the chance acquire tools to plan, execute, and evaluate workshops on SRR.

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Group picture after one of the trust building exercises on the 4th evening. Photo credits: Lila Bouchenaf

The view from the center we stayed at. I am already missing it.

The view from the center we stayed at. I am already missing it.

The actual training was extremely interesting and got me thinking about what I can do within the AUI Amnesty International Club next year. However, what will stay with me forever is the interactions and dynamics between some of the people I got the chance to meet.

The Moroccan delegation at the Cultural Night.

The Moroccan delegation at the Cultural Night. L-to-R: Omar, Soukaina, Houssam, Touria, Zineb, myself, Douaa, Omar.

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With my Tunisian friend Yoldez at the Cultural Night. Photo credits: Omar Benyassine

L-to-R: Douaa, Oussema, Sabri, and myself at the Cultural Night.

L-to-R: Douaa, Oussema, Sabri, and myself at the Cultural Night.

Whether it was while designing a workshop, sharing different aspects of our cultures during a Cultural Night, or halfway through all the sleepless nights I spent playing cards, my trip to Tunisia taught me a lot of things. I learned that no matter where we come from, no matter how different we think we are, or how prejudiced we might be, all we have to do is truly listen to each other to get to our ends. Nothing will ever get done as long as we stand divided, shouting at each other.

All the participants and organizers with the artwork of Tunisia artist Tawfiq Omar. Photo credits: Nada El Kashef

All the participants and organizers with the artwork of Tunisia artist Tawfiq Omar on the last day of training. Photo credits: Nada El Kashef

I am sure this is not the first time I am saying this, but it does no harm to repeat it: It really does not matter how long you’ve known someone, so long as they touch your existence in one way or another. On our second day in Tunisia, I was told that Tunisians have such a big heart they love fast and very easily to the point it is almost a running joke. I guess I got to experience that first hand.

Echo | A short-film

During the Spring term, I took an advanced production class. Naturally, my assignment consisted of producing three visual texts: a music video, a fiction short-film, and a non-fiction short film.

After about two months of work, including at least six weeks in the editing lab and numerous sleepless nights, I am proud to present my fiction short film!

I have been avoiding the moment I would have to upload it online because the perfectionist in me kept finding excuses like “I need to fix this one scene” or “the lighting in this frame is not quite right”. I guess that now that I am home with no access to editing software, I really have nowhere to run, so here it goes!

It is entitled Echo and is retelling the happenings of one day in the life of a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. You can watch it down below! Considering May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I guess the timing was pretty perfect. If I do say so myself.

I would like to give a shout out to everyone who has helped me and put up with me in one way or another during the production period! Also, I would urge you guys to listen to the work of Salim Daima whose music was used during the film!

PS: It is best if you use headphones when watching the movie!

“Afriques en Scènes” – Hindi Zahra & Songhoy Blues

Hindi Zahra officially launched her Moroccan tour last night in the Institut Français de Meknes and I was lucky enough to see her live and front row!

But before I talk about Hindi Zahra’s performance, let me give a shout out to the opening act which was Malian band Songhoy Blues. I don’t think anyone can say it better than their frontman “Music is universal and nothing can bring together people like music can”. From the moment they got on stage, people started standing up and dancing along to their music. Their 50-minutes-long of Songhoy music infused with Blues and Rock beats was nothing but pure pleasure. Their music while enchanting, also conveyed important messages from them challenging the Islamic rule in Northern Mali to an ode to the African Woman. They’ve opened for Damon Albarn and the Alabama Shakes in the past and will be touring Morocco as part of the Institut Français’s “Afriques en Scènes” program. I would definitely recommend checking them out!

After about 15 minutes of intermission, Hindi Zahra finally made her much awaited entrance.

I find myself at a loss for words every time I think of last night to be honest. I am in awe of her stage presence, personality, artistic ability, and beauty. While the tour was in order to promote her sophomore album “Homeland“, the obvious crowd-pleasers were none other than the singles from her first album. From Oursoul to Imik Simik, not forgetting Ahiawa and Stand-Up, Hindi managed to set the whole room on fire.

Hindi Zahra’s sophomore album: Homeland

Of course, because this is part of the Homeland Tour, almost the whole album was performed. The highlight would most likely be an extremely emotional rendition of Any Story as well as my personal favourite from the album The Moon is Full. I probably found myself in tears more times than I would like to admit throughout the whole show. Also, Hindi Zahra’s band deserve just as much recognition for their talent. She was accompanied by 2 guitarists, a bass player, one person at the keyboards/brass, drums, and my favourite: Ze Luis Nascimento playing an interesting collection of percussion instruments.

After thanking the audience for their presence and energy, they came back for an encore made up of Broken Ones and none-other than Beautiful Tango ending the show on a high note!

I could not take any pictures because 1) I was too busy fangirling, and 2) the Institut Français de Meknes prohibits the use of phones during the live performances. However, you can check out these pictures by Othman Jmad from Diapazone
http://diapazone.net/js_photo_albums/hindi-zahra-enflamme-le-pulic-meknassi/

Hindi Zahra’s Moroccan tour will carry on with:

Kenitra – May 9th

Casablanca – May 10th

Agadir – May 12th

Essaouira – May 15th (As part of the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival)

It is a show that you really don’t want to miss. You can check out the rest of her tour dates over here!

Travel tips!

Ever since I started college, I have been on a few trips nationally and internationally, so I decided to compile a short list of tips that could be useful for fellow travel bugs!

– Don’t be afraid of getting lost!

My favourite parts of my travels, especially in Denmark and the United States, were when I did not necessarily know where I was. In Denmark, I was walking around Copenhagen with my friend Peter who knows the city very well. Most of the time, I had no idea where I was or where we were going until he pointed something out. NYC and Chicago were another story. I usually knew I would find a subway station eventually so did not really care.

– Walk, walk, walk!

I don’t think we can really get the feel of a place if we spend our time in cars. Get down on the streets and walk with the locals. If you can bike, do that too!!

– Google Maps, CityMaps2Go, and actual maps might be your best friends.

In case you really don’t want to engage in the whole get lost shenanigans, get an actual map. You can usually find them in news stands and public transit stations. If you prefer something more digital, Google Maps is great because if you use its itinerary function, it does not require internet the whole way. All you have to do is launch the directions and then log off internet, you can save on battery this way. CityMaps2Go is also very useful. All you have to do is download the app and then the maps of the cities of your choice. You get 5 maps for free.

– Take loads of pictures.

You don’t have to have a DSLR to chronicle your travels, your phone will do. Take pictures of everything that seems interesting. And while selfies are cool, try to point the camera the other way from time to time.

– Put your camera down from time to time.

I know this is weird both coming from a photographer and from someone who just told you to take loads of pictures, but really, sometimes you have to put that camera down and actually look at the place. Each city or town I have been to has a special kind of energy. It has sounds, smells, colours, lights that demand to be heard, felt, and seen. Don’t deprave yourself from that by constantly hiding behind a camera. Photographs sure do capture a lot, but not everything!

New York – Part 3

I started off my last 5 days in New York City by making a trip to Chelsea on Sunday. Safae and I decided that it was about time we visited the High Line so we hoped on a subway and made our way to West Village. Considering we had left the house in the late afternoon, we got there there a bit after dark. However, before we got there, we got a bit lost and ended up in the Artists and Fleas shop in the Chelsea Market. While it was Insiders1‘s leather merchandise that attracted my attention on the window display, it is probably Pamela Barsky‘s witty and rather sarcastic pouches, wallets, and purses that had me stick around for longer than planned. I absolutely loved the place and would recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in NYC.

Anyway, back to The High Line! I particularly enjoyed it because I got to take some pictures of the traffic that I have wanted to do for a while but never got them “quite right”. I also decided to play London Grammar’s High Life just because I thought it would be funny. I guess the brisk cold wind, the music, and people’s conversations drowned out by the distant sounds of the city made for a rather cinematic moment.

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One of the traffic pictures that I took. I believe this is 10th Avenue & 23rd Street. I particularly like this one because there are even the silhouettes of the pedestrians crossing the street!

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10th Avenue and 15th Street.

After getting off the High Line, Safae and I joined Ali who was in Midtown shopping. We walked towards Madison Square Garden/Pennsylvania Station in order for me to go to my bank before we made a few stops at different gift shops on 6th Avenue and then heading home.

The following day was rather uneventful. Safae and Ali went shopping in the morning as I slept in and when they came back, we had a quick lunch and then headed over to the airport to pick up our friend Kholoud who will be doing her exchange program this Spring term in University of Dayton, Ohio. Since Kholoud was tired and jetlagged, we stayed in the neighbourhood and had Caribbean food for dinner.

Unfortunately for me, my migraines made a badly timed appearance and kept me up all night. It is safe to say I was very cranky on Tuesday. For Kholoud’s first full day in the city, we decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, which Safae and I still had not done so it was very convenient, crowded but convenient.

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The cliche picture of Brooklyn Bridge with the One World Trade Center in the background.

I have to admit that one of my favourite moments throughout my whole stay in New York was when it lightly snowed as we were crossing the bridge! Too bad it did not stick though. I really wanted to see a snow covered New York City.

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You can see the snow a tiny bit on this picture.

Next up was Central Park on a particularly cold late afternoon/evening. Of course we could not go to Central Park without stopping by the playground for a little while. I have to admit the park is rather beautiful around twilight. After that, we made the rounds of the gift stores near Penn Station yet again, before heading back home for dinner and an episode of How to Get Away With Murder. That was around the time my mood was changing towards the better. I owe that to the blues guitar player at the subway station (no videos available since I was too busy dancing!).

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Some of the piers seen from Brooklyn Bridge.

On New Year’s Eve, I decided to go to the movies so I made my way to the BAM Rose Cinemas (the right building this time!!) to watch Wild. Although I have mixed feelings about the movie, I have to say I loved the venue. It is just ridiculously beautiful and I would recommend it for anyone in New York. It is on Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn. The rest of my afternoon was rather uneventful as I stayed home, had dinner, and then got ready to go out around 10 PM. When I took the subway I ran into a group of 10 Argentinians and 5 Americans and we became somewhat friends as everyone started singing Lion King songs after I introduced myself. I left the group somewhere in Lower Manhattan and made it to the South Ferry terminal just in time for the 11:30 ferry towards Staten Island.

I spent the last minutes of 2014 and the first seconds of 2015 racing a bunch of strangers for the best seat to see the fireworks. From where we were, we could see the fireworks in Lower Manhattan, New Jersey, and Brooklyn. It was magnificent. When I made it back to Manhattan, I walked around town for about two hours. By the time I saw about 3 passed out people on the street, I decided it was time to head back home.

For my last full day in New York, I decided I was not going to take my camera with me because I wanted to feel the place rather than see it through a viewfinder.After packing my bags so I wouldn’t worry about them on my travel day, I made my way to Williamsburg. I got off the subway on the southern side of the neighbourhood and just walked around aimlessly for about an hour and a half. I think that because it was New Year’s a lot of the stores were closed, which was a shame, but that did not stop me from enjoying the place.It definitely made it on my list of favourite places in NYC.

Next stop was Grand Central Station. My initial plan was to sit down at one of the coffee shops in the food court and people watch for a little while. However, because again it was New Year’s, the place was packed and people watching would have been pointless so I decided to make my way towards the Public Library/Bryant Park instead. Of course, because it was around 7PM and a holiday, the Library was closed. I ended up walking around the shop displays in Bryant Park before leaving the area. My favourite display was that of Momo Glassworks. Their glass earrings are absolutely beautiful!

After Bryant Park, and a well deserved coffee, I made my way to the Columbia University campus. I kind of wish I got the chance to be there during the semester to see what it is like when classes are in session. But empty campuses have always held a certain charm that is appealing to me. And charm is definitely something that the Columbia University campus has!

My before last stop was Washington Square Park. I got off the subway at Christopher St. and made my way to the park through Greenwich Village. I’m really glad I did that because I ran into the Bleeker Street Records store which offers a huge number of records, t-shirts, and anything music related. It also has an enormous collection of vinyl records for 99 ¢!! If it were not for luggage weight limitations I would probably have ruined myself in that store. When I got to Washington Square, all I could think of was the movie August Rush. I think it was pretty interesting to be there around 9PM that day. There weren’t too many tourists but sadly no street performers. I did get to find the 1st and 4th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution written with chalk around the main fountain.

My final stop in New York was SoHo. I think that after Crown Heights, SoHo and Williamsburg are a tie when it comes to my favourite neighbourdhoods in NYC. I think part of my liking of SoHo comes from the fact that a few side streets reminded me of Copenhagen. Between the cobbled streets, the bike racks, and the street lamps, I could have sworn I was back in the Danish capital. Sadly, my time in town was coming to an end as I had to meet my friends who were coming back from a day in Philadelphia at a subway station. However, one wrong turn made me make an hour long detour. I ended up walking through Chinatown, Little Italy, and finally reached Tribeca before hopping on a subway and heading towards Crown Heights. But hey, at least now I know where the Tribeca Film Festival takes place!

That was it for my New York experience. My only regret is not having ran into Brandon from Humans of New York.

I made my way to the airport the next day in the early afternoon and caught a red eye flight from JFK to the Casablanca airport where my parents picked me up. Three days later and I am still struggling with the worst jetlag I have had to date. Let’s just hope I fix my sleep schedule before going back to college this Saturday!

Movie Review #3 – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (2014)

Director: 

Ned Benson

Producers: 

Cassandra Kulukundis

Ned Benson

Jessica Chastain

Todd J. Labarowski

Emanuel Michael

Writer:

Ned Benson

Starring: 

Jessica Chastain

James McAvoy

Viola Davis

William Hurt

Isabelle Huppert

Jess Weixler

Bill Hader

Ciarán Hinds

Synopsis

One couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

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I first heard of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them last summer. Them is part of a 3 movie project. Ned Benson initially made 2 feature-length movies Her and Him, chronicling the relationship of Eleanor Rigby and Connor Ludlow from both of their perspectives. The two movies, Him and Her, were premiered in 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival. Later on, Ned Benson made another cut of the movie, Them, that is a mix of Her and Him and was released in September 2014.

I have to say that it is this dual perspective that first attracted me to the story. The trailer itself seemed like almost any other story I have seen before but with a great cast. I spent months looking for the Him & Her double feature at a movie theater I could go to, without avail. So I had to settle for Them which I have just watched tonight.

Let me start of with the cast. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain do nothing but deliver great performances. Their undeniable chemistry, even though there aren’t many scenes with both of them, and the lengths to which they took their characters gave the whole performance a certain sense of maturity and depth. However, I feel like this was the kind of movie that somehow got me more interested in the supporting cast, and that is saying a lot considering McAvoy is in this! I particularly loved Viola Davis who plays a professor teaching Identity Theory at Cooper Union in New York. It was nice seeing her and Chastain interact on-screen.  I also liked William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert, and Ciarán Hinds as Eleanor’s parents and Connor’s father respectively. Additionally, Bill Hader’s performance was rather compelling and made me want to see him in more substantial roles in the future.

When it comes to the movie itself, I feel like it was marketed wrong. While the trailer says things like “The most romantic love story ever told”, I feel like there was nothing romantic about Them. In fact, I don’t even see it as a love story. It is a story about loss, grief, and family. It also touches on topics of identity and how individuals sometimes define themselves according to the ones surrounding them. And while the story line felt cliché at times, the performance of the cast carried the story very well as it was unfolding slowly. Sometimes, I even felt a bit confused with the way the story was going, but at no moment did I think it was a love story per se. The scene between Eleanor and her father as he is trying to figure out how to help his daughter who is clearly not doing well is probably my favourite. It was the first time we had a hint that there was something more than simply a break-up. Even though I know Them is supposed to be a retelling of both Her and Him, I certainly feel like it is mostly scenes from Her with some of Him thrown in for background story. In other words, I liked the gist of the story and the performances but wish I had a chance of seeing Him & Her instead of Them.

When it comes to the production, visually speaking it is very enthralling. Benson does a good job of using different visual cues to tell more of the story. I particularly enjoyed the “walking” shots where we could see Eleanor through Connor’s eyes as he followed her into class. I also loved the official soundtrack of the movie and would highly recommend it. Son Lux’s music along with classical violin pieces were definitely a good touch. I