Category: the petri dish

Kahlo Letters

Fifty years after her death, Frida Kahlo’s letters to one of her best friends, Dr. Leo Eloesser, have been released, and are now published in Mexico, under the title My Beloved Doctor.The letters had been kept sealed on Diego Rivera’s orders for all this time, but now visitors to the Kahlo family home in Mexico City can see the letters, and other artifacts, displayed for the first time. I am a huge fan of Frida Kahlo’s–maybe someday I can finally, finally, visit her house.

Photo: Las Dos Fridas. Via.

‘Hasta La Victoria, Siempre’

The V&A is not my favorite London museum (that would be the Tate) but I was there today because they’re having a special exhibit on Alberto Korda’s iconic image of Che Guevara. A thoroughly enjoyable and informative history of how two photographs, snapped quickly when Che appeared on the balcony during a speech by Castro, have become such emblems of revolution, social change, and guerilla chic, reproduced on everything from T-shirts to Russian dolls. Some of the pieces in the exhibit are well-known, like Patrick Thomas’s “American Investment in Cuba,” which uses U.S. brand names to create the image of Che. But others were new and unfamiliar (to me, anyway), and I do wish there had been more effort to document those. (I wanted to know, for instance, what the poster “Bangla Che” said, but no translation was provided.)

Indigènes Win

I mentioned last week Rachid Bouchareb’s new film, Indigènes, which is about a little known chapter of history: That (Muslim) soldiers from the French colonies were sent to fight the Nazis. It’s a subject that’s near to my heart, because my grandfather was part of the Tirailleurs Marocains, so I am dying to see the movie. I just heard that the ensemble cast (Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila, and Samy Naceri) has won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film doesn’t have a U.S. distributor yet, but one hopes that the attention at Cannes will help get it to theatres here.
I’d like to read Elaine Sciolino’s interview with Jamel Debbouze in the NYT, but it’s hidden behind a subscription wall. Can someone send it to me? Thanks, A. Here’s a snippet:

He achieved international recognition with the 2001 film “Amélie,” in which he played Lucien, a stammering grocer’s assistant. In “Astérix and Obélix: Mission Cleopatra” the next year, Mr. Debbouze played an incompetent Egyptian architect who never made his deadlines and put doors near ceilings, justifying them by saying, “In case you ever want to build a second floor.” That role earned him $2.7 million,
making him one of France’s top-grossing actors. Now only Gérard Depardieu commands a higher salary per film.

He credits his mother, who rose every morning at 4 and held down back-to-back jobs to help support him and his five siblings, for his success.

“In everything that’s black, she sees rose, yellow, green,” he said. His mother, a Muslim, wears a headscarf in public.

When he told his father, now a retired sweeper in the Métro, that he wanted to be a comedian, he said his father replied, “That’s for drug addicts and homosexuals.” After a pause, Mr. Debbouze smiled and added, “But he calmed down when I gave him his first Mercedes.”

Mr. Debbouze resents that he is given such labels as “the prince of the housing projects” or the “Arab with attitude.”

“They categorize us always as ‘actors of Moroccan origin,'” he said. “I am not an ‘actor of Moroccan origin.’ I am an actor.”

I’m not sure why we needed to hear about his mother’s headscarf, but oh wait, it is the NYT, after all.

Cannes 2006

At Cannes this week, all eyes are on the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, but I’m really intrigued by the new film from Rachid Bouchareb, called Indigènes, which will also premiere at the festival. It’s set in 1944, and it’s about four young soldiers from France’s colonies in Algeria and Morocco, who are sent to the mainland to fight the Nazis. It stars Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, and Sami Bouajila. You can view a trailer here. The official site also has photos and information about this forgotten moment of history. Notice, by the way, that there was no hand-wringing about “integration” and “assimilation” of North Africans when they were being sent to the front lines to fight for the freedom of their oppressor.


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