The Complex Colours of Egypt – The Tent Makers of Cairo

A fascinating insight into the life and work of artisans in Egypt    

Screening today  -Tuesday 21st April at 18:30 at the Grande Salle Colombière and Wednesday 22nd April at 12:00 at the Salle Communale.  Tickets and info here

“You can’t buy thousands of dollars of fabric and give a needle and thread to anyone”, opines a UPS delivery guy whilst picking up a parcel from a shopkeeper in Cairo. The shop in question, sells beautiful hand sewn designs which have been made on the premises by extremely skilled artisans. The designs are now works of art which are hung on walls of homes but traditionally they were used to line and decorate the inside of tents. However, the quote is an analogy for what’s going on in the country at the time, the delivery guy is bemoaning the lack of skill and expertise in Mohamed Morsi, the country’s new leader.

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For over three years, Kim Beamish the director of  “The Tent Makers of Cairo”  followed a community of artisans whose craft has remained largely unchanged for centuries, and in this film, not only do we see the rich, complex colours and intricate work of their designs, but we hear them discussing the current and complex political situation going on in Egypt.  Discussions continue during power cuts and involve lots of smoking and lots of coffee. Breaking news happens and they continue sewing and giving their opinion. A heated argument happen in the street over a traffic issue and a tent maker watches with interest, only to leave his needle and thread aside to try and calm the situation down. There are some lovely, touching scenes when we see the artisans at home with their families.

Khiamiah / Street of the Tentmakers

Yet despite the turmoil outside and the long hours of work, there is also laughter, jokes are made about the government from both sides, about each other and a joint bemoaning that times are tough.

The artisan’s work is invited to be shown at a quilting exhibition in Pennsylvania and we see them preparing for the trip. Once in the U.S. A , their work is greatly admired and in demand. Here we see not only the visual contrast between the sights and sounds of Cairo to the sights of Pennsylvania, but also a contrast of how their work is cherished. Back in Egypt, the skilled tent makers reflect on how lovely it was to be appreciated for their work in America “unlike in this country”.   When they are then invited to Paris to a sewing fair, they are again valued for their skills.  Although some worry that the trade will die out, there are others who are teaching the art to their sons in the hope that it will continue.

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This film is a fascinating insight into the life and work not only of the artisans, but also an interesting perspective of the political situation in Egypt during the time of filming. A perspective through the eyes of Egyptians themselves, not through news anchors or “experts”.  A country of complex colours of different designs. Just like the artisan’s  thread, the country travels in different directions throughout the film resulting in a rich and interesting work of art for the viewer.

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Bill Drummond – the Musician, the Maverick, the Man who burned a million pounds – Film Review

Bill Drummond, the musician, the maverick, the man who burned a million pounds.  

Film review “Imagine waking up tomorrow and all music had disappeared” from Visions du Réel in Nyon 2015

Screenings today Sunday 19th April at 19:00 at the Théâtre de Marens and tomorrow Monday 10:00 at the Salle Communale.

Click here for Info and Tickets 

Bill Drummond is no Gareth Malone. Malone, a British TV presenter, natty dresser and populariser of choral singing, travels around the United Kingdom encouraging workplaces to form choirs and inspires them to enter into competitions while filming their progress for a series of very successful TV programmes.  The uplifting nature of these programmes have won Malone many awards and accolades.

Whereas Drummond in the film, although he travels around the UK forming a choir of sorts, he does so in very different circumstances in the film, “Imagine waking up tomorrow and all music had disappeared” . The choir is made up of folk he finds along the way, and although he does occasionally enter into a few workplaces, all he asks if that the workers sing just one note or two. He then records the collective sound to be added to other recordings to make just one choral piece on its own. A sound that will be deleted after it has been played and never to be heard again. Drummond travels from place to place in a scruffy Landrover wearing an even scruffier long leather jacket as he cajoles and persuades members of the public to sing or make a sound for this experiment called The 17. Among the group he finds are nuns, taxi drivers, construction workers, children in a primary school and more, a diverse cross section of society. Although Drummond is a charismatic character – some warm to him and happily go along with his project, other are not so keen and they squirm with embarrassment.

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Drummond, a musician was once part of the band The KLF and in 1991 he was in one of the biggest-selling singles act in the world. In this film we see snippets of what his life for him was like then including the famous incident when The K foundation  (an art duo consisting of  Drummond and Jimmy Cauty), burned one million pounds sterling and filmed it all. The subsequent backlash and publicity surrounding it are shown in the film along with the obvious question being asked to the musician. Do you regret burning all that money? 

The premise and title of the film “Imagine waking up tomorrow and all music had disappeared” is Drummond’s way of questioning our instant access via the Ipod, Iphone etc to music, does this ease of access mean that we don’t stop to listen to the music around us any more? The sound of the street outside, the wind, the music in simple things such as the noise we hear as we change gear in a car or as in Drummond’s case, the gear stick in his trusty Landrover.

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Director Stefan Schwietert follows Drummond as he pursues The 17 across the country, through urban and country landscapes and into Drummond’s own personal space and into his home. We see his possessions, his posters, his books and remnants of his past, from his school reports to a print of  an “epic video the band made”.  The 17 isn’t the only music/ art project Drummond has instigated, he has done others around the world.

This film is a fascinating and interesting insight into an extraordinary character. Whether you think the film fulfils the premise of the title, or whether this film will be just another self promoting publicity stunt for Drummond, you can judge for yourself. At the end of the film Drummond asks those who have watched the film to contribute to his world choir by singing something there and then in the cinema itself. Whether a usually reserved Swiss audience will take up his challenge, will remain to be seen.

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Figure Skating – More than Sequins – Film showing today at 18:00

The Visions du Réel festival  which began on Friday, is now in full swing. Films are being shown from morning through to late evening at various venues in Nyon and Gland. There is also a temporary festival bar and restaurant for both film-goers and members of the public in the centre of the festival (next to the Salle Communale) in Nyon.

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This year, as in previous years, Trish Thalman, an American living in Gland, will be reviewing a selection of films at the festival. Here is her review of ‘Eismädchen’ (Ice Girls) about life at the ice rink in modern times, and what it now takes to win competitions.

This film will be screened today Sunday 19th April at 18:00 at the Capitole Fellini cinema in Nyon. Info and tickets here

Figure Skating – More Than Sequins.   

Having spent some years at an ice rink trying to perfect my toe-loops and compulsory ‘figure 8’s’ (no longer compulsory), I looked forward to seeing ‘Eismädchen’ (Ice Girls) by Lin Sternal about life at the ice rink in modern times, and what it now takes to win competitions. It’s still not easy!

Lin Sternal has made a lovely, honest film about a mother and her two daughters, who are currently spending their lives dedicated to training and competitions at the Ice Sport Center in Oberstdorf, Germany, where the famous Gold Medal Ice Dancers ‘Torvill and Dean’ spent many years training.

It’s about competition, tough emotions and the balance between a mother – who wanted to be an ice skater, and was for a few years – and her two daughters who are very good skaters. One is better than the other – for reasons of confidence and talent, and the other, lack of confidence who has to work harder to capitalise on her skills . Both have different styles of skating because of their physical stature, level of interest, competence and personalities.

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The mother lovingly encourages both girls in different ways – without being an obvious ‘pushy-mother’, but her goal is to have her girls win competitions. Full Stop! The sisters encourage each other and take pride in their skating and each other’s skating. Both are teenagers, thus, tempers, emotions and ‘non communication’ days occur.  Practices and trainings are recorded with latest technology: iPads and video cameras for instant feedback.

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The women who train the girls have different approaches, and help to prepare ‘winning’ routines and get the best out of the girls. They are the second-level of influence and support to the ‘triangle’. They are also dedicated to producing winners.

The girls go to ballet classes to give them strong backs and hips, lithe legs and arms. Physio therapists are part of the routine to keep muscles and tendons working without to much stretch or damage.

Choice of  right-colour/right-cut outfits for the up-coming National Competition are viewed and purchased on-line. That’s when we see the sequins and sparkles. The rest is hard work, tension, homework, and continual training and exercises, with some tough ‘telling off’ by the trainers, to get the girls to improve their skills.

Mostly the soft-focus, tele-photo shots of the faces of the mother and sisters sitting in the stands living the ‘flash seconds’ of smiles, dismay or anxiety due to a  fall or missed movement tells the real story of what the film is about……the falling down on your bottom, missing a jump, and gutty grind  of working to make it to the top in Figure Skating.

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The story continues, in that the younger sister is now a nationally ranked Junior Figure Skating Champion in Germany.  Watch the next generation of  Figure Skaters at the European  Ice Skating Championships. Meantime, I’ll stick to the temporary ice rinks we have during the Winter.

Photo below  – Trish Thalman

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From the Bike Couriers of Lausanne to Mature Gigolos on Cruise Ships – Visions du Réel 2015

With over 160 films to choose from at the Visions du Réel film festival this year, there is a lot on offer with films being screened from around the world. Many of the films are either shown in English or subtitled in English. Alongside the films, there are film workshops and conferences which are open to the public, even the local shopkeepers have got in the act by decorating their windows in the theme of the festival. Directors, producers, journalists, film reviewers, film buyers from TV stations and cinemas descend on the town for eight days of film related events.  Tickets to all films can be booked online or at the box office.

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As in previous years, Living in Nyon will be reporting back from the festival over the next eight days and reviewing a selection of films.

Film reviews – “Cyclique” – A fascinating insight into the bike courier world with a local perspective.

                          “Die Letzen Gigolos – The Last Gigolos” – A touching, funny and poignant film.

“I sometimes feel like I am flying”, reflects Caroline (bike “number 67″), one of the bike couriers in “Cyclique”  a documentary focussing on the world of bike messengers in Lausanne.  In the film we see the couriers shooting red lights, getting shouted at, chasing deadlines, picking up parcels from CFF trains, from local offices, large corporations and deluxe hotels whilst cycling up and down the hilly streets of the city. They struggle to find addresses or pick up points and work both day and night.

This film which concentrates mainly on two long standing couriers, Caroline and Raphaël. The latter, a maverick as shown by his home life, he doesn’t hide his heavy dope smoking from the camera or that he wants a change and wants out from his current situation. Yet the appeal of biking keeps hims on the road. “I love the idea of being on a mission”. Caroline, although she too loves biking, “the feeling of freedom is addictive” is looking for a job that has more long term potential and continues the search for a job in journalism in between making deliveries.  We also follows the training of a new recruit and see him learning the ropes.  The film is superbly shot. The director Frédéric Favre was a courier himself for ten years and from the opening scene, the camera follows the bikers at their level, criss-crossing the city in all conditions, you can hear the wet pavements, the wheels of their bikes, the wind as they whizz to make deliveries and you can an almost feel the cold yourself as the bikers make deliveries in all weathers and return back to base, cold, wet and shivering. As to whether Caroline and Raphaël stay in the job that they have a love/ hate relationship with, you will have to watch the film itself.  A fascinating insight into the bike courier world with a local perspective.

Cyclique is in the Helvetique section of the film festival.

Screenings Tuesday 21st April at 14:00 at the Théâtre de Marens and on Wednesday the 22nd at 16:30 at Grande Salle Colombière. Click here for tickets 

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The two main protoganists in Cyclique, if not exactly at the start of their working lives, they are still young and have a lifetime of experiences ahead of them, whereas the two main male characters in “Die Letzen Gigolos – The Last Gigolos” directed by Stephan Bergmann are men in the third stage of their life. Retired with successful careers behind them, due to various personal circumstances these men have found themselves alone and lonely in their twilight years. However they discover that a new lease of life awaits them as they can be in great demand as hosts on luxury cruise ships, their job being to entertain the ladies on board by dancing with them each night.

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The superb opening sequence of the film shows one of the gentleman laying out a selection of ties for an upcoming cruise. “Light blue tie with pink stripes –  youthful. Beige –  modest and classy. Orange/ Blue – a club tie. Dark blue with green stripes -modest and refined”.  The film itself focusses on two particular  men as we see them doing the rhumba, foxtrot and tango and other dances each night with a selection of different ladies.  Life on board is a daily round of cocktails or wine in the afternoon, on board games, dips in the pool, trips out to various port of call and then dressing for dinner followed by dancing. We also see life below deck,  staff cooking the guests’ meals, ironing laundry, and taking German lessons so they can communicate with the guests.

Not all of the men on board are ship’s hosts, Some are there just for a holiday, but in conversation they reveal their loneliness. The men in particular, miss their careers and status that came with it. “I was a judge for 40 years “says one passenger “and in Germany I  presided over major terrorism processes. When you turn 65, judges have to retire whether they like it or not. On the one hand you have a position that you curse, because you have body guards and such things, on the other hand you enjoy the importance and then one day, it’s  gone”. 

“I was an attorney” says another, “and a good one, now I just whittle away my time going on cruises”.

Yet not everyone on board is melancholy, one guest, a mature lady is much more pragmatic about her situation, she embraces life on board by chatting to everyone, taking part in all the activities, dressing to the nines, dancing and flirting the night away. She catches the eye of one of the hosts and they make a handsome pair whirling and twirling across the dance floor. However, there are strict rules on the comportment of the hosts and above deck at least, flirting is a far as it can go and everything has to be “above board”. What happens below deck and away from the camera’s eye is left to the viewers’ imagination.

This is a touching, funny and poignant film and although perhaps a tad too long, is one definitely worth seeing.

Screenings Tuesday 21st April at 16:15 at the Théâtre de Marens in Nyon and on Wednesday the 22nd at 18:00 at the Théâtre de Grands Champs in Gland. Click here for tickets 

Note there are free navette buses running between Nyon and Gland before and after the screenings. Full details on the festival website.

Party for Paléo in centre of Nyon plus a mixture of old and new music at festival

Party for Paléo plus oldies and newies scheduled to play – by Jonas Parson

The line-up for the 40th edition of Paléo Festival was revealed in Nyon today by both Daniel Rossellat, the boss of Paléo and Jacques Monnier, head of programming. As Daniel Rossellat reflected, the 40th anniversary of a music festival is always a very special moment, especially since none of them knew the project would last this long – and is set out to last much longer! A 7th day has been added this year to the festival to celebrate it in style so with a series of big stars and musical legends, the 40th Paléo Festival will once again be a great week of music and celebration.

It will also be the occasion to thank Nyon and the surrounding area, with a big party in town on the 18th July.  All the volunteer workers at Paléo will be the focus of a book specially edited for the festival called “Complices en Coulisses”.  There will be a special show on Friday 24th by Vincent Kucholl and Vincent Veillon, called “120 secondes presente le Paléo” which will look back on the history of the festival with the usual tongue in the cheek humour and audacity that the two Swiss satirists have become known for.

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Photo above – courtesy Paléo – Robert Plant

A day for memories: Musical legends on Saturday

The 40th anniversary milestone was the perfect excuse, explained Daniel Rossellat, to bring back some of the bands that have marked the history of the festival- and indeed, the history of music over the last 40 years. Saturday night is set out to be an evening of legends, with Robert Plant, Joan Baez and Patti Smith performing at l’Asse.

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Photo above – courtesy Paléo  Joan Baez

As Rossellat quite aptly put it, it will be a night for the older generations to see the bands that made the music of their youth, and for the younger generations, the perfect opportunity to see some of the most important bands of the 20th century.

Rossellat retold the story of Joan Baez’s first concert at Paléo, in July 1982- they’d received a letter the year before asking if they would be interested if she came to Nyon (they were thrilled!), and when she did come, the Festival beat their own records, with over 22,000 people having bought tickets, and traffic jams all the way to Coppet and Gland (great news for Rossellat, less so for the police officer who was trying to keep things slightly organised)

Patti Smith will be performing the whole of her début album “Horses”, which came out exactly 40 years ago.

Superstars, friends of the festival and a lot of newcomers

Continuing with the musical giants coming to Nyon this summer, Sting, Johny Hallyday and Veronique Sanson will be playing alongside younger bands such as Kings of Leon, the American rock sensation who are used to filling up stadiums, and will be playing one of their only two dates in Europe this summer, and Passenger- the stage name of English songwriter Michael Rosenberg – who’s song “Let Her Go” topped the charts across the world – including here in Switzerland. He will be presenting his latest album, of which all the proceedings will go to UNICEF.

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Photo above – courtesy Paléo- Passenger

Nothing more need be said - a t-shirt said it all a couple of weeks ago- about Robbie William whose super-show will be opening the festival on Monday, this will most probably be an impressive moment. When it comes to regulars invitees of l’Asse (L’Asse is the name of the actual grounds of Paléo) they will make up one third of the line up this year- slightly more than the usual 1/4-3/4 ratio of the festival, due to anniversary nostalgia – Ben Harper will be back again with the freshly reformed Innocent Criminals, for another concert since his first concert in Nyon in 1994. Also back together after several solo projects are Angus and Julia Stone, another band favoured by Paléo, who, as Jacques Monnier explained, enjoy following the progress of some of the bands they invite to the festival.

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Photo above – courtesy Paléo- Angus and Julia Stone

Back with a new album, always reinventing his music, British dandy Charlie Winston will please the crowd for the second time this summer.
But all these known faces only account for a third of the bands who will be coming, and as usual, it is with all the small and relatively unknown bands that Paléo creates a solid line-up.

Among these, keep an eye out for the wild rhythms and funky beats of hip-hop band Alo Wala, with their electro-hip-hop, Feu! Chatterton and their poetic rock inspired by Bashung and Gainsbourg, Kate Tempest’s energetic flow and the beautiful songs of Benjamin Clementine, young English songwriter whose talent was discovered in the Paris metro.

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Photo above – courtesy Paléo – Alo Wala

The Far East between tradition and avant-garde

As always, the Village du Monde is devoted to promoting the culture- both musical and culinary- of a certain area of the world. Showcasing traditional bands, but also and most of all- the newer generations of artists who are innovating on these traditions, so it is opening its doors to China, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia and their neighbouring countries this year.

Always a perfect place to discover unknown gems, look out for the traditional Japanese drummers of the Tambours de Tokyo, the surprising Jambinai, who use traditional instruments for their very own brand of metal, the Mongolese mix of country and rock with overtone singing by Hanggai, or the solo performance of Wang Li, great specialist of the Jew’s harp!
The ticket office will open next Wednesday, 22nd April, at 12:00, online at paleo.ch, and in certain retail points. Get all the info and the full line-up here

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Photo above – courtesy Paléo – Tambours de Tokyo.