On cycling for a cause

Postcards and Bicycles
Image source: Etsy

This year I will do probably one of the toughest things in my life: cycling 450km from Vietnam to Cambodia. I am both excited and terrified; 450km is a lot of ground to cover, and I’ll be cycling for about 8 hours every day over 4-5 days. I have not owned a bicycle since I was a kid, and the last time I cycled was in Downtown Dubai for like an hour (which barely counts, with all the starting and stopping). I’m doing this a few reasons (in no particular order):

  1. It will force me to commit to my fitness habits and push myself further, because this will be a physically challenging journey.
  2. It’s for a good cause, and especially because it’s for kids. It kills me to see them suffer, because they’re collateral in all the conflicts waged by grown ups. I was lucky to have a great childhood with many awesome memories, so this is my way of giving back.
  3. I get to visit that part of Asia without my parents freaking out (I’m still a little girl in their eyes *sigh*). I’ll be traveling with 28 other colleagues and the challenge is organised by Gulf for Good, who have done trips like this a bunch of times; that’s as safe as it gets!

 

My fundraising goal is 17,000dhs (which is approximately US$4629/ A$6064/ £3102/ €4249). The money will go to two charities:

 

The challenge is taking place at the end of October over 6 days, but I need to raise the money by mid-September.

All donations go straight to the charities and are not part of funding this trip (my company is covering that part, and I’ll be buying my equipment for the challenge).

 

As of writing this post, I have reached 14% of my fundraising goal (thank you to all my early supporters; it means so much!). To make it a little more fun and interesting for everyone, I’m launching an initiative called Postcards & Bicycles.

 

What is Postcards & Bicycles all about?

For every donation of 200dhs (US$55/ A$71/ £36.50/ €50) or more, you will receive a custom, personalised postcard from me while I’m cycling in Vietnam/Cambodia!

The postcard is my way of saying thank you for your support and generosity.

 

The idea was inspired by a documentary- On The Bride’s Side- that was crowdfunding to complete production last year. I received my postcard (and digital download of the film- a must-watch by the way!) from them a couple of months ago and it was awesome to get something in the mail that was not a bill or bank statement!

 

How this works

Once you’ve made a donation on this link https://www.justgiving.com/nagham/ (please make sure you enter an email address when you donate), I will add you to the list! You will then get an email from me asking for your mailing address so I can send you the postcard in November when I’m on the cycling challenge.

 

If you’ve already made a donation of that amount or more, you’re already on the list and will soon receive an email from me on next steps.

If you’ve already made a donation less than 200dhs but would like a postcard, you can make another donation with the difference and I will add you to the list!

 

I will be updating this blog often with progress on training and other challenge-related stuff over the next 6 months, so stay tuned!

Please donate, and share this post with your friends and through your social networks to spread the word. Every little bit helps. Thanks for your support!

Continue Reading

Movie Review: Back to 1942

This film told the story of the town of Henan during the war, where a severe drought and famine caused 3 million people deaths as a result. It was an epic production to say the least. I don’t know what their idea of ‘hope’ is when they wrote the synopsis, but all I saw was a tunnel with no light at the end of it. It’s pretty depressing seeing things get progressively worse, but I think it’s important to watch it anyways to understand that part of history- even if just a little bit- and think about those in unfortunate situations today. Another aspect to the film was showing how communist China functioned and their reasons for sending emergency aid to Henan was shocking in my point of view. On the other hand, it was also interesting to see the focus family in the movie was of an upper-class family amongst those who typically live in poverty.

Rating: Depressing as ever, but incredible film and story line. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5.

Continue Reading

Movie review: When Monaliza Smiled

This Jordanian rom-com is about a woman called Monaliza who never smiles. Ever. She comes from a conservative family (also portrayed by her mannerisms and dress sense), and lives with her much older sister who hasn’t stepped out of the house in 20 years. She’s had no intentions to get married or be with anyone until she meets an Egyptian guy at her new job. From there, you see a lot of the struggles that a conservative girl would typically face in that kind of situation- family, nationality differences, admitting your feelings, and so on.

The characters were all well-written and the story had a nice flow. It’s not a new story if you’ve seen western rom-coms, but it is definitely new for the Arab world in a refreshing way. It had many depths to it, with supporting characters also having their own stories, which I found quite interesting. The ending was a bit too Jerry Maguire for me, but overall it was an enjoyable film.


Rating: Great Arabic film. We need more Arabic movies like this. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5.

Continue Reading

Movie Review: Cirque Du Soleil- Worlds Away

Let me start off by saying I love Cirque Du Soleil. I’ve been lucky enough to catch 2 different shows of theirs- Alegria and Quidam- and both were spectacular. So you can imagine the kind of expectation I went in with to this film. Because Cirque Du Soleil is basically the circus on steroids, I expected the movie to be Cirque Du Soleil on steroids. 

But all I saw was Cirque Du Soleil on a big screen, with water elements (as this was no longer a limitation for them), minus the excitement. The beauty of their live performances is all the anticipation and amazing tricks they do while before your very eyes. It’s a very engaging show. I nearly fell asleep watching the film though, and I never ever fall asleep watching anything! In the film, there were too many shots of the performances in slow motion; they’re beautiful but then I got tired of it. The flow of the music didn’t move me either. I’m not undermining the talent or all the production that went into making this- it looks like a ton of effort and I appreciate that- but it didn’t really give me the same kind of excitement as the live shows. And after speaking to a few people who also saw their live shows I found they shared similar sentiments.

Yes they did have a story (the quest to find the Aerialist), and yes they had their fabulously extravagant costumes and everything they did looked effortless; but is filming Cirque Du Soleil on a bigger stage and showing it in 3D really ‘bringing it to life’? In my opinion, it isn’t.

 

Rating: If you’ve never been to a live show, this is a nice intro to Cirque Du Soleil. Kids would love this too. If have been to a live show, I say skip it and avoid disappointment. I give it 3 Oi’s out of 5.

Continue Reading

Movie Review: Bekas

Each film festival has a couple of gems that everybody loves and talks about, and it’s usually not one with an all-star cast. This year, I think one of these gems is Bekas.

Set in the 90s, Bekas starts with two Kurdish brothers living on the streets of Iraq when the movie Superman hit theatres. They go and sneak a peak, only to get caught, and then they decide that they’re going to America to meet Superman and become friends with him. Their journey to get to America is so emotional as they keep dreaming and hoping inspite of all the bad surrounding them. And their brotherly love is so beautifully captured- those kids are super talented! Karzan Kader has done a superb job with this film.

Rating: A powerful film with the charm of childhood innocence. I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5

The next showing for Bekas is on Saturday 15 Dec, and you can buy tickets at MoE or online here.

Continue Reading

Movie Review: L’Ultimo Pastore (The Last Shepherd)

L’Ultimo Pastore (The Last??Shepherd),??is an Italian documentary about the last shepherd of Milan, Renato Zucchelli. Since he was 17, he wanted to be a shepherd. He says that he feels free when he does his job, and who wouldn’t be? He’s got the mountains to himself and his sheep, and a lovely supportive family living in Milan. But the job doesn’t come without challenges. With Milan laying down more and more concrete, finding grass for his sheep becomes more difficult. The other angle of the story are the kids of Milan and how nowadays they don’t get exposed to animals or know what a real shepherd looks like, and Renato’s dream is to show these kids just that.

I really liked the different tones the director,??Marco Bonfanti, took us through in the film. It started off comedic, then went into the more serious issues of the job, and then a more emotional ride. The visuals of Renato and his kids walking through the city of Milan with hundreds of sheep were simply stunning. It looked so surreal throughout the film.??

Rating:??A beautiful documentary that took me by surprise, and I highly recommend you give it a watch. I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

The next showing for L’Ultimo Pastore is on Wednesday 12 Dec at 3.45pm, and you can buy tickets at MoE or online??here.??
Continue Reading

Movie Review: Radioman

_x6a0109_large

This was the first movie I see at DIFF this year, and what a great way to start the festival! 

Radioman is the first feature film for director Mary Kerr, and is a documentary about a guy called Craig Castaldo (or Schwartz as sometimes mentioned in the movie- either way he hates his name) who is an urban legend in New York.

A former homeless guy, he hangs around movie sets in New York, and knows so many actors and their schedules! He’s even gotten roles in some major movies, which you’ll see in the documentary too. The guy has been around for decades doing this, and Hollywood stars are on the lookout for him when they’re shooting scenes in New York.
As Tom Hanks put it, “he [Radioman] is a national institution”. Other interviews include George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Robin Williams (they look so alike, by the way), Whoopi Goldberg, Meryl Streep, Shia LaBeouf, and many more. 

Throughout the documentary, we got to know Radioman a little bit more, as they delved into the history behind the name, his life and family, as well as his movie career (Shutter Island and 30 Rock to name a couple!). Then Radioman decided to go to LA for the Oscars, and here it got a bit sad…but you’ll have to watch it to see what happens. All I’ll say is that it made me think twice about how the celebs’ sentiments towards him.

It’s a funny documentary with some serious parts too, and I think how you view this film could also say a little something about who you are too. I’ll be honest; at first I was quick to judge: ‘who would choose to live like this?’, but as I kept watching I changed my mind- we’re so easily sucked into conformity that when we see people like Radioman we’re perplexed and puzzled as to why they didn’t choose the path we chose, or go through the ‘standard routes’ of doing something. But if they’re happy with their choice, why don’t we just accept it and appreciate it? We can’t all be alike, right? And are were truly happy with the choices we’ve made in our life? Are we really doing what we want to do?

The surprise after the screening was Radioman making an appearance! He made us laugh with his Robin Williams impersonation, and he started asking people questions and interviewing them. Really hilarious stuff. I asked him how many radios he’s gone through in his lifetime, and he said over 100! 

Photo

 

As funny and quirky as he is, he’s a pretty sharp guy and despite everything he’s gone through, he still dreams big and I really admire that. He has an agent now, so hopefully we’ll be seeing Radioman in more  movies!

Rating: Funny and interesting, definitely a must see this festival.  I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

The next showing for Radioman is on Wednesday 12 Dec, and you can buy tickets online here
(Image source: dubaifilmfest.com and own photos)
Continue Reading

Movie Review: Death of a Japanese Salesman

I watched this film during DIFF last year, but only got around to writing the review now. What can I say, I’m a busy girl…

 

This film is the directorial debut of Mami Sunada,  and is a documentary about her dad’s life- who was diagnosed with cancer- up until he died. I really should have gone more prepared, because by the end of the screening my face was a mess- tears streaming down my face, puffy eyes, mascara everywhere. If you thought Braveheart and The Notebook were bad, think again. They really should mention this sort of stuff on the ticket…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMvuA1MUhIk?rel=0]

Mami told the story through footage of her dad- Tomoaki Sunada- every step of the way, from the day he was diagnosed right up until the funeral, with her voice narrating his possible thoughts in that point in time. It  took a little while to get used to that, but I found it to be an interesting approach. I also admire her strength in being able to go through with the project, as I can only imagine how hard it could have been; it’s a wonderful way to celebrate someone’s life and preserve their memory.

Her father was a man who worked his way up the company ladder (the same company) up until retirement, only to discover shortly after that he has cancer. He decided not to let it get him down though, and continued to spend time with his family and doing things he enjoys.

It was also an interesting glimpse into the Japanese way of life: the incredible dedication and loyalty towards the company they work for, family dynamics, and what they do for fun. The family dynamics caught my attention. For example, Mr. Sunada and his wife were pretty much separated until he retired from work (it took a toll on their marriage), after which they started dating again…only to find out he had cancer shortly after. That was heartbreaking to watch, and it’s just another reminder that time is precious. Don’t wait until you’re old to do the stuff you love or spend time with people who matter to you. On the other hand, I found it amusing how his children had so much respect for him and their mum, and were there for them no matter what, yet their approach was very pragmatic and logical.

Another thing I found interesting was the way they talked to the doctor. They’re so polite, and proper, and constructive in their conversation, and they have full faith in the doctor’s skills and abilities. No drama, no panic- nothing. I expected *something*, but nope; the whole time they were just polite and proper and constructive. Maybe I’ve been watching too much of The Big C…

The most bizarre thing to me was how her dad planned his funeral. He made a list of people who should attend, what his family should say to those who want to be there but aren’t allowed (his co-workers aren’t invited because it’s only for family and close friends…!!!), where it should take place, the proceedings, and so on. The funniest thing was during his last days he asked his son to retreive the list from his computer, but when the son returned he told Mr. Sunada that the list is no longer on the computer, and the dad responded ‘oh it’s ok, I made a back-up!’. He just really thought of everything, didn’t he?!

But it felt like he was planning a birthday party, not a funeral. I found it quite strange as our funerals aren’t anything like that- you wear black for 3 days, people show up to your house to give condolences (friend or foe- it’s the time to put those differences aside at a time like this), and you have arabic coffee available.

The last moments before he parted with this world were very emotional…waterworks.

There are just so many angles to this film that it really is worth seeing. I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

 

 

Rating: I highly recommend this film, but make sure you have a box of tissues next to you. I give it 4 Oi’s out of 5.

 

Continue Reading