love

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A Syrian Love Story

A Syrian Love Story (2015)

Coming very soon… Filmed over 5 years, A Syrian Love Story charts an incredible odyssey to political freedom in the West. For Raghda and Amer, it is a journey of hope, dreams and despair: for the revolution, their homeland and each other. A Syrian Love Story has its World Premiere at the Sheffield Doc/Fest on Sunday 7th June 2015. More information to follow…

Cinemas and festivals

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Love And Hate, part 2

I exited the women’s-only toilet on Japan’s fastest bullet train to be told by JR rail staff that I’d broken yet another golden rule. It’s great to be back in Japan, my Asian home!

Ive just spent the day in Kyoto with its beautiful temple gardens which stand in contrast to the chaos of city life in Tokyo but for me it is somehow cripplingly boring. But now it’s time to leave, and to be honest it couldn’t come soon enough for me. What a day.. caught between the hordes of tourists and all that tedious ancient temple life – I’m sorry but I can’t stand all the unbearable reverence and anyway, those Japanese gardens are simply far too tidy for me. The day just made me want to get measured-up for an extra-large kimono and run away. Which is funny because usually it’s the noise of Tokyo that kills me, but here it was the insane sterile silence and the over-orderliness of the people, excluding the odd clumsy British tourist of course.

Can some places simply be too perfect? But then, just when I’m thinking there really isn’t anything here for me here I read that Kyoto is in fact the veggie capital of Japan with an amazing total of 47 vegan restaurants! Now we are talking.. So I make quick notes of the best vegan lunch option and set out to find the place.

But in my excitement I forget the maze of winding streets and narrow lanes that Japan is and I am soon lost again. Getting directions this way and then that .. I find myself rediscovering that ‘love and hate’ feeling I have with Japan. I remember that (at least for me) to purposely seek something out here isn’t the way to go. I remember I must go with the flow and accept whatever comes my way.

My veggie dream dashed I skip lunch altogether and decide to get the bullet train to Hiroshima – I see a place selling beer and order the only thing on the menu that is vegetarian… Chips! Yes, Sean san is back in style… drinking beer and eating chips – again.

LOVE

We are driving in Baghdad, looking for pizza, Danielle is on Samir’s mind today.. “Sean, I keep thinking of her. Really I still love her.” I point out to Samir that he said he still loved his ex wife a couple of days ago.. “Yes.. I love her as well..” Later we open an email, it is from Angela, another NGO worker.. “Really Sean I love this woman also!” Samir is passionate about love.

“Sean we need love to live.. that is why we are alive. If we don’t love what are we? You know every year I’ve been in love. And every year I’ve composed beautiful ballads for the girls I love.” Samir’s face changes. “This is the only year that I’ve not been in love.. that is why I’m so miserable.. look at me.. not composing.. nothing..”

He plays me a medley of his own compositions; A Ballad for Danielle, Ballad to Marie, Ballad to Angela….

Danielle worked for a charity in Saddam’s Iraq, in a time when Samir enjoyed a life of ‘fun with fear’. She was a piano student of his, but when they fell in love he became her student. “She used to push me, encourage me to play, to write. After years in a stale marriage she gave me my life back.”

Samir has sacrificed many things in life for his women, but nothing compares to what he gave up for Danielle. 3 years ago he had an invitation to go to America, to join his daughters and ex-wife. America has always been Samir’s dream, he wants to be famous there. Danielle was leaving for a new job in North Korea. Samir had his papers to leave as well. He waited to spend a little more precious time with Danielle before leaving. But as he waited, events that would change the course of history took place on September 11th in New York. Samir was refused entry into the USA as all visa’s from Iraq were withdrawn.

They stood kissing, in floods of tears in a crowded airport and Danielle left forever. Samir was lost again waiting for his way out to America. He bought a packet of cigarettes and started smoking again. He smoked the whole packet crying for Danielle, sat on the kerb of the busy airport road. As her plane left he made his way back to Baghdad, to his piano, the empty restaurant, his empty life. Samir has made a new application to live in the States which has been agreed, he is waiting for his papers to arrive before he will leave Iraq forever.

Each night he counts the days, the hours and minutes to the moment he can leave. Staying here is painful, seeing what is happening to his country upsets Samir. He worry’s about the future, “This place is finished now… I blame Saddam for giving the Americans an excuse to put their dirty feet on our soil and soak the land of it’s oil.”