Wednesday, July 27, 2011


My dear readers, I have neglected you for too long now! (I still cannot believe my last post dates back from April 2011!). This doesn't mean I haven't done anything in between... Those who follow me on twitter will know.

This summer comes with a major change in my life: that I have finally decided to start working independently on my literature, film and comics projects. I will also continue blogging, in English, in French and sometimes in Turkish.

You can find all about my new plans and continue following my work on my brand new website which will also host a blog section.

Thank you all for reading me so far and I hope to see you in my new web home!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Translating Literature, Reviewing Translated Literature

The online magazine for international literature, Words Without Borders, has launched a series to explore the ways that book reviews handle translation. As it is explained on the WWB website:

Reviewers and translators each have varied opinions on how translations should be discussed, and on who should be doing the discussing. At a recent panel on the future of book reviewing, review editors stressed the importance of translation coverage, though one admitted that he would rather pass on a translated book than assign it to a reviewer who might not “get it right.”  (Getting it right, according to him, means finding a reviewer with the ability to determine whether the translator has been faithful to the original language, and whether or not the translation “sounds” anything like the original text.) The issue came up again the following week, at a subsequent panel of book review editors. One made the point that there are essentially two kinds of reviews for translations, one for books that are appearing in the language for the first time, and another for books that have been translated before. Another editor said he expects an overall level of expertise from his reviewers on both the writer and the language, and a third said that a reviewer does not need to be a specialist in the language the book was written in, in fact she encouraged people to cover works from languages outside of their knowledge to follow their interest in contemporary literature.  
So far, Word Without Borders has published five articles from literary translators such as Edith Grossman, Daniel Hahn, Lorraine Adams and more. You can find a list of the published articles here.

One major problem, especially in the English speaking book market, is the ridiculously small amount of translations (only 3%!). Edith Grossman also tackles this issue in her essay Why Translation Matters (you can read a review of her book in the New York Times Sunday Book Review of 8 April 2010).

I met one editor at a major UK publishing house who mentioned the ignorance and laziness of anglo-saxon editors (including himself) on the matter. It is good that they are aware of the issue, but it is really bothering that not much is done from their side about changing attitudes towards literary translation.

Another interesting publication that came out recently is the Diversity Report 2010: Literary Translation in Current European Book Markets. An analysis of authors, languages, and flows, written by market researcher and consultants Rüdiger Wischenbart. The report looks into who gets translated in European fiction and who is not through a survey of 200 well renowned authors of contemporary fiction across 12 European languages.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Call for Entries: Sarajevo Talent Campus 2011

You may remember that I had the wonderful opportunity to participate as a screenwriter to last year's Sarajevo Talent Campus, and that I posted articles about some of the lectures and sessions we had, like ones with Semih KaplanogluSamuel MaozGaspar Noé ... On top of these great filmmakers, we also had the chance to have a full session with Morgan Freeman (that was an unforgettable experience!).  The whole week was extremely productive and useful, a very rich professional and personal experience. I haven't been as productive as I would have wished to since I got back home and to my day job, but I did work on - and still am developing- some projects. And the Talent Campus definitely boosted me to have faith in my writing and my ideas. 

If you are a filmmaker, producer, screenwriter or actor from Southeast Europe, check out the Sarajevo Talent Campus website to apply for the 5th Sarajevo Talent Campus. The theme this year is Our Time, My Point of View. For more info visit the STC 2011 website.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Readers, Authors, Librarians, Publishers... All Against DRM!

If you're against DRM's (Digital Restrictions Management), there is a way to show it. Check the Readers Bill of Rights for digital books and gather the logo's from their website. I have to say I'm extremely tired of restrictions that are forced upon digital books. One recent example of misusing the digital medium to apply absolutely ridiculous restrictions - that aren't even relevant for the print version of a book! - is the 26 check-out policy on digital books HarperCollins has suggested to libraries. Cory Doctorow makes a very good criticism of this in his Guardian article Ebooks: durability is a feature not a bug
A French version of the logo's and the Reader's Bill of Rights exist on the e-bouquin website. Thanks to Clément Monjou for spreading the news on twitter.

Logo's in English on
Logo's in French on

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Au Rendez-vous des poètes" Picasso's Art and Literary Contacts

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is currently showing Picasso in Paris (1900-1907), an exhibition tracing Picasso's artistic development while in Paris in the beginning of the 20th century. As part of this really nice exhibition and the Museum's Sunday Lectures, Peter Read (professor of modern French literature and visual arts at the University of Kent, Canterbury) gave a talk about Picasso's Art and Literary contacts: "Au Rendez-vous des poètes".

Je pense à toi
au riz de
l'autre soir à te lignes logiques
Moïse et Stendhal
(Picasso, poem to Max Jacob, 1905)

When he came to Paris, Picasso was 19, had no money and no contact in the Parisian art world other than his Spanish friends, artists and anarchists closely watched by the police at the time. By the age of 26, Picasso established himself as a leading avant-garde artist in France and internationally, as explains Peter Read "He was a man with a plan". Picasso showed his determinism and professionalism by working with art dealer and collector Ambroise Vollard for his first parisian solo show. 

Literature and theatre affected Picasso's work. Through his first exhibition in Paris, he met French poet Max Jacob, with whom he later shared a room on the Boulevard Voltaire. Max Jacob was Picasso's first French friend. Jacob used to take him to the theatre - they saw La Boheme twice - and also became Picasso's language tutor. Picasso didn't know French and Max Jacob didn't know Spanish but Jacob would read 19th century French poetry to his friend: Alfred de Vigny would "move them both to tears" writes Jacob in his memoirs. One can see de Vigny's impact on Picasso's work through mentions the painter would make on his painting or drawings. Picasso's first poem in French, explains Read, was to thank Max Jacob "pour te remercier pour ton dessin", and in which he mentions de Vigny's poem "Moïse". In de Vigny's poem, Moses is presented as tragically aware he may not reach his destination. Picasso could identify with this sentiment of exile, explains Read, "he knew his genius but could also identify with the romantic visionary outsider". Max Jacob would also read him Verlaine; the poem Cortège appears in one of Picasso's sketchbooks in which he made drawings inspired by the poem. 

In 1904, Picasso moves to the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre where he would receive more and more artist friends like Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon, Max Jacob and others. Picasso had painted "Au rendez-vous des poètes" on his door. He had fully integrated Parisian cultural life. "The studio became a poetic laboratory and had a really theatrical atmosphere" explains Read. 

In Paris, Picasso has been moving from painting the poor and the beggar from the Blue Period, to artistic achievement as seen in many paintings depicting theatre figures like Arlequin, Pierrot and more. His life in the Bateau Lavoir has also influenced his work showing a new sense of group identity and community. He has also produced hundreds of caricatures which, according to Read "contributed to the cubism period". Guillaume Apollinaire also said that caricatures were key to the development of modern art; Picasso has produced many caricatures of his friend Apollinaire (more about Picasso and Apollinaire on this blog post on the Art Blog by Bob). 

Peter Read concluded his lecture by saying that Picasso's progress from the Blue to the Pink period and to Cubism was definitely influenced by his literary sensibility, his interest in theatre, in Iberian and African sculptures, his talent as a cartoonist, and by his artistic and poetically rich entourage. 

The exhibition, Picasso in Paris is on show at the Van Gogh Museum until 29 May 2011, then at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona from 1 July to 16 October 2011.   

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Letters and Manuscripts

There's a hidden gem in Paris, well, not so hidden as it is since April 2010 located in a beautiful Haussmannian building on the Bd Saint-Germain: the Musée des Lettres et des Manuscrits.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Autograph manuscript illustrated with aquarelle from the author, April 1943-May 1944
I still cannot believe I never heard of this beautiful museum until very recently. The Museum was established in 2004 in a townhouse rue de Nesle and moved to its current location last April. It was founded by Gérard Lhéritier, a collector, investor, writer passionate about history and manuscripts. Lhéritier explains in an interview for the newsletter of the Aidac how it all started: "Very early, I've grown an interest in the arts in general and more particularly in old documents. But my encounter with Autographed Letter Signed has been by chance. My son used to collect stamps and I wanted to offer him the first French stamp, the 20 cents black stamp from 1849, for his birthday. While looking for it, I saw in a window at rue Drouot a small letter with the inscription "par Ballon Monté" and I asked the owner of the shop what it meant." It referred to Balloon Mail, used to transport mail during the Siege of Paris of 1870. "A nice Jules Verne like story that seduced me" says Lhéritier, explaining that he bought this letter and that's how his passion started. Within the 'History' section of the Museum, there is a whole window dedicated to the Paris Siege including letters from Victor Hugo to a journalist of Courrier de l'Europe in London and from Edouard Manet to young artist and Manet's student Eva Gonzales, both letters including information about the Siege. Lhéritier's interest in the Paris Siege grew into a passion of letters and manuscripts and the founding of this museum in 2004.

Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, Edition of the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences; des arts et des métiers, Genève, Pellet, 1777-1779, in 39 volumes.   

The museum has some 70,000 pieces in its collection, from which around 250 are on display in its permanent collection, and other pieces are shown in various temporary exhibition (one about Romain Gary is currently on show until 3 April 2011). 
Jacques Brel's Cahier a spirales vert, 1964

The permanent collection is divided into thematic sections: History, Sciences and Discoveries, Music, Arts, and Literature. By clicking on each of the thematic sections' links, you can explore some of the pieces of the collection. Going from section to section the visitor will have the chance to discover a wide range of original letters and manuscripts, like documents from the Second World War -including letters from Charles de the Gaulle or the cease-fire order signed by Eisenhower, Einstein's notes on the Theory of Relativity, a letter from Charles Darwin, an original partition by Beethoven, notes and letters by Chanson Francaise artists Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg, and last but not least, letters by the greatest writers of French literature including Balzac, Zola, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Hugo, and many many more. One of my personal highlights was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's window including a letter he wrote to a young female officer he met in Algeria and was in love with, and the movingly beautiful drawings with words of Le Petit Prince. 
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Autograph manuscripts illustrated with aquarelles from the author, April 1943-May 1944
Although this museum is of high interest to French and non French visitors alike, there is absolutely no information available in any other language than French, even on the website. This is of course a pity as the heritage shown here isn't just relevant to the French of French speaking people and I hope that the museum is working on a multilingual communication for the near future. However, this shouldn't stop you from visiting, especially if you manage to do a little preparation before. Also, you won't need to understand every single word to be moved by Edith Piaf's writing, Saint-Exupery's drawings of Le Petit Prince, or by the formulas of Einstein. 

A catalogue of the permanent exhibition is also available (in French); Lettres et manuscrits. Petits et grands secrets. Edited by the Museum and Flammarion (2010).

Photos without flash are allowed in the museum. The museum website has much better pictures than the one I took with my iPhone (and are of poor quality I admit but still useful to illustrate this post). 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Juggling on Bach

Last Sunday was Bach Day at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, organized by the wonderful Early Music Festival I mentioned a few months earlier on this blog. One of the events was "Le Chant des Balles", a magical show by Eric Bellocq and Vincent de Lavenère, both musicians and jugglers.

Le Chant des Balles (c)Philippe Cibille
de Lavenère explains his artistic commitment at lenght on his website. "The roots of my universe stand in the heart of our cultural and musical heritage" says the artist, explaining that his interest for traditional arts has a central place in his work. Each of the performances are inspired by various traditions, the inspiration for "Le Chant des Balles" was medieval and baroque, including Middle Ages jugglers and poetry. "Tradition isn't only a source of inspiration" explains de Lavenère, "but a real actor in the performance enabling to nurture, enrich but also to develop this very particular language that is jonglerie musicale".  
Le Chant des Balles (c)Philippe Cibille
"Le Chant des Balles" was the first such performance they developed with lutenist Eric Bellocq, therefore being at the very origin of this "jonglerie musicale" concept. After receiving many questions about this particular language using juggling and music, they have decided to publish a book that not only translates the various gestures and language of their show but also explains their artistic commitment. In "Le Chant de Balles", de Lavenère and Bellocq present an Early Music repertoire. The programme at the Muziekgebouw included Lute suites by J.S. Bach, a prelude from the Chants d'Espagne by Isaac Albéniz and traditional German and Japanese folk songs.  

Le Chant des Balles (c)Philippe Cibille
I really enjoyed the way both artists mastered their art, juggling and playing the lute, and were able to share their passion for "jonglerie musicale". There was a great energy between the two, and the show was very well balanced between comical and more sober scenes. There were a few kids in the audience but I believe all the adults were even more mesmerized by the music and the jonglerie, dancing in a beautiful mise-en-scene.

The duo is now touring the Netherlands with "Le Chant des Balles" and will end in Belgium this weekend. They will perform other shows starting from March in France, Spain and Italy. Check their calendar for more information. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Catching up with some pictures

This blog has been awfully quiet for the last couple of months. It isn't out of laziness, I promise. On the contrary, I have been busy working on various projects (documentary film, literature and comics mainly) and have learned many interesting things I will share at great length with you on this blog.

In the meantime, I'll start by sharing some pictures from last week's trip to Portugal, hoping you'll forgive my silence!

Cats in a bin, Lisbon
A friendly sign in Lisbon
Faculty of Letters, Coimbra
Club Fluvial Portuense, Porto
Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Literature seminar: “Faultlines, Fictions and Futures”

As part of my role within the British Council Benelux, I will have the chance to attend the Our Shared Europe Literature seminar that will take place in Berlin this weekend, from 12 to 14 November 2010. I will mostly blog on the British Council Culture:Log blog about the sessions throughout the weekend.
I have to say that I am really excited about meeting Ahdaf Soueif, a writer I've been admiring for a long time (and who was also praised by the late Edward Said). She will chair the seminar, and other speakers will include writers Inaam Kachachi, Jamal Mahjoub and Robin Yassin-Kassab. There will be a wide range of participants coming from the UK, Germany, Malta, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovenia, Portugal, Turkey, France, Greece and Belgium.

If you want to follow the seminar, watch the Culture:Log blog and my twitter account.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Cap ou pas Clap?"

Two weeks ago, I participated to a competition organized by Cinepocket and took the Cap ou pas Clap challenge... The title of the competition comes from Cap ou pas cap in French, which literally translates as "Capable or not capable" and means "do you dare?" 

The challenge was to make a 2-minute movie with a mobile phone within 72 hours. The theme and the rules were revealed on the Friday and deadline to compete was Monday. The theme was "anniversary" and one main directive was that a French component needed to appear in the movie. 

I've chosen an anniversary that is dear to me, the 10th anniversary of the 1999 Marmara Earthquake. You may remember that I had written a post on that day. I've also finalized a screenplay for a short movie (in English) and a short story (in French) around this particular theme. This competition gave me the opportunity to explore another way to tell a story. My "pocket film" is entitled Zelzele, which means "earthquake" in Turkish and comes from Arabic, it is also the title of a Surat of the Qur'an

The film was shown with the 10 other selected films at the FIFF (Festival International du Film Francophone, in Namur). The public voted and three films won a prize. Zelzele didn't win any formal prize but it did gather some nice responses from the audience. I'm really happy it could be shown and is now available on different online platforms, and finally on my own blog. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fethiye Çetin presents “Anneannem” in Amsterdam

On Monday evening, the cultural and literary venue SPUI25 was full almost over capacity, with people waiting outside glimpsing through the glass door in the hope of spotting an empty seat. They were all there to listen to Fethiye Çetin, lawyer, writer and human rights activist from Turkey, who was in Amsterdam for the launch of the Dutch translation of her book Anneannem (My Grandmother, a Memoir published in English by Verso in 2008). She was just back from a visit to Australia as an invited guest of the Melbourne Writers' Festival.

Fethiye Çetin was born in the small town of Maden in Turkey. In Anneannem she recounts the 1915 Armenian genocide through the story of her maternal grandmother. Taken from her family, Christian-born Heranus was rescued from death by a Muslim military man who brought her up as the Muslim girl Seher.

The evening was moderated Bernard Bouwman journalist and former correspondent to the NRC and NOS in Turkey, with the support of Hanneke van der Heijden, Dutch translator of the book, who has interpreted Ms Çetin’s words to an audience mixed with Turkish and Dutch speakers. “A small book with big themes” is how Bouwman started his presentation of My Grandmother, a Memoir. Not that the number of pages of a book should ever reflect its content, he was trying to emphasize on the importance of the subject matter. When asked why she has written this book, Fethiye Çetin explained that “whenever the Armenian issue is discussed in Turkey, facts and numbers are always given in a very cold manner. The name we should give to the issue is being discussed constantly; the number of death varies from 1.5 million to 400,000 and even dropped down to 50,000! I remember a columnist who wrote ‘where do they get these number from, it can’t be more than 300,000’ as if it were no big deal, as if we were talking about things and not people.” Ms Çetin’s story is but one step to fight towards this dehumanization. “Everybody can identify with the grandmother” says Çetin, and she describes the grandmother’s daily life, how she cooks or washes the laundry, things we can all relate to. When Anneannem came out in Turkey, heavy discussions were going on in the country about the massacres of 1915, but fortunately, Çetin hasn’t been trialed for her book. “I was very cautious not to use any censurable words in the book I have to admit” says the writer. One also has to remember that Çetin is first of all a lawyer, “but I was ready to go on trial if this would have happened, I prepared myself for it when writing.”

Reactions in Turkey were quite positive, because of the character of the grandmother but also because many people had a similar hidden story within their families “Many readers started to share their own stories with me, telling me about their own grandmothers being Armenians too.” But how does it feel to discover such a secret years after, as an adult (Çetin was told the story in the beginning of the 70’s)? “It used to be more difficult in the past” says Çetin, “but nowadays, more and more people want to research their family history.” The issue was silenced until not so long ago in Turkey, and getting information isn’t always easy. “Data isn’t accessible or ‘lost’ –some are said to have burnt.” This is why, Çetin says over and over again, it is essential to tell the stories, “we need to hear the stories of our grandparents and families.” However, we can do better in learning about Turkey’s historical past, and denial is one road we can’t take anymore. Among the reasons of this national policy of “forgetting” lies the nationalism built upon the creation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. “The population is silenced and remains silent altogether, and that is something I’ve been trying to understand throughout the story too.”

When asked if she feels a victim of history, Fethiye Çetin responds with plain honesty, “my grandmother was a victim, but I am not. I feel responsible for these events of history. I am responsible for today’s denial of 1915.” And she adds, “when I learned about my family’s past, I felt liberated from the chains of nationalism. I looked around me and saw things differently.” Through this book, Fethiye Çetin wishes we build a better future, together: “If we want to laugh together” she says, “we first need to cry together.”

Anneannem has also been published in French and Dutch
Le Livre de ma grand-mère, Éditions de l’Aube.
Het geheim van mijn grootmoeder, Uitgeverij Van Gennep.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Editing the World: an evening with Granta editor John Freeman

John Freeman and Maarten Asscher at Spui25, Amsterdam
John Freeman, editor of literary magazine Granta, was invited to give a talk at Spui25, the literary-cultural centre of the University of Amsterdam, on 29 September. The event was moderated by Maarten Asscher, the director of the Athenaeum Boekhandel, an excellent pluridisciplinary, multilingual bookshop in the centre of Amsterdam. 

Freeman is a journalist, book critic and writer from the US, and has written a.o. for the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal. Freeman became editor of Granta in 2008, after six years on the board of the National Book Critics Circle. He is also the author of The Tyranny of e-mail published in 2009, a book about the challenges of over information and a plea for slow communication.

Maarten Asscher announced in his introduction that the event was, next to a presentation of the magazine's history and its editor's vision, a celebration of issue 112: Pakistan
"It's weird to be here as a guy born in Ohio, who grew up in California, speaking in the Netherlands about a British literary magazine on an issue about Pakistan!" says Freeman, adding how wonderful he finds that the windows of the Athenaeum Boekhandel are full of Granta magazines

The first issue after its rebirth in 1979 (Granta was founded in 1889 by Cambridge students) was on New American Writing. Since then, explains Freeman, Granta has been a cultural space where writers can explore, "We want to publish a piece that doesn't fit elsewhere." When asked why Pakistan? He simply answers "why not?" Granta has already focused on places in past issues: London, Russia, Australia, Chicago... "We are looking for new writers all the time" says Freeman, "and there are many in Pakistan at the moment." 

The cover of the Pakistan issue was painted by bus and truck artist Islam Gull from Karachi. His work was commissioned with the assistance of the local British Council office in Karachi (well done colleagues). 

Freeman very much believes in the magical experience of reading a book, and this experience, he explains, is even stronger today that we are constantly connected to a machine: cell phone, e-reader, computer, TV... But he also mentions that having a print edition actually isn't commercially profitable, "we lose money." Freeman very much acknowledges the necessity of online communication tools to engage with their readers, but seems a strong advocate for print, "bringing an e-reader to bed is just like bringing any electronic appliance to the bedroom, it just doesn't feel right to me. But if people like it, I'm not going to argue against it of course." 

Freeman has a clear vision of what he wants Granta to be: "We need to expand the idea of what a magazine is," he says, "Granta isn't about culture, it is about creating culture." He emphasizes on the important role of editors as advocates for writers and the existence of Granta "to capture the world and present writers who have something to write, a story that only they can write and that rips blood to get published." 

When asked about writing his own book, Freeman confesses "I do miss the research and writing," telling anecdotes about his researches at the New York Public Library. Would he write for Granta? "No, I want to find the best writers in the world" he says passionately, "I don't even write introductions. I want the magazine to sound like a score, with no prelude." 

Economically, Granta can exist thanks to publisher and philanthropist Sigrid Rausing who bought Granta Publications in 2005. When talking about sustainability, Freeman gives marketing strategies as examples, "if it will help us get readers, we do need to think about ads too." However, Asscher does point out that, when compared to Dutch literary magazines that circulate between 300 and 1100 copies, Granta's 55000 is an astronomical number. 

What about the future? Will the digital beat the print version of Granta? "The most likely scenario is that it will be hybrid; some will read the print version and some will read the digital one." Today is a celebration of the print version with its beautiful cover and printed on a quality grained paper, but above all, it is the celebration of good writing. And it is inspiring to listen to such an enthused editor, who is more concerned about the quality of writing than of the format or tools on which we will read good writing now or in the future. 

In the next issues, Granta will have a focus on several themes including: feminism today, the best Spanish speaking writing, aliens, ten years after (9/11),... 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Value the Arts: a National Campaign in the UK

I may not live in the UK, but I do work for a UK organisation and I do manage projects to enable artists from the UK and the Benelux to present their work, and I do facilitate relationships between arts professionals working in these countries and sometimes beyond. And above all this, I love the arts and I believe in the importance of the arts in our lives. I therefore strongly support the Campaign "I Value the Arts", which is run by The National Campaign for the Arts. As it is explained on their website: "The National Campaign for the Arts decided to run this campaign after being approached by members who were concerned that the public had no way to make their views on support for the arts heard." You can find all the necessary information here
Cuts in the arts is not only a huge issue in the UK at the moment but in many other countries including the Netherlands and Belgium. This campaign may be a good example we should all start copying if we do value the arts. This is one way of making one's voice heard, if you have other examples, please do share them. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Early Music Festival in Utrecht

Utrecht just had an intensive ten days festival of French Baroque music during the OudeMuziek Festival. A most wonderful experience if you like early music especially in such an authentic city as Utrecht. Stepping out of a church/concert hall you still feel in the 17th century walking among the canal houses and on the cobbled roads. The music still in your head, you just ignore all the cars and all the modern day things that surround you (yes, okay, you ignore it all and just daydream basically, but the setting helps enormously). 

At the head of this beautiful and the world's largest Early Music Festival is Xavier Vandamme. I know Xavier from BOZAR, when I used to work there a press officer and Xavier was deputy director of BOZAR MUSIC. His programme was already most ambitious and original back then, and I could only but trust his choices for Utrecht. He explains in the introduction to the year programme that the Utrecht Early Music Festival "holds the ambition and the responsibility to be the premier stage for research and creativity in [the] field". He also tells about his focus on French Baroque: "The case of French repertoire - still undervalued or even unknown outside its native country - and its many talented performers is one that Utrecht takes on his pride".

Pandhof, Utrecht
I had the chance to listen to four concerts last Saturday. 

I started the day with La lanterne magique de M. Couperin, a performance by harpsichord player Bertrand Cullier, accompanied by images drawn by stage director and actress Louise Moaty and projected with a magic lantern. Lighted by a few candles, Cullier plays François Couperin under a screen shaped as a moon where Moaty projects her stories: Les Tours de passe-passe, L'Arlequine, Tic-toc-choc, Les Ombres errantes...  and together they created a wonderful dialogue between music and images. 

Jacobiekerk, Utrecht.
This most dreamlike performance was followed by a concert at the Jacobiekerk with Les Agréments, in a programme of opera arias directed by Guy Van Waas and sung by baritone Pierre-Yves Pruvot.

Later in the evening was the highlight of the day, with Jean-Marc Andrieu leading his choir and orchestra, Les Passions & Les Eléments, in Gilles' Requiem, inside the Utrecht Dom.

Outside the Dom, Utrecht
The night ended in the Pieterskerk with Swedish soprano Susanne Rydén performing Lalande's Leçons de ténèbres with Paulina van Laarhoven on viola and Karl Nyhlin on lute. They ended their performance most unusually with a contemporary creation. Unfortunately, the programme didn't mention this new work so I can't write its title or even the composer's name (if you happen to know, please leave a comment). 

More Early Music throughout the year
The Festival has ended today, but the concert season of the yearly programme will start in October and run through May 2011, with Early Music concerts in churches, castles and concert halls across the Netherlands and Belgium. My personal highlights are Les Ombres Errantes in November with Ensemble Ausonia, J.S. Bach: Kunst der Fuge in January with Il suonar parlante, including Lorenzo Ghielmi and Fahmi Alqhai, The harpsichord players of Louis XIV with Aurélien Delage in Februari, the Trio Hantaï in March and Gustav Leonhardt in April. 

More information can be found on 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Edinburgh Book Festival

A very short post to let you know that I will participate to the British Council Edinburgh Bookcase from 19 to 23 August. For all of you interested in literature from the UK, you can follow the Bookcase through "My Edinburgh Bookcase Blog"
Hope you'll enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My week at the Sarajevo Talent Campus

It's been more than a week since I'm back from the Sarajevo Talent Campus. Being part of such a great international film festival like the Sarajevo Film Festival was definitely a wonderful experience both at the personal and professional levels. More than 60 participants were selected as "Talents" in the following fields: directing, producing, screenwriting and acting. I was one of the selected screenwriters. I'm still not very comfortable being called a "talent", but I got used to accept the term within the frame of the programme.

The one week programme was extremely busy and productive, including lectures, workshops, meetings, screenings followed by Q&As, with experts in different fields of the film industry. Memorable moments include lectures of Semih Kaplanoglu, Samuel Maoz and Gaspar Noé, that I reported back on this blog. One most memorable moment was the one hour conversation with Morgan Freeman, who came to see the Talent Campus participants. He spoke about his early career, shared some anecdotes from his years on Broadway, talked about his collaborations with Clint Eastwood, pretty general stuff you would say, but it is quite something to hear it from the man in real, sitting in front of you.

We had the opportunity to meet with young german producers to share ideas and look for potential projects to apply for the Robert Bosch Stiftung Co-production Prize. Frank Albers, director of the Robert Bosh Stiftung (partner of the Talent Campus), was present at most of the Talent Campus events and really encouraged participants to look closely at this opportunity. Also present during the whole programme were organisers of the Berlinale Talent Campus, also partner of the Sarajevo Talent Campus. Both organisations hosted special sessions about their own programmes and the opportunities they offer to young film makers at the national and international level.

Within the general programme, each area of work had its own workshop sessions. Screenwriters had the chance to work with Licia Eminenti, script analyst and director. We had a two day session during which we analysed two movies: Flanders by Bruno Dumont and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days by Cristian Mungiu. The format wasn't really that of a workshop, as intended, but the focus of our analysis was "From the particular to the universal" and to see how these writers/directors managed or tried to tell a universal story from a very particular situation. Another very fruitful session for screenwriters was a one to one feedback session with an expert. Mine was with Miroslav Mandic, screenwriter and director. It was incredibly refreshing to have someone sit in front of you and tell you straight what was good, less good, to be developed or simply to trash within your script. The script I gave for analysis is the one I have written about the 1999 earthquake that took place in the Marmara region in Turkey. A difficult one I must admit as it poses many production problems. But after this session, I can now re-work on the script and develop the relationship between the characters rather than the chaos that surrounds them.

Among the many other interesting sessions you can read about on the online programme, was a session with Bosnian animator and director Ivan Ramadan. In a session entitled "Animation in a nutshell" Ivan Ramadan talked about his work and how he came to start animation short films - you can also see him explain it himself in this video interview. Ramadan has worked on two short movies, one of which, Tolerantia, was awarded the best short film award at the Sarajevo Film Festival in 2008, and Wondermilk, presented at this year's Children Programme of the Sarajevo Film Festival.

This week has given me the opportunity to develop some ideas by talking to fellow "talents", get inspired by major artists and experts from the industry and receive some very valuable feedback about my work as a screenwriter and the possibilities that are out there to further develop myself.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gaspar Noé at the Sarajevo Talent Campus

One of the last directors to visit the Talent Campus was Gaspar Noé, in a session following his latest movie "Enter the Void". This was Gaspar Noé's fourth visit to the Sarajevo Film Festival where a tribute was paid to his work in a previous edition.

Gaspar Noé explains that with "Enter the Void" he wanted to get inside the head of someone who is doing mushrooms. He thought of making "Enter the Void" for almost twenty years. When selling the film to potential producers, he explains that he kept giving successful films as examples to illustrate his film, one of them being "Trainspotting". But he also explains that financing was made possible because he had previously made "Irreversible", a commercial success starring Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci.

In the beginning of "Enter the Void" you see reality through the eyes of a character, Oscar, until a shift happens when he gets shot. The viewer doesn't really know what is happening, says Noé, is it a dream, an hallucination? But Noé adds that trips and dreams are far more experimental than what we can experience watching "Enter the Void". Music and colours were really important to render the mushroom trip experience. The film takes place in Tokyo and is very visual, therefore the script needed to describe the locations in details explains Noé. Some scenes were very short in the script but really long in the movie. Gaspar Noé adds that for him scripts are made to finance the film and that the real film starts when you start shooting. The film is full of very vivid colours but no blue, because blue isn't a mental colour, explains the director. They avoided using blue in the film because dreams are most of the time in black and white, maybe on acid you can see some colours, but never blue. He adds that the music in the film is also messy, like a mushroom trip.

Within the powerful visual and sound effects are the main characters, a brother and sister who were seperated in their childhood because they lost their parents in a car accident. Both are craving for affection and want to produce the family they lost. There's an incestual energy in their relationship, which wasn't in the initial script, explains Noé. The characters are complex because, says the director, he doesn't like films where you're told who is good or bad. We are all complex, he adds.

Making a feature film takes at least a year, explains Gaspar Noé, and an extra year for promotion. Some directors like to shoot a film a year, like Woody Allen, but Noé explains that he prefers to shoot a short film in between two features. Working on a short film acts like a rehearsal for the next feature, says the director. Gaspar Noé also worked on documentaries, commercials and music videos. He filmed a documentary in Africa about people dying from AIDS and explains that he watches much more documentary films than fiction. Sometimes he also shoots commercials but says he doesn't enjoy that process as it leaves very litlle freedom to the director. He also shot video clips for Placebo. Gaspar Noé is now working on a new project: an erotic love story.

You can see the pictures of this talk on the following webpage:


Monday, August 2, 2010

Samuel Maoz at the Sarajevo Talent Campus

Within the Talent Campus programme, participants had the opportunity to see Golden Lion winning movie "Lebanon" by Israeli director Samuel Maoz, and to attend a session entitled "From Personal Experience of Director to the Golden Lion" in the presence of Samuel Maoz, David Silber (producer) and Katriel Schory (executive director of the Israel Film Fund).

"Lebanon" is the personal story of Samuel Maoz and was a necessity to make, explains the director, a need to find some understanding. It took Maoz twenty five years to deal with the issues he experienced as a soldier during the first Lebanon war. When he first tried to write the script in 1988, Maoz explains that the first memory that came to his mind was the burn of flesh, which made him back off. Maoz felt the need to process the story almost in a mathematical way and told himself that as long as he could smell it, he wasn't ready to write his film. It's in 2006, during the second Lebanon war, that he decided he was ready: he tried to smell again but couldn't.

The only way to deliver war, according to Maoz, is through a very strong experience, and that's how he decided to set his film inside the tank. The aim of Maoz was to make the audience feel the war, to see the victims staring back at us. That's where the text becomes an ennemy, says Maoz: how to write such extreme feelings? He therefore decided to trust the body language, the eye. After twenty five years, Maoz wrote the script in four weeks.

Samuel Maoz went to Rotterdam to sell his story to producers. After having told it twenty, forty times, he would look at himself in the mirror and think: "you're a whore!" but then, laughing, Maoz adds,"at least I'm a whore who likes his job!"

Reactions to the film differed between older and younger generations in Israel. Some older generation people would say not to show this movie or mothers won't send their children to war. But reviews were good in Israel, although the audience feelings were rather mixed. According to Maoz, "Lebanon" appeals to the human and this why it works.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Semih Kaplanoglu at the Sarajevo Talent Campus

On the first day of the Sarajevo Talent Campus, participants had the chance to attend a lecture entitled "Tradition vs Modern: Ebb and Flow of Cinema between Center and Periphery" by Turkish filmmaker Semih Kaplanoglu, who was awarded the Golden Bear at this year's Berlinale for his film "Bal" (Honey).

Kaplanoglu started his talk by giving literature as an example of the struggle between modern and tradition. He explained that the most powerful liteature in Turkey dealing with such struggle started bursting after the thirties - i.e. right after the creation of the Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923 - with authors such as Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar who has been a model for future works of literature in Turkey. This conflict between modern and tradition still goes on today, says Kaplanoglu, between the culture in which we were born and the one we've been educated in. He adds that Orhan Pamuk, for instance, is an author who is in between these worlds.

Kaplanoglu says that he experiences this conflict every day and presents "Bal" as an example. Yusuf for instance, the main character of "Bal", is a poet who experiences things in a passionate way. Kaplanoglu has chosen a poet to be his main character because he comes himself from a culture full of poetry, as he explains. Because it takes so much effort in today's world to be a poet, Kaplanoglu has chosen to show his own struggle through the eyes of a poet, Yusuf in his film.

The basic questions one aks oneself within this struggle is "Who am I? What am I doing here? Why am I here?", but Kaplanoglu says that we tend to forget these questions in our life journeys. He adds that he believes we come to life with a feeling of loss, and that we come to the world with a certain knowledge that opens up to a spiritual or non material understanding. Our experiences are not only about this world and material things and Kaplanoglu says that art is the struggle to try to explain and feel what's beyond our material world. We were all born into a culture and caught into something different within the environment in which we live. But beyond all this, there is something we give to the world. Kaplanoglu's work represents this searching and exploration of the loss.

When Kaplanoglu first presented his trilogy at the Rotterdam film festival, producers told he was crazy and that it would be impossible to make three movies when even producing one can be extremely difficult. Fortunately, Kaplanoglu's Greek partner believed in the project. Following that, Kaplanoglu was in Cannes with two projects, found new partners and could work further on finalizing his trilogy made of : "Yumurta" (Egg), "Süt" (Milk) and "Bal" (Honey).

Kaplanoglu was 36 when he finalized his first movie, which means that he struggled for fifteen years to find producers and professionals interested in his project. In the end, he became himself a producer and learned to perform many other roles within the film industry. It took a long time for Kaplanoglu to achieve success with his films, but not all filmmakers need to experience the same process, says Kaplanoglu. Every artist, every filmmaker has its own story, its own path. Kaplanoglu ended his lecture in a very positive note reminding talent campus participants that no matter how long it can take, "never give up, believe in your project and work hard. Someone at some point will show interest in what you are doing. There are good people out there".

You can see the photo gallery of this lecture on the following webpage:


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sarajevo Film Festival

I've been im Sarajevo for 6 days now and couldn't find a minute to write a post. The festival programme is so rich and of course, the Talent Campus I am participating to has a very rich programme on its own. So far I've seen some very good movies, including "Cirkus Columbia" by Danis Tanovic, "Bibliotheque Pascal" by Szabols Hajdu, and "Red White & Blue" by Simon Rumley.

Within the Talent Campus programme, I've had the chance to listen to some great artists and experts like Semih Kaplanoglu, Frederic Boyer (Cannes Film Festival, prorammer shorts), Maike Mia Hoehne (Berlinale, programmer shorts), some I don't especially agree with but were really worth listening to, like Bruno Dumont or Licia Eminenti, and there will be more until Saturday, including Samuel Maoz, Gaspar Noé and Morgan Freeman.

If you want to see the whole programme and see some pictures, visit the festival website at but I will also try to write about certain talks and sessions in seperate posts.