Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Closest Possible Thing To Danny Glover

First of all, happy Hanukkah. You Jews at home aren't celebrating it yet, since it's not sundown in the States, but the sun went down long ago here (in Israel, as well), so I'm more than justified in saying it. Just deal with it, okay?

One of the things I love most about Cairo is the fact that any simple excursion out into the city, no matter how brief, always turns into a bewildering adventure. Tonight was a perfect example. The Cairo International Film Festival is currently going on, and while I've been hearing stories from people who peed in a urinal next to Danny Glover and others who met Jerry Seinfeld, I never really felt the urge to make a go of the festival. Not really sure why, since I love crap like this, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that any place or event with the word "Cairo" in it usually is using the city's name as a synonym for "terrible quality". I'm just sayin'.

On a whim, I decided to check out the festival's website to see what movies were playing. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that tomorrow, Reservoir Dogs would be playing, and none other than Mr. Harvey Keitel would be in attendance for a press conference after the movie! My fate was sealed; I had to go to this movie. So Beckett, Elizabeth, and I all ventured over to the Hyatt, where the festival's main theater was, to see how we could get tickets.

Unfortunately, the girl selling the tickets did not speak a word of English, other than the script she memorized earlier: "Which movie? How many ticket? Twenty pounds, please." We tried to communicate that we wanted to see Reservoir Dogs (for some reason she didn't understand, "We want to see Harvey Keitel!") for several minutes, but she wasn't having any of it. Dejected, we walked back to the elevator, but we saw a guy wearing a press ID badge, so Beckett grabbed him and asked if he spoke English. It turns out this was the best possible thing he could have done.

The guy's name is Abbas, and he is Iraqi, but engaged to an American ("Nice, eh?" he said) and he was unbelievably helpful and hilarious. He reminded me a bit of Roberto Benigni. He said he would help us get tickets, but then instantly got side-tracked by showing us all of the movies that were playing, and explaining which ones we should see. Then, mid-sentence, a pile of almonds magically appeared in his hand, and he gave each of us a nut to eat. I didn't know what the hell was going on, but I was loving it.

He exchanged some words with the now-thoroughly-annoyed ticket girl, and then suddenly stopped talking to her, and gestured for us to follow him. We started going down the escalators back to the lobby, and on the way he was telling us that he's a member of the press, but also an actor, and that he has many famous American actor friends. I was a bit skeptical, but then he said, "Oh, there's my friend!" and pointed at a guy in a nice suit who was in the glass elevator across from us and waving his arms and jumping up and down. So then we just took off running down the last few escalators, yelling, "Jsu!" which I guess was the actor's name. The man was waiting for us at the bottom, so we were introduced to Jsu Garcia. You're probably wondering who he is. I hadn't ever heard of him either, but a quick search on IMDB.com revealed that he has had tons of roles, some of them fairly large, such as starring opposite Mel Gibson in We Were Soldiers. But what really got me was that he got his start as Johnny Depp's best friend in A Nightmare on Elm Street. How can I not love the guy who uttered the line, "Up yours with a twirling lawnmower"?!

Jsu (look at me, on a first-name basis with the stars) is here because he wrote, produced, and starred in a movie called Spiritual Warriors. We thought it was just a small little production, but it definitely wasn't. It's supposed to be an incredible movie, especially since it was filmed in Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, and the budget was under $1 million. It's starring Jsu, some old dude who's been in a billion movies, Christopher Atkins, and Sally Kirkland, who we should be meeting tomorrow. Apparently Sally has been nominated for an Academy Award, and she was the first person be completely nude on-stage in a play. I think I'll break the ice with that little fact when I meet her. So anyway, he asked us if we wanted to come see it, and there was no way we were saying no to him. He offered to let us in for free, and said he'd be outside the theater waiting for us tomorrow night to let us in. Pretty amazing, right? He also gave us a bunch of flyers promoting the movie and asked us to hand them out at AUC to spread the word. He was such a cool guy, and it was an incredibly generous thing for him to do. Even though I had never heard of him by name, I've definitely seen him in movies before, and I've never met anyone like him who just exudes a movie star aura. I have to admit, I had no idea who he was, but I was totally star struck.

So he ran off, and Abbas took us back up to the theater (thereby confusing me about why we were going down to the lobby in the first place, but there's no questioning Abbas' methods), and insisted we had to see the movie that was about to show. We just did what you do in Cairo, and went along with the flow, instantly purchasing tickets. I bet the ticket girl was thrilled to see us again. Our tickets were taken by someone I'm positive was Horatio Sanz in disguise, and we were ushered into the theater. We said goodbye to Abbas outside of it, but he promised we'd see him at Jsu's movie tomorrow night. So we just grabbed three seats in the theater - which was by far the nicest theater I've ever been in - and tried to figure out what sort of movie we were about to see. We had no idea what country it came from, what the plot was remotely about, or even what the title was. Meanwhile, Beckett texted his mom to have her look up the plot details for Spiritual Warriors, and she responded with this: "Actor meets mysterious old man, old man trains actor, they fight forces of evil." Sounds awesome, huh? I can't wait.

Now, the theater was pretty enormous, and there were about six people in there. But suddenly a huge group of Egyptian students - there must have been at least 20 of them - came in, and sat down right next to me. Out of all the seats in the theater! They then spent the next half hour screaming, wrestling, running around, playing Coolio songs on their cell phones, and generally being as annoying as possible. But I wouldn't expect anything less from Egypt, so I found it all quite hilarious. Before the movie started, they were yelled at by a giant man in a suit, so then they generally quieted down. Eventually the theater filled up a little more (it was still pretty embarrassingly empty), and the lights dimmed.

What followed was the craziest hour I've experienced in quite a while. I had no idea what was going on in the movie. It was in Hungarian with English subtitles, and it was about some ugly gipsy who was framed for murder. I think. Mostly it seemed to be about creepy old imaginary ladies tormenting him in his jail cell, dead chickens, and gay sex. It was absolutely terrible. Luckily it only lasted for an hour, and then the main character killed himself in the final second of the movie, so I guess it was all worth it.

Thoroughly confused, we encountered Abbas outside the theater, who admitted that he slept through it. So why did you make us go to it, Abbas? Eh, bygones. We said goodbye to him again, but hopefully we'll see him tomorrow night. Not only is he an awesome guy, but he's the first Iraqi I've actually ever met in real life. So far, I love Iraq. I returned back to our apartment and had a sad little Hanukkah celebration, lighting the candles all by myself, in the dark since the power was out. If there had been someone else there, it would have been very romantic. Especially since it had this whole Anne Frank-esque feel to it, what with the power outage and the fact that I had drawn all the shades to hide my Jewish tendencies from curious neighbors.

So tomorrow I'll be going to only one class, and then blowing off my other three to watch movies all day! But I'll be meeting one movie star for sure, at the very least seeing another, and hopefully meeting Miss Kirkland as well. I have to say, this is shaping up to be the best Hanukkah ever.

Also, I apologize for the lack of pictures. Chances are, there won't be any more. My camera got up one day and decided it was going to make every picture have a horrible purple hue. I'm much too embarrassed to use it anymore, so I think it's time it goes into retirement.

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