Monthly Archives: February 2008

Bags (Still) For Sale

I joined my classmates Roisin O’Connor, Rosaleen Ortiz and Mathew Warren for a walk around the “counterfeit triangle,” as Mayor Bloomberg calls it, near Centre and Canal streets to see the effects of Tuesday’s police raid of the fake bag & watch vendors.


photo by Roisin O’Connor

Just a day after the shutdown, it was easy to talk with shoppers who purchased knock-offs, and I even spoke with a vendor long enough that he expressed his great dissatisfaction with the whole system he is caught up in–from the exploitative boss who expects him to take the risks and the heat, to the label executives that demand a city crack down. The question everyone on Canal Street was left with is: Was this the best use of the city’s resources? Is it a big deal to protect labels from imitation? Is it worthwhile to put people out of work? Certainly the shoppers and the street peddlers don’t pose a threat to anyone, so is it worth the hassle? Why or why not?You can decide after reading and listening to more of their stories whether or not you would close shops and confiscate the illegal goods.


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Stepping it up for live blogging

I feel invigorated by the pace set for the live-blog event I did at Tuesday’s AUC/ICFJ film screening. It’s true that journalists get a bang out of their work just from the energy required to get the story. It took some time for me to find a stride between reading subtitles and responding to the meanings in each short film. This format was new to me, but I can see why so many people like it.


Annie interviews Craig Duff (Photo by Alaa al Dajani)

The audio section of the reporting came a little easier to me. I admit, I was intimidated to pop up and interview a room full of film makers and journalists. What I discovered was that, knowing what it’s like to be in my shoes, everyone I spoke to was gracious and helpful.

Alaa, one of the students there to present a film short, sent me this photo and said, “now I can easily share yesterday with my family and friends back in Cairo. They haven’t seen the blog live though but I am sure they will enjoy it and appreciate it.”

It’s cool to count people in Cairo as I consider who my audience is!

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February 12 ICFJ-AUC film screening

The following is a live-blog post of the documentary shorts screening, “First-Person Films: Student Documentaries from Egypt”, sponsored by The American University in Cairo and the International Center for Journalists, hosted in New York City’s Tribeca Grand Hotel.

Six films were shown: The Art of Mandur (Fan Mandur), Kasr El Masr: Palace of Critical Care, A Life on the Nile , Away from Home, Lokmet Eish (Making a Living), The No Choice (about blogger Alaa Abd el Fatah) and Resonance (the story of a determined Oud player).

10:00 Craig is the last to leave

OmOlma film maker oud player

One sure side-effect of live blogging is head swim. That being said, if I collect my thoughts for just a minute, I see that we just spent the evening witnessing the power of video storytelling. Guests talked about the foot ironer, the sailor, the Iraqi mother as if they understood on a deeply personal level what their lives are like. There was some undertone of joy at having the opportunity to learn about people half a world away.

One other result of an evening well spent–exhaustion. I’m grateful to Craig for taking a few more minutes to tell me his thoughts on how the screening went, and some of what he took away from his time in Cairo:

Craig Duff Interview

9:30 The Room Clears

Just a few guests are left…I jumped into the middle of one conversation to have a few words with our visiting film maker and any guests still willing to talk:

Alaa Al Dajani

8:30 After Party

Where does the time go when you’re munching nuts and cheese? Guests aren’t eager to brave the cold quite yet. They’d rather chat, and they are all enthusiastic about the films they saw.

Listen here.

7:45 the Q & A

My computer and I had to part ways for this portion of the evening…it’s a mic thing. There were plenty of questions (though none for me to relay from any comments! Too bad.) Overall, it was clear the audience connected with many of the characters in the film. Their questions were about how the people are now, where they are, if they have rebuilt relationships we were concerned about, etc. And of course, some genuine amazement at the ER scenes, to which Craig said most Egyptians would not be so surprised by what they saw if the film were to make it on television.

I’m off to interview guests!

7:30 Oud

Mustafa Said Mohamed Anta is portrayed with determination from a young age, when he defies his father to learn to play the Oud. A great moment is when his ire is raised by a young student of his who doubts he’ll be able to apply to music school.

Clearly he wants to bring his country into the new century and embrace what is beautiful about the music that is in his soul. He says, “If there was no hope, I’d be composing commercial music”

7:20 Just Blog NO?

Not for the blogger-activist Alaa Abd el Fatah and his family. It took me a while to grasp the meaning behind this story. This isn’t about blogging an opinion and getting into trouble with the law, this is a life choice that a man and woman (Alaa’s parents) made even before all their children were born.

They raised their family to step into the fray, add their bodies to the count, stand up and be heard. They attend demonstrations together like we might go to the movies–or that’s how it was before things became really violent. Now they know what it’s like to be beat, sit in jail, and petition for friends. There is not family time that isn’t political time. It’s their life choice, and their courage comes through loud & clear.

7:00 If only my grandmother had known: FOOT IRONING?

Yes, he (note: it’s a MAN’S job) curls his toes to hold the iron. Even better: who needs that little iron sprayer we have when you can just spray water over a garment with your MOUTH? I like the music Farah El Alfy, Haidy Ammar and Habiba Yussr chose to keep this light and fun.

The foot ironer feels this is his destiny, all he knows, and it paid to educate his children. He walks with a crooked back and a proud heart….but I’m not sure I should regret my wash & wear clothes.

6:55 Iraqi Mothers

One image of this Iraqi refugee family stopped me short: the little girl thumbing a newspaper with images of war in her home country. Her sadness becomes ours in the short film, as we see her hugged repeatedly by her mother. Mother Om Olma is determined to keep her family together, happy and forward looking despite tears when she misses her own mother.

While we watch her children kick a ball in the yard, Om Olma tells us if everything is taken away from her but security, she will still be happy. That is a lot for us Americans to ponder.

6:50 Boat with a View

A boatman tries to make a living & talks about the hassles of government that slow him down & can result in an immediate/arbitrary change of career if he gets the answers wrong. I feel for him, and long for a chance to catch the vision captured in those great shots.

6:40 Everybody’s ER

Chaos seems to reign in this hospital–and yes, the film maker deserves kudos for this access! Anger, tears and desperation (both of patients and doctors) is palpable. Families swarm in on doctors & slow the process…administrators resort to harsh words to maintain order. The basement scene at the end makes everything at first seem hopeless, but the speaker says “There is no worker like the Egyptian worker,” turning the story upwards with determination and hope.

6:30 Potter & Son

A touching story, told so quickly, about two potters, father & son. The younger tries to find his own artistic path and keep his bond with his father, the older feels so strongly about keeping the craft a tradition after working so hard to become what he is now. Timeless and universal.

6:15 small weather delay!

A little snow stuck and slowed down our trains, but that didn’t keep guests away, just a little late. We’re just starting now after brief remarks. Here are photos to keep you busy while I watch:

Craig and Alaa

Alaa & Craig


audience 2

ICFJ hosts

Alaa Al Dajani, Craig Duff, David Irons & Elisa Tinsley

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Tune in at 6 for ICFJ-AUC film screening

FirstPerson filmsI have the awesome responsibility to bring you live-blog coverage from the Tribeca Grand Hotel of this evening’s screening, “First-Person Films: Student Documentaries from Egypt”, sponsored by the International Center for Journalists.  

The screening will show six short documentary films made by students from the American University in Cairo.  Their instructor, Emmy-award winning video journalist Craig Duff ,  is just back from teaching in Egypt as a Knight International Journalism Fellow. He will present the films and participate, along with one of the filmmakers, Alaa Al Dajani, in a Q & A after the screening.

Your questions and comments are welcome!

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Hillary Clinton’s New York Primary win

It surprised a lot of New Yorkers who had pounded the streets wearing Obama signs and stickers, but in the end, the New York primary was called for Hillary.

I headed for Queens on super Tuesday to see who might have skipped the NYGiants parade to cast their vote, while all of my classmates did the same in their assigned neighborhoods around the city. Many of our stories are featured on the school’s news service page.

Hillary Clinton’s New York Primary win

Although the polls closed at 9 p.m., several of us kept up the coverage by going to campaign headquarters and celebrations. My classmate Lakshmi Gandhi and I headed for Hillary’s victory party. She called in reports to a live student broadcast (now a podcast on the news service), I shot video. Next to me on the floor was Queens resident Steve Behar, a hopeful for a 2009 seat on NYCity Council representing Queens district 19. He is a long-time campaigner for the Democratic Party and was thrilled with Hillary’s win.

You can see what it was like to be right there with her supporters in this video.

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