Abboudi Abou Jaoudé and the Forgotten Era of Arab Cinema

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My recent patronage to Metro al Madina to see shows like Hishik Bishik and Bar Farouk has made me curious about the Lebanese history of entertainment. With Mounia Akl making it to Cannes, Nadine Labaki being a voice for our city, and Fayrouz being my morning muse – ever since that first taste of early Arab cinema at a British exhibit years ago, I wanted to learn more about this era but also see the beauty that was premature Arab graphic design.

A random Google search brought me to an Independent article from 2010 that talked about a man with an astounding collection of Lebanese (and other Arab) film posters. The investigation wasn’t fruitful; I couldn’t find out where this mysterious movie man was six years later.  No Facebook page, no Instagram, no pixelated website with an 8-bit mouse cursor shaped like an Aladdin’s lamp. Yes, that’s what I imagined for an off-the-grid poster hoarder.

Then after one Iftar with my old advertising friends, I’d asked the production peeps if they had heard of this Abboudi. I got his phone number and was told that he was operating out of a space at the end of Hamra. A few phone calls and a scavenger hunt led me to AlFurat Publishing & Distribution, an underground warehouse that smells of old paper, hidden behind a black iron door. Abboudi welcomed us in and immediately pointed to a row of large individually wrapped posters. “All originals,” he said. Apparently he’d been collecting them for some 40 years, jacking them off the walls of the theatres in the city.

 

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Roaming the shelves of yellowing pages, my immediate thought was, “I’ve found the Lebanese cemetery of forgotten books.” In his back room, you can go through the digitized archive of his collection while sitting among legends like Fayrouz, Souad Husni, Abdel Halim, Sabah, and Rushdi Abaza.

 

 

There are racks of A0s and stacks of the thinnest fragile prints, some for sale starting from as little as $10 and reaching $500. When I asked if he’s afraid he’ll run out by selling them, he said, “No no, I’ve got plenty. These are multiples.” To which I think, “damn Boudi, you sly fox, you really cleaned up.” And the meticulous care this friendly man put into preserving these pieces. Chapeau freaking bas.

 

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Only after my visit did I connect the dots and find that Abboudi’s collection was documented in a publication called “Hathal Masa’” (Tonight in Arabic), designed by the wonderfully elegant Studio Safar. So if you can’t choose one of Abboudi’s originals, you can always go for the full book instead. It’s sold at Antoine branches and the Sursock Museum Store. Although an exhibition was held last December at Le Yacht Club for the launch of the book, Abboudi’s collection deserves a museum of its own. Being in a storage room under a building has its appeal but I worry for their long-term conservation.

 

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But let me tell you, having one of these babies in your possession makes you understand what made Abboudi camp out at the Piccadilly as a young man. Just look at that magic?

If you’re interested in visiting AlFurat, shoot me an email and I’ll pass on his contact. Otherwise, you can try your luck and pass by whenever you’re free and need a dose of nostalgic tangible culture. Abboudi’s collection also includes old books and magazines. He’s open 9-5pm. Read more about him here.

 

DIRECTIONS: Continue along main Hamra St all the way to the end. Take a right at the fork after Bendakji cafe (driving parallel to Diabco Stationery and the gas station). Continue straight until the intersection. Touch store should be in your face. Take a right up toward Bliss St. Take another right before reaching Bliss and the fork with the tree in the middle (so you’re on the road that leads to Fakhani, Hussein’s Parking, Socrate, etc). And a final right into a small alley before you continue down the road. There’s a sign but it’s barely visible. Go all the way to the building at the end (same one that’s home to Inaash). Abboudi’s warehouse is at the bottom of the driveway below.

Are You the Champion?

Sports movies are a phenomenon that escapes me. Much like the parakeet doorbells that Lebanese grandparents favor, they will continue to exist without any understanding of where they came from. There are very few that are tolerable and even fewer that don’t end in predictable victory and championship. 

When it comes to American football movies, most praise goes to Al Pacino’s performance in Any Given Sunday. Granted, that’s a great speech in particular, loaded with Pacino vigor and Imdachampiyaaaaan chants in your head – yes, I’m mixing sports. This post, however, will be dedicated to Keanu Reeves’ 2000 film “The Replacements” just because of these scenes:

500 Days of Expectations

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500 Days of Summer is another unconventional romcom that conveys the bittersweet taste of romance. One of the most memorable scenes is that where the screen splits to portray Tom’s expectations versus reality. No seriously, click on the link and watch it.
Tom, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, experiences something that we have all experienced at some point: reality not living up to our expectations. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop us from climbing up to the summit of the mountain of expectations hoping that, maybe this once, reality will be on our side.

That’s a Bond You Can Never Break


“Blood In, Blood Out” (AKA Bound by Honor) is a film made in ’93 about 3 Chicano relatives who are gang members during their teen years. The film is another prison movie (what can I say, I enjoy crime drama) and is all about the ties that are thicker than blood. It’s got a great story but it’s 3 hours long so be prepared. In other words, bring lots of beer and snacks because this is a heavy one. Get it on DVD in order to be able to pause for bathroom breaks or you can watch it on Youtube – it’s posted in parts or in full here

Pam Ferris, You are My Hero

Much like another Ferris previously spoken about, this Ferris is quite the character. The difference is that this Ferris is real and the fictional character that she played in a film is the one being appreciated. Upon looking at her photograph, it may be difficult to guess just which character I am referring to…

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The character is Mrs. Trunchbull from the movie Matilda. 



My favorite scene is the cake scene but there’s no full clip of it available except for this parody with one of my favorite car songs.

Edward & Frankenweenie

WARNING: This post is loaded with videos. If you have a poor internet connection, then let these stream while you sit in a staff meeting watching the girl who’s watching the guy idly thumb the springs of the pineapple in the fruit basket like it’s a genie’s lamp.

If there was a tab on how many times I had viewed every movie seen in my lifetime, I’m very confident that Edward Scissorhands would be the top viewed (with Practical Magic and The Little Mermaid tied in second). For some reason, I never get sick of watching this creepy Tim Burton film and it is the sole reason I love the director. Well, it and Beetlejuice. Please educate your offspring about the original Team Edward. Another Edward that should be highlighted is Edward Gorey, a writer and illustrator who, like Burton, had a dark style.

Scene from Edward Scissorhands:

Upon doing some reading, I found that Burton had done a short film in 1984 titled “Frankenweenie.” It’s a parody of the original Frankenstein but also has bits and pieces of Scissorhandsian magic. The choice of actress to play Victor’s mother helps the feel since she was the mother in the classic thriller “The Shining” released just 4 years prior. And there’s the guy who played Marv in the Home Alone series too but that’s irrelevant. Apparently, a black and white stop motion remake of it is to be released this year.

The original Frankenweenie in ’84:

The 2012 Frankenweenie Trailer released at Comic-Con:

Hell’s Kitchen

One of many good prison movies (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Brokedown Palace) “Sleepers” is a film made in ’96 with the less wrinkled faces of Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt, and the wisdom-teeth-pulled-faced Minnie Driver. My favorite character is Fat Mancho, a guy from a mini market in Hell’s Kitchen. 
Below is a clip of Fat Mancho.