Accentuate the Positive: Watch Great Films Like Zaytoun

I remember growing up being taught that good girls didn’t talk trash behind their friend’s back and that a potty mouth was the exclusive domain of the sellers at the central market, or the ladies of the night. Of course, I had no experience with the latter, at five and living in Florence, Italy and always seemed to show up at the market when it was meeker grandma’s turn to sell the veggies. But I took my elders’ word for it, and kept my life negative-free in my idyllic younger days.

These days it’s a whole different story. As soon as I get together with a dear girlfriend or catch up with a co-worker, it’s always a who-gets-it-out-first fest of gossip, recounting bad behavior and just all around plain verbal attacks on others we know. Or celebrities we think we know. Why is that? When did we become “those” women?

In the last week, since the horrific attack on the U.S. Ambassador in Libya, and now word of that stupid cartoon in a French newspaper, I’ve been haunted by that question. Why is that? Why would bad behavior always get the press, get the most attention and manage to affect the world (for the worst of course). This while great, positive acts of everyday kindness are sometimes ridiculed as “weakness” and human stories on the big screen struggle to find distribution and even an audience. An ex used to say, often “Bad press is better than no press at all” but these days it’s more like “Bad press is better than any good press, any day.” Sad.

In the midst of all this, I was glad that my piece on Eran Riklis’ Zaytoun at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was published a bit late on HuffPost. I managed to sneak into the queue right before it was posted and edit in a few words that referred to the unrest around the Arab world, all because of a grossly irresponsible YouTube video. If as many people watched Zaytoun as those who watched — or pretended to have watched — this amateurish short film, we would today live in a slightly better world, instead of a scarier one… And yet, the media pounces on the anger, ignites more fear and disgust, squeezes every possible story out of it, distributors are probably falling all over themselves to get in touch with the idiotic producer of said film, while great artwork with a positive message still struggles. Thankfully, not Zaytoun, call it the little olive of a film that could (the title of the film is the Arabic word for olive). Runner up at TIFF for Audience Choice Award, it’s been picked up for distributions in many countries already and, mark my words, will make headways come Oscar time. Just saying…

So, find out more about this gem of a movie, by reading my own kind of “review” of Zaytoun on the Huffington Post, and this lovely interview with filmmaker Eran Riklis, also just published on the HuffPo. N-joy!

Top image from the set of Zaytoun: Stephen Dorff and Abdallah El Akal, by Eitan Riklis, courtesy of Touchwood PR

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