Shifting Sands

In The Last Days Of The City directed by Tamer El Said (Egypt) 2016 is one of the highlights of the 20th annual Arab Film Festival.


This haunting narrative feature attempts to cover the mood in Cairo just before the popular uprising that toppled the Hosni Mubarak regime.

Khalid, a young video maker, and his friends gather material for a documentary he is making about the city and other trouble spots in the area. While the main focus is on Egypt, there are also references to Beirut and Bagdad as well.

The film will screen again Sunday evening 16 October 2016 at the Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley. For more information and tickets contact Arab Film Festival.

copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Lucky Thirteen

The 13th annual San Francisco Greek Film Festival runs 15 – 22 October 2016 at the Delancy Screening Room, 600 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94107.


Mythopathy directed by Tassos Boulmetis (Greece) 20016 is the opening night feature film. It will be preceded by two shorts: Without Milk directed by Thodoris Vournas and Joanna directed by Panayiotis Fafoutis.

Other features include: Suntan by Argyris Papadimitropoulos, Erotica, Erotica, Etc. by Evangelia Kraniot, SMAC by Elias Demetriou, Wednesday 04:45 by Alexis Alexiou, Invisible by Dimitris Athanitis, Chevalier by Athina Rachel Tsangari, and Cloudy Sunday by Manousos Manousakis.

For more information and tickets contact San Francisco Greek Film Festival.

copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Arab Film Fest 20

The twentieth annual Arab Film Festival opens soon in five California cities.


San Francisco 7 – 11 October 2016, Oakland 12 – 14 October 2016, Berkeley 15 – 16 October 2016, Los Angeles 21 – 23 October 2016, and San Diego 27 – 30 October 2016.

Clash directed by Mohamed Diab (Egypt) 2016 is the opening night film at the Castro Theatre. It will be preceded by a reception and followed by a party at Mercer featuring DJ Emancapacion. Subsequent San Francisco screenings will be at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.

Very Big Shot directed by Mir-Jean Bou Chaya (Lebanon) 2015 is the opening night film at Harmony Gold in Los Angeles. Iraqi Odyssey is the opening film at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego.

This year’s festival includes narrative features, documentaries, and shorts from Egypt, France, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

For more information and tickets contact Arab Film Festival.

copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Music Adventure

I first traveled to Europe fifty years ago. During the four months I lived in Paris I preferred listening to British rock and American soul, tuning into pirate stations such as Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg to hear the Beatles and Rolling Stones.


I also listened to Antoine, Johnny Hallyday, Mireille Mathieu, Michel Poinareff, and Sylvie Vartan to some extent but French vocalists seemed to lack intensity and feeling.

However, passing through Italy I was glad to catch one of those French pop singers, while in Greece I strained to hear Arabic music some distance away.

Over time I tired of rock and desired something different, preferably quieter. I was drawn to Afro pop, rai, fado, and even popular Greek vocalists.

Now I look forward to exploring the choices in Athens and spend too much money buying laika CDs there.

This year I brought back a number of discs by Stelios Bikakis, Giorgos Giannias, Pantelis Pantelidis, and Paschalis Terzis. Plus a couple of surprising purchases: Takim and Zipelia Cress.

I heard a few cuts of  Takim during the few minutes I spent in a store buying a CD by one of the artists already on my list. But it was long enough to realize I definitely liked what I was being exposed to.

I number of young musicians collaborated on this project and the performers are seven men who recorded after a ten year hiatus. The name sounds Turkish and the music has a distinctly eastern flavor.

I was introduced to Zipelia Cress by Vangelis, who is the composer of the music played on this CD. It’s mellow rock inspired by the familiar San Francisco sound. I returned to the store for his autograph but passed up buying a follow-up CD with a harder edge.

I didn’t find everything I looked for this time but I’ll undoubtedly return with a new list in a couple of years.

copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Book Lover

I was hoping to visit Papasotiriou again, a large bookstore across from the university in Central Athens. Especially the large English-language section on the top floor where I found the latest titles in Greek history, politics, and culture in previous years. But it’s no longer in business.


There are English-language books at Public on Syntagma Square, though nothing resembling the depth of titles stocked by the defunct bookstore. However, it’s a great source for new Greek CDs.

One evening I noticed a bookstore in the neighborhood specializing in dictionaries but it was closed. A few days later I checked it out during business hours and was amazed at what I found. Lexikopoleio sells French, English, Spanish, and Italian books as well as dictionaries. And all titles are sold at the prices charged in their country of origin.

When Odile Brehier rented the space in the wake of the economic meltdown, women passing by frequently asked her if she really wanted to do this. She was undeterred by their skepticism and launched what’s become a successful venture five years ago.

Odile’s father was French and her mother Greek. She was born in the French Congo and has lived most of her life in Athens. Working as a translator is a solitary task. The store allows her an opportunity to socialize with like-minded people.

An event I attended hosted by Lexikopoleio featured young Greek prose writers and the editor who put together a book of their work for French readers. An overflow crowd packed the store and some lingered afterwards for a reception with people chatting with one another both inside and out in the street.

Brehier is a charming and gracious host who enthusiastically greets both old friends and new visitors to her store. She lives and works in Pangrati, or Frog Island, an area defined by two rivers that still flow underground.

I look forward to visiting this neighborhood gem and seeing her again the next time I visit the city.

image & text copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

It’s Complicated!

Family relationships can be difficult even in the best of times and adoptions present an added complexity to the situation.


Wars disrupt the daily lives of everyone involved and this was especially true during World War II in Central Europe where millions of civilians were targeted for extermination.

Holocaust survivors were left with deep psychic scars that affected them throughout their lives.

Aida’s Secrets directed by Alon and Shaul Schwarz (Israel/United States/Germany/Canada) 2016 unveils a fascinating trail of secrets and lies.

The main part of the story involves the search and meeting for a brother whose very existence was kept secret from an adoptee for over sixty years. But this is only the beginning of a broader investigation to piece together the details of a truly complicated mystery.

The film screens again at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 36 Friday 5 August 2016 at the Piedmont Theatre in Oakland.

For more information and tickets check the Jewish Film Institute.

copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved.

Jewish & Gay

At the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic 35 years ago, a positive diagnosis was a death sentence. Closeted gay men coming out to their families for the first time both as homosexual and infected with the dreaded virus often faced rejection from parents and died without parental understanding and comfort.


Neither homophobia nor the disease has been entirely vanquished but society has adjusted somewhat to the existence of homosexuality and an extremely serious illness.

Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? directed by Tomer and Barak Heymann (Israel/UK) 2015 is a documentary about a 39-year old, gay Israeli living in London who’s estranged from his religious family back home. He must come to terms with himself as well as bridge the gap between him and his family.

The film will screen three times during San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 36: Sunday 24 July 2016 at the CinEearts in Palo Alto, Saturday 30 July 2016 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, and 31 July 2016 at the Roda Theatre in Berkeley.

More information and tickets available at Jewish Film Institute.

copyright © 2016 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved.