Thursday, July 26, 2007

Osian's-Cinefan 2007: Driving to Zigzigland

Zigzigland. Where's that? It's an island just off the southern tip of South America and had been formerly under Japanese rule.

Stumped? Don't look for the atlas just yet. It's not a real country.

Driving to Zigzigland, screened at the 2007 edition of the Osian's-Cinefan film festival in New Delhi, chronicles a day in the life of Basher, a Palestinian taxi-driver trying to make it big in Hollywood.

When his passengers ask him where he's from, Basher says he's from 'Zigzigland'. Not because he's afraid of admitting he's Palestinian. But because of the inevitable question that follows - isn't that "where suicide bombers come from"?

Surprisingly, Basher's passengers often believe he's from Zigzigland. And blame their ignorance on poor knowledge of geography.

For the taxi-driver, Zigzigland is a country where citizens respect other people and there's always enough money to pay utility bills (unlike Basher in Los Angeles). The film depicts him trying to desperately raise a thousand dollars to stop the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from deporting him.

The low-budget film, based on a true story, explores how being an Arab guy in the U.S. is no longer easy after the 9/11 attacks.

Stereotypes against Arabs abound. When he turns up at film auditions, Basher keeps turning down roles that require him to play a terrorist. In another scene, an FBI agent asks Basher if he knows anyone planning jehad. And one lady passenger, unwilling to pay the fare, tells police Basher had kidnapped her.

Amazingly, several actors in Driving to Zigzigland portray themselves and their experiences on screen. Basher Da'as puts in an amazing performance in a role made even more spectacular thanks to a brilliant screenplay.

Director Nicole Ballivian, who's married to Basher in both real and reel life, says the film stays true to life except for its denouement - Basher was never actually deported.

"In real life, the FBI agent asked me questions. Not Basher. And we still have no idea why... I have so many Indian friends back home and even they face this kind of problem".
As for the screening, despite a rousing response from the audience, Nicole was a bit disappointed with the sound quality at the Osian's-Cinefan film festival.

"It was frustrating not to properly hear the narration," she told Toe Knee Unplugged.

Basher, in his inimitable style, says he looks forward to working in Bollywood films. And does an impromptu jig to prove he's a good candidate.

"I always wanted to visit India. In fact, because of my surname (Da'as) people keep asking me if I'm Indian".

Exclusive coverage of Osian's-Cinefan 2007 on this blog

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