Hunger Games, a trilogy of politics, power of propaganda and capitalism

What begins as an elongated and dramatized version of Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery quickly delves deeper into a clever perspective of reality TV, augmented news and politics at it’s most subtle form. The young adult series Hunger Games is the latest to join the pop culture cult where survival takes priority over human ethics. After the massive success of Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Resident Evil and their likes, comes the trilogy of Hunger Games where danger is orchestrated from no savage beasts but the mere human. Narrated in a post-civil war society, an extravagant Panem rules over twelve starving districts, where the story builds on an annual Gladiator-esque competition. Ever year a boy and girl from each district are chosen and pit against each other to fight for their survival. These Hunger Games originate as a yearly reminder for all twelve districts on the consequences they beseech for organizing a rebellion against the Capitol, Panem.

What looks more mature on screen is actually a trilogy written for young adults. Susan Collins has dared to weave characters more human than heroic with the obvious love triangle between the three leading characters, Katnis Everdeen, Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne. While the romance does surely motivate young readers, it never takes priority over the more alarming themes of augmented reality, propaganda, capitalism and political affairs weaved into three books. The Hunger Games broadcasted live on screens across the region are meant to entertain some and carve fear on the many. Narrated in first perspective, Katniss Everdeen grows more aware of the weight of the reality show and it’s subsequent significance on her survival. Her journey between the Capitol and the victims reel the discrepancy between what’s propagated and what’s real. News and media are controlled by the Capitol in the non-stop effort to regulate information among the different districts and the Capitol’s citizens.

Susan Collins does not leave the imprint of media on the rising uproar of the state against it’s government even till the last book; how broadcasted content is easily manipulated to hide the truth and regulated to prevent uproar. While both sides struggle to defeat the other, Katniss and her group are played like puppets in a never-ending game for power. An interesting perception of the Panem’s system is how shamelessly it depends upon the twelve districts for the produce. While one district is known for fishing, another prevails in textiles, and so on resources are scattered across the districts only to be distributed and handed to the Capitol while the manufacturing district starves on just a meal per day. And to Katniss’ surprise, the president of the Capitol is not oblivious to the fragile system of the government. When the districts cause an uproar, Panem will starve without it’s daily exorbitant supplies. Collins explains capitalism so easily to young adult readers, similar to the environment set in the sci-fi movie Time.

Hunger Games would be an accessible and easily comprehensible approach towards understanding a hypothetical capitalist government and it’s downfall. Definitely a recommended read for economics and journalism students. I found myself struggling to embrace the protagonist. While the movie played a very successful mature attempt for survival by Katniss, it has left out her thoughts, her narratives, her motives towards each decision. So allow me to enlighten you that besides a flicker of kindness for Rue, Katniss is neither heroic nor a selfless martyr. Her first person narrative is a wise decision on account of Susan Collins, as we find out, Katniss indeed calculates each step before making any move. Despite her iconic representation as the immortal-adapted mockingjay, she has no immediate plans of leading an organized protest against the president and taking over authority. Should Peeta or Gale ask for an easy death, her decision is not drawn by emotions aroused by memories, rather the consequences of their absent role on their mission or the advantage it would play to the Capitol should they get caught. No sobbing, no weeping, if anything, Katniss plays focused on her objectives while the boys gamble their lives to protect hers.

Is her behavior justified under the pressure of a nation-wide rebellion? Should she be wronged to mistrust anyone as an ally besides Peeta, even when they help her? Is it right to calculate saving Peeta Mellark when the odds favor his death? Only the book shall reveal, but accept my disbelief when I realize the author made no mistake in her depiction of Katniss. And this is evident when the half-asleep lady eavesdrops on Gale and Peeta’s conversation about whom she would choose. Her best buddy Gale makes it obvious “Oh, that’s easy. She’ll pick the one she can’t survive without” Ouch. Harsh words from a close friend. Who will she choose? The boy she can never deserve even in a hundred lifetimes (in her mentor Haymitch’s words), or her best friend who can protect and provide for their families? Do they survive? Does Panem intend another Hunger Games for them? Answers lie among the pages of the latest cult trilogy. As for you my dear reader, Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Ali Mostafa’s words of wisdom

The last panel on day one of Comic Con featured Ali F. Mostafa along with other guests, a valuable conversation for aspiring scriptwriters and filmmakers in the region. Stay tuned for his upcoming project about friends planning a road trip from Abu Dhabi to Beirut, aptly titled From A to B. Here are some words of wisdom straight from the man who created City of Life.

Ali F. Mostafa, an iconic figure for filmmakers in the region. (Photo by Vivin Oommen)

The power of believing in yourself……..
“Regardless of the film you wanna make, whatever genre is, the most important thing as a filmmaker is to stay true to yourself. Like if you have this idea and you truly believe in it, and I can sit there and have coffee with you and if I could see the passion pouring out of your pores, I would believe you. As an investor I’d probably believe in you”

Success is……..
“Success could be making a lot of money at the box office, or getting international distribution. Then wherever you’re from, whoever’s watching your film, it’s because you put your heart and soul”

For aspiring filmmakers pursuing passion projects, what is it that they shouldn’t do…..
“What not to do, is don’t give up. Regardless of how many doors slam in your face, if you truly believe in it do it, whether it’s in a year or ten years. It took me three and a half years to make and for some people that’s nothing”

On a last note Ali. F. Mostafa admits he’s not a fan of the Star Wars prequels, “I’m a little old school, I grew up loving Star Wars, one of the most iconic themes, costumes and I always wanted to own one and ride around town on my cycle. What I loved about Star Wars is……..(George Lucas) took something when they didn’t really have CGI or special effects and he made something that we can sit and watch till this day……at a time when (you’d think) how can they do that?”

Lets hope his next project gathers more success than City of Life.

Coming up tomorrow, John Rhys Davies’ insider news of The Hobbit and an exclusive 10-minute preview of Peter Jackson’s latest installment to the Lord of the Rings series.

Laurie Holden’s inside scoop on Walking Dead season 3

The charming blond lady playing Andrea in the popular zombie series Walking Dead, dropped by Middle East comic con in Dubai. Her first time in Dubai, she called the visit a magical moment and was thrilled to venture across the city’s first comic con.

Following the hooking season finale of Walking Dead led by a hooded figure, Laurie Holden confirms the figure is indeed a woman, “The comic book fans would know, the figure is a woman, her name is Michonne”(sources have confirmed Danai Gurira to play the zombie-pet owner Michonne)

Regarding Andrea’s relationship with Michonne in the following season, Holden was glad to add, “Although I haven’t read the script, I have been inside the creative rooms and I can say Andrea and Michonne are going to be  amazing friends” Is she afraid the script-writers might hack her character at some point from the story? “It’s really heart-breaking when one of the characters dies because this is a very unique show. It’s very grueling, the weather’s like the sun in Dubai, it’s very emotional and we’re very close with one another, we’ve become very good friends. When one of us is written off the show it’s really rather devastating to say goodbye to a family member………..I’m hoping I don’t have a death anytime soon”

Laurie Holden hopes her character would live longer in season 3 (original photo by Vivin Oommen)

When asked if she thought the show would be a huge success at a time when Vampires and werewolves were the highlight of pop culture, Holden grinned “We didn’t expect such a huge response, I mean vampires are sexy, zombies are not. But they’ve been embraced internationally and I think there’s a reason for that. I think at a time of crisis…… I think there’s a tropical fear that people have and it’s in the air, and our zombies are a metaphor for the global economic crisis, for global warming, when the world’s uncertain”

About her thoughts on Andrea’s journey in season 3, Holden expressed her concern for retaining her character’s empathy “I hope no more people that I love die, I’m very grateful that she’s not suicidal anymore and she’s empowered herself and is becoming more of a survivor. I don’t know how long Andrea’s gonna live but I hope she falls in love, I hope she builds great friendships, I hope she kills a lot of zombies. I hope they build a new life somewhere, with peace at least for a while”

That was Laurie Holden spilling the beans on season 3. Watch out for more spoilers from John Rhys Davies about the legendary Lord of The Rings’ prequel The Hobbit and Max Landis talking about Chronicle 2. Coming up soooon!

Lo galore! Cosplay in Dubai

I would really pity you if you missed out on the most colorful and whacky convention in Dubai. The one place where dressing up weird is ‘in’ and being normal is as good as non-existent. Today’s your last chance to attend and witness the first Middle East Film and Comic Con so rampage your closet, hunt for that weird tee you would never want to be caught dead with and parade around Dubai International Marine Club.

As for my fellow cosplay enthusiasts, here are some of the displays from Day 1 of Comic con (original photos by Vivin Oommen) More photos coming up!

Were you there? What did you think of the first comic con in the Middle East?

Day 1 of MEFCC: Event bio

I believe one day of awesomeness cannot be wrapped up in a single article. I’d rather break it down to three or more articles. The first Comic Con that people in the Middle East have witnessed has only begun. What was expected to be a haven for comic book fans and film enthusiasts was an exciting showdown of costly talent that would’ve never been recognized, graphic artists in the region we never knew existed, some of the rarest comic copies ranging between AED 2000- AED 10,000 (No, joke), comic merchandise we would never have bothered investing and workshops featuring relevant expertise. See why I can’t include everything in one post?

To start off with, let’s talk about the guests and fans attending this event. Comic Con is one event that has centered and focused on fans all over the world. Dubai would be no different, providing access to celebrities Q & A sessions, workshops, autograph signage (a tad bit expensive on that one) and interacting with celebrities throughout the day. Shahbaaz Ali Khan, an avid fan of Walking Dead graphic novels and the live action series was amazed to meet Laurie Holden in person. Max Landis, the most outspoken and animated person I’ve met shared a few spoilers of the Chronicle sequel, John Rhys Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings) commented on how the LOTR catered to an intelligent audience and that The Hobbit would be a 3D experience of it’s own kind. Jason Momoa joined fans for a rather spontaneous and charming Q & A session in the evening. Turns out the tribal leader Khal Drogo is actually a softie in reality, “My wife asks me to do the dishes, I say ‘Yes, mam’….what can I say, I’m a softie”

Laurie Holden describes her visit to Dubai "this is a magical moment to be here" (photo by Vivin Oommen)

Press conference panel featuring John Rhys Davies, Luciana Carro, Sammy Clark, Laurie Holden, Jihad Al Atrash and Ben (organizer of event) (photo by Vivin Oommen)

John Rhys Davies re-enacting a scene from Lord of the Rings (photo by Vivin Oommen)

Max Landis (sreenwriter of Chronicle) surprised that people watched his movie from the Middle East. (photo by Vivin Oommen)

The animated Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) in session with fans. (photo by Vivin Oommen)

Located at the Dubai International Marine Club, there was ample room for the convention hall, an SAE green screen, the grassy arena for main stage activities including cosplay contest, workshop room to learn from the guests, the VOX movie club which hosted Q & A sessions and movie screenings.

The nazi zombie who stole Max Landis' heart at the cosplay contest (photo by Vivin Oommen)

The one place you get to witness and meet comic fans from Dubai, do not miss out on the second day of MEFCC, also the last one. This is history in the making, just the start of the comic world unravelling in the Middle East.

Grounded for more than a year, yet adamant on objective

Just when you thought keeping him on house arrest could stop this man. Watch this man interview some of the most controversial individuals each week.

7 things you ought to know about Comic Con in Dubai:


#1 Screening of movies such as Star Trek, The Matrix on the first day and Harry Potter (and the Philosopher’s Stone) on the second day ending with Thor!

#2 Exclusive stalls set up by exhibitors selling mangos, comics, gaming zone, costumes etc

#3 Some pretty exciting trailers, few of which will be premiered at Comic Con!

#4 A rock climbing challenge for the adventurous. Whoever reaches the top, wins a pair of tickets for Amazing Spiderman 3D!

#5 I wouldn’t even have to guess which anime got you started on reading japanese manga. Naruto episodes are up for a show at the MEFCC main stage!

#6 Think you’re the biggest otaku out her win Dubai? Challenge yourself with comic con’s Otaku Quiz.

#7 And finally *whispers* there’s an after-party for all comic con fans. P.S. you have to be above 21 years old.

The end of one film festival marks the beginning of another

Another film festival has come to an end and with the closing ceremony has revealed promising talents. The live stream of this ceremony is available on youtube here. Watch the Middle East’s young talent receiving the recognition they completely deserve.
The Gulf Film Festival is one of the few international forums set up for young Arab talent to prosper and spread wings. Competitions set up before the launch of the festival encourage local cinema talent to participate and expose their skills along with fellow aspiring peers.
Although GFF has come to an end, watch out for Tropfest Arabia, the world’s largest short film festival set to begin again at Abu Dhabi.