Failing to become a filmmaker, this author aspires to turn the story of his efforts into a film
Cairo: It’s hard to believe that following decades of a futile search for a cinematic career abroad, a man would end up looking for a film director to turn the story of his struggle to become a filmmaker into a movie.
But this is exactly the case with Samuel Shimon.
Shimon released “An Iraqi in Paris which is officially distributed by Dar Afaq, that celebrated the launch Thursday with a special function at their Qasr Al Aini branch.
A powerful autobiographical novel, “An Iraqi in Paris depicts Shimon’s journey from Baghdad in 1980 to England, where he is currently a journalist and culture editor.
First authored and published in Arabic by Al Jamal, Beirut, the book was translated in late 2005 into English and published by Banipal Books. According to the author, a French version will shortly be released.
“An Iraqi in Paris is a story replete with ambition, mishaps, disappointment and hope that could be best captured by reading the book, has received rave reviews by Arab and non-Arab critics.
When Shimon, an Assyrian Iraqi, set off from Iraq, he was heading to Hollywood, the object his dreams as a young man. Since he was a child, he has wanted to be an international filmmaker and did not compromise on the American film hub as a starting point.
Fate, however, had willed otherwise.
“I was a refugee, said Shimon. “To have headed directly to the US was virtually impossible. After a few ventures I managed to settle down in Paris. But from there I failed to make any further move because of my refugee status.
In Paris he lived between bars, metro stations, friends dreaming to write a film script about his father, a deaf and dumb baker and how Robert de Niro would play the lead.
It was difficult for him to break into the French film scene for considerations like language and other cultural and political obstacles.
His ambition to become a filmmaker started paling to become a remote dream – as remote as the distance between Paris and Hollywood.
As he earned his own living doing odd jobs, he started writing short stories and then poetry.
He finally came up with a text about his childhood and wretched hometown in Habbaniyah, Iraq.
The short stories that highlighted glimpses of his own life were finally compiled edited in “An Iraqi in Paris.
“I am looking for a filmmaker to turn the book into a film, said Shimon who has come to Cairo to release the book at the Cairo International Book Fair.
For Shimon the production could crown a struggle, which, despite the fact that it did not end in any tangible achievement, has yielded a work that, according to critics, was composed with “a keenly cinematographic and unflinching eye for detail.
On his way to France, Shimon stumbled upon many regions, peoples, incidents and events. During the launch, he read out a passage where he describes his visit to Pere Chaise, a Parisian graveyard where some French luminaries like Marcel Proust are buried.
“For me the visit to this yard was significant in as far as they conjure up his dream to become as great as those deceased, said Shimon. “I have always wondered if those great people’s souls had talked to each other.
“But one time as I was walking between the graves, my eyes fell on the name Francois!
I was shocked because Francois, a reporter that I happened to meet in Beirut, was killed by a shower of Israeli bullets as he did his work reporting an Israeli massacre.
“At that very moment I came to realize that there are people who fall short of their aspirations not only because of hardships but also owing to the inescapable reality of death. This is life.