Monthly Archives: May 2011

Do NOT rain on my parade!

Standard

Typically karaoke conjures up snapshots of terrible wailing sounds, cringe worthy dancing and awkward mishaps in an attempt to keep up with the virtual cue cards.

But this is New York City and I didn’t account for the fact that the residents here are either successful or failed theatre performers (or in finance) and inevitably are not only comfortable with a microphone but annoyingly capable with it to boot! So here I am itching to get on that stage (of course any stage would do) sitting in the famous Stonewall Inn, watching time and again punters taking to the stage, attempting and succeeding at some show tune or highly challenging ballad. Usually it doesn’t take much for me to volunteer my services as ‘destroyer of all songs’ but I tend to find that in previous karaoke experiences I am in good company. Now the nerves are setting in.

But since I am never shy for long, and I feel the stage is urging me to jump aboard, I am soon to extinguish any thoughts of remaining as the sensible swaying wallflower and I keenly jog/run to the compere and offer my ‘skills’. He is more than dubious I can tell. Maybe it is because I announce immediately that I can’t sing but yet still want to fill the room with my amplified warbling. But seeing that now he has no choice and as is custom, once I open my mouth and my nationality is revealed (i.e. not from the US), I am prime target as an object of ridicule.

“Pick a number. 3,4 or 5. And I will choose a song for you”

“Oh no sir. I am without talent in the singing department and it is probably best for all involved if I choose the song so that at least I know the words and can dance a bit to distract you all?”

“Get on that stage NOW.”

“OK”

And so it began. The intro to an American cult song that I barely know but have heard enough times that I feel I can wing it yet strain my vocal chords enough to thoroughly distress the quietly beer-sipping crowd. Indeed I struggle throughout and feel quite relieved that the amps are pointing away from me so I don’t feel the brunt of my own curse.

“Should she stay for an encore or GET OFF”, he roared as I made my way off the raised platform.

“STAY STAY STAY” they screamed against their better judgement it seems.

“Well,” I announced on the mic, “If I am to sing another track I will have to pick my own. If you don’t mind?”

“Go on then”

“Don’t Rain on my Parade please”.

Oh no, I thought, why did I say that? Oh Beth you silly girl you just picked a BARBARA STREISAND show tune. You couldn’t sing the last one and that was easy enough. Now you want to go ahead and hazard a singalong to one of the greatest voices of all time? And WHERE is your fur hat and orange dress? WHERE is the train platform and WHERE, might I ask, is Mr Arnstein? One definitely needs a studio set to do this one justice. I just can’t get a break.

Michael the host laughs heartily. His tone is somewhat surprised. In truth he is baffled and cannot hide it. How rude. Seemingly (from his tuneful and quite lovely voice) he is one of the failed theatre NYC residents and is quite bemused by my choice of song after already hearing what I can and definitely CANNOT do.

“You went from that track to DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE? You REALLY went there?”

Yeah OK don’t rub it in. My ambition is clearly unfathomable to YOU. YOU who would obviously nail this number!

Intro starts. My blood is rushing in my veins. My heart is beating so fast that I think it might be visible through my H&M summer day dress ($12.95 for a WHOLE dress in this city? I bought it for the novelty factor). I chose the song for the simple fact that in my panic I can only recall show tunes as for the last hour all I have heard from this talented crowd is a musicals medley. It is also an obvious choice in my naive head as I often click on that Funny Girl clip on Youtube and strut around in my room. March actually, as if on a railway platform. I sing at the top of my lungs and noone criticises me. Noone mocks me, and I am always free to perform the whole piece in its dramatic entirety. To my utter pleasure. Plus the unhighlighted words have appeared on the screen now so there is no turning back. So sit still everyone I also have actions to this!

I march a bit. I gesticulate enthusiastically. I sing horrendously. In fact I feel my voice disappearing as I falter at the bit where she is “beating that drum”. I gave it everything I had. My heart was truly “a drum-a” as I saw the flamboyant members of the crowd (typically all of them) marching, with a variety of improvised props, up and down the bar, wishing so desperately they too were Fannie Brice and Mr Arnstein was just around the corner.

I would love to say I got a standing ovation. But I can’t since that would be a lie. Instead I got a free shot (maybe they didn’t have any chocolate?) and I was eagerly guided offstage and back to my seat. One man did shake my hand though, “Very brave young lady. Incredibly brave.” And that my friends is all the encouragement I needed.

Next stop. Broadway!

Advertisements

King Jacobi

Standard

Donmar Warehouse presents “King Lear”, William Shakespeare’s play about a vain king who turns away his most beloved daughter Cordelia and is betrayed by his two eldest daughters as they make an attempt on his kingdom. All ends in tragedy as Mr Shakespeare so often commands.

Having received rave reviews in London, King Lear played by Sir Derek Jacobi, was arriving in New York City. Sir Derek has famously refused the role of King Lear for many years now claiming he was just not old enough to take on the part. For over a decade interviewers have interrogated Jacobi about when he will finally play Lear, since his 400 odd performances as Hamlet have set him apart as the actor for Shakespeare’s other colossus. Jacobi is now 72. He is 7 years off Lear’s textual age and now he feels ready. Not simply, he says, to look old enough, but to feel it. To understand the man. This king who will give up his kingdom to his daughters and spend most of the play going insane as they betray him.

But with this role comes huge responsibility and expectation. A veteran of the stage, Jacobi has made a career out of bringing to life Shakespeare’s greatest characters. In this role he has already been lauded, even before he treads the boards, as the greatest King Lear ever.

“I do get very nervous. Very nervous. And the pressures are much bigger now. There was a lovely actress called Dorothy Tutin and she always said that there were three categories of actor. The first one was “young and talented”, which is a great category to be in. You’ve got youth on your side, and you’re the rank outsider in the race. You’ve got everything to play for, nothing to lose. Then you become, if you’re lucky, “experienced and successful”. You’ve got work, you’re making a living, and you’re also getting wonderful experience. And then there’s the last one, which is “distinguished and acclaimed”. And that’s where the pressure is. Now you’re the favourite in the race, you have to win or come a good second. Now people are putting money on you to win.”

Unfortunately for him then as he suffers tremendously from stage fright. So much so he had to stop acting for a time when it became overwhelmingly acute. And you can imagine why with the pressure of being the greatest Lear of all time? Quite the burden.

Brought up by two devoted parents I could not attempt to report it better than The Guardian did last November in an interview with Jacobi:

His father left school at 13 and worked in a tobacconist’s in Chingford, and his mother at a draper’s in Leyton. But one of Jacobi’s other great strokes of luck was to have been born in the golden age of social mobility: he was able to launch himself into a career in drama after winning a place at the local grammar school, and a full state scholarship to Cambridge.

“It’s true. Those student tuition fees now…”

“Do you think you’d have still gone to university, if they’d be around then?”

“I would if the money was available. My parents worked all their lives and they would have bust a gut to help me out. They were amazingly supportive – because I went into a world they knew nothing about, and the little they did know was a bit scary.”

His parents do sound particularly doting. He was the adored only child – his birth was so difficult that his mother swore she wouldn’t have another. Born in 1938, he didn’t really see his father until the war was over. I read a story, I say, about how they gave you a car for your 21st…?

“They did! I tend to well up every time I hear that story. I’d come home from Cambridge for the weekend and Dad said, ‘Can you go to the shop and get me a paper?’ So I came back and he said, ‘Oh I’ve forgotten something, can you get me some cigarettes?’ So I went back, and they were both standing on the front doorstep. And I said, ‘What’s going on?’ And they said, ‘Didn’t you notice anything?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And they said, ‘A car? A red Ford Popular?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And they said, ‘Did you not see anything on the steering wheel?’ And there was this great silver key! I said, ‘How the hell have you managed to buy me a car?’ And my mum said, ‘Well we saved up ten bob a week since the day you were born.’ The slowest burn in the world. And they waited 21 years for the satisfaction that gave them. Just extraordinary. So, yes! I think they would have found the tuition fees!”

It is a remarkable story, and his eyes really have welled up. He stayed close to them throughout his life, finally losing his father when he was 90. For years, though, that was about as much as anyone knew about his private life. He’s never really put himself forward. He’s never done a chat show, or had much of a public persona, part of the reason perhaps he’s always been able to blend so seamlessly into his roles. He’s managed to have the kind of career that doesn’t seem to exist now: he really is famous for the work, not for himself. For years, he maintained that he lived alone in north London. Then just over five years ago, he went on record about his sexuality, that he’s gay, had been with the same partner for nearly 30 years – “someone from outside the business who remains nameless”, according to one interviewer.

My eyes fill up just reading this again. I was sat on the 5th row. I could see every flicker of expression and his uncontrollable raging at his two eldest daughters who had undermined their father in their pursuit of power. His emotion was so raw and his reverberating voice so intoxicating that in the end I could hardly bear the final scene as he carries his beloved daughter Cordelia onstage, hung dead. This fate entirely set in motion by his blindness to the truth. His mind is gone now. He has steadily gone mad as his wicked eldest girls Goneril and Regan plotted to remove his position once and for all. He literally howls as he is torn apart by the guilt of his vanity. Cordelia could not express her love for her father when he demanded it at the onset. He wanted unyielding flattery, something the other two could offer in abundance, but Cordelia loved her father unconditionally and chose to show her devotion without compliment.

“You have begot me, bred me, loved me.

I return those duties back as are right fit

Obey you, love you and most honour you.”

The play is far more complex than Lear choosing flattery over truth and being stung because of it. The simple, white washed walls that provide the backdrop to this tragedy aim to demonstrate pure goodness tainted by evil. And there is plenty of that. The brutal scene as Gloucester, a nobleman faithful to Lear, is violently blinded by Regan’s husband Cornwall and who then attempts to take his own life only to be saved by his banished legitimate son Edgar is one such moment. Edgar is posing as a beggar, “Poor Tom”, to avoid being punished for plotting to kill his father. A plot that was entirely fabricated by Gloucester’s illegitimate son Edmund in order to take the birthright, and perhaps the love, he so desperately craves. In true Shakespearian style, if you don’t read the synopsis (and more) before you sit down it can be a cruel 3 and a half hours of complicated plot. But I was prepared and so was able to absorb every move and every word Jacobi uttered. And soon I too was back in England on my way to Dover with Lear as the build up to the tragic climax rolled on.

This is the final scene and as Lear holds his daughter in his arms we see why this man was destined for the part. His career has been long and illustrious and he is absolutely exhausted tonight. He has given everything in this physically and emotionally tormenting play and I just have an urge to jump up and howl with him. As an aside Cordelia is the deadest creature I have ever seen. Her limp arms and heavy head are picked up and placed down by Lear and his aides repeatedly and she does not bat an eyelid. I even went home thinking I should practice such a feat. How could one appear so dead, so convincingly. This voiceless final performance nearly upstaged Jacobi. But not quite. He looked ravaged and old on the stage. Absolutely drained as he came to take his bow with his outstanding cast, including Gina McGee from Notting Hill as his evil daughter Goneril. The audience was on their feet (as is usual in these parts) but I had the distinct impression as I scanned the faces of my fellow theatre goers that this was sincere. Jacobi had earned this rousing applause and it was showing in his worn out expression.

I cannot urge you enough to see this performance. I may have just witnessed the greatest Lear of all time. And I am feeling very smug about it.

Helluo librorum

Standard

A glutton for books? Why yes I am. And teamed with my desire to challenge and be challenged, I decided to combine my love of all things papery with my love of a good mystery.

So here goes. Since my last challenge, of visiting a huge Hot Dog joint (Crif Dogs), picking up an old fashioned telephone receiver, dialing a single digit and waiting for the entrance to appear into a secret, underground speakeasy, I was keen to bounce back with an equally bizarre task! Incidentally, the title of my last adventure was Please Don’t Tell so that is unfortunately all I can reveal of that escapade.

I should mention at this point that I have been recently involved in the Twitter following of a certain escapee. By the name of MIA (Missing In Action). Mia is in fact a renegade Egyptian Cobra (a venomous variety of serpent) who managed to squirm her way past the tightly regulated security at the Bronx Zoo and spend a pleasant few days in the city enjoying all the sights and sounds it has to offer. I was enchanted, some might say, by the witty and constant updates covering Mia’s adventures in the Big Apple and became quite the fan of this cheeky legless beast.

– Got a bagel at H & H Bagels on upper west side. When I ordered I said, “I’ll have the snakes on a PLAIN.” He did not laugh. Tough crowd

– Getting my morning coffee at the Mudtruck. Don’t even talk to me until I’ve had my morning coffee. Seriously, don’t. I’m venomous.

– Dear @CharlieSheen, know what’s better than tiger’s blood? Cobra venom. #winning #snakeonthetown Also I’m 20 inches long. Just sayin’.

– Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious!

– What does it take to get a cab in this city?! It’s cause I’m not white isn’t it.

So now you know the back story hopefully you can sympathise more with the challenge I am about to set. Having recently acquired my library card for the New York Public Library (mainly for the Ghostbusters library facility known as the Schwarzman Building) I was primed to instigate the clue.

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

With a small slip of paper and a book call number one can conjure up any book in the stacks (after a short wait in the majestic Main Reading Room of this historic book emporium).

Majestic Main Reading Room

So having researched an appropriate title beforehand I summoned:

“The Serpent’s Tale: snakes in folklore and literature” edited by Gregory McNamee

for obvious reasons!

15 minutes later and I was presented with a rather bland brown cover of a book composed of tales of snake-y folklore. I was happy to discover one such tale was primarily concerned with a cobra and I pounced. Having previously browsed the library for continuations of my clue trail I was struck by an elegant print of a comet by Antonia Contro. Not knowing this artist but loving comets nonetheless I decided he would be my unrelated treasure hunt finale to this challenge. So armed with a crisp, fresh, but not too sticky post it note (respect for books is essential and has always been an important lesson in my upbringing) I inscribed the following and placed it firmly (but not too firmly) on the cobra’s page:

Dear J, Hello and welcome to the first clue in your compound challenge. Please now try to locate the celestial object depicted in a print currently showing in the Schwarzman Building by a certain Antonia Contro. The identification of this object will be classified as a successful challenge completed.

Then carefully I closed the book, eager not to make my outlawed actions too obvious, and marched discreetly back to the Return Books counter. I smiled unconvincingly at the librarian, suspiciously handing over the book as if, perhaps, I had smuggled something within it’s pages? However, she failed to register my guilt and proceeded to pile the tales of serpents on an already formed ‘return to stacks’ shelf. Breathing a sigh of relief I pondered over my latest challenge. What clue to give my fellow competitor? How little could I reveal while still making the task doable? Simply the call number. It would be cryptic but altogether achievable in the same measure.

This is your clue for the latest challenge: JFD 00-17606. Good luck 😉

And it was. The challenge had been posed and all I could do was wait.

One day later…….

Soon after posting the clue to my fellow contestant I received the unfortunate news that having first acquired a library card and subsequently calling the aforementioned book from the stacks my ‘opposition’ was informed that the book in question had been regrettably MIS SHELVED! So disappointing. He should call back in a week or so to see if had been retrieved.

He did and it hadn’t. Now we are in the unlucky position that the book may never be located since one can only imagine how many books must be housed in the cellars of this magnficently huge library.

A stunted and unsatisfactory end to this challenge you might say? Yes quite. Well I await my next challenge and will just have to keep the comet print stored firmly in my memory. A secret.

Pret or not. Here I come.

Standard

She is always misplacing me that girl. Her mind, like a sieve, has me abandoned in toilet booths and on sink tops waiting, patiently I might add, for a moment of recollection. Maybe she needed to check the time and having no watch to speak of I am always her first port of call. When she reaches down into the bag to press a key and illuminate her on this matter she will be left confused. As I am no longer in that bag, nor in her pocket, nope not even the jacket pocket. Now she is panicking. And will have to once more retrace her steps in the hope of stumbling upon me (which is why I stay put in these instances).

Usually I am alone for about 20 minutes or so but this time, after our daily trip to Pret A Manger I lie, slightly obscured from view by a granola bar, on the bench top. I am starting to worry a little. People come and go, that crayfish salad sandwich is ever so popular, each one ignoring me as they rush back to their office jobs or to sit awhile in a park somewhere to spend some time with their food and their thoughts. Getting frustrated with her now I am vibrating, some might say with rage, others might say it was a text message. Then my granola shelter shifts and a small, sticky hand reaches up, seemingly without an owner, to grab at my shiny exterior. Gummy paws of a toddler are suffocating me. I watch his mother intently, for soon she should realise I am not her child’s toy and I should be put right back to where I was stationed, until my true master returns apologetically to retrieve me. She looks hassled. Her hair is all tangled and some strands are plastered over her face as she tries to manage a mountain of necessities that overflow from the pushchair. Her bag is bottomless, she seems to think, as she rummages deep down to find the correct change for her much needed lunch. Crayfish no less. She is distracted to the point of futility. I fear she is not my ally here and moments before she is done settling up I go right into the compact pocket of my treacly friend. Now I am blind. Unable to track my course as we bump along the path to our next destination I sense the terrain is altered. The smooth, occasional jolt of the concrete is now soft, a more serene grass perhaps is underwheel. And then we stop. My “protector” hops out of his seat and begins to run around in no particular order. He, too, is excited by the green turf. But, like with many toddlers he gets overwhelmed by the joy of freedom and the outdoors and his stubby legs flail outwards gathering increasing momentum until his training, thus far in life, reaches it’s limit and he topples head first into the soft lawn. At the exact same moment his pocket relieves me of my trap and I bounce lightly along the green to be hidden again from sight.

Days pass. Days of loneliness and the desperation that comes with no hope. Not one ounce of hope since neither master nor I have any clue as to my whereabouts. I shiver and as light turns to dark and back to light again I have no faith in my salvation. I drift off. Shivering as I warn myself and anyone close by, if only, that I am dying. My life force is diminishing as the dusky light flickers and day again transforms into night. I have a faint recollection, a dream as I fade, of a bounding creature snuffling around my grave. Nudging me to stay awake and even slobbering all over me in what I take to be encouragement but he probably wanted a bite to eat. I cannot oblige. My strength evades me and I sleep.

Beep beep. Beep beep. What’s that beepin’ now? Is this the afterlife for mobile devices? Have I left the world of portable communication to a heaven of unlimited minutes and texts with no need for any added bundles? Nope someone just charged me. I shiver again. Still without optimism I dread to discover my fate. Oh no wait it was just another text.

“Please return me. It is essential for my thesis that I am reunited with my phone. (Being an architectural student) I am wholly reliant on the numbers contained herein and so I urge you to please return this silvery piece of technology to my college. The details are…..”

As the blurry image before me eases into clarity I see a smile on a young student’s face. She brushes off the last hardened scrap of mud tarnishing my shiny look and pops me in a padded envelope for what will turn out to be my final adventure on my time away from J. Still unsure of my ultimate end I am a little anxious but there was something in that smile that made me feel warm inside (or was it just that I was fully charged at last?) Something kind in those eyes that urged me to feel calm and safe. I was delivered securely to the Porter’s Lodge and collected shortly afterward by my master, who had missed me dearly. I could tell. She was so delighted to have me back in her life that she called everyone she knew to tell them of my mysterious adventures, which I overheard had me ‘missing in action’ for over one whole month. I was quite proud of myself in fact. I had survived a child, a park, the outdoor fluctuations in temperature in England, a dog and a student. I am made of some strong stuff. I was happy.

As we wandered back to our home, like something out of a Jane Austen novel, I was out of danger and in one piece. We climbed the deep wooden staircase and opened the door to our cosy abode. And there lying on her desk was a…… a Nokia!!!! What the….???

Successful adventures can be a confidence booster. Look at my new air of arrogance!

This is in no way intended to reflect the views or actions/experiences of any sisters I may have and any similarities that this tale may refer to are purely coincidental. I will say however that both my sister’s recently returned phone and the narrator of this piece are of identical branding but again this is entirely by chance.

My introduction to the world of geeky chic

Standard

A few weeks ago a friend of a friend (yes I have indirect friends in the city now) was showcasing her very chic spectacles at a housewarming party. I was immediately taken with these “spectacular” items and was moved to ask where she had acquired them. Fabulous Fanny’s. Enough said.

Ansel: Black

I have been pining for the geek chic look now for several months and yesterday I managed to take that final step towards making my entrance into the world of Geek Chic. Fabulous Fanny’s is a small store in the East Village on a street of vintage clothes shops, tiny independent stores and antiques galore. As soon as you step into this retro world of glasses you are presented with an array of choice. From vintage Chanel to Dior, Bausch and Lomb to Willis and Geiger. From sunglasses to cateyes, metal frames to tortoise shell plastic, oversized to skinny frames. I defy anyone to come away wanting.

1900s oval

Although having said that I did come away wanting. Wanting too many frames. I was spiralling quickly into the world of the Geek. I would soon be parading around Manhattan making a statement. Whether I wanted to or not. I was going incognito. I was in disguise from myself. The M&S girl of plain T shirts and a cardigan or two was going to be on show permanently. I would be accessorising my face and was sure to be photographed at some point or another and that next audition would definitely be going my way. I was sure of it.

1980s J. C. de Castelbajac

So after selecting the frames that best suited my round chubby cheeks and my desire to go “oversized” I took my newly acquired chic downtown to Canal Street. One needs the lenses to see where one is going after all. Sat now in the heart of Chinatown I get my eyes checked and hand over copious amounts of toy-like cash to the opticians who humour me on my mission to look cool. Wanting all the frames and wanting instant gratification to boot I was slightly deflated as I walked back out onto Mott Street wearing my contact lenses and not my society eyewear. Next Sunday just you wait. I will pick up my pass to Planet Groovy and flaunt it around like I am on a stage. In fact I might just find a stage and strut about on it! People will see me better that way.

Tribeca Film Festival

Standard

It’s New York. It’s movies.

I think most people would agree that this city is synonymous with film and definitely with Mr Robert De Niro. For anyone who follows my tweets and facebook status updates that so often refer to my potentially endless search of the Raging Bull himself, I think you’ll agree this is THE event for me. Movies and The Godfather of movies all wrapped up in one delicious weekly dose. I’m ready Bob.

Established in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival aims to motivate a cultural and economic rebirth of the lower Manhattan district through an annual gala of film, music and culture. And 10 years on, it was a perfect time to get involved in the projected festivities. With the help of my film super fan sister we scoured the programme to try to make the most of the films and talks on offer. So when the day of booking arrived, I was poised and ready to get my hands on the top picks. No time for hesitations. 11am came and I clicked and confirmed to set me up for a week of film and famous chats.

First up was a film called “NEDS” (standing for Non-Educated Delinquents in this instance but was originally a derogatory term used in Scotland from the 1960s onwards referring to individuals involved in teenage gang violence). This Glaswegian flick directed by Peter Mullan, of Braveheart and Trainspotting fame, is a story of knife crime set in ’70s Scotland and it was not for the fainthearted. I was immediately confused however as the film began with subtitles transcribing every single word (some, I admit, were not officially part of the English language). Distracting to say the least I struggled to tear my eyes away from the accompanying text, which I supposed in some cases provided no clarity to a non-UK audience.

This was a story of John McGill, a young bright 10 year old with a no-good older brother. Thriving in class and at home, this swot of the school is even the Latin teacher’s favourite pupil. We follow him growing up, sure he is set for bigger things than the backdrop of a criminal brother and a wife beating father. But the pressures of his unruly and downright violent peers becomes too much. Bundled together with the low expectations of all who associate John McGill with his loser family the stresses of his surroundings eventually build up to one fateful summer. Our “hero” finally gives in to all around him as he is led astray and onto the vicious streets of Glasgow’s poor housing estates. The violence is often cruel and could only be moderated in parts by Mullan’s use of music to soothe the tone. One brutal collision between gangs plays to the tune of Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” and this persuaded me, at least, to take my hands away from my eyes. When I asked Peter Mullan after the performance why he had chosen some of the less obvious soundtrack he admitted that the choices had worried him somewhat. Particularly that track. He didn’t want to take away from the harrowing violence of the youths but he felt it was a turning point for John McGill. In his life of never quite fitting in, this was the moment he finally came to belong. But from here on in, there was no turning back.

A great start to the festival and what a treat to get the director’s perspective at the end with his wonderful cast grinning as the crowd applauded their visceral performances.

Next on the Ashbridge programme was a documentary called “Love Hate Love” followed by a panel of the cast and filmmakers to answer some questions. I was attracted (I have to admit it) by the promise of Executive Producer Sean Penn. Having missed out on a ticket for Alec Baldwin interviewing “The Bourne Identity” director Doug Liman on the same night (watch that here. It is a hoot: Alec Baldwin and Doug Liman), I chose this documentary, not for it’s content alas, but more for the guarantee of seeing Mr Penn in the flesh. Don’t ask me why! I have no logical answer. Anyway, I scuttle off work bang on 5 o’ clock to make it downtown in time to secure a front row seat. I did, to my credit, also check out the premise to the documentary the night before so as to appear more clued up on the proceedings. Having said that, even though I now knew that 3 stories would be told. 3 stories of loss after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, London and in Bali in 2002 and indeed knowing myself and my weak tear ducts I still failed to pack any tissues to cover it. 2 minutes in and I resembled a meek panda. Meek as I cowered in my seat to hide the blubbering mess from my dry eyed neighbours (tough crowd) and panda-like for the oversight in wearing too much mascara on weepy documentary day.

From left to right: Dana Nachman, Don Hardy, Ben Tillpan, Sean “Milk” Penn, a producer, Liz Alderman, Stephen Alderman and Esther Hyman

The documentary makers Dana Nachman and Don Hardy had seamlessly tied 3 quite different (yet all too similar) stories of tremendous loss so that we, the audience, could learn from their drive and strength as they turned their grief and anger around into a more optimistic future. The Alderman’s had lost their 25 year old son in the 9/11 attacks. He didn’t even work in the World Trade Center. From that tragedy the couple had begun a journey to make sense of their loss. They used money they received from the government to build mental health clinics (the 11th will be opened later this year) under the banner of the Peter C. Alderman Foundation, in countries where tragedies from civil war and terrorism are all too common. In Rwanda, Cambodia, Haiti and Uganda we follow this couple trying to set up a vital service with the aim of bringing traumatised victims back to a life of normality. Back to a functioning existence. Their motivation was breathtaking.

Esther Hyman lost her sister Miriam in the London bombings. Having escaped the underground she had boarded the fateful bus that blew up less than an hour later. Esther and her family wanted to honour their Miriam. To keep active so that sadness did not overwhelm them. They now support, through the Miriam Hyman Memorial Trust, an eye clinic in Orissa, India, raising funds and applying for grants to build new facilities and buy essential equipment to heal children who may not be able to find treatment otherwise.

Ben Tullipan, unlike the others, witnessed his story of terrorism. He lost both his legs, and his hearing is now severely impaired, when a vehicle bomb exploded outside a hotel in Bali. He has not only proved his doctor’s wrong by walking again but he actively supports and mentors new amputees in their struggle to come to terms with their loss. One in particular is Kyle, a young boy who lost his legs and fingers to Meningitis. Ben takes Kyle on trips to play Minature Golf and to the beach. He shows him he is not alone in his loss and life can be just as fulfilling walking with artificial limbs. He himself still supports the damaged tourist industry of Bali by continuing to stock his store (Unique Living) with the wares that he finds there.

After the final credits roll off the screen the limelight was justifiably on the stars of the show. Sean Penn sat discreetly (as a movie star could muster) in the middle eager not to receive any congratulations for his small role in the making of this film. He is quick to point out that he made the sum total of six phone calls to expedite the process of making this film but that Dana, Don and the willingness of these fantastic people who have suffered unbearable loss were to be praised.

So what started out as a celebrity spotting event turned into an inspirational perspective on what makes for a true star. And having used up every inch of my shirt sleeve to mop up the tears I made my way home with a skip in my step and a blinding headache.

Now it is Friday and I am again off for a VIP event. Martin Scorsese and a Malian director by the name of Souleymane Cissé are in conversation in Chelsea. Scorsese relays how at 1am one morning he was browsing the hundreds of US TV channels when he stumbled upon a film that immediately grabbed his attention. Suddenly it is 3am and he has been lost for hours in the world of Souleymane Cissé. Excited to share his experience he tells everyone he knows, including a Parisian audience he is presenting to a few weeks later. What he didn’t know was that Mr Cissé was in the audience and soon after they meet and now collaborate on The Film Foundation. A venture to preserve film for the future, Scorsese founded this NGO in 1990, which has helped to save 545 motion pictures to date. We get to see some footage of Cissé’s films which provide the perfect context to what makes film so culturally and historically relevant. Stories of hidden traditions. Snapshots of a time told through the eyes of the true natives. The first hand narrative is invaluable and by working to piece together all the great works that inspired so many great filmmakers is a great initial step towards building up the ultimate back catalog of film history. One such film, Cissé remembers from growing up, was produced by a Turkish filmmaker living in Istanbul. They manage to track him down and bargain to acquire the only remaining film reel of this work of art. It had been gathering dust in a cupboard in his home. Now it is restored and available again to everyone!

Manchia Diawara, Souleymane Cissé, Martin Scorsese and their moderator Glenn Kenny discuss The Film Foundation

Tribeca done. I’m exhausted. But can I just say.

Roll on next year.