Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spielberg's Munich and the Nights

 Steven Spielberg's film Munich (2005) also contains references to The 1001 Nights (why not!). I couldn't find a clip of the particular scene. The movie, about a group of Israeli assassins targeting and attempting to kill 11 people throughout Europe and Lebanon and elsewhere, tries to complicate notions of country/government/revenge. The group's targets, according to Israeli intelligence, were all part of the 1972 Olympic killings of Israeli athletes. The movie is based on real events.

The group's first target is Wael Zwaiter (aka Zuaiter - in Rome. Zwaiter was a Palestinian translator working for the PLO and the Libyan Embassy who was also translating the Nights into Italian. The film shows Zwaiter at a cafe in Rome giving a lecture about the Nights and storytelling before heading to his apartment building and being shot in front of an elevator inside.

The real life Zwaiter was killed while holding a copy of the Nights. He did not finish his Italian translation. In the film his lecture was also a book reading of his finished product, however.

Here is the sequence of his killing (no mention of the Nights here though):

Zwaiter is also considered by some to have been wrongly targeted and to have had no connection with the 1972 Oympic killings.

Here is a video (in English) about him and his killing, it shows the copy of the Nights he had with a bullet hole in it (looks like the Bulaq version):

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pushkin and the Nights

Alexander Pushkin ( needs little introduction, but I've not heard of his relationship with the Nights until today. Apparently a lot of his Russian folktales were actually riffs on the Nights.

The following is from Roman Jakobson's excellent essay/chapter "On Russian Fairy Tales" (there is a symbol above the "s" in Puskin that I cannot duplicate here in blogger) -

"Puskin could not confine himself to the remarkable achievements with which he crowned the century-old triumphal way of Russian poetry, and during the last period of his brief life-span (1799-1837) he tried to enrich modern Russian fiction by laying a foundation of native prose. From this quest emerges his interest in folk tales. He knew the folk tales thoroughly and recorded them, but, strange as it may seem, his own imitations of fairy tales are based, for the most part, on French translations of the Arabian Nights, the brothers Grimm or Washington Irving, rather than on Russian folklore. Likewise, it is curious that none of Puskin's fairy tales are composed in prose and that most of them are in a metre foreign to the Russian tale. Most surprising of all, he none the less succeeded in capturing the spirit and tone of the Russian folk tale. For instance, in his famous Tale of the Golden Cockerel Puskin simply retells Irving's Legend of the Arabian Astrologer [itself from?], and he does it in trochaic tetrameter, alien to Russian folk tales; yet both Russian and American readers, willy-nilly, associate this pastiche with Russian folklore" (188).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (Ferdinand Zecca, 1905)

Here is the short silent Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs from France (Ferdinand Zecca, 1905). Other release dates I've seen have included 1902.

More on Zecca -

Monday, February 17, 2014

1001 Nights Souq Bahrain

Bahrain is going to get Arabian Nighted. Every Friday and Saturday until May 31, the Al Areen Palace and Spa will host a costumed Arabian bazaar where you can buy jewelry, perfume and other things while presumably engaging with a sense of the Nights created by the decorated stalls, costumed performers and other elements.

21st century touches include ATV riding and jumpy houses.

From their website -


"A Brand New type of retail experience TOTALLY THEMED retail sales area with non-stop family entertainment that will be a day out for all the family, where they can shop, eat, drink, be entertained and fascinated."

"The “1001 Nights Souq”, an Aladdin-style medieval themed market complete with authentic stalls and vendors role-playing medieval characters will be launched on March 7.

Thousands of items will be on sale, including silver jewellery, perfumes, incense, fancy candles, clay pots, brass trays, ornaments, spices, nuts and candies, leather goods and handmade items.

The market will cover several distinct areas such as retail market stalls, staging area where lively performances from entertainers will be featured, camel rides, horse rides and carriages, children’s play area, falconers, strolling musicians, Moroccan style water seller, acrobatics, magicians, jugglers, fire eaters, etc. A living museum including – blacksmith, calligraphy, brass decoration and other artesan products will also be included."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sinbad The Fifth Voyage (2014)

Here is the trailer for the new film Sinbad The Fifth Voyage ("Inspired by the Arabian Nights!") from Giant Flick Films. Many thanks to Paul for passing this on.

Some of the exaggerated accents by the actors in the clip are particularly interesting ("Sunbod"?). The effects seem like a mix of Harryhausen inspired monsters and costumed actors with model sets ala Godzilla. AKA "Epic!"

Sinbad The Fifth Voyage was released February 7 of this year in limited screenings in the USA.

Patrick Stewart stars as a narrator.

More information (including "behind the scenes" video clips) at -

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ali Baba - San Juan Puerto Rico

Was strolling through a rainy summer afternoon last year in San Juan Puerto Rico's Condado district as we all must do at some point. Came across this on the sidewalk, it's a Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant that is apparently quite good. They were closed that day, but will have to try it next time.