It’s Mine Awareness Day; and 10 poor victims will be caught unawares

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In Land of Mine, the second world war has just ended but young German prisoners are kept on to clear Denmark’s beaches of 1.4 million landmines. The fatalities were horrendous.

Today, April 4, is International Mine Awareness Day, as designated by the United Nations. I mention this for two reasons. First, there is a fantastic new film on the topic, Land of Mine (a finalist in the Oscars this year), and I was telling my friends in Romance-language speaking countries about it – the related vocabulary is further down this post. Second, the film brought back memories of my own experience in this regard – in my youth in Africa I was once on the back of a truck that detonated a landmine. Fortunately it was a reinforced vehicle and the injuries were minimal. It’s far worse if you tread on one.

Landmines may seem like a thing of the past but here are some facts that will shock you.

  • In 64 countries around the world, there are an estimated 110 million undetonated
    landmines still lodged in the ground.
  • Since 1975, landmines have killed or maimed more than one million people.
  • On average, 10 people die every day due to landmine blasts.
  • Even with training, mine disposal experts expect that for every 5000 mines cleared,
    one worker will be killed and two workers will be injured by accidental explosions.

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These details came from the press kit for Land Of Mine, which has just opened in Australia. The Danish mine-clearing campaign was shocking for a number of reasons.

  • It was a violation of the 1929 Convention relating to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
  • An estimated 2600 POWS were forced to do it. Some were as young as 13.
  • Half of them were killed or injured.

So much for the grim statistics. The film is marvellous and uplifting for the way it shows how, even in the tensest of times, it is possible to break down enmities, to see a friend instead of a a foe – something that I wish political fanatics and bigots all over the world could do today. Do see the movie if you can.

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VOCABULARY

How do you say “landmine” and “to explode” in my five Romance languages?

  • In French, mine terrestre; exploser
  • In Italian, mina terrestreesplodere
  • In Portuguese, mina terrestre; explodir
  • In Romanian, mină terestră or mină de uscat. (When I asked a Romanian friend he said “something like teren minat” but that’s his story.) a exploda, a detona
  • In Spanish, mina de tierra, hacer volar/estaliar/explotar

Photographs supplied courtesy of Palace Films.

Tic-tac, here comes the year of the Rooster

roosterJanuary 2017 has almost gone. The Chinese new year is about to dawn on us. How time flies! What do you plan to achieve in 2017 or in the Year of the Rooster? You’d better hurry, because the clocks are ticking. According to reputable dictionaries (that is, the ones I probably paid way too much money for), in French and Romanian they go tic-tac; in Italian it’s tic tac without a hyphen; in Portuguese tique-taque; in Spanish tictac.

What we need now is a tic-tac song to gee us up. Oh look, here’s one! Even better, the video features waves gently lapping the shore – a symbol of constant, regular motion – and there are nice melodies floating around in it. It’s by Vescan and Mahia Beldo (although only the former appears in the video) and the song has made the Romanian top 10.

What’s it all about? Basically, he is missing the passing of dulce copilărie, or sweet childhood. You can find a rather awkward translation of the lyrics into English here (plus translations into German, Russian and Spanish).

HOW TO SAY ‘TIME FLIES’ IN THE FIVE ROMANCE LANGUAGES

  • French: le temps passe vite
  • Italian: il tempo vola
  • Portuguese: o tempo voa
  • Romanian: timpul zboara
  • Spanish: el tiempo vuela or el tiempo corre (runs)

Although I am not fond of rapping, I do like a lot of the music that Vescan has been involved in – he usually teams up with good singers (an example is Poza de album with Mellina, featured on this post here). In Tic-tac I am impressed with Mahia’s vocals. Here the two perform together live on radio.

How would you like to have Vescan as your language teacher? I think he would be entertaining. No chance of falling asleep in one of his classes!

roosterA happy Year of the Rooster to you

For some amusement, if these things appeals to you, you can find your Chinese new year horoscopes here, but you have to know what animal you are. Find out here.

I’m a rat!

 

 

The foreigners at the BAFTAs

After the recent excitement of the Golden Globes, attention turned today to the BAFTA nominations. The British Academy of Film And Television Arts released its list of 2017 award nominees and, as expected the Hollywood musical La La Land dominated, scoring 11 nominations.

The foreign language film contenders did not include the Golden Globe-winning French film Elle, because it has not yet opened in England, so it will probably be a contender in the 2018 BAFTAs.

But there were French connections. One of the nominees was Dheepan, which looks at the lives of Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka to settle in France. Cheerful stuff!

Spanish is another Romance language that gets a role at the BAFTAs, in the form of Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta.

I am a great fan of Pedro Almodóvar and will always go to see his films at the cinema, but I must confess  Julieta left me a little cold. That said, I have friends who have raved about it.

Turkish-born French director  Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang (in Turkish), which was an Oscar contender last year and also won four César awards in 2016, is also a BAFTA contender, as is the 2016 best foreign film Oscar winner Son of Saul (in Hungarian). Completing the list is the German comedy Toni Erdmann, which I will talk about in a later post.

The BAFTA awards will take place in London on February 12.

The Andes, Iguazu and La Ley: what more could you want?

Recently I had the chance to travel to South America – mostly to Brazil, so that was great for my Portuguese, and to a lesser extent in the Spanish-speaking part: Chile and Argentina, to take in the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls (Iguaçu in Portuguese), which, let me tell you, are spectacular. Below are a couple of pics I took with my iPhone, which got a soaking during the day.

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Iguazu Falls … multi-layered and magnificent . Photo: Bernard O’Shea

I was also very lucky to have a window seat while flying over the Andes mountains at sunset (heading east from Santiago to Rio de Janeiro). At the top of this post, and below, are two of the photos I took on that memorable journey.

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While I was in Chile I was excited to find out that my favourite Chilean band – in fact, my favourite Spanish-singer artists in the whole wide mundo – La Ley, had re-formed and brought out a new album this year, called Adaptación, their first since 2003.

Here’s my favourite track from it.

There are 12 songs on the album, two of which are in English. The opening track is also appealing. Here’s a studio clip of it.

I hope you enjoyed this visual and aural foray into South America.

Colombian films shine at Spanish Film Festival

The Spanish Film Festival is in full swing in Australia and as usual it has been great to go along and catch some of the action. Sydney and Melbourne got the first bite at the olive this year and are in the “back by popular demand” stage, putting on extra sessions of the most popular films. But Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart still have a lot to look forward to. Here’s the official festival trailer.

One film I was very keen to see was Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo de la Serpiente), the first Colombian film to be nominated for an Oscar, in the Best Foreign Film category. If you ever get the chance to see it, go! It was fantastic, visually stunning and very thought-provoking. It’s a must-see film for anyone who wants to know about life on the Amazon river and in the jungle.

It is also a linguistic feast: English, Cubeo, Wanano, Tikuna, Huitoto, Okaina, Latin, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and German with English subtitles! I guess not many films can beat that.

Check out the trailer.

GREAT ARTICLES ABOUT THE FILM, DIRECTOR AND ACTORS 

Much as I like a good film, I also like a good review of it to match (there’s nothing more off-putting than a tedious review of a great film). The best review I have read of Embrace of the Serpent is this one by Jordan Hoffman in The Guardian.

There are also two interviews I found that are well worth reading:
  • one with the director Ciro Guerra – “I spent five years on this movie because I wanted to take a trip to the unknown. I was tired of the Western way of life, where humans are virtual avatars instead of people. I wanted to see if there was another way of living, and I found it.
  • and the other with a 30-year-old man of Cubeo origin who plays the younger version of the shaman Karamakate – Nilbio Torres had never been to the cinema before and had never heard of the Oscars, until he acted in a film that got nominated for one.

ANOTHER COLOMBIAN FILM TO LOOK OUT FOR 

While I was watching Embrace of the Serpent, a friend of mine who is the arts editor of a newspaper in Canberra was taking in Breathless Time (Tiempo Sin Aire) in the national capital. She texted me after to say it was “amazing”.

For information on all the films in this year’s festival and screening times, the Festival website is here.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

Palace cinemas are putting on Cine Latino: A New Festival of Latin American Cinema over a two-week period in August, plus there is the Sydney Latin American Film Festival in September.

Frenchmania – A French night in Bucharest

If you have ever wondered how French sounds when spoken or sung by a Romanian (yes, you have thought about this a lot, haven’t you) well here is your chance to find out.

The Institut Française Roumanie in Bucharest recently held a musical gala to promote the French language, and les meilleurs artistes roumains sont venus chanter (top Romanian artists came along to sing). For some, it was quite a challenge, as Dorian Popa explains in a mix of French and Romanian before doing a cover of Maître Gims’ Bella.

If you are not familiar with Maître Gims, you should be! Read about him on my post Sounds of France via Africa. Here is the original version of Bella.

Dorian Popa is a popular pop-rap singer in Romania  who is also well known for his rippling muscles, bulging pecs and formidable six-pack. I’ve selected this clip of this duet with Ruby because it has a lot of footage in Paris and I prefer it to his solo efforts.

So, who else took part in the French soirée? One singer I really like, Keo (I will do a post  on him shortly) does a great cover of Le Vent Nous Portera (The wind will take/carry us), which was a big hit in Europe for the group Noir Désir in 2001.

Adrian (Adi) Despot, who is a member of the band Vița de Vi, did a cover of one of my favourite songs by the band Indochine, Tes Yeux Noirs (Your black eyes).

Here’s Indochine doing the much loved song at one of their tremendous gigs.

I also really like this version, recorded with an orchestra in Hanoi.

A French concert wouldn’t be a French concert without a really romantic ballad. Cornel Ilie, the lead singer of Vunk, steps up for a rendition of Je Te Le Dis Quand Même (I’ll tell you anyway).

Here is the version released in by Patrick Bruel, a prolific French actor and singer.

This upbeat live version shows how well the song has stood the test of time.

Alexandra Ungureanu came on stage to do I Need You More which has verses in French.

Here is the single version that she did with Crush and Leslie. It’s chirpy!

To finish, here’s Keo again, to say he loved you, he loves you and will love you.

That song was originally a single released in 1994 by Francis Cabral. Here is a clip from YouTube which has Romanian subtitles.

 

C’est fini, bonne nuit!

The French film festival est arrivée!

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The adventures continue for big shaggy dog Belle and Sebastian (Felix Bossuet) in the splendid French countryside, and this time they have Gabriele (Thylane Blondeau) to help.

À vos marques, prêts? partez! The Alliance Française French Film Festival 2016 starts today in Australia, so here’s a look at more enticing offerings to add to the great films I’ve already mentioned.

Alpine adventures

A really enjoyable film at the festival a couple of years ago was Belle et Sébastien, a gripping story of the French resistance, dangerous alpine crossings and survival during the second world war, based on the popular novel of the same name by Cécile Aubrey. This year you can see the sequel Belle et Sébastien, l’aventure continue (Belle and Sebastian: The adventure continues). Rather than a battle to outwit the Nazis, this time it is a plane crash in the Alps that triggers the action. If you are a dog lover you must see this (cat lovers, you too!).

Writer’s block and shock

One thriller I will definitely be going to see is Un homme idéal (A Perfect Man). For one thing, it stars the hottest French actor of the moment, Pierre Niney, who won the César Award for Best Actor in 2014 for playing the title role in Yves Saint Laurent. For another thing, it involves a topic close to my heart, creative writing. Niney plays a loser, Mathieu Vassuer, who stumbles across a completed novel manuscript and passes it off as his own and becomes an overnight sensation.

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Ouch, that hurt! Mathieu (Pierre Niney) inspects the damage.

But perhaps stealing someone else’s work wasn’t such a good idea after all – someone might seek revenge. Mathieu becomes more bloodied and bruised as the film progresses, and his world starts to crumble. Plus he has to come up with a second novel. Good writing isn’t easy!

I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles on it, but if you don’t understand French, at least the one below will give you some idea of the mounting suspense.

 

A waiting game

It’s always good to see Juliette Binoche on the big screen and she is back in L’Attente (The Wait). She plays Anna, who lives in a beautiful Sicilian villa, and gets a surprise when her son’s supposed girlfriend Jeanna (Lou de Laage) pitches up at her door, having apparently been invited to spend Easter there by her beau. But where is the son, Giuseppe? I guess we will have to wait to find out.

Long live foreign language films!

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

This year the festival will feature 48 films in the following places:

  • Sydney, March 1-24
  • Melbourne, March 2-24
  • Canberra, March 3-29
  • Brisbane, March 11-April 3
  • Perth, March 16-April 7
  • Adelaide, March 31-April 24
  • Casula, April 7-10
  • Parramatta, April 7-10
  • Hobart, April 28-May 4

Film stills provided courtesy of the French Film Festival.

Happy weekend! Take a liking to Like Us

It’s the weekend! Who can’t be happy about that? To perk you up, listen to Portuguese band Like Us‘s homage to the Fim De Semana. and be sure to play it loud. (To help you understand this song a bit, here are the Portuguese days of the week).

Who are Like Us?

Well, they are a Portuguese boy band that has been cobbled together for some reason, but their songs have catchy thumping choruses – surprisingly, as Portuguese music is usually pretty restrained. Apparently their names are João, Daniel, David e Francisco, but don’t ask me which is which. The next video is a rather clumsily cobbled medley of their better known songs (some in English). I’ve included it so you can get a feel for them and see what they look like. But for the rest of the post I will use videos that show the lyrics or letras.

Headbanging in the subjunctive

The next song is full of verbs in subjective mood, including the title Se Tu Quiseres. In English the equivalent would be “if you want” or “if you like“, but in Portuguese it’s the conjuntivo/subjuntivo futuro – “if you will like“, because on a literal time scale the enjoyment is not happening at the moment, it is still to come.

Blown away at a party

Boy goes to  party, sees someone beautiful dancing, goes crazy all of a sudden and wants to abscond with them Longe (literally “long“, but here more like “far way“).

Boy band bonanza bonus track!!!!!

I know that by now you just can’t get enough of Portuguese boy bands, so just to knock your socks off here are Cláudio, Tiago, Valter, Daniel e James – otherwise known as No Stress. They were “a nova boy band portuguesa por quem todos esperavam” (the new Portuguese boy band that we have all been waiting for), remember? But now they are the superseded new boy band, I guess.

So, there you go. Where are all the girl groups?

Nicoleta Nuca, INNA and Antonia – what a combination!

Hello, I just made an exciting discovery, a very different yet surprisingly lovely version of a Romanian/Moldovan pop song I really liked last year, Nu Sunt, by Nicoleta Nuca (it was first mentioned on this post). This one, though, features not only Nicoleta but two other superb contemporary Romanian singers, INNA and Antonia. INNA’s the one on the left, Nicoleta is in the middle and Antonia is on the right. Three beautiful women singing a beautiful song in a beautiful language. Check it out

Just as interesting is this version, recorded by Nicoleta – who hails from Moldova – with the Chisinau Youth Orchestra.

To give you some idea of what the song is about here is a snippet of the lyrics taken from the Versuri.Ro website:

Ultimul moment, ultimul regret / Mi-a ajuns! / Tot ce am avut, oricum s-a pierdut/ 
Tu nu vezi? / Nu sunt doar un trofeu pe patul tău

This is the last time, the last regret. / I’ve had enough! / All I had has been lost anyway / Don’t you see? / I’m not just a trophy on your bed.

For the record, here is the original version of the song.


Nicoleta, who was a contestant on the Romanian X Factor talent show, followed that up with another catchy hit, Linistea, which means “peace” or “silence”.

Her latest is Inima Mea (My Heart).

So, what of the other singers, INNA and Antonia? I’ve featured both on this blog before. INNA is probably Romania’s best known contemporary singer and has managed to conquer the English language market (and she sometimes dabbles in other Romance languages). Here is a recent international hit.

Antonia (her full name is Antonia Clara Iobescu) was born in Bucharest but her family moved to the United States when she was five, and she has had a very successful career as a model as well as a singer. Most of her output has been in English but she has linked up with a number of Romanian singers in the past few years, including veteran Romanian groups Holograf and Vunk. Here is a sample of her work.

 

I hope you enjoyed this peek into the music of Eastern European Romance language countries.

Cheers

Catching up with Carla’s Dreams

Carla’s Dreams are a group from Chisinau in Moldova who make some really interesting music (singing in both Romanian and Russian and occasionally English).

I really like their latest single, Te Rog (which is a familiar form of saying “please”; vă rog is the formal form). I like the handclapping and eastern influences (I feel I could do a kind of flamenco belly dance to this).

If you want to sing along, here is a clip with versuri (the lyrics) and you can find translations of all the songs mentioned in this post on this Lyrics Translate web page.

Carla’s Dreams first came to my attention when their duet with Inna (probably Romania’s best known singer) P. O.H.U.I. was a huge hit a couple of years ago. (It’s on my post Join the Inna circle). Rather than replay it, I’ve chosen this clip without Inna, and with the words on show.

Carla’s Dreams have notched up a notable achievement recently. Cum Du Noi (which translates as what/how we feel for each other), their duet with the popular Delia (Delia Matache –  I have written about her often before, just type ‘Delia’ in the search field), was the first song in the Romanian language to get more than 10 million views on YouTube within a month of its release (it’s up to more than 30 million now). It’s a song which annoys me and seduces me at the same time!

 

I’ve made some other exciting musical discoveries recently – stay tuned! Cheers