Friday, May 25, 2018

Catching Feelings

I just watched the South African film "Catching Feelings" by director-actor Kagiso Lediga. It came up as a suggestion on Netflix and I jumped on it. The cinematography left me with massive nostalgia for Johannesburg: the jacaranda-lined streets, the gray skies, the unique vibe, and oh that accent...I so miss that accent! But it wasn't all purple blossoms and good times: there was also realistic portrayal of the challenges in urban South Africa: drunk driving, bribing police, fenced and guarded homes and accompanying race-based fear, immediate discrimination of the main character by both whites and blacks when he loses his shoes and appears poor and possibly homeless, shantytown tourism by wealthy white foreigners, sexism, cell phone addiction, and in general lots of moral ambiguity.

I found it interesting that there was a distinction between Cape Town's racial situation (the only black people in a hip, upscale restaurant are the main character's party and the waiters; the student body at the university is majority white) and that of Joburg (portrayal of many middle and upper-middle class blacks with prominent positions in companies and academic institutions; nice restaurants and social events with racially diverse patrons; mixed race couples and friends groups; university student body majority black).

Although the movie is about an unhappy marriage and the moral boundaries of the main couple and their friends, the subtext is all about identity and racial politics (to paraphrase the main character, "I'm South African, everything is about race"). I appreciated that the film's perspective was not Eurocentric, and as an American I was interested in the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between our racial issues and those in South Africa. While I really enjoyed the film overall, I found the characters to be over-acted and many of the scenarios unbelievable, in particular the white "old man" author and how readily he is able to influence the main character and his wife, and how he is invited into their home. White privilege was brought up in the film but not explored very much, and I found it of note that colorism was not discussed at all (although it was most definitely present). Also how about those double standards regarding cheating for the main character and his wife?? And actually for the men in general? Ugh.

The role of alcohol and drugs in the film also struck me. The movie is basically about moral choices and behavioral gray area, and in 100% of the moments where characters make a critical move, they are massively drunk or high. It was frustrating to watch seemingly intelligent, educated, cultured, and independent characters lose all their willpower and convictions anytime alcohol is offered. Again, like the white privilege issue, there was a moment where the partying was scrutinized (Is this a problem? Do I need to be worried about you?), but instead of further exploring it, the questioner just jumped on the bandwagon and went bottoms up herself.

I guess I have a lot of critical points, and the movie definitely left me with a lot of food for thought. Overall, I definitely recommend it and am happy I took a chance on a random Netflix suggestion.

A final note is that the soundtrack to Catching Feelings was excellent. Tracks are listed below:

Chimanga – Dorothy Masuka
Let Me Live – Mpho Pholo & Moneoa Moshesh
Lenyora – Philip Tabane
Mama Liza – The Movers
Ngud (Ilala Vuka) – Kwesta featuring Casper Nyovest
Mahlalela (A.K.A Lazy Bones) by Letta Mbulu
Noma Themba – Letta Mbulu
Voice Inside – Lerato Moiloa
Joburg Girl – MXO
Ngubani Gama Lakho – MXO
Jungle Fever – MXO
Bring Back the Love – MXO
iZolo – MXO
Soweto Disco – The Movers
Why are you here – Ishmael Osekre
UNH! – Philip Tabane
Vidala Para Mi Sombra – Juana Pires Rafael and Ariel Zamonsky
100KMACASETTE by Okmalumkoolkat
Monsieur Bon Bon – Ebenhaezer Dibakwane
Mpahlenkulu – Mabiza and Zah
I Need You – David Kibuuka

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Belated Mom Love

A bit late, but better than never! Happy belated birthday to my Mama, and Happy Mother's Day as well. We had a great time celebrating her bday at a local nursery called Annie's Annuals. It's a literal oasis tucked away in an industrial and somewhat blighted corner of North Richmond. So many lush and unusual plants and flowers, truly a delight for the senses. My mom, who is a master gardener, was in heaven. Roberto and I were very inspired too.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Book Three

Sunset from Hawaii's Big Island, understanding what this next phase is all about.

If moving to Mozambique was Book One, moving to California and starting art school was Book Two, then this is Book Three. I am still based in the Bay Area but the cast of characters is significantly different, as is my perspective. I feel deeply moved to write these days, but found myself questioning whether it was right to continue blogging here, in this space that is all about homes I no longer live in, a career I no longer have, and a man I am no longer married to.

Despite all that has changed, this is still the place where I feel the most comfortable sharing, documenting, and processing my life. I remind myself there is no "wrong" in continuing to write my own story, even if the space is imbued in memories of Books One and Two. What a blessing, really, to have this record to look back upon.

Thirteen years have gone by since I started this blog on a rainy evening in Austin. I am now 36, working as an artist and translator, married to a soulful Brazilian cinematographer named Roberto. We met in San Francisco through a mutual friend, a beautiful story for another day. We live in a light-filled apartment about 10 minutes away from my mom's house. My days are spent making jewelry and painting in my studio, interpreting in hospitals and at welfare appointments, and translating technical documents. Roberto spends his time going to ESL school and working on various film and video projects. Life is good.

At some point I'll share some photos, perhaps from our wedding at City Hall, or from recent travel to Hawaii, New Mexico, and Italy/Slovenia. And I'll share stories. There are SO many stories from the last two years that I want to get out before the details dull. But for now, a small synopsis of Book Three thus far:

  • I healed my heart from the end of a marriage, relationship, partnership, and friendship
  • I lived with my mom for 1.5 years for the first time since I was 15
  • I started working as an interpreter
  • I reconnected with my roots in the Italy/Slovenia border region
  • I opened myself to finding love again, and did!
  • I lived in San Francisco for 6 months with Roberto in a shared apartment in the very foggy Outer Richmond neighborhood, and eventually rented a place of our own in the East Bay. 
  • I realized that I want to be a mother. 
  • We got pregnant!!
  • We found out at 13 weeks that our baby had Turner's Syndrome and the pregnancy was not viable.
  • We lost the baby at 14 weeks.
  • We got married!! (Very strange to be celebrating and grieving at the same time).
  • I have a new name - Ali Ambrosio!!
  • My dad was diagnosed with cancer (again) and had major surgery. Thankfully he's now recovering.
  • Roberto had a heart attack (he is 40 and otherwise healthy) and we discovered he has several congenital heart defects. So so so grateful he received treatment and is now seemingly okay.
  • Contemplated moving to the Big Island of Hawaii (the tropics were calling big time, but we realized our destiny is elsewhere)
  • Currently figuring out how to make life work in the Bay Area, with a medium-term plan to spend half our time in Italy/Slovenia.
So far Book Three has been dizzyingly intense. You can understand why I need to write again. Looking forward to sharing here frequently, I've missed blogging and missed interacting with you, my lovely readers, if any of you are still out there after all this time. :)