Lebanese director Pam Nasr discusses her debut film ‘Clams Casino’

A still from the short film 'Clams Casino'. (Supplied)
Updated 09 January 2019

Lebanese director Pam Nasr discusses her debut film ‘Clams Casino’

DUBAI: “When we see something strange, if we’ve never been exposed to anything like it, we tend to push it away. But I was really interested in this phenomenon. There was so much to discover about it, and I was attracted to the human aspect of why people partake in it and why it’s so popular. Like, why does it exist?”




A still from the short film 'Clams Casino'. (Supplied)

Lebanese filmmaker Pam Nasr is talking about mukbang — a craze that began in South Korea and is basically a live stream of someone eating a large amount of food. Nasr’s first film, a short called ‘Clams Casino,’ which premiered in the region in Dubai last month, is based around the phenomenon. A young woman who lives with her mother, with whom she has a difficult relationship, spends hours collecting seafood, cooking it, setting it out beautifully on the table, and dressing up in order to eat it in front of a webcam.
“It stems from loneliness,” Nasr says. “Mukbang is kind of a solution to loneliness, and — at the same time — these performers make a lot of money from eating online.”
While some viewers, she says, are watching for fetishistic reasons, most “watch it because they’re lonely and they want to have someone to eat with.” Nasr recalls, as a child, arriving home from school each day and dining by herself, as the rest of her family had already eaten.
“I asked my family if someone would wait and eat with me,” she says. “In Lebanon, and in many other cultures too, the art of cooking for someone (and eating together) is such a way of delivering your love to them. So I really connected to this when I was studying Mukbang. It was a beautiful learning curve for me. And I hope for many others who watch ‘Clams Casino.’”




Filmmaker Pam Nasr. (Supplied)

The Q&A session that followed the Dubai screening was the longest she’s had so far (having toured several festivals in America with the movie). “A lot of people really connected to it and understood what I was doing.” In particular, Nasr was moved by an exchange with a young college student who told her that a friend in college had been going through a tough time and was watching a lot of mukbang.
“She was very tearful. She said that after watching my film, she understood her friend a lot more. My heart went out to her,” Nasr says. “There were a lot of intimate moments like that at the screening. It was really beautiful.”


Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. (Supplied)
Updated 14 November 2019

Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

CHENNAI: Movies on World War II have delighted cinema audiences for years. Nobody can forget the daring Allied escape in the 1965 “Von Ryan’s Express” with Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard driving a train through Nazi-occupied territory.

There were others in that decade and earlier such as David Lean’s “The Bridge on the River Kwai” about British prisoners of war building a railway in malaria-infested Burma (now Myanmar). These were great classics, but recent efforts have not been as memorable.

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Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. Despite audiences still being thirsty for WWII sagas and a star-studded cast (Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Ed Skrein and Nick Jonas), the film is unmoving, mainly because of the shallow characters. If the dialogues are stiff, the dramatic potential – including the relationship among the men – appears to have been left midway.

The film begins with Japan’s December 1941 air attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, which dragged America into the conflict, and the flick follows America’s revenge mission culminating in the June 1942 Battle of Midway.

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For the US, it was a victory against all odds giving them control of the Pacific’s Midway atoll. It was also a major triumph of human spirit, but the film does not quite capture it.

Most of the exploits relate to real-life fighter pilot Dick Best (Skrein), whose devil-may-care attitude earns him the title “cowboy.” His wife Ann (Moore), the only female character, urges him on but seems a washed-out figure. However, there is plenty of action in the air with dog fights, bombings and pilots ejecting from burning planes high above the ground.

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For fans of singer Jonas, his small but significant part may appeal. He is sailor Bruno Gaido whose spontaneous and heroic action during a Japanese raid earns him promotion.

“Midway” plays at three levels, including one about Japanese military officers, and was shot in Hawaii and Montreal with a lot of computer graphics thrown in. The camera work (Robby Baumgartner) is impressive, but somewhere the soul is missing, and the characters fail to come across as real people.

Despite this, the film opened atop the North American box office last weekend with a reported $17.5 million in ticket sales.