Adonis Diaries

Notes and comments on FB and Twitter.

We are all cowards, in more than one way, and we know it. Please, desist from reminding us of that.

Né intelligent and paria, Riabinine n’a cure des prejudices des nobles: il aime manipuler et detrousser poliment ces seigneurs et leur system imbecile.

Les efforts de la volonté (decision et intention): if faut beaucoup de pratiques pour que la routine reduit effectivement et suffisamment ces efforts

Je n’aurais jamais credité les pauvres de grandeur d’ame pour les plus aisés sous pretexte des injustices de la vie. Poor people mostly hate the other poors: They sense that they match their deficiencies et remind them of their lamentable conditions.

The minor poetes generated the greater ones. Invest in the research of the minor poetes as a catalyst for a fresh new wave of great poetes.

Ce farouche ennemi qu’ offensait le respect, qu’importunait la plainte… est dompté et apprivoisé par son amour d’Aricie

Cet orgueil, nourri dans les forets, il en a la rudesse. Endurci par de sauvages lois, Hippolyte entend parler d’amour pour la premiere fois.

Who is the poete of all time? Again, in which language? I can read in the original French, English and Arabic. I may say: Racine in French, Shakespeare in English, Al Motanabi in Arabic. I would have picked Abu Nawwass if he invested any time in editing and publishing his abundant and versatile poems.

The spread of knowledge and sciences didn’t make a dent on the ratio of the suckered people every day. That is why proactive laws must be enacted to keep the money in the pocket of the bamboozled by institutions and associations.

The tribe that owned the monopoly over the idol of the greatest Abstract God Allah was constantly broke. The well-off tribes owned the practical demi-God idols.

Nothing has changed: It is the Saints who are generating the wealth of the churches.

Human kind will be better off if he adored the good people after their death, instead of an abstract God whose deeds are malignant to the living.

I listened to the speech of Thomas Moore last night in Wisconsin. He was demanding Not to use the voting booth as an “anger management” right. You will feel good for a day, and be hurt for 4 years.

Vivons-nous dans l’angoisse du manqué? Apres une fete, un bouillant nous rend heureux de l’instant present: On a moins mais on en profit plus.

On ne gout un plaisir que parce qu’ on le sait ephemere et unique. Il ne suit pas que ce qui est ephemere doit generer du plaisir: Il faut de la pratique et perseverance pour decouvrir comment render l’ ephemere essential a une vie satisfaisante.

Persevere at you most cherished hobby: keep working the details for perfection to flow.

Modern Lebanon and Syria: No sciences or a valid national anthem. Traditions of the land that refused any King, a people without civic rights, a soul Not confined within a Temple. A land surviving on ancient spirit, myths with roots as deep and sprawling as antiquity. The original chaos left intact, surrounded by symbols and illusional hopes. A hotbed for civilizations that spread and re-arranged this peaceful chaos into national codes and organizations

Through my diaries, I got convinced that falling in love must be a story: You don’t accede to passionate love until you tasted the burning of hell (May Mennassa)

La paix au Proche-Orient en sept échecs

La conférence de Paris pour la paix dimanche va réunir de nombreux pays. Un effort de plus dans la longue liste des initiatives pour tenter de régler le conflit israélo-palestinien

La conférence de paix sur le conflit israélo-palestinien prévue dimanche à Paris se déroule à cinq jours de la prise de pouvoirs par Donald Trump à la présidence des États-Unis.

La question reste entière sur ses intentions pour tenter de résoudre le conflit. Elle s’ajoute à une série d’initiatives internationales depuis les accords d’Oslo en 1993 pour tenter de régler ce conflit, vieux de plus de soixante ans. Qui n’est toujours pas réglé.

François Hollande lui-même se dit “lucide” sur l’importance de cette conférence

1. Les accords d’Oslo, les premiers d’une longue série

Le 13 septembre 1993, après six mois de négociations secrètes à Oslo, Israël et l’ Organisation de libération de la Palestine (OLP) se reconnaissent mutuellement et signent à Washington en présence du président Bill Clinton une “Déclaration de principes” sur une autonomie palestinienne transitoire de cinq ans. (Israel didn’t recognize the right of return of Palestinians to their homeland, according to UN resolution 198)

Cette autonomie débute le 4 mai 1994 avec un accord au Caire prévoyant qu’Israël évacue 70% de la bande de Gaza et Jéricho (Cisjordanie).

En juillet, le chef de l’OLP Yasser Arafat retourne dans les territoires palestiniens, après 27 ans d’exil.

Il y établit l’Autorité palestinienne.

Le 28 septembre 1995, un nouvel accord intérimaire (Oslo II) est signé à Washington sur l’extension de l’autonomie en Cisjordanie, portant sur des retraits israéliens.

Mais le 4 novembre, le Premier ministre israélien Yitzhak Rabin est assassiné par un extrémiste juif opposé au processus de paix.

2. Les accords de Wye Plantation

Le 23 octobre 1998, Yasser Arafat et le Premier ministre israélien de droite Benjamin Netanyahu, opposé aux accord d’Oslo, signent à Wye Plantation aux États-Unis un accord intérimaire sur les modalités d’un retrait israélien de 13% de la Cisjordanie.

Les Palestiniens doivent annuler leur charte qui appelle à la destruction d’Israël. Mais l’État hébreu le gèle deux mois plus tard après un retrait de 2%. Bill Clinton a tout fait pour cette signature.

3. Sommet de Camp David : le plan Clinton

Du 11 au 25 juillet 2000, au sommet de Camp David (États-Unis), les deux camps achoppent sur le problème de Jérusalem et des réfugiés de 1948

En décembre 2000, Clinton prône la création d’un État palestinien sur la totalité de la bande de Gaza et 95% de la Cisjordanie. En échange, les Palestiniens doivent renoncer au “droit au retour” des réfugiés Palestinians en Israël.

4. Initiative Saoudienne

Le 28 mars 2002, un sommet arabe à Beyrouth (Liban) adopte un plan saoudien préconisant un retrait israélien de tous les territoires occupés depuis 1967, dont le plateau du Golan, en échange d’une normalisation entre pays arabes et Israël.

Mais le Premier ministre Ariel Sharon lance une grande offensive en Cisjordanie, après des attentats suicide palestiniens.

5. Feuille de route

Le 30 avril 2003, le Quartette sur le Proche-Orient (États-Unis, Russie, Union européenne, ONU) présente une “feuille de route” qui prévoit un État palestinien d’ici 2005 en échange de la fin des violences de l’Intifada et un gel de la colonisation juive.

Le 4 juin, à Aqaba (Jordanie), Israël et l’Autorité palestinienne s’engagent à l’appliquer devant le président américain George W. Bush.

6. Processus d’Annapolis

En novembre 2007, près de Washington, Israël et l’Autorité palestinienne, qui ne contrôle plus que la Cisjordanie après avoir été chassée de Gaza par le Hamas, tentent de parvenir à un accord d’ici fin 2008. Mais les négociations sont plombées par la poursuite de la colonisation juive, et l’Autorité palestinienne se retire des négociations avec l’offensive israélienne sur Gaza fin 2008.

7. John Kerry impuissant

Le 29 juillet 2013, le secrétaire d’État américain John Kerry annonce la reprise pour neuf mois des négociations directes interrompues depuis trois ans.

Mais Israël les suspend à une semaine du terme après une annonce de réconciliation Fatah-Hamas. Le processus de paix est depuis au point mort.

L’incertitude Trump

Que va faire Donald Trump après sa prise de fonctions à la Maison-Blanche?

C’est toute la question, après avoir opéré de nombreux revirements au cours de sa vie. Il était habitué aux blagues antisémites et avait peu de considérations pour les Juifs.

Puis sa fille Ivanka, qui s’est convertie au judaïsme pour épouser Jared Kushner, l’a convaincu.

Kushner a également fait une grande partie du travail. Et aujourd’hui, Donald Trump s’offusque de la résolution de l’ONU condamnant la colonisation israélienne :

“Nous ne pouvons pas continuer à laisser Israël subir un tel mépris et manque de respect. Les États-Unis ont été leur grand ami mais…ce n’est plus le cas. L’horrible accord avec l’Iran a été le début de la fin et maintenant il y a ça (l’ONU) ! Israël doit rester fort, le 20 janvier arrive vite.”

Trump a nommé son beau-fils de 36 ans, Jared Kushner, au poste de premier-plan de conseiller du Président. Trump envisagerait de lui confier le dossier du Moyen-Orient. Il espère que Kushner l’aidera à être celui qui fera la paix entre Israël et les Palestiniens.

En attendant, Trump maintient sa volonté de déménager l’ambassade américaine en Israël de Tel-Aviv à Jérusalem.

Selon la direction palestinienne, ce déménagement signifierait la fin d’une solution à deux États.

Monsanto’s about to celebrate their biggest coup ever, but we have only hours left to stop them. 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a huge, ultra-secret deal among twelve major countries that would give corporations unprecedented power — allowing them to use new global tribunals to sue our governments for passing laws that protect us, but reduce their profits!

This could apply to everything from labeling GMO foods to protecting internet freedom.

Wikileaks has broken the story and opposition is building fast, but the countries are rushing to seal the deal within 24 hours.

This is insane, but we have a chance to stop it — 3 countries are wobbling, and if they pull back now the whole deal could crumble.

If we deluge leaders in Chile, New Zealand and Australia with a global call to stand strong, we can stop this corporate takeover before Monsanto uncorks the champagne. Sign up now and share this with everyone:

Twelve countries are about to agree a trade deal that would let companies sue our governments to get rid of laws that protect us, but reduce their profits! Now, with 48 hours to go, three countries are wobbling. If we deluge them with a call to stand strong, we can stop this corporate takeover before Monsanto uncorks the champagne. 

http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_champagne_for_monsanto_loc/?bFAfecb&v=32402

The leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership drafts read like an extended Christmas wish-list for big business — it would set a global standard of companies imposing their will on our governments through an opaque system of tribunals.

These courts could limit access to cheap generic medicines in favour of branded medicines, and even allow cigarette companies to sue governments over health regulations that they say threaten profits! It’s almost too crazy to be true.

But practically no one has heard of the TPP!

The talks are so secretive that not even our elected lawmakers know what’s in it — just the negotiators and 600 corporate lobbyists.

Now leaked texts have shocked politicians and citizens from Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. And they are pushing back on the corporate bullying, and against the US that is hell-bent on getting a deal agreed before there is too much public scrutiny.

The TPP affects us all — it infringes on our rights and undermines our democracies just to protect the corporate bottom line. And we only have hours to stop it.

It can be easy to feel small in the face of big corporate forces driving our governments.

But people, not money, are the true source of power. Time and again, our community has proved that when we come together to protect our rights against corporate takeover, we can win. Let’s now stop this unprecedented threat to our democracies.

Alice, David, Jooyea, Alex, Aldine, Julien, Ricken, and the Avaaz team

SOURCES:

WikiLeaks publishes secret draft chapter of Trans-Pacific Partnership (The Guardian)
http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/nov/13/wikileaks-trans-pacific-partnership-chapter-secret

Full text of the leaked draft text (Wikileaks)
http://wikileaks.org/tpp/

The Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty is the complete opposite of ‘free trade’ (The Guardian)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/19/trans-pacific-partnership-corporate-usurp-congress

Fast track risky path for Pacific trade pact (Seattle Times)
http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2022349766_biztaltoncol01xml.html

For Free Trade’s Sake, Get IP Out of the TPP (Huffington Post)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-watson/for-free-trades-sake_b_4325963.html

Philip Morris Leads Plain Packs Battle in Global Trade Arena (Bloomberg)
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-22/philip-morris-leads-plain-packs-battle-in-global-trade-arena.html

Israeli Gov’t Approves Plan To Punish People Who Disagree With Them

I Can See Palestine posted this Dec. 16, 2013:

The Israeli government has just passed a new law designed to punish people who disagree with them, a law which the attorney general and legal experts in the country say is both unconstitutional and a dangerous infringement on democratic freedom of expression within Israel.

The newly approved bill would impose a harsh new “tax” on any non-governmental organization whose managers expresses an opinion that conflicts with the currents policies of the Israeli government.

If even one manager of an NGO expresses support for the boycott of Israel, or for divestment and sanctions, or the trial of Israeli soldiers in international military courts for war crimes, or opposes Israel’s status as a “Jewish state,” any donation made to that NGO by a “foreign entity” would be taxed at a rate of 45%.

The approved version changed two clauses in the original proposal:

That a leftist nonprofit would be penalized even if only one member of its board violated one of the clauses for which sanctions are imposed, and that sanctions would be imposed on organizations working against “the Jewish-democratic identity of the state.” The latter clause would have included negating, even implicitly, Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, or calling for the separation of religion and state.

In an unusual move, it was agreed that the bill would be debated again by the ministerial panel after it passes its preliminary reading in the Knesset.

Under the revised bill, certain nonprofits that receive donations from a foreign entity would be required to pay a 45 percent tax on the contributions.

The law would apply to groups that work for or call on others to boycott Israel, stop investing in Israel, or impose sanctions on the state or its citizens. It would also apply to groups calling to prosecute IDF soldiers for war crimes, subsequently exposing such alleged acts, or calling to investigate them.

This means that the Israeli government has just passed a law declaring that they will effectively seize almost half of all funds donated to NGOs in Israel if their leaders do not toe the appropriate party line.

Freedom of expression in Israel is only for people who express the appropriate opinions, because… the safety and operational ability of the Israeli military depends on suppressing political dissent.

The bill was pushed by Jewish Home, which insists that it will protect Israeli soldiers from “immoral legal claims,” and insisted that not cracking down on the NGOs harms the military’s “operational ability.”

The Israeli attorney general has said the bill infringes on a number of the constitutional rights enshrined into Israel’s Basic Laws, such as freedom of expression and freedom of association.

AG Yehuda Weinstein says that the “tax hike” on NGOs is really a de facto fine designed to cut donations to the non-profits in question in ways which would harm freedom of expression in Israel.

“Limiting donations and harming non-profit organizations’ free speech, and in general harming human rights is something done by a group of countries that it is doubtful that Israel wants to join,” said Weinstein. He added that even if the purpose of the bill was proper, which he said he doubted, it exceeded any sense of proportion because of the serious ramifications it was likely to cause.

The issue of proportionality is important because under Israeli law the state may undertake an act that harms a right in one of Israel’s Basic Laws if it is consistent with the values of the State of Israel, intended for a proper purpose and the harm done is proportionate.

This issue of “proportionality” in keeping the values of the State of Israel is incredibly important because one of the State’s most fundamental tenets is its Jewish identity.

If the state feels there is anything which “threatens” that identity, such as calls for the separation of church and state or marriages between members of different faiths, then it may make whatever laws necessary to stop the practice, regardless of how it violates the democratic and human rights which Israel claims to uphold.

Former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak had this to say about the Israeli government’s violation of constitutional rights in relation to marriage equality in his forthcoming book “Human Dignity: The Constitutional Right and its Derivatives”:

“Anyone who is unable to marry according to religious law, and anyone who does not want to marry according to religious law for their own reasons, cannot marry in Israel.

Civil marriage is not recognized in Israel. This state of affairs violates the constitutional right to marry…The present law does not only violate the constitutional derived right to marriage, but it also often violates the derived right to freedom of conscience and freedom from religion.

A law that prevents two members of the same gender from entering a relationship of couplehood is a violation of the human dignity of each partner.”

These people who are refused the right to marry include the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who have entered the country under the Law of Return, but who are not considered Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. This religious body is notorious for its attempts to be the sole arbiter of “who is a Jew,” not only in Israel but in the diaspora as well.

Then, of course, there is the gross violation of both the Basic Laws and international law with the practice of administrative detention, where individuals from asylum seekers to Palestinian residents (including children) are held without trial for extended periods of time.

Administrative Detention

The Israeli Supreme Court recently overturned a law which allowed the detainment of asylum seekers for up to three years without trial on the basis that it was “unconstitutional,” as it violated a basic law enshrining human dignity and freedom.

“In the opinion of all nine justices on the panel, the period of three years’ detention as stated in the law is unconstitutional,” judge Edna Arbel wrote.

Despite the unconstitutionality of their actions, the Israeli government seems to prefer to legislate first, then force people to go through the court system to change unconstitutional laws. This process is lengthy, expensive in time and money, and allows the Israeli government to continue violating human rights while the cases drag on.

Monetary punishment of people that disagree with the government is yet another mark against the government of Israel.

Notes and comments on FB and Twitter. Part 15

We are all cowards, in more than one way, and we know it. Please, desist from reminding us of that.

Né intelligent and paria, Riabinine n’a cure des prejudices des nobles: il aime manipuler et detrousser poliment ces seigneurs et leur system imbecile.

Les efforts de la volonté (decision et intention): if faut beaucoup de pratiques pour que la routine réduit effectivement et suffisamment ces efforts

Je n’aurais jamais credité les pauvres de grandeur d’ame pour les plus aisés sous pretexte des injustices de la vie.

Poor people mostly hate the other poors: They sense that they match their deficiencies et remind them of their lamentable conditions.

The minor poetes generated the greater ones. Invest in the research of the minor poetes as a catalyst for a fresh new wave of great poetes.

Ce farouche ennemi qu’ offensait le respect, qu’importunait la plainte… est dompté et apprivoisé par son amour d’Aricie

Cet orgueil, nourri dans les forets, il en a la rudesse. Endurci par de sauvages lois, Hippolyte entend parler d’amour pour la premiere fois.

Who is the poete of all time? Again, in which language? I can read in the original French, English and Arabic. I may say: Racine in French, Shakespeare in English, Al Motanabi in Arabic. I would have picked Abu Nawwass if he invested any time in editing and publishing his abundant and versatile poems.

The spread of knowledge and sciences didn’t make a dent on the ratio of the suckered people every day. That is why pro-active laws must be enacted to keep the money in the pocket of the bamboozled by institutions and associations.

The tribe that owned the monopoly over the idol of the greatest Abstract God Allah was constantly broke. The well-off tribes owned the practical demi-God idols.

Nothing has changed: It is the Saints who are generating the wealth of the churches and other religions.

Human kind will be better off if he adored the good people after their death, instead of an abstract God whose deeds are malignant to the living.

I listened to the speech of Thomas Moore last night in Wisconsin. He was demanding Not to use the voting booth as an “anger management” right. You will feel good for a day, and be hurt for 4 years. (The problem is that Hillary has already nasty plans for the Middle-East)

Vivons-nous dans l’angoisse du manqué? Apres une féte, un bouillant nous rend heureux de l’instant present: On a moins, mais on en profit plus.

On ne gout un plaisir que parce qu’ on le sait éphemere et unique. Il ne suit pas que ce qui est ephemere doit generer du plaisir: Il faut de la pratique et perseverance pour découvrir comment rendre l’ ephemere essential a une vie satisfaisante.

Persevere at you most cherished hobby: keep working the details for perfection to flow.

Modern Lebanon and Syria: No sciences or a valid national anthem. Traditions of the land that refused any King, a people without civic rights, a soul Not confined within a Temple. A land surviving on ancient spirit, myths with roots as deep and sprawling as antiquity. The original chaos left intact, surrounded by symbols and illusional hopes. A hotbed for civilizations that spread and re-arranged this peaceful chaos into national codes and organizations, elsewhere

Through my diaries, I got convinced that falling in love must be a story: You don’t accede to passionate love until you tasted the burning of hell (May Mennassa)

My first retirement check: the story of this interminable process.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017. A good day for me.

My first monthly retirement check is barely $900, but worth years of frustration and determination Not to be intimidated by rumors and be bilked from this entitlement.

It is raining cats and dogs and I wore my Macintosh (overcoat) and carried an umbrella. Half an hour later, it is sunny and I look ridiculous.

I got a ride with my niece working in Hamra and stepped down in Dawra to take a bus to Jisr Al Cola, at a walking distance to the headquarter of the Lebanese Order of Engineers.

For almost 10 months after I applied for retirement, and after doggedly proceeded with the process that was basically meant to dissuade me and delay the date of the first payment, Nabil Batal gave me a new matriculation number for retired engineer. I will have to check with the Order twice a year, just for them to verify that I am still alive and kicking.

The new number suggests that half the engineers entitled for retirement didn’t apply. Either they died prematurely, or withdrew from this Order, or they figured out that the retirement check is Not worth all that trouble and having to pay in cash what the order will demand them to pay before proceeding with the process.

I was to deal only with Bank Med (Mediterranean), otherwise, I will have to wait 6 months for each payment. Actually, this bank does Not open a checking account for the retirees. They give you a debit card to retrieve whatever cash you need at the end of each month. You can also use this card for purchases up to $1,000 each month.

Interesting question: Why do I have to open a checking account with another bank and withdraw money to deposit it in that account?

Finally, I saw the glimmer of a light at the end of this tunnel. I used to say after each phase in the process: Don’t raise your hope prematurely “ma t2oul foul abel ma yesour bil makyoul“. Here are the stages I went through:

Stage One:  I officially submitted my application for retirement with the necessary documents. Many engineers tried to dissuade me to the contrary on assumptions based on rumors. I submitted a fresh family register (wathicat 3aa2elat)  and a CV for the last 15 years.

Basically, the CV is to mentions the companies and jobs I had during that period for the Order to estimate my total income. In the final analysis, what interest the Order is an official document from your last job that you are no longer working.

Actually, the Order assumes that every engineer is a liar and never claims his exact income. Thus, the Order adds LL 500,000 for every year in the last 15 years to be paid before reviewing the retirement application (bara2et zemmeh).

Consequently, whether you are one of the rare law abiding engineer or you have not worked for the last 15 years, you have got to pay this minimum sum, in addition to whatever investigation proved you owe them. (That’s what the lead accountant told me)

Since I arrived in Lebanon in 2000, the only job I got was a part-time instructor at a university. It was the only institution that had a department of Industrial Engineer and they had to offer courses in Human Factors in Engineering.

I wrote extensively on this teaching experience and had the opportunity to post about 50 articles in the category of Human Factors.

Every year, at due time to pay my contribution and for my health insurance, employees at the Order would never believe that what I declared was my yearly income, far below average, but I had to pay the minimum expected from an engineer.

After a younger engineer (friend with the staff professors) was hired as a full-time teacher, I had to borrow money for 2 consecutive years to pay my yearly dues. And then I stopped paying for 6 years, and lived without any health coverage.

Yet, when I resumed paying my dues, the Order insisted to pay the usual amount, in addition to penalties. And in cash.

Stage 2: Mr. Batal is the appointment person to handle retirement applications at headquarter. He told me that I should Not expect a phone call before at least 6 months. Why? They don’t investigate: they don’t have the resources to have an investigative department (that’s what they told me). So why this delay? Most probably to break any determination to proceed with the application and to delay payments, the longer the better.

Stage 3: After a long wait, finally a secretary called me up and said that I will have to come up with $2,250 in cash before the process resumes.

The accountant Khoury estimated that amount must be coughed up and that I have no other recourse. I met with him and he was plain: the longer you delay this payment, the longer the first payment will be delayed and you will be losing many months in retirement checks.

The Order executive council meet twice a month and decides on the retirement date. Kind of if you missed their meeting, you miss more retirement checks.

Stage 4. My job was now how to borrow that enormous sum before the executive meet in order Not to lose more checks. I knocked at many doors of well-to-do relatives at no avail. One relative agreed to lend me $1,500. Luckily, mother had managed to save the remaining amount.

Stage 5. I paid my highway robbery “dept” in cash and had to go through a dozen employees for them to appose their signatures for reviewing the requirements and do copies. I had to wait for a few of them to arrive to work or come back from appointments.

Stage 6. The executive council failed to meet for over 2 months to add my name to the roster (jadwal) of retired engineers.

Stage 7. I had to wait another month for Batal to ask me to come to his office to give me instructions on how to receive my first retirement check

Stage 8. I walked to BankMed, half a mile away, and had to ask directions a couple of times and backtrack. It started raining. After I finished with the paperwork at the bank, and got my debit card, I withdrew all the money. I had to stop a taxi to take me to Jisr al Coka, a mile away.

That’s my story for the moment.

Now I will have to tell it to engineers who are entitled for retirement and are plagued with untenable rumors.

Highlights for the art of documentary:  Best of 2013 in cinematic nonfiction 

Robert  Greene  Updated this December 24, 2013

The best of 2013 in cinematic nonfiction bfi.org.uk 

This was the year documentaries forced their way to the forefront of the critical conversation, the year audiences and gatekeepers seemed to step cautiously toward the idea that nonfiction films can be as complex, as artful and as exciting as their completely scripted counterparts.

Led by my top film of last year, Leviathan, this year’s surprise Sight & Sound film of the year The Act of Killing and the widely loved Stories We Tell, nonfiction cinema in 2013 found its moment with three very different, equally resonant films that had major theatrical runs.

The chatter about hybrid films (or chimeras, depending on your preference) – movies that play with boundaries between fiction and nonfiction – already seemed irrelevant when the year’s highly praised (and almost highly attended) trinity were exhilarating audiences across the world.

If a cinematic epoch is defined not by theoretical constructs but by the presence of great movies and audiences that are hungry for them, then this is the year we can definitively say we are living in a Golden Age of Nonfiction.

2013 was the year film critic Scott Tobias told documentaries to grow up  then nine months later praised the freest and best films for formal innovation and “finding truths only the camera can reveal.”

A movie I can’t wait to see, Gianfranco Rosi’s Sacro GRA, became the first nonfiction film to win the Golden Lion at Venice.

Documentary film festivals continued to be the incubators for a movement, staging events like the one-time only screening of the Ross Brothers’ epic River at Hot Docs or the surprise action painting Cutie and the Boxer’s Ushio Shinohara made after a screening at True/False.

This was the year we were called the “cool kids”, and yeah, that might be silly, but the palpable excitement was real.

Still, the backlash in some circles against The Act of Killing (cf Merin, Rayns, Rosenbaum) suggests the old idea that documentaries should behave like journalism is quite resilient.

Joshua Oppenheimer (and his team of collaborators) made a legitimately dangerous film, one that challenges ways of seeing and standards of representation unlike any film ever made. It’s a piece of art that interacts with a brutally complicated reality, but because it doesn’t attempt to simplify that reality, and in fact allows its own ambition as a film to be refracted in the dark prism of its star Anwar Congo’s cinematic dreams, the film might be too frisky and too precarious for the careful set.

The best makers of the best nonfiction this year embraced this perilous edge. The documentary form is one of the freest in cinema, while also being gloriously beholden to the ineffable weight of the real world and the delicate needs of real lives.

This tension between limitless formal possibility and necessary moral constraint gives nonfiction a rare power and the most exciting filmmakers dutifully exploit this.

Sure, way too many films that found significant distribution this year forgot to have an aesthetic when writing their successful loglines to issue-obsessed grant providers, but the sheer amount of stirring, innovative, relevant work boggles the mind. We are a generation making movies that happen to be documentaries.

These are acts of seeing the world for what it is: endlessly complicated, painfully funny, excruciatingly real.

One year ago I began writing to try to fill what I saw as a void in critical thinking on nonfiction. I am a filmmaker first, and my focus continues to be on getting better criticism, not nicer reviews. A year later, things are certainly improved, but we still have a long way to go.

Sure, A.O. Scott only named five documentaries in his year-end wrap-up (which created some fun little controversy), but far more upsetting was the New York Times giving a Critics’ Pick to the aesthetically confused Blackfish, a film that made good at the box office and maybe even changed the world (as documentaries often aspire to do), but could hardly be considered a decent movie.

It’s such a hodgepodge of co-opted styles that it never settles down to make coherent its obviously interesting story. Instead, like many of the worst documentaries of the year, it’s edited out of frantic fear that it might lose its audience (and their money). Hey that doesn’t matter because it was ‘important’ right?

At least everyone agreed Salinger was a cynical attempt at a ‘docbuster’ and ultimately a piece of crappy infotainment at best.

Mainstream critics still need to step up and treat nonfiction with respect when the movies deserve attention and mercilessly when they stink. But as 2013 comes to a close, I have to admit I’m pretty optimistic. There are plenty of great writers out there and many great films demanding their acute attention. This might be the year we look back on as the Year the Documentary Couldn’t be Denied.

Now, to get this out of the way, my list plays by no qualifying premiere rules. Some of these aren’t even movies. This is just a countdown of what I consider the best of the year in cinematic nonfiction.

25. ’Til Madness Do Us Part

(Feng ai) Wang Bing, Hong Kong

To call one of Chinese master documentarian Wang Bing’s films exhausting, tedious, harrowing and mesmerising is perhaps redundant since that’s just what he does, but his latest is still a work of immense greatness.

A nearly four-hour submersion into a Chinese mainland mental hospital, the film is an extended act of rage, dutifully exposing an invisible class of people. Shot almost entirely in the dark corridors and miserable rooms of the institution, this is an act of political protest against a deeply dehumanising system.

The camera behaves like a patient, the unseen are named and the endurance test creates a powerful and unshakable empathy that must be experienced.

24. Computer Chess

Andrew Bukalski, USA

Bujalski’s 1980s period comedy about the start of our current technological age turns from costume story into an act of hybrid documentary cinema by using the old video cameras that would have actually filmed the chess tournament and side events that make up the story, creating images that behave self-referentially.

The whole idea of documentation then becomes part of the construct and the layering brings to the forefront ideas of truth and falseness that are almost always the subtext of even the most straightforward documentaries. Or maybe it’s just more fun to imagine the whole thing was real.

23. Our Nixon

Penny Lane, USA

Using previously unseen home movies from Richard Nixon’s top aides, director Lane and producer Brian Frye craft a subjective, impressionistic study of tragic men before their fall.

The film is entirely constructed out of archival material and the editing was clearly guided by the filmmakers following the strands that most intrigued them. What emerges is an idiosyncratic and highly human portrait of the male brain at its most power-intoxicated and delusional.

22. Tina Delivers a Goat

Joe Callander, USA

Declaration of War

Dustin Guy Defa, USA

Lost Village: the Dark Side

Manuel Jimenez, Spain

A Story for the Modlins

Sergio Oksman, Spain

Sometimes flawless nonfiction can be achieved in less time and these are some of the most exemplary short films of an amazing year. Declaration of War [watch it here] rides one idea to its hauntingly logical end, Lost Village: The Dark Side holds its mystery until the perfect moment of revelation and A Story for the Modlins effortlessly outdoes Room 237 and creates a truly strange mystery, which may or may not be real. Meanwhile, Tina Delivers a Goat [watch it here] is Land Without Bread in less than two minutes and just might be the most perfect film of 2013.

21. Let the Fire Burn

Jason Osder, USA

Jason Osder’s debut feature uses the new technique of “archival verité” to bring into the present tense the painful history of the radical group MOVE’s fateful battles with Philadelphia officials that culminated in a deadly fire in 1985. The slowburn portrait of bureaucratic mismanagement and misunderstanding that lead directly to tragedy is as intense and palpable as it would be if we were watching in real time.

20. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Terence Nance, USA

Imaginative and lively, Terence Nance’s semi-scripted, semi-animated act of self-effacement / self-mythology is daring and totally enthralling, heralding a bright new cinematic voice. Avoiding the twee or depressive, the film tears itself apart while we watch and never takes its own breakneck invention too seriously. Rarely is self-awareness so free and beguiling.

19. The Kill Team

Dan Krauss, USA

A war documentary with interviews and a big logline (uncovering the truth behind the infamous Afghanistan Kill Team in the US military that murdered several innocent civilians) that focuses more on faces, glances and revealing gestures than it does on the issues. Gripping, morally ambiguous and stunning, this is a case study in how to handle an important topic in a documentary.

18. Bad Grandpa

Jeff Tremaine, USA

Johnny Knoxville is one of our greatest artists. Enough said.

17. YouTube cinema

The world

While the overrated Room 237 was trying to class up YouTube, the real thing (and the internet, generally) was providing us with some of the most amazing observational moments of the year. Highlights include the Russian meteor as seen from a dashboard, the frightening explosion of a fertiliser plant in Texas and the immersive, real-time dramas of the Wendy Davis filibuster and the search for the Boston Marathon bombers.

16. The Expedition to the End of the World

(Ekspeditionen til verdens ende) Daniel Dencik, Denmark / Sweden / Greenland

The most fun I’ve had at the movies this year besides Gravity. Daniel Dencik travels to the arctic with a collection of thinkers on a giant boat and hilarity ensues. Thoughtful, striking, visually sumptuous and riotous (and featuring one of the best music cues of the year and maybe the greatest visual gag in documentary history), this is a film about the Earth we’re probably destroying. But man, that really makes you think.

15. Cutie and the Boxer

Zachary Heinzerling, USA

Big-hearted but surprisingly tough-willed, Zachary Heinzerling’s debut is character-driven portraiture at its finest, always aware of the exploitable mysteries of observational cinema and the power of restraint. The film works best as a clear-eyed love story and a depiction of the lives of artists. This is lovely, delicate filmmaking.

14. At Berkeley

Fred Wiseman, USA

Direct cinema icon Fred Wiseman’s deep dive into the teetering titular academic institution is overlong and surprisingly devoid of his familiar flair for gripping images, but it’s still so full of ideas and surprising moments of drama that it can’t be denied. Half the fun is watching the master working through his opinions about education, the American dream and generational tensions on the left.

13. Sickfuckpeople

Rechinsky Juri, Ukraine / Austria

This desperately wrenching triptych premiered at Hot Docs and was scarcely seen after, but it deserves to be considered one of the best films of the year. Utterly miserable and uncomfortable, the film transforms from a kind of Ukrainian Kids to a sad search for home and then to a painful portrayal of addiction and loss. But there is great dignity here and startling images, all leading to a truly transcendent ending that gives the sense of fought-for hope.

12. Big Men

Rachel Boyton, UK / Denmark / USA

Rachel Boyton makes complex, character-based films about huge issues over multiple continents with several moving points of contact. Big Men is a multi-faceted nonfiction thriller about oil, geo-political intrigue and personal rises and falls that synthesises its immense ideas into a taut narrative. It is a feat of spectacular filmmaking which always foregrounds meaningful observations over grand gestures.

11. Caucus

AJ Schnack, USA

The Square

(Al Midan) Jehane Noujaim, Egypt / USA

The Square

The Square

Winter Go Away

(Zima, ukhodi!) Rechinsky Juri, Ukraine / Austria

These are three very different films about political theatre in the immediate now, each using intimate cinema to tell larger truths about our tumultuous world. In Askold Kurov and collaborators’ Winter Go Away, the graduates of the Marina Razbezhkina and Mikhail Ugarov’s Documentary Filmmaking and Theatre School in Russia take to the streets in the run-up to an election where Vladimir Putin is trying to retake the presidency.

A wry sense of humour permeates this portrait of the frustrating political process in St. Petersburg, as strange and entertaining characters like Mikhail Prokhorov and Pussy Riot make appearances. Still, the post-election violence captured on camera is disturbing and truly alarming.

Meanwhile, Jehane Noujaim’s The Square is an epic and engaging telling of the revolutionary events in Egypt over the past two years, told in jittery, breathtaking close up. Like a modern, character-driven version of The Battle of Chile, the film successfully orients the viewer into understanding the heartbreaking, on-the-ground political complexities.

It may be a bit overlong, sometimes depending too much on mood music, but this is essential filmmaking. It also has one of the best scenes of the year, a direct homage to Jean-Luc Godard’s eternal “children of Marx and Coca-Cola” maxim.

Back in the US, the political theatre is decidedly more comedic with Caucus. The insane battle for the Republican nomination for the presidency is kicked off in small towns across Iowa, while AJ Schnack and his collaborators capture every cringe-worthy moment of performance.

All three films reveal the obsession with image making behind political realities, giving us sometimes dramatic and sometimes hilarious (but always indispensable) looks into our rowdy, problematic world.

10. Manakamana

Stephanie Spray / Pacho Velez, USA

This latest masterful addition to the oeuvre of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab is pure cinema, a series of eleven one-way rides over a Nepalese mountain, shot on 16mm film. The static camera is filled with cable car passengers and the subject is the human creature in all its lovely, hilarious and sad beauty. This is a movie for those that still see the theatre as a temple.

9. Pablo’s Winter

Chico Pereira, UK

Pablo is a septuagenarian miner in a small village in Spain who needs to quit smoking and is not happy about it. We watch him grumble to his wife, get made fun of by his smoking / poker buddies and generally giving his curmudgeonly two cents to the world.

Each image is exact and affecting, immediately elevating the film from direct cinema clichés and recalling the tense precision of great art cinema. That it transforms in the last act into a profound study of ageing and loss comes somewhat unexpectedly and is devastating. Chico Pereira’s film also has the most heroic cigarette lighting in movie history.

8. Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley, Canada

Courageous, affecting, original and sweet, Sarah Polley’s family portrait deserves its accolades and earns its moments of emotional complexity. Polley’s presence as “movie star” immediately complicates the tale of her heritage, and she rings that textual detail for all of its aesthetic worth. The key formal revelation is a subtle moment of commentary on the instinct to self-mythologise. But we care because her family is one of great storytellers and her father Michael’s dignified presence is what packs the most poignancy. This is filmmaking of great generosity and love.

7. 12 O’Clock Boys

Lofty Nathan, USA

Shaky with present-tense urgency, Lotfy Nathan’s frenetic, death-defying look at trick-bike urban dissidents in Baltimore, Maryland, and a young man named Pug who dreams of joining them, takes turns being exhilarating, suspenseful and sad, but remains the best nonfiction thrill-ride since Leviathan. With each glorious wheelie the tension mounts, but this isn’t simple subculture exploitation, and the family drama at the film’s core never demeans. Social rebellion is glorified unrepentantly, because the allure to danger is one of the most universal human emotions.

6. Museum Hours

Jem Cohen, Austria / USA

At the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, a guard befriends a lost visitor, setting in motion a quietly moving story about art, the city and intersecting lives that finds mysterious power in minute observations and active, lived-in conversations.

Apparently nonfiction images of the public engaging with masterworks of art hold a unique, transfixing power and the oblique intersection of fiction and documentary gently moves the film toward a self-aware sublimity. As enriching as a lovely talk with an old friend or an afternoon spent looking at great paintings, Jem Cohen’s film is a quiet marvel.

5. Sleepless Nights

(Layali Bala Noom) Eliane Raheb, United Arab Emirates / France / Lebanon / Palestine / Qatar

Without that other film that features charismatic war criminals perceived as heroes, this complex, unforgettable Sleepless Nights might be most troubling film of the year. Still, it’s one of the 2013’s best, shockingly overlooked and under-programmed after a few festival screenings earlier in the year, including True/False. The film is dense, wrenching and fascinating, at once a feat of stunt cinema and deeply felt art-journalism. Its riddles continue to haunt and will for some time.

4. These Birds Walk

Omar Mullick / Bassam Tariq, Pakistan / USA

The humanitarian heart at the centre of this portrait of the community of children and young men surrounding the venerable Edhi Foundation in Karachi, Pakistan never obscures a pure, unfiltered love of cinema.

From the dazzling opening scene through to the heartbreaking final images, directors Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq are always relentlessly searching for moments of filmic clarity, sparks of light and energy that will transport their audience from passive viewers to active participants, proving that an engaged cinematic experience can open the world.

3. Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis

Adam Curtis, UK

British documentary master Adam Curtis has been expanding his signature style in the last few years, starting with It Felt Like a Kiss in 2009, which made him an immersive gallery artist. Now, after his collaboration with Massive Attack, we have Adam Curtis, arena art superstar. The furious and potent political style remains, but his wry, affecting, montage take on our collective rumbling toward certain apocalypse gets bigger, more fun and even a little uplifting. An emotional, dazzling experiment in gig cinema that anyone lucky enough to see will never forget.

2. The Last Station

(La última estación) Cristian Soto / Catalina Vergara, Chile / Germany

A poem about dying that conjures the sad magic that great art about the end of life can sometimes accomplish, while also giving a clear-eyed observational look at the practical realities of a Chilean nursing home. Harrowing, delightful, transcendent and full of incredible captured moments, The Last Station is an unbearably moving cinematic achievement.

1. The Act of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark / Germany / Finland / UK / Netherlands / Norway / Poland / Sweden

No need to get tricky here: The Act of Killing is a cataclysm of a film, destined to be picked at and debated for years, but a feat unlikely to be outdone. It reminds me of a nonfiction A Clockwork Orange, a movie so desperately troubling yet still able to make an impression with mainstream viewers.

The questions it raises about the mythologising power of images will haunt the cinema going forward. Like Leviathan, it is an absolute game-changer, elevating documentary form and laying waste to precious ideas of objectivity and subservience to journalism.

This is a movie of shattering moments, full of contradictions and darkness that refuses to be easily soluble. It’s also a forceful scream from the documentary ghetto. We are movies: hear us howl!

Special mentions

Aatsinki: the Story of Arctic Cowboys

Jessica Oreck, USA / Finland

Narco Cultura

Shaul Schwarz, USA / Mexico

Fuck for Forest

Michal Marzak, Germany / Poland

Garden of Eden

Ran Tal, Israel

The Missing Picture

(L’image manquante) Rithy Panh, Cambodia / France

Bending Steel

Dave Carroll, USA

The Naked Room

(El Cuarto Desnudo) Nuria Ibañez, Mexico

Remote Area Medical

Jeff Reichert / Farihah Zaman, USA

We Always Lie to Strangers

AJ Schnack / David Boone Wilson, USA

Pavilion

Tim Sutton, USA

Lenny Cooke

Ben Safdie / Joshua Safdie, USA

The Machine That Makes Everything Disappear

(Manqana, romelic kvelafers gaaqrobs) Tinatin Gurchiani, Georgia

Dear Valued Guests

Jarred Alterman / Paul Sturtz, USA

Tough Bond

Austin Peck / Anneliese Vandenberg, USA

Night Labor

David Redmon / Ashley Sabin, USA

Elena

Petra Costa, Brazil / USA

I Am Breathing

Emma Davie / Morag McKinnon, Denmark / Finland / UK

Northern Light

Nick Bentgen, USA

After Tiller

Martha Shane / Lana Wilson, USA

Hilton!

Virpi Suutari, Finland

Public Hearing

James N. Kienitz Wilkins, USA

To the Wolf

(Sto Lyko) Aran Hughes / Christina Koutsospyrou, Greece / France / UK

Further reading

adonis49

adonis49

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