Venice Red Carpet: A Walk to Remember

This is a post I promised to write because we all know the thrills of walking the red carpet, but we don’t know the thrills of what comes AFTER!

The Venice Film Festival is not just any festival. It is Venice. And Venice is in Italy. So, yep, it is not a place where you can simply slip in your converse and go. You have to dress up. Particularly if you have a red carpet call. Never mind that it is at 2 pm in the afternoon, never mind that you are a young unknown celebrity-in-the-making, the show imposes itself on you. Even if your name was Niam and you really don’t fancy high heels and long dresses and red carpets altogether.

So for this festival, I got ready beforehand. I selected a long dress that will go with my hijab, and I took the high heel sandals I wore once before in my sister’s wedding to that special occasion. I am not a rookie when it comes to high heels. But these ones were special. They’re the hiiiiigh thinnnn heels you wouldn’t want to walk around with for a long time. But it was okay this time. All we had to do was walk the red carpet, and that is supposed to be easy.

By 2 pm we were ready and we had real fancy festival cars with classy drivers in suits -just like in the movies- we had them pick us up from the hotel entrance. They even opened the door of the limo and closed it for us. And the drive was neat and people looked at the car and started to peek to see who is inside and all that jazz… It felt GOOOOOD.

The driver informed us of the red carpet protocol, most important of which is, you never open the car door on your own. You wait for it to be opened for you. Could it get any better? And that was how it went… The door was opened. My high heel sandal was the first thing to step out of that car and onto the prestigious red carpet. The dream of thousands of filmmakers worldwide.

There were fans (don’t think they were mine) taking photos with their cameras and mobile phones, there were photographers, there were random people and bodyguards. We were told to wave and smile so I waved and smiled to the fans who always get thrilled when someone on the red carpet waves (that is one of the great lessons learned from the event).

We walked the red carpet. It was a bit shaky because of the long dress and the high thin heels but no big deal. We walked a bit of a longer path than I imagined then some stairs into the Sala Pasinetti where the screening was scheduled. This was a nice journey because it was one rare time where no one asked who I was or what I was doing there or where’s my ticket/accreditation. In a place other than LAU (inside joke).

Two and a half hours later, the screening was over, Michael Fassbender had announced the winner and we were all ready to go to the cocktail reception held in our honor. I had started to develop some pain in my feet but wasn’t complaining yet. I knew that Vidya was also wearing special high heels for the occasion. I kept my smile on and we went upstairs and took lots of pictures and the high heels were starting to irritate me for real, so I chose a couch and sat in a corner on the balcony outside. But as soon as I took a seat and a deep breath, somebody came to say hello and encourage me not to stay in the corner when there were lots of industry folks to network with. In fact, they were absolutely correct. And I couldn’t allow my feet-ache to stop me from networking with important people who came specially for our screening and reception, so I went around. The reception was probably between 90 and 120 minutes long but my feet felt it was an eternity. Those shoes were killing me and I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to get rid of them.

As soon as the reception concluded, I was the first to leave (almost). The pain in my feet was unbearable that I couldn’t take a step without having to ooh and aah. Literally. However, the nicest surprise was yet to come. As soon as I left the reception venue, I discovered that there is no arrangement to take me back to the hotel. There are no drivers to open the fancy car door for me. And worst of all, there isn’t even a non-fancy car to pick me up. The job had been completed. We walked the red carpet. Now how you walk back is a totally different story.

There were no photographers or crazy waving fans or anyone. It was just me and Vidya, in our high heels, with killing foot aches. Few meters away from the venue, I had already thought a plan. As soon as we were further away, I’ll take off the shoes and walk barefoot. My dress is long enough to cover my feet, so I don’t have to worry about getting busted. The sight of my shoes in my hand won’t be very pleasant, but I really couldn’t care less at the moment. We walked away very slowly until we were far enough and I stopped next to a pole and started to bend down to take off my sandals when,

“You’re the filmmaker!!”

And I jolted back straight again, “Huh.”

“Yeah you’re the filmmaker of Super.Full. aren’t you?” There was a young lady, an actress, she later informed us, who was following us to introduce herself and say hello and congratulations. It was such a sweet gesture. And it prevented me from taking off my shoes at the designated spot because we feared there might be still more fans to whom my image may be affected (This makes me wonder if I should post this at all -NOT).

So we walked few more steps away and chose a new spot and I stopped and took off the sandals without hesitation. I couldn’t take one single step with them in my feet anymore. I was so relieved when I took them off, I can’t explain how much really. But it is one of the best feelings I’ve ever sensed in my whole life. Forget the Venice Red Carpet. The Venice ground is way better! And so, this was the beginning of the journey home from the red carpet. Our next impossible mission was to find (and stop) a cab. My selfish gesture, and the fact that we have to stop a cab, forced V to walk few more hundred meters with her killer heels. I happily wandered on the sidewalks and streets of Lido barefoot.

After a long wait for a cab, a driver finally saw us and stopped for us. We gave him our hotel address and that was the best part of the trip. That is, when we discovered we don’t have any money on us. See the red carpet attire is not one that allows for pockets and/or practical accessories. It is very much one of show off. So someone has to be doing the practical things for you while you do the red carpet. And that is why, in our excitement saga, we both forgot to put money in the small bag we had brought along. But frankly, I was laughing my butt off for the thought of an Arab and an Indian, in a cab in Italy, with no money, and we both can’t speak a word of Italian -except for Cappuccino. It was not a tough solution for that part of the problem though. As soon as we stopped by the hotel, Vidya ran up to the hotel room and brought the driver his money with a generous tip. But she didn’t forget to change her shoes before coming back down with the bills.

And that is how I returned from the red carpet. One unforgettable evening. After “a walk to remember”!

An August Rant

I did lots of crazy things this month. I looked up immigration a million times. To the United States, to Canada, to New Zealand, to Denmark, to Sweden, to Australia, and then back to New Zealand. No, I’m not going to immigrate to NZ. I wish I were, but I won’t. I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired of the European visa crap every time I have to apply to a European visa. It is very ridiculous that somebody can head to a country and obtain a visa at the airport, while someone else has to go through painful procedures and humiliating rounds in order to obtain the same visa, just because they have different pieces of paper really when you come to think of it. I hate that logic. But that logic is what governs the world. I would love to be able to say I am very content with my Lebanese passport. But the truth is I am not. I am sick of it. I am also sicker of the fact that Lebanon grants lots of foreigners visas at the airport and allow them to treat us in such a horrible way when it comes time for us to go to their airports. Why??

If somebody comes from UAE and gets a visa at the airport I want to be able to go to the UAE and get a visa at the airport. What prevents our government from demanding reciprocal treatment? Aren’t we bragging ALL the time that the Lebanese are building Dubai? Why can’t they ask for the right to enter Dubai?

And what’s the deal with Lebanese employees treating people like sh*t just because they are applying for a visa? And what’s up with the No-Option-For-Human-Service over the phone so that people can only listen to machines repeating what you read on the website? And if you email the embassy you get a reply that is a copy pasted paragraph from the same damn website.

I don’t like the suspense I always find myself in because I was born with a Lebanese passport. I get enough suspense from the chaos in the country. And all this makes me hate the guts of the war criminals who still are in power in Lebanon. When I wonder what is my fault, I directly answer, I am part of the people who allow war criminals to rule them. The war brought us here. THEY brought us here.

But of course they don’t have to wait at the doors of Embassies and struggle to get appointments there. The doors are open for them wherever they go. We are the ones who have to pay hundreds of thousands everytime in order to get the much anticipated humiliation interview. 3ishtom wa 3asha Lobnan.