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When Are Films Political: When They're by Marco Orsini

Photo of Peter Belsito By Peter Belsito | SydneysBuzz October 22, 2012 at 10:00AM

Born to Puerto-Rican parents in San Juan, Marco Orsini was raised on a succession of U.S. military bases in the Far East and Europe before attending high school in the American South at the height of desegregation. The first feature film he directded, The Reluctant Traveler, documents an ambitious and exhaustive cultural expedition across the northern half of Ethiopia. Lately, Marco has been measuring the distance from home against the presumptions and pre-occupations of the American news media, which have never seemed more parochial.  A taste for adventure and exploration characterizes his life and his career.
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Filmmaker Marco Orsini toasting friends in a "forbidden [by US State Dept] territory" (aka Lebanon)
Filmmaker Marco Orsini toasting friends in a "forbidden [by US State Dept] territory" (aka Lebanon)

Born to Puerto-Rican parents in San Juan, Marco Orsini was raised on a succession of U.S. military bases in the Far East and Europe before attending high school in the American South at the height of desegregation. The first feature film he directded, The Reluctant Traveler, documents an ambitious and exhaustive cultural expedition across the northern half of Ethiopia. Lately, Marco has been measuring the distance from home against the presumptions and pre-occupations of the American news media, which have never seemed more parochial.  A taste for adventure and exploration characterizes his life and his career.

We have known Marco Orsini on the film circuit for a while, especially at Cannes, through The International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA) and the Ethiopian Film Initiative (EFI) .  We are glad to see this interesting, very political new film of his coming out to acclaim.  We wish him and the film well and can recommend to friends to see this important indie work.  This week Woodstock, tomorrow ?? The world!

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Director Marco Orsini’s fascinating documentary Dinner at The No Go’s had its World Premiere at the celebrated Woodstock Film Festival in upstate New York (October 10-14).

“Official United States Travel Warnings” also known as the “NO GO List” are issued when “protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country. A “Travel Warning” is also issued when the

U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff. 

In this documentary, Marco Orsini, an independent American filmmaker living in Monaco, and Bilal Mekkaoui, a Lebanese investment banker living in London, investigate the reality and rhetoric behind the “US State Department Travel Warnings” (the NO-Go List) by making plans for dinner and discovery in countries on the front lines of international, religious and cultural conflicts.

Though neither treats lightly the dangers of political instability, crime or contagion, both are suspicious about the political calculations behind the designation and concerns about its consequence for residents, visitors and international relations.

With the No-Go documentary, Marco attempts to put a human face on places that we are not advised to visit. Through friendly social interaction at the dinner table with residents of countries that the U.S. audiences perceive are in war or conflict, he hopes to show a symbol of civilized exchange, a metaphor for sharing and a ritual for universal familiarity.

The No-Go’s follows the two global citizens in a series of visits to politically unstable countries in the Middle East having dinner in Beirut, Amman, the Palestinian Camps, Tel Aviv, Cairo and others.

Both men are prepared to engage their in-country hosts and acquaintances on the issues that earn inclusion on the list. Religion, politics, economics, cultural traditions, public perception, local prejudice and comfort food are all “on the table” for discussion.

The purpose of the film is to give moderates, whether Conservative or Liberal, a voice in an arena dominated by extremists on both sides. Through personal experiences and stories told by the modern and engaged residents of these countries in crisis, the filmmaker hopes to provide an opportunity for peace and understanding in a cheerful social context. 

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