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Copyright  2003 James J. Belcher.  All Rights Reserved. 

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                                                                                Alex, Heaven and Hell

 

                                                                                          Chapter 22             

                                                                 "Alex, Heaven and Hell" The Screenplay

                                           Act I, Scene 1 The actress' Damascus, Syria apartment  

NARRATOR: "Good evening.  I'm Raymond Knight, and I'm here tonight in the apartment of a very special Syrian lady, whom I'm about to interview.  For those of you unfamiliar with her, her life and work, I'd first like to take this opportunity to acquaint you with Sybil Mohammed Kaffir, who agreed to this introduction in advance, so that you may understand her background and relate an upcoming movie role to that background."

KNIGHT: "That is acceptable, is it not, Miss Kaffir?

KAFFIR:  "Yes, go right ahead, Raymond."

KNIGHT:  "The woman sitting across from me is the only child of displaced Palestinians, who came to this country in the wake of the creation of the State of Israel.  Her father had been a successful shopkeeper in Palestine and her mother was a schoolteacher, before the Zionists uprooted them from one of the hundreds of Palestinian settlements depopulated of Arabs in the late 1940s.

"Sybil was born in Damascus in 1963, and given the name Kirima Kaffir.  By this time, her parents were older than most first-time mothers and fathers; she grew up in a family where her unexpected addition to its size was warmly appreciated.  It can honestly be said her parents both adored and virtually worshipped her, giving her every spare moment of their time and attention.  They were devout Muslims, and they instilled a love of their religion into their daughter at an early age. 

"Despite growing up in modest circumstances, Sybil was always a standout, even at the age of seven.  She was consistently at the top of her class academically, and won the role of the lead in the pageant over children several years her senior at the elementary school she attended.  As time went on, she developed her artistic skills and was recognized for her exceptional beauty, poise and charm.

"By age eighteen, she was a university student here in Damascus and set about defying her parents' wishes for the first time in her life.  Despite her conservative upbringing, she entered a local beauty contest and was awarded the title of Miss Damascus.  However, she obeyed her parents, much to the dismay of the contest organizers, and withdrew from the Miss Syria/Miss Universe competition, resuming her studies in medical technology.  Significantly, the Miss Syria title would have meant a $US15,000 first prize and it was said several judges approached her afterwards and told her the prize would have been hers if she had continued.

"Miss Kaffir finished her studies, achieving an Associate of Science Degree in Medical Technology in 1984.  She went to work for a local clinic in an impoverished area of rural Syria, where she saw, perhaps for the first time in her life, the painful plight and tragic conditions of displaced Palestinians who had not fared as well as her parents.  She decided to return to school, hoping to become a medical doctor who could better the health standards of Palestinians.

"Since her job paid pitiful wages, she decided to re-enter the world of beauty pageants, but her posted entry into the Miss Damascus pageant arrived two days after the deadline and she had to wait another year.  When she revealed her ambitions to her parents, they were proud for her and jointly helped her to gather a small wardrobe for the 1985 pageant.  Although she was now older than many of the contestants, she again won in 1985 and in January 1986 won the title of Miss Syria and the scholarship prize that insured her tuition for medical school.  She took the entrance examinations and scored high marks.  Her first semester would start in September 1986, one month before the Miss Universe pageant in Paris.

"In the meantime, she became a national celebrity, doing television advertisements, product endorsements, photo shoots at sporting events and so forth.  She changed her name, to promote the rights of Islamic women, to Sybil Mohammed Kaffir.  Then Hollywood beckoned and she was offered a small role in a picture.  That led to her being offered a major part in an upcoming big-budget Hollywood movie in June of 1986.  Her career was skyrocketing, but before the movie, she had agreed to do an advertising job involving camera work in Tel Aviv, Israel.  Amid the natural misgivings of her parents, she went. 

"That's when tragedy struck.  Out with her friends the night before the TV ad, she was exiting a club when a truckload of Israeli soldiers drove up.  Before she realized what was happening, she was seized, thrown into the truck and repeatedly raped by at least four of them.  Her bruised body was thrown out of the truck on the outskirts of Tel Aviv the next morning.  No soldiers were ever arrested over the incident.

"She returned to Damascus traumatized and has truly never been the same.  A few weeks later, she discovered she was pregnant, just when she was due to start her movie role.  She never returned to Hollywood, she missed the entrance to medical school and the Miss Universe pageant.  By the end of the year, her tragic story was largely forgotten by the world.  She had a daughter the following March and she has lived in obscurity since that time, until now.

"Understandably, she underwent years of counseling and psychotherapy.  After two years, she returned to her old job as a medical technician in rural Syria.  Later she moved back with her parents in Damascus, where they never discussed many of the signal events in her life.  They died in an auto accident in 1991.

"We all know of the success of 'Reality TV'.  Recently, a major Arab television director was hired to shoot the first X-rated reality TV show.  We understand the first seventy-two episodes are in post-production-editing at this time.  Additionally, with the financial assistance of its Arab producers, a prominent international movie director is developing a major motion picture, which will undoubtedly be X-rated, which he intends to promote to Hollywood; it would be a daring and virtually unprecedented move for a major studio to pick it up, but it will be shown in the US and worldwide, whoever gets the distribution rights.  The tentative title is Alex, Heaven and Hell and shooting of the the final scene, billed as moviedom's greatest surprise, is due to take place in the next several days.

"Miss Kaffir has surprisingly been offered the lead female role in the movie, in which she will dominate action in the torrid final scene.  Apparently, it involves explicit sexual scenes with the leading man, a Jew.  Her salary for just a few days' filming is reported to be over one million American dollars.  Her daughter Ramona is also in the picture, but the details have been hushed up. 

"It is apparent that the forty-year-old Miss Kaffir is once again headed for stardom, and on that note, I begin this evening's interview."

KNIGHT: "Miss Kaffir, besides the money, what made you take on such a unusual role, particularly so in the case of someone supposedly devout and from a conservative background?"

KAFFIR: "Just call me Sybil, Raymond.  You've asked an important question, one your listeners deserve to have fully answered.  My former public life is well known and you've outlined its major aspects rather well.

            "It's my private life after 1986 that's not particularly well known, and that's why I accepted this part.  Being raped and giving birth to a child by that experience is as difficult and traumatic as circumstances ever get, for a man or a woman.  For years, I refused to go outside without several escorts, generally armed.  Later, I insisted on carrying a loaded pistol wherever I went.  I could not look my daughter in the eye without crying for the first eight years of her life.

            "As you alluded, I spent years in private psychotherapy, trying to reconcile what had happened without blaming myself.  Finally, my therapist gave up, saying the only cure for my problem would be for me to face and conquer my demons, which were men, Jews, my daughter's heritage, my parent's scorn and my shattered pride in my religion.

"I can't tell details about my role in the movie, nor may I later give any interviews regarding it I've a written confidentiality agreement as part of my contract respecting that aspect of things.  That confidentiality also extends to certain aspects of my obtaining the role, but I am free to give this interview, with some restrictions. 

"Raymond, as you know, I'm a lot older than most women who are just starting in the business, but I had just the background the director wanted, bizarre as that may seem.  Tomorrow's shooting at an undisclosed location will be conducted under maximum security.  In it, I simultaneously get to act out all of my fantasies, so it's truly a dream role for me.  To be honest, I would have done it for nothing.  It's that juicy a part, even if it involves only a few days' work on my part.

"In my movie role, I overcome and conquer my leading man, who incidentally is unaware we're even filming him.  I take control and show the power of a strong Islamic woman.  My agent is convinced I will establish myself as a major Hollywood star almost overnight.  I'm already considering a seven-figure offer for another work."

KNIGHT: "That answers a lot of questions, but is it true that it involves frankly portrayed sex scenes?"

KAFFIR: "Raymond, I'll just have to let the viewers see the movie for themselves to answer that.  I can say my therapist feels I may well accomplish in one day more to make me a well person than ten years of regular psychiatric visits have done, so I'm looking forward to that."

KNIGHT: "What about your 16-year-old daughter Ramona?  We understand she acts in the movie also, and her scenes may even violate criminal laws involving sexual acts performed by minors."

KAFFIR: "Well Raymond, I leave it up to the lawyers as to legal implications, but I have been assured that nothing done on the set will subject either of us to arrest.  Despite the circumstances of her birth, my daughter and I have come to love and understand one another; we're frankly very attached to each other.  She's taken on this role, for which her salary is equal to mine, with a desire to show an attitude towards an unconcerned Israeli government and people that allowed what happened to me in 1986 and for its perpetrators to walk away and never even face a court of law.  She and I expect her role to attract support for the international Palestinian cause and I urged, but never forced, her to accept the role offered."

KNIGHT: "Her salary is as large as yours?  That's something of which I was unaware?"

KAFFIR: "I insisted and the producers and directors agreed, without much arguing I must say.  They see this as a political statement as much as a commercial production, so it shouldn't shock you to know that the premiere will simultaneously take place in Hollywood and Palestine, with Yassir Arafat's attendance assured.

KNIGHT: "Sybil, we've all heard that this is pornography, triple-XXX rated stuff.  How can internationally respected figures spend their precious political currency to attend such films?"

KAFFIR: "That's the miracle of Hollywood film makers.  While there will be an X-rated version for the TV series and as streaming video for Internet users, the Hollywood producers will use special extra lighting and camera techniques to allow the mainstream production to be a hard-R but not an X-rated film.  After all, the movie is two hours long, while the film stock from the reality camera work will amount to a continuous 200 hours plus."

KNIGHT: "One last question, Sybil.  You've mentioned the leading man, but not given his name.  You've said he's unaware of the filming.  Who is he and what's going to happen to him after filming?"

KAFFIR: "Raymond, that's the fascination of reality camerawork.  The producers and directors naturally want the spontaneity of a 'reality' production, much like the work Jim Carrey did with a character a few years back, the fictional lead in 'The Truman Show'.  What's going to happen to this leading man is another secret that the viewers must pay to see for themselves."

KNIGHT: "Thank you and good luck to you, Sybil."

KAFFIR: "Thank you, Raymond."

KNIGHT: "Good night and best wishes to our guest.  We invite those of you at home watching this interview to go see what just might be the big picture of the year.  It's certainly going to be controversial.  I plan to see it myself."