SCREENPLAY LOOKING FOR FATHER
EXT. FIONA’S REAR DECK OVERLOOKING THE BRISBANE RIVER – DAY
Aerial view of the Brisbane River on a sunny afternoon then to the rear deck of an old Queenslander house where FIONA settles into a cane chair.
She looks along the river through her eyes to see it is still but for a cross-river ferry leaving the far bank with barely a ripple. The peace of the river is captured as her eyes close.
Fiona awakes to see the river is lively – ebbing east forming bow waves on the marker posts. The light is fading. She blinks into consciousness as SOUNDS. (O.S) of food preparation and the heavy landing of a pot on the stove come from the kitchen. She smiles at the call for attention.
INT. HALLWAY BETWEEN DECK AND KITCHEN – DAY
Through the doorway Fiona sees MEIRA busy – cutting and chopping, the countertop cluttered with spice pots, vegetables, bowls, smoke drifting from the wok . . .
Fiona assesses her daughter’s appearance noting an increase in weight, the determination revealed in her clothes, her face, her body language.
SOUND: The phone on the table beside Fiona rings – breaking her revere.
FIONA (into phone)
(into phone) Can I call you back?
She lowers the phone. Steps into the kitchen
FIONA Can I help?
MEIRA (Without looking up)
You could lay the table, open the wine, polish the glasses.
INT. DININGROOM – NIGHT
Dinner is nearly finished – the final moves of a lengthy ritual coming to the surface.
I still cannot get over your indifference
Mother. How can you be so unconcerned? (pause)
I know you care. I know you loved him, but you never seem concerned at being deserted. I can’t get over that.
FIONA (quietly resigned)
If you have to go, you have to go. There’s nothing further I can do or say, except to be mindful of your business. Your father would not want you to neglect that.
(turning – emerald eyes blazing)
You speak as if he is still with us. You speak as if he is just around the corner – that he will be home at any minute.
(full force of her anger focussed on
He deserted us mother. He walked out of this house nine years ago and you behave as if it were only yesterday. As if it never happened.
Do you have to go tonight?
No, I do not have to go tonight. I might
never have to go at all if you would open up. If you would give me some clue as to why my father, your husband of twenty-two years, suddenly, and without hint or warning, disappeared from our lives – I would not have to go, but that is not the case. Is it mother? You tell me nothing of your early life together. I have to guess. You have always behaved as if you knew why he had gone, and when he would
return, but he never came back, and he never called or wrote. Did he? Did he?
(pause- anger spent)
So I will go tonight. I will take the night flight to Bangkok and connect with the morning flight to Cairo and, if he’s still alive, I will find my father and wring his bloody neck for the pain he caused us. If my business, his bloody business, in Hong Kong suffers while I am doing it, then to hell with it. I don’t like the damn jewellery business anyhow.
EXT. BACK DECK – NIGHT
A cigarette for Fiona; a second glass of wine for Meira; the Brisbane alive with the commuter catamarans loaded with evening revellers slipping back into the city.
It’s not so long to Bangkok, less than nine
hours. You might want to stay there a few days, see the temples, the floating market. Chinatown is really something in Bangkok. No need to hurry to Cairo, or anywhere for that matter.
EXT. THE STREET OUTSIDE THE HOUSE – NIGHT
Warm, cloudless, evening SOUND: diesel taxi idling
Meira hugs her mother hard. Fiona holds her child – gives her all she can
Eyes moist they separate.
MEIRA I may not be long.
I might find him quickly. I’ll call you from
Taxi leaves – stoplights glow as it brakes at the end of the street
INT. HALL WAY – NIGHT
FIONA (into the phone)
There is no stopping her. She’s as ready as she’ll ever be. It’s up to you now.
EXT. CAIRO CITY SQUARE – DAY
Noisy morning traffic from multiple directions – honking and beeping exchanges between pedestrian, handcarts, cars and buses.
ACROSS THE SQUARE. A chauffeured Mercedes stops before the entrance to the Egyptian Ministry of Interior and Cultural Affaires. Rear door opens and the immaculate, blood red, shoe over a new tan sock descends below razor sharp trouser cuffs of Assistant Minister DOUMANI.
INT. EGYPTIAN MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR – DAY
Busy entrance lobby with high ambient noise of voices, footfalls, doors closing. DOUMANI enters, his assistant, AB’DUL AZIZ bows in greeting, then follows as Doumani walks to, and easily ascends, the magnificent staircase.
In the polished silence of the second floor corridor the dust of Cairo hangs latent about the high brown walls. Figures moved silently between vast double doors closing with barely audible clicks in the soft haze of morning sunlight.
At the far end, on a long wooden bench, NADAR BIN-USEF waits. As Doumani approaches he stands. Aziz moves to protect Doumani – Doumani waves him back, then waves again to dismiss him. The two men sit – their bodies half turned toward each other – their knees almost touching.
He went to the airport yesterday. He
seemed to be waiting for someone, but no one came. He went home alone. It is nothing.
DOUMANI How did he travel?
DOUMANI Both ways?
Yes. He kept the taxi running at the airport,
then took it back to El-Taufiqiya.
DOUMANI Where in El-Taufqiya?
NADAR BIN-USEF We lost him in the traffic.
(shrug – the shoulders of his cheap suit move independent of his body)
He is probably just going for dinner.
(in carefully measured tones)
Why would a man who lives in Misr El- Qadima take a taxi to the airport to meet someone when he could comfortably drive his car up the Salah Salem?
How many times in the last year has he taken a taxi to the airport, kept the taxi running and then taken it to El-Taufqiya for dinner?
(pause as Nadar sinks lower – his
collar dipping below his suit)
When he left – was he quick? Did he seem in a hurry? Did he linger anywhere? Did he look back?
He went quickly. No he did not look back.
DOUMANI Why not, do you think?
(pause for reply – nothing)
If you were giving up waiting for someone would you not be concerned that you had missed them, or that if you left you might be leaving too early? Would you not be looking around, searching the crowd in case you had missed something?
Did it not occur to you that he had seen what he wanted to see? That he had achieved his objective?
Why would he have kept the taxi running when he could have caught another within five minutes? Did it not occur to you that he is following someone?
Nadar straightens his jacket – smartening himself before his master Doumani stands, ending the interrogation.
Start with the hotels where you lost him.
Check the birth dates of everyone arriving yesterday. We are looking for someone twenty-five to thirty, probably female, probably of Arab extraction.
The weight of the task is clear in Nadar’s demeanour as he watches his master walk away.
EXT. ENTRANCE TO THE CAIRO HILTON HOTEL -DAY
SIR WILLIAM SAINT THOMAS HOUGHTON, BILL, strides up the steps and into the lobby.
INT. LOBBY OF THE CAIRO HILTON HOTEL- DAY
Bill enters, looks around the crowded lobby and is pleasantly surprised to see HESSNIE MAZOU, HM, lurking by a large palm and watching Meira at the reception desk. Bill steps back, takes up a position out of sight of HM.
I have a reservation – McMahon.
RECEPTIONIST (after checking)
Yes, river view double? (looks up for approval)
(Meira smiles assent)
Would you like to charge the room to your Visa card Miz McMahon?
(Meira smiles again)
Meira turns, looks around. HM turns a fraction. Bill remains still – his eyes on HM.
(handing her a key card package for room 730)
Seventh floor Mizz. (smile)
Would you like a second key?
MEIRA No thank you.
The receptionist waves the porter over.
Thank you, I’ll take care of my bag myself.
The porter walks her to the elevators – presses the button.
MEIRA Thank you.
HM waits for the elevator doors to close then crosses the lobby to the street.
Bill watches the elevator stop at the fifth floor then follows HM to the street.
EXT. STREET OUTSIDE THE CAIRO HILTON – NIGHT
Bill sees HM turning smartly left at the end of the block. Bill, pauses, smiles and crosses the street to linger in a shop front until HM can be seen returning at the other end of the block. Again Bill smiles, waits as HM walks the length of the block and turns again. (Beat)
HM reappears and continues around the block a second time. On the third occasion HM takes a cab. Bill, waiting in a cab, follows.
EXT. SMART CAIRO SUBURAN STREET – NIGHT
HD’s cab stops. HD gets out, crosses the street, walks to the next junction then turns. A further short walk until he reaches his house and goes in.
FUTHER BACK. Bill watches.
INT. SEVENTH FLOOR CORRIDOR OF THE CAIRO HILTON – DAY
Bill walks briskly, pauses at 730, bends to remove a small wooden peg that leans against the door, then proceeds to the elevator.
INT. TOURBUS – DAY
Meira seated in a tour-bus stuck in the Cairo traffic. She looks out across the mass of beeping vehicles, almost static under the dusty haze, to a Mercedes taxi where the driver is busy unloading his nose. Abstractly she watches.
Before the taxi driver completes his excavations she turns back to her fellow passengers focussing on LUCA MARELLO, a smart young man of Mediterranean complexion who appears to be preoccupied with a polished steel tool about the size of a fountain pen. Again she watches.
Turning her gaze she surveys the other passengers – a young Asian couple, an obviously American group of four, two women together, three other couples and, at the back, Bill. All, except the last, are festooned with cameras and bags for their adventure.
EXT. ENTRANCE TO CHEOPS – DAY
The passengers disembark and are herded by a FEMALE TOUR GUIDE, FTG, to join the phalanx filing into Cheops. Meira joins
behind Luca who seems agitated. Bill walks away to a makeshift cafe under dusty umbrellas that have seen better times.
INT. CHEOPS – DAY
Meira, stooped, is in the line going further into the pyramid. A similar line is returning beside them creating a sense of claustrophobia: Sweat and anxiety on the returning faces.
Relief as the group reach a high roof inner chamber. FTG counts her flock. Meira sees Luca slip away as she moves from the group to gaze up the walls to ceiling and an exit to a gentle, winding, stairway. She start to climb.
UPPER INNER CHAMBER
Meira emerges into an empty space poorly lit by one flickering fluorescent hanging on its wire. Looking down she sees the floor dusty but perfectly flat – the stone blocks meeting without visible cracks. She looks to the walls to see the same precision in the building blocks. Scanning walls and ceiling she’s enwrapped in the quality of the engineering.
She stops, emerald eyes in alarm, as she sees a man’s legs protruding from the wall. Curiosity overcomes fear as she edges closer. A foot moves. Closer.
Hello. Are you okay?
The legs move, Luca moves partially out. His feet reach the floor.
Are you alright? Can I help you?
Luca raises his head to brush against the dusty roof. He looks back to her
(huge white smile)
Un momento, un momento signora (turning back into the hole – struggling)
He pulls his upper torso from the square hole leaving his arms inside.
LUCA (in Italian)
Please excuse me signora. Might I ask you a favour?
Meira struggles to remember her Italian.
LUCA (CONT’D) Scusi. Do you speak English?
Yes. Yes I speak English.
You must come closer. Kneel here by me.
Meira kneels beside him.
See, see, look in ‘ere. You can see?
She peers into the hole.
You see past my arms. My instrument. If I
let go it will be gone. Is expensive.
She pushes in, the better to see.
I’m sorry, excusi mi. You cannot.
No, no, don’t let go. I can get it.
She squirms in along side him. Her breasts pressed against the bottom of the hole she stretches in regardless of his proximity.
MEIRA (CONT’D) I think I can.
She pulls herself further in. Her bottom pushes past his face until he is staring at it – his nose inches from her buttocks.
I have it. I have it. Let go. Let me take it.
Luca withdraws his arms, raises his head.
Now I can’t get out. Can you pull me out?
He stands to pull her by the waist until he can move up to her arms and help her stand. She grins mightily as she offers the shiny steel object to him – her face and blouse black with ancient dust.
Grazie signorina. Molte grazie. I am in your
She followed his eyes to her blouse and started brushing away the dirt.
You must let me pay for your cleaning.
And for lunch. I insist on returning your kindness. You have saved me from a great loss. My instruments are expensive, and mean much to me.
So I can see. But what were you doing in
there? I am not used to finding men hanging out of holes in the walls of ancient buildings. Do you do this sort of thing often?
Si, si, signorina I do. I am a strange person.
Always I am hanging out of tunnels, or laying around the floor of ancient buildings with my head down a hole. It is what I do.
As a hobby, or as a job?
It’s my job. I am an engineer. I is measuring
Oh, well – that explains everything.
Si, si, I will explain everything. There is no
secret. But not here. Over lunch I insist. I am Luca, Luca Morello.
(he offers his hand – silly after the
Please, I insist, let me take you to lunch and all will be made clear.
She followed him out into the bright Egyptian Sun.
EXT. BESIDE THE NILE – NIGHT
Meira and Luca step from a taxi stopped beside the Nile, just below El Manial Bridge, and take a short walk to a floating restaurant.
I hope you do not mind the smell – boats
with food always create strong smells, don’t you think?
As they step aboard Meira sees only the lights reflected by the glass and silverware in the mirror behind the bar and the moonlight, on the water and on the El Manial Palace.
FURTHER UP RIVER is the glittering tower block of the Gezira Sheraton Hotel. She looks at the candle-lit boats hovering nearby with couples dining at private tables, and at the tour boats sliding by all a-glitter with pearl strings of multi-coloured bulbs
ON THE BOAT she notices row upon row of baskets of orchids hanging over the safety rails.
It is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. You
must know Cairo well.
Luca smile graciously and indicates to the hovering maître d’ that he wants a table on the river side of the restaurant.
AT THE TABLE
What is it about airplanes that makes you
so tired. I cannot decide – is it the airport, the jet engines, the air inside? Why are we always to tired when we arrived.
I am only arrived today. Are you arrived today? No, I think yesterday for you. Yes, yes, you have a sleep – not a good one, but you ‘ave ‘add one. Yes?
He paused to sip, looks at her toying with her glass and looking at him.
But you want to know why I had my head in
a hole in the wall of the Cheops upper chamber?
She smiles encouragingly.
Si, I will tell you. But first you must tell me
He pauses to watch her face, She smiles – concedes.
LUCA (CONT’D) Are you unhappy?
LUCA (CONT’D) Sad perhaps.
Not really. No, I would not say I is sad. Why
would you think I is?
You are young, some years from thirty I
think, vibrant, alive and curious.
(pause, measures her expression)
and on a mission, a lone mission in Cairo.
She does not turn from his gaze. She holds his eyes: his soft brown eyes.
I see more sadness in you than I feel in my
own heart. Perhaps I should be asking you such questions.
He brakes the gaze with a blink, dismissing the moment with a smile that lights his whole face.
Si, priego. Did you notice anything special
about the hole?
Oh, in the pyramid? Well, it looked long.
Yes, very deep. I don’t know how deep,
more important though, it is perfect.
Si. It is perfectly straight. The walls are
perfectly flat, and it is perfectly horizontal. Straight. That hole is dead straight.
Is that what you were measuring. How
straight it is – is?
Yes. And the floor of the upper chamber,
that is also straight, perfectly flat. The hole runs perfectly square to the wall, and the wall perfectly square to the floor. Perpendicular I think in English.
MEIRA Yes, at ninety degrees.
Si, si, at ninety degrees to the vertical as
far as my laser could see. Maybe more than one ‘undred feet.
You could see a hundred feet?
No. It is a small laser. It cannot see
anymore than seventy, maybe eighty.
MEIRA Is it a new hole?
No, no. It is as old as the pyramid. It is built
Oh, the Egyptians had instruments as good as your laser?
He leans forward, his elbows on the table, one hand grasping his drink.
It does mean that. It means that the Egyptians could measure to within hundredths of millimetres. It means that all the traditional theories that they used hammers, string soaked in acids, or wedging to cut their building blocks is stupid. Nonsense I think.
They each sit back, she to think, he to pause.
How do you think they made that beautiful
hole? How do you think these people, who where supposed to be limited to bronze and brass, could make tools to cut perfectly straight holes through granite and basalt? How could that be?
These people had Sun technology. These people could control light beams – like lasers.
Meira now has her arms crossed on the table, giving Luca a quizzical, ‘you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me,’ look.
Si, si, they could. I am not crazy, they
could. They did, you only have to look at the hole, they did it. And if they did not have high-speed diamond tipped cutters and grinders guided by laser beams, how did they do it? With wedges and ice fissures? I do not think so.
I suppose they could have melted the stone
You can melt stone with laser light. Jewellers do it. People who synthesize stones use laser beams.
Ah, you know these things. Good. Si, you
can cut stone with a light bulb if you have the right mirror. They do that. They did that at the Bureau of Mines, in the Twin Cities Research Centre in America. A scientist, David Lindroth, I think, he showed that a 100 watts of light energy focused to a tiny circle, about 2 millimetre, can cut any rock. The harder the rock the easier I think, because quartzite spalls very easily, while a rock, basalt, does not spall – it melts.
(pause to wipe his mouth)
In Machu Picchu they have the same. The blocks are cut so exactly you could not put paper between them. And they had a golden mirror there, two man across they say, but the Conquistadores cut it up and melted it – of course – they could not allow anything to threaten the church.
(smiling at this bubbling enthusiasm)
I think we are going to need more wine for this. Please let me buy a bottle?
LUCA (signalling the waiter)
“Of course I will let you, provided you let me pay for it.
I hope you are hungry. Excitement makes you hungry, yes? And this is exciting, yes?
Yes, I guess it is. If you’re saying that all
the historians up until now have been talking nonsense, then it definitely is.
Ancient people had a much higher
technology than you would believe possible, much higher than we have been led to believe. That is what I think.
The bottle arrives.
INT. ROOM 730 – DAY
Meira sits at the table over the remains of breakfast. She is sipping coffee and reading the paper.
OS SOUND of the shower running.
Something disturbs her concentration. She looks up to see Nadar opening cupboards and drawers and moving about the room as if it were his own. Stunned, she pauses to consider.
What the fuck are you doing?
Nadar turns, he is calm . . .