Friday, September 5, 2008

Une Chanson dans la tête - ميلودراما حبيبي

Trailer for Melodrama Habibi

Hani Tamba released this long fiction, his first one in France, a pity that it wasn't released earlier in Lebanon this crowded summer. My beliefs is that it would have compete well with the other American movies. In France, it might not be considered as general public movie, but the first days it was a hit I suppose. The movie made a great bi-lingual movie, although some lines may not seem as natural for Lebanese (an oracle which speaks almost exclusively in French!) which reveals the Lebanese openness to other cultures. Behind the story, the most highlighted theme that we may extract is the focus on the memory, and how weak are humans relying on it. This theme can be touched in the director's award winning short After Shave where we can find other common subjects. One of these, is his choice of the music composer, Khaled Mouzanar whose talent marked his wife's movie as well. Regarding the cast, I was excited with Julia Kassar's presence, it's a shame that her role was so short, even though her talent was shining in the little space she was given.
Even though the ending was a bit pessimistic for Lebanon future, in my opinion, this Tamba's first feature was a success, only missing its release in Lebanon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In Memoriam ...

This week witnessed a big loss for the Lebanese artistic community. A great talent that contributed in defining lines of Arabic and Lebanese films would not be forgotten any time soon. Her marks will remain shining in the history of our culture.

Her best known works include "The Kite" which was honored with the silver Lion award in the Venice film festival.

Randa Chahal, Rest In Peace...

Monday, June 2, 2008

I want to see - بدّي شوف

"I want to see" Trailer

It's not clear in what category to put this movie, It's not a short since its duration passed an hour, not a fiction neither since what we see is a real story, and not a documentary (is it?) where every thing is programmed. You might think it's a media report about a journey visit of the French actress Catherine Deneuve to a disaster zone (few months after the disaster). The camera was almost exclusively pointed at Mrs Deneuve, and sometimes at Rabih Mroueh. During this one day journey, Catherine visited the southern suburbs for a short period of time, then continues to Bent Jbeil, the hometown of Rabih. He showed deep emotions in his quest to find his grand mother house with all the destruction around, Catherine was only trying to find out where Rabih have gone, showing little interest of her surrounding. During the rest of the movie, Catherine appeared tired of the trip, maybe because she could not support what she wanted to see? In all the movie, she gives the impression of being passive, unless for one scene where we see her reacting when Rabih was talking about her movies! The last scene where she was showing respect and appreciation for Rabih, was a beautiful moment to see.
The movie included beautiful scenes from the south, with the plain of dancing wheat expressing high aesthetic taste, the other which focused on machines and ruins is well moving.
In short, I see this movie as an experimental piece - the directors called it a cinematographic adventure - which is not (AFAIK) aiming to reach general public, but tells a real story free from faking emotions, or alien scenes. It simply shows a beautiful work depicting reality behind stars we used to see them acting.

Interview with Rabih Mroueh

"I want to see" presentation at Cannes

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Thoughts about Cannes 2008

This year in Cannes, there were only one Lebanese movie, halfing the outcome of the last year, which does not reflect a growth in movie industry in this country, yet there have been some notable releases outside Cannes (Falling from earth, Khalass, Under the bombs,...). A post here will be dedicated later to the movie in question "I want to see".
Instead, I'll discuss in this post two non-Lebanese movies.

The fist movie is the latest Palestinian movie, "Salt of this sea" (ملح هذا البحر) by the Palestinian director AnneMarie Jacir, who is living currently in the US.
The movie shows a respectable work, with all elements done in a really professional way. In my opinion, the writer/director aims in this movie is to reach the heart and mind of western public through tough questions and facts about the stolen land. Such questions that are the most obvious for people in the region are recycled also to target Arab as well, even if it was not direct.
What I appreciate about most Palestinian movie that I've seen so far, is that they are not afraid of sharing a political opinion (in this case just facts) in movies, unlike some of the Lebanese movies where they try to avoid, or just surfacing such subjects, leaving the viewer isolated from what the directors consider as taboo subjects. After all, artists purpose was always to blur lines, pushing limits further, etc.
I urge every one to go watch this piece of art/history, the actors were great, scenes are breathtaking, and simply because it's beautiful. It might answers some questions, fix answers we know already, and enlightening our mind with some magic from a stolen land facing a daily life of progressive oppression, repression, occupation, war crimes under international silence,...

"Salt of this sea" Trailer

The other movie, was a shameful selection in Cannes this year, Cannes committee decided that it will be a good idea to include an movie about Sabra and Shatila massacre which took place in 1982 in Palestinian camps in Beirut during the civil war. I haven't seen this movie (and probably will not in near future), but what I was able to dig from the trailer and scenes I've seen in the Internet cloud, it focuses on Israelis paranoia and neglects the tragedy of the lost souls in those unfortunate camps left unprotected. Pushing the blame further towards Lebanese who contributed to such an unexplainable behavior, and putting Israelis as a distant accomplice. Whatever the case, I believe that such movie will remain a dark spot in the 2008 selection, because the director of this movie should be convicted in a war crime court for contributing to such massacre, and taking the movie as a witness and as piece of evidence with the negligible scenes it described. But instead Cannes people decided that honoring criminals for their act is a good thing to do for a reason that escaped my reasoning.
It is shame as well that no long feature were produced by Lebanese nor Palestinian giving such a historical tragedy in human history what it deserves. It surely falls on the taboo side for Lebanese directors.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Under the bombs - تحت القصف

Trailer of "Under the bombs"

Latest movie by Philippe Aractingi, this is an entire new movie, from a concept point of view. No one will deny the new experience that you will enjoy watching. This piece of art will take the human being into another level, and reveal the unmatched experience of a mother in a quest for a lost child amid the atrocity of an indiscriminate war.
So, as mentioned before, the concept is rather new, it's somewhat a fiction movie, yet it have been shot in an improvised way in the following three days after the fighting ended. You'll find mixed shots between 'real' stories, and fictions, thus pushing emotions further. You'll find the line blurred between those scenes showing a talent in directing, and acting and which underlines the capacity of the director to handle documentaries and fiction easily.
Actress Nada Abou Farhat have already been in an Aractingi long feature 'Bosta', but her role gives another dimension of her talents by looking at the difference between both movies (which emphasize the director as well). Georges Khabaz was moving as well.
The movie have been released in Lebanon last December, and is scheduled for release May 14 later this month in France. Though, One issue remains unclear : the movie was aired on French TV two weeks before its release in Big screen, which is usually done in a reverse way, and after a longer period of time. This question remain to be answered. I understand arte contribution to the movie, but this was the case of 'Caramel' as well as other movies, but air timing was different!
Finally, I hope the message of the film get through, and the movie get the attention it deserves.

Philippe Aractingi interview during 'Venice film Festival'

Saturday, March 29, 2008

In the shadows of the city - طيف المدينة

a screenshot from "In the Shadows of the City"

This film is among the first produced after the civil war that ravaged Lebanon, so it's natural to find it falling into the category that tries to discuss this issue, and more precisely, we found this movie dealing with the evolution of the Lebanese citizen mind with respect to a conflict ravaging its country.
The starting scene shows a family in the south of the country suffering after fights erupts in that region to decide later to go settle in the capital. The main character is Rami a 12 years old boy of this southern family, he grows to be incarnated by Majdi Machmouchi who plays the role in a highly professional way playing a militia man, an ambulance guy, and a person in love.
Despite the fact that during the shooting of the movie, the reconstruction of Lebanon was on its way, the movie team managed, in some sort of race with time, to get pretty successful shots of the Beirut during the war period, mainly focusing on areas and discreet that have'nt being hit by the reconstruction phase and remained in ruins long after the war is over.
Jean Khalil Chamoun did a great job with his first long feature fiction, with a plot, that does not include any surprises, yet the purpose was to show the influence of the war that manipulates people. He managed to include prominent actors like Ahmad Al Zein and Ammar Chalak... The original music by Omar Bashir was well touching. I'm not aware of other fictions by Chamoun, since he's apparently focusing mainly on documentaries for the moment.
The movie was not a box-office hit in Lebanon once it has been released in 2000, mainly because Lebanese were trying to put (and maybe forget) the past behind focusing on the future. Every Lebanese is urged to watch movies of this kind as a faithful description of the civil war and as a way of understanding that civil fighting does not induce gain to any party.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dunia - دنيا

Kiss me not on the eyes (Dunia - دنيا) was quite a special movie. First of all, it's an Egyptian movie (if we judge it by the cast, the subject, the location), yet the story, the direction was done by the Lebanese prominent director Jocelyne Saab.
It deals with the issues of females circumcision in Egypt. To do this the director, with a pretty nice cast, made up a story involving love, dance, poetry... all mixed up together into an unusual good sensual Egyptian movie.
The reception of the movie in Egypt was rather disappointing with all the censoring going there, although the film was trying to tackle the circumcision issue from a relative distance so it would be accepted by the Egyptian community.
Jocelyne Saab had been absent from the middle-eastern movies industry scene for about a decade before this movie was revealed. Waiting was surely worth it, her latest is a short named "Broken bridges" or "الجسور المدمرة" about the Israeli indiscriminate aggressive war on the Lebanon. We're waiting for her latest long feature.

Trailer for "Dunia"