Letter from a Time of Exile (Borhane Alaouié, 1988) – The Chair (Cynthia Choucair, 2002)

Sunday 10 October 2021, Lebanese movie night: Letter from a Time of Exile (Borhane Alaouié, 1988, 52 minutes) – The Chair (لغة فرنسية) (Cynthia Choucair, 2002, 21 minutes). Both films in arabic with english subtitles. Free admission. Doors open at 20:00, Film starts at 20:30

In Letter from a Time of Exile, Borhane Alaouié presents the stories of four exiles from Beirut. Their only connection is the voice of the narrator and their situation of living in exile in Europe. Told with a subtle humor, the film sketches four highly individual portraits of people, whose lives have taken unexpected turns due to the madness of the Civil War.
Borhane Alaouié, Lebanese film director from South Lebanon, died in September 2021 in Brussels. He was 80 years old. He shot his first feature film Kafr Kassem in 1974, his work was immediately recognized internationally as one of the best Arab films of the year.
Director Hady Zaccack remembers: “Borhane Alaouié was a spiritual father for me and for Lebanese cinema, this new cinema which was born in 1975. The filmmaker was the most loved of a group of filmmakers like Maroun Baghdadi, Jocelyne Saab, Jean Chamoun, Randa Chahhal… who have transformed the country’s cinematographic landscape. Its disappearance coincides with the disappearance of a modern, secular vision of a new Lebanon, far from confessionalism. His cinema, which deals in particular with social problems, exile and return, was a pan-Arab cinema with Beirut as the center of his stories, but also Egypt (It is not enough that God is with the poor, 1978). Borhane Alaouié was my teacher, the one who paved my way by telling me one day: “You have to choose between being a critic or a filmmaker.” So he pushed me to make films and see them as a critic. I owe him a lot since the day he supervised my thesis film. It was a film school in itself. His departure marks the end of an era that is withering forever… tragically.”

The Chair (لغة فرنسية) by Lebanese filmmaker Cynthia Choucair (2002, 21 minutes).

While playing Basketball, 12-year-old Nader and 8-year-old Samer rip the chair of their dead brother. Fearing their mother’s anger, they throw it in the bin. Wallowing in a sense of guilt, the two brothers go out to retrieve it, but unfortunately the chair is no longer there.
Cynthia Choucair graduated from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (University of Balamand) in 1998 and holds a Master’s degree in cinema from IESAV, Saint Joseph University, Beirut. In 2007 she founded her production house “Road 2 Films”.
In 2012, her documentary “Powerless” addresses the issue of Lebanon’s electricity crisis through the testimonies of Jamal and others whose lives have been greatly affected by the persistent electricity shortage in their country.
Her documentary “Counting Tiles” was premiered in 2018 with a group of clowns who set off for the island of Lesbos to deliver laughter to refugees. These clowns are member of Clown Me In, a Beirut-based group that performs for young Syrian refugees: the children of a new generation of war.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Free entrance. You want to screen a movie, let us know: joe [at] lists [dot] squat [dot] net

Movie Night: Incendies (2010)

IncendiesSunday January 4th 2015, Movie Night: Incendies (Scorched) by Denis Villeneuve (130 minutes, 2010). In Arabic and French, with English subtitles. Door opens at 8pm, film begins at 9pm.

People who have lived through noteworthy experiences – fascinating or tragic – have always inspired writers and filmmakers. Soha Bechara is one such figure. A militant with the communist resistance to the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, Bechara was imprisoned without trial when she was 21 for trying to assassinate Antoine Lahad, the leader of the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army. She spent 10 years in Khiam prison, six of them in solitary confinement.
Bechara’s story has captured the imagination of Lebanese filmmakers and since her release from Khiam in 1998, she has appeared in a number of documentary studies. Now, in the wake of these artful documentaries, the first of the fiction films has come: “Incendies”. Villeneuve’s film is based on the play of the same name by Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad. The plot of “Incendies” revolves around the character of political activist Nawal Marwan, who lived through a harrowing detention before leaving her fictional home country for a life of exile in Canada. Her story is loosely inspired by Bechara’s own experiences. […Lees verder]

Movie night: Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Waltz_with_Bashir

Sunday August 18th 2013, Movie night: Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel, 2008, 86 minutes, English subtitles). Door opens at 20:00, film begins at 21:00

‘Waltz with Bashir” is a devastating animated film that tries to reconstruct how and why thousands of innocent civilians were massacred because those with the power to stop them took no action. Why they did not act is hard to say. Did they not see? Not realize? Not draw fateful conclusions? In any event, at the film’s end, the animation gives way to newsreel footage of the dead, whose death is inescapable. […Lees verder]

Filmavond: West Beirut

Zo./Su. 18 maart 2012: Film night, 20uur: West Beirut (Ziad Doueiri, Lebanon, 1998, 105′). English subtitles.

In April 1975, civil war breaks out; Beirut is partitioned along a Muslim-Christian line and is divided into East and West Beirut. Tarek is in high school, making Super 8 movies with his friend, Omar. At first the war is a lark: school has closed, the violence is fascinating, getting from West to East is a game. His mother wants to leave; his father refuses. Tarek spends time with May, a Christian, orphaned and living in his building. By accident, Tarek goes to an infamous brothel in the war-torn Olive Quarter, meeting its legendary madam, Oum Walid. He then takes Omar and May there. Family tensions rise. As he comes of age, the war moves inexorably from adventure to tragedy.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, nice, warm and cozy cinema! Doors open at 20:00, film starts at 20:15, free entrance. You want to play a movie, let us know: joe [at] squat [dot] net

Food & Filmavond, Carlos the Jackal

Zo./Su. 26 feb. 2012, 19:00, Filmavond, Carlos (Olivier Assayas, 2010, fr, 185′, english subtitles). Exceptionally, doors open at 19:00! Films starts at 19:15 pm. There will be soup and bread served during this long evening.

Terrorist? Revolutionary? Or just a cynic? This continent-hopping biopic of Carlos the Jackal suggests greed and ego won out over principle, writes Peter Bradshaw

The Pimpernel of Marxist-Leninist terrorism is back. For years, Carlos was the spectre haunting Europe, known to western newspaper readers by one single photo: a plump, bespectacled and smugly smirking headshot reproduced with such Warholian persistence that it became an icon of menace. His fugitive invisibility made literary theorists of many, entertaining the feverish notion that he did not exist, that “Carlos” was effectively a socio-cultural construct, a bogeyman invented by the media-political complex to sell papers and to justify the erosion of civil liberties. Carlos’s eventual capture and imprisonment in the 1990s, revealing him to be abjectly human, was a real letdown, as if Osama Bin Laden had been arrested working in a Carphone Warehouse in Watford.

French film-maker Olivier Assayas has now released for the big screen a concatenation of his sweeping TV miniseries about Carlos, starring Édgar Ramírez as the Venezuelan-born revolutionary who abandoned university studies in Moscow in 1970 and travelled straight to Beirut to join the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The film appears in two versions. The edited-highlights cut weighs in at a chunky two hours and 45 minutes. Or you can sit down to the whole thing: five-and-a-half hours, end to end. It is a measure of Assayas’s showmanship, flair and sheer narrative drive that this super-epic version is actually very watchable and more or less flies by. I’ve seen 80-minute films that felt longer.

As he affects the inevitable beret and cigar, Carlos looks a bit like the evil twin of Che Guevara, and in some ways Assayas’s movie is the evil twin of Steven Soderbergh’s two-part study, Che. Where Che appeared to be the romantic revolutionary leader, however, appearing at the head of a united force, Carlos seems an increasingly jaded terrorist, dedicated – in fine, Life-of-Brian style – to battling with, and undermining, the moderates of his own movement: a globe-trotting ideologue and sexual egotist. In Assayas’s film he appears not as a heroic force, but as the dismal mendicant of the Soviet Union, maintained in hideouts and weaponry by Moscow through its client state East Germany, and by Syria and Libya for whom it is convenient to retain the services of Carlos and his acolytes as a roving expeditionary force for mayhem. Finally the Berlin Wall comes down, taking Carlos’s career with it, and he appears a sleazy and seedy figure, washed up in Sudan where he improbably claims to be a Muslim, getting liposuction for his “love-handles” and apparently evincing not the smallest interest in the Palestinian people.

Assayas sees Carlos’s greatest moment as containing the seed of his downfall: his storming of the Opec convention in Vienna in 1975 during which he and his gang took hostages but failed to carry out the secret plan of killing some of them – most prominently Saudi Arabia’s Sheik Ahmed Yamani – a perceived failure of nerve that caused his expulsion from the PFLP. Here, Carlos popularised or even invented the aircraft hijack as the essential trope of 1970s terrorism: the theatrical gesture that doubles up as bargaining chip and getaway transportation. Carlos got a plane to fly to Algeria, whose government is shown to superintend the payment of $20m of ransom money from the Saudis for Yamani’s safety. A pro-Palestinian gesture turns into a mendacious blackmail spectacular, and at this moment Carlos becomes an intercontinental blowhard, whisking from safe-house to safe-house, existing in a network of untraceable money, and in a grey area between antisemitism and antizionism.

Little of the film is about Carlos’s super-inflated reputation in the media, though it might be interesting to make a movie about him in which he never appears on screen. Assayas simply flits alongside Carlos as he travels from Beirut to London, to Paris, to Damascus, to Tripoli, to Berlin, to Khartoum, angrily and tirelessly haranguing his comrades in various languages about their lack of courage, lack of obedience to his orders, and lack of tolerance about his need to have sex with other people. Ramírez’s performance as Carlos has fluency and swagger. There is little to show the inner man: although he has one bizarre monologue about his tender and sensual passion for weapons.

This is a film about the spectacle, or perhaps more specifically the secret spectacle, of a shadowy individual with a military flair for terrorism and a monkish vocation for revolution in its most rigidly abstract sense, which resulted in an existence that was not “stateless” exactly – Carlos’s privileges were granted by the super-state of Soviet communism – but nomadic, lonely, galvanised by the compulsive preparation for violent assault and the fear of arrest. And getting legal representation from Jacques Vergès (Nicolas Briançon) – the notoriously amoral fast-talker beloved of murderers and tyrants, and investigated in Barbet Schroeder’s documentary Terror’s Advocate – accelerates Carlos’s descent into cynicism.

Assayas’s Carlos is a television-drama-turned-movie that interestingly injects a boxset quality into its idea of epic. There are big establishing shots of each of the foreign cities where the latest episode occurs, but the drama itself, despite its multinational setting, is all intimate, domestic, steamy, almost soapy. It really does rattle along, and Ramírez is a very convincing Carlos: on the run like a bank robber, an ideologue with no ideas, left marooned when the tides of history turn against him.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, nice, warm and cozy cinema! Doors will exceptionally open at 19:00, film starts at 19:15, free entrance. You want to play a movie, let us know: joe [at] squat [dot] net