Lebanese Filmmakers Keep ‘War’ in Background at Beirut Film Fest
The 4th edition of the Beirut Film Festival 2001 is being held between October 3-10 with the participation of feature, short and documentary films from numerous countries.
The Festival will host 30 guests, including the Jury presided by the Producer Marco Muller (Italy), and the members: Nora Joumblatt (President Beiteddine Festival -Lebanon), Olivier Assayas (Director- France), Bahman Farmanara (Director and Producer - Iran), Mohammed Mallas (Director -Syria), Mark Sanders (Author/Art Critic -UK), Inas Al Degheidy (Director -Egypt), according to the web site of the festival.
The Syrian director Mohammed Malass will be honored at the festival by screening his films: Ahlam Al Madina, Al Leil, Al Manam, Fawq Al Ramel and That Al Shams.
The Mid East/Arab Feature Film competition includes the films: Clouds Of May by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey), Little Senegal by Rachid Bouchareb (Algeria), Fatma by Khaled Ghorbal (Tunisia), Under The Moonlight by Reza Mir-Karimi (Iran), Taef Al Madina by Jean Chamoun (Lebanon), Asrar Al Banat by Magdy Ahmad Ali (Egypt), 17 Rue Bleu by Ched Chenouga (Algeria) and Yalla Yalla by Yousef Fares (Lebanon).
The Short Films by Lebanese Directors competition includes the films: Blue Night by Fuad Alaywan, On Top of the World by Ziad Oakes, Roads Full of Apricots by Nigol Bezjian and Une Pomme Rouge by Ahmed Yasin.
A number of documentary films also participate in the competitions of the Documentaries by Lebanese Directors and the World Panorama.
The Lebanese filmmakers, according to The Daily Star, are thinking about moving back and forth through time and space, as their films keep “the war” in the background, focusing on human relationships instead. But “the results, of course, are somewhat uneven.”
The daily considers that the most mature and best realized of the short films in this year’s competition is Nigol Bezgian’s Roads Full of Apricots, a 35-minute lyric to migration and repatriation.
A fictive memoir of the filmmaker’s boomerang migration from Beirut to Los Angeles and back again, Apricots ruminates on a wide range of subjects from the Lebanese civil war to movies to apricot jam, juxtaposing a rambling narration with sharp visual images.
Bezgian insists that his film isn’t autobiographical in any conventional sense. “There are moments of autobiography, but these really only provide points of departure,” Bezgian told the daily.
“The story actually came out of shared observations friends and I shared about living in Los Angeles. After collecting in my head for some time, the story was written very quickly. Then it took me another year and a half to find the images.
“In those days I carried a video camera everywhere I went. If I couldn’t find the image I needed, I’d use a photograph. By the time I’d finished I had 22 hours of material.
“The film comes very much out of my Armenian heritage. Apricots are close to Armenians. Half the orchards in the country are devoted to apricots. The doudouq (the mournful pipe that is native to Armenia) is made from apricot wood.
Bezgian’s recollections are recognizably those of a man, but the narration is rendered by a woman’s Lebanese-accented voice. The physical displacement of the emigrant is thus twofold both from Lebanon to America and from man to woman.
“I chose a woman’s voice to narrate to help confuse the film’s sexual issues. They say a man’s emotional memory is different than a woman’s. I wanted to raise the emotional ambiguities in the narrative above the issue of gender. I also wanted to underline that this is not just my story. Any immigrant in any city could be asking these questions.”
Bezgian pauses. “This film briefly exposes a private sickness,” he smiles. “Then it snatches it away.”
Roads Full of Apricots will be screened at the 4th annual United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF) to be held on October 25-28, 2001 at Stanford University (USA).
The documentary, according to UNAFF site, is about cultural identity shaped by a tragic history. It relates to the filmmaker's personal experience of being displaced from his civil war-torn country; it is a universal exploration of distant and present memories. Using archival images, the film is a tribute to history, films, literature, music, and other triggers of memory, as well as the inner experience of nostalgia. Current images add to the archival material, revealing how much the past colors our present and how quickly the present becomes part of the past – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)