Following its opening at the Institut du Monde Arabe, graced by the presence of Jack Lang, the Lebanese Film Festival of France (November 23-26) is in full swing in Paris. The Lincoln Cinema hosts an array of Lebanese short films, captivating an audience eager for cinema and culture. Here’s a glimpse into some highlights.
Still Grieving, directed by Carl Haddad, narrates a life story. The film captures the true beauty of its subject through eternal portraits, smiles and nostalgia. The static shots of rain outside, books on a shelf, an iron, boxes, a TV and empty chairs stir deep emotions. The film delves into the jargon of printing, a craft the protagonist takes pride in, recognizing the value of today’s sellable items. “I’m tired of it all,” she declares. Having left Lebanon for France, the “woman in black” is forced by the owners to give up her childhood home. The film poetically documents her cultivated – self-taught – life (as true learning often comes from self-teaching), as she empties the house of its furniture. Despite being a film set, the house maintains an unobtrusive feel. The only intruders are the strangers – and the man with a cigar – who come to empty the apartment, buy remnants of lives, and rummage through memories without remorse. “I’ve already left in my mind,” she says. Carl’s documentary ensures that this overflow of everything retains all traces of love and the memory of Fayez Sultan.
Zeina Sfeir is a director, documentarian, producer, distributor, press officer, co-founder of Beirut DC, organizer of Beirut’s cinematographic days, festival organizer, and co-founder and president of Metropolis.
Echoes by Julien Kobersy tells the story of Lebanon through a simple balustrade, spanning from 10982 to 2012. The film plunges viewers into the heart of Beirut, and within that core, into a family’s story amidst the country’s various upheavals. The film embodies a constant energy of survival, generation after generation, despite fear. One word resonates throughout: resilience, a term many have come to disdain.
You Are Now Connected, directed by Laetitia Moya Moukarzel, is a film as simplistic as it is futuristic, holding the viewer’s attention until the very end. The plot unfolds in a world as human as it is robotic, governed by a critical emotion: fear. The film poses the question: What wouldn’t one do in the name of fear? Facing the violence of prejudice requires immense courage to remain human.
Clotheslined by Patrick Chemali captures the lightness of family joy and the fragility of the moment. What remains of the smoke from our explosions? What do our shadows tell? It portrays all the secrets of daily laundry, aired on clotheslines, as life goes on.
Talk to me by Ribal Chedid presents a dialogue of the deaf between a father and son, separated by a closed door. They reverse spaces and roles; the father locks himself in his son’s room to uncover his secrets, while the son tries to reason with him to open the door. A locked drawer symbolizes the revered past and unspoken present, mirroring the father’s overseas work and communication breakdowns. Tension peaks until the son loses his composure and the drawer’s lock breaks. The film explores the unspoken emotions, questioning why silence often prevails with those we love, misunderstand or struggle to love properly.
Scenes from Home by Cynthia Samwa goes beyond the refugee narrative. It traces the lives of various individuals and listens to their human heartbeat. They are participants in drama therapy workshops who dream of a better future. The film invites viewers to a grand screen, making them realize that, in an instant, everything can change. It also illustrates how adults’ dreams give way to those of their children. Living in the present, the film suggests leaving the past behind and daring to dream anew.
In his article, “Un amour de soie,” (A Silk Self-Love) Fawwaz Traboulsi poetically notes, “It is in the warmth of breasts that caterpillars hatch.” This metaphor sets the tone for the film Les chenilles by Noël and Michelle Keserwany, which illuminates the experiences of women from diverse backgrounds. The film, a hybrid of documentary and fiction, narrates the story of women from the Levant who, in the 19th century, received their first “work permits,” allowing them to be employed in European silk factories.
Karim Ghorayeb’s dreamlike cinematography follows two sisters, Asma and Saran, portrayed by the Keserwany siblings. These characters, exiled in France and employed in a café, forge a sudden and profound friendship. Sharing their fears and vulnerabilities, they weave a bond as delicate and precious as silk threads, with their shared roots and experiences of exile forming the core of their connection. The film draws a parallel to the silk factories, where the din of machinery hindered communication among women, yet friendships formed, offering solace amid the tumultuous pursuit of justice and history. Asma and Saran’s friendship serves as a healing balm, transcending the realm of art and femininity, and demonstrating the transformative power of women’s resilience and support, which quenches any desire for vengeance.
Sam Lahoud, a multifaceted figure in the film industry, producer, screenwriter, director, script consultant and lecturer at NDU, serves on the jury of short films, chaired by Darina Al Joundi. He works alongside Wissam Charaf, Mounia Akl, Jihane Chouaib and Stéphanie Atala. Lahoud emphasizes his engagement in fostering collaborations between various film festivals internationally, including in Canada, Australia and France, to facilitate cultural exchanges. He highlights the distinctiveness of Lebanese films, noting their exploration of identity, departure and the Port of Beirut as recurring sub-themes. He underscores that selection criteria prioritize emotional resonance over technical aspects.
Offering advice to the youth, Sam Lahoud observes that the youth is getting old too fast, losing hope and passion. He advocates for increased communication and understanding of differences, while encouraging them to steadfastly express their voices.