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The film Elektra was showcased at the Women International Film Festival at ABC Dbayeh on Thursday, April 18, graced by the presence of director Hisham Bizri. The cast included Diamand Abou Abboud alongside Manal Issa (Elektra), Flavia Bechara (Orestes), Lisa Debs (Aegisthus) and Reina Jabbour (chorus). Set within the war-torn confines of Beirut’s Piccadilly Theater, the film unfolds over three days, capturing a group of actors and a writer striving to breathe life into the desolate venue through a production of Sophocles’ tragedy Elektra.

Originally set in Argos around 410 BC, Elektra narrates the harrowing quest for justice by Elektra and her brother Orestes after their father Agamemnon is murdered by their mother Clytemnestra and stepfather Aegisthus, following the Trojan War.

Transposed to the ruins of Beirut’s Piccadilly Theater, the film portrays intense thematic explorations of deception, justice and revenge. Here, the actors witness the writer’s vivid dreams, and she confronts the duplicity and disdain of the performers, ultimately facing her own demise.

With a multifaceted portrayal, Diamand Abou Abboud stars as the protagonist, authoring the chapters that compose the play in the film. Her roles are manifold, encompassing the writer, Clytemnestra, the guilty sister, the jealous lover and herself. This method allows the actress to craft a portrayal that resonates with authenticity and introspection, confronting personal and psychological traumas exacerbated by a decaying Beirut. Her journey mirrors the delayed recognition found in Sophocles’ narrative, enriching her self-awareness and depth as both a character and performer.

With a visual experience beyond understanding, Hisham Bizri aimed to create a film that transcends straightforward narrative comprehension, focusing instead on a visual experience. The filming process, described as an orchestrated improvisation, spanned 20 days. Scenes were penned in the morning and filmed in the afternoon, bound by the thematic core of Elektra and the Piccadilly Theater. The constant presence of the five actresses, the director and the technical team brought continuity amidst the complexity inherent in Greek tragedies, which the film embraces rather than simplifies.

The film draws from Bizri’s childhood memories of cinema at the Piccadilly. Without a predetermined script, the film evolved into five distinct chapters, each capable of standing alone as a short film, reflecting the dynamic interactions between the director and his actresses. This collaborative process involved nightly writing sessions followed by daily revisions and filming, fostering a creative synergy among the team. Hisham Bizri’s decision to retain linguistic imperfections during rehearsals underscores the film’s thematic focus on identity through the lens of Greek tragedy, emphasizing authenticity over accuracy.

This narrative approach, coupled with a commitment to capturing the raw essence of performance and the haunting atmosphere of its setting, positions Elektra as a peculiar cinematic exploration of cultural and historical layers, connecting the ancient and the contemporary through the medium of film.

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