Zizo and Lightcube Film Society are collaborating to institute a unique weekly film club that will provide its patrons, visitors and members with an opportunity to engage with the intricate realities and complex emotional, political and social diagrams of the Lebanese cinema. The cinema from this region is rarely, if ever, witnessed in our part of the world, and we are very interested in being able to showcase it; not merely to exhibit it as an isolated, national cinema, but also to build a context around it and place it in the larger narrative of world cinema in general. Therefore, we intend to prepare a programme with Lebanese films that alternate with their echoes and counterparts from around the world - to establish, at the same time, the distinctiveness and the sameness of the cinema from Lebanon.
The first month of screenings will accordingly feature a few seminal films from Lebanon – these titles will provide the viewer with an insightful overview of the essential themes that permeate through Lebanese cinema: exile, sectarianism, inequality, westernisation, memory, a lost youth and a strong curiosity for one’s own past.
18th November 2014 / 6pm
Caramel / Nadine Labaki / 2007 / Lebanese / 96mins / Colour
Labaki prepares a strong debut - a maturely crafted universe populated by various diverse identities, characters and people, who the director genuinely cares for, for she does not direct extensive attention to their emotional turbulence or their dire situations; instead managing to sustain a light-footed touch throughout with a disclaimer, 'c'est la vie'. Life, as it is, devoid of overt performance or drama meant to solicit a reaction. One can only be thankful, for the film achieves it, even while revealing the rigid structures that impose themselves on the day-to-day lives of the women in the film. Labaki herself is the lead protagonist, the part of an extra-marital affair, but like her character, all the women yearn for love or company, though the cultural environment doesn't let them vocalise their circumstance. (Suraj Prasad)
25th November 2014 / 6pm
Where do We Go Now / Nadine Labaki / 2011 / Lebanese / 110mins / Colour
Where Do We Go Now feels a bit more manufactured than Caramel. Labaki casts an entire village, but that doesn't seem to enrich the film in any manner other than to expand it horizontally, in scale. Premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, it features Labaki in the lead role; as she tries to establish herself as being distinct from the rest of the characters. The central ideas, those of sectarian and religious issues and the resulting violence, however deserves a treatment more complex than the film presents. Its surface level pleasures are intact - the cinematography is rich, colour palettes are employed to establish the diversity of cultural identities present on screen, but the film seems to be in a rush to establish a conflict, and therefore, its resolution. Where Do We Go Now may indeed be a simplistic rendering of a complex situation - but it has at its heart, as in its title, an admirable inquiry. (Suraj Prasad)
1st December 2014 / 6pm
West Beirut / Ziad Doueiri / 1998 / Lebanese / 108min / Colour
While the French missionaries want to teach them French and the religious fundamentalists want them to open the Koran, Tarek and Omar, instead pick up the camera—the super light Super 8 film camera that made home videos possible—and go about filming their people, their lives, their culture; and find a friend in May: a Christian refugee girl that has come to stay in West Beirut. There is only one problem: they live in West Beirut and the film would be developed in East Beirut, but it 1975, the year of the civil war that has divided the land into East Beirut and West Beirut, into Christians and Muslims. As the three cycle into the ‘other’s’ territory under the gaze of armed terrorists on terraces will they ever be able to come out? Not before they encounter a myth in real. Autobiographical in part, West Beirut is the directorial debut of Ziad Doureiri, the Lebanese-born cinematographer, who is best known for his works in Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and many more. An artist who has worked in the East and the West, this film is a dialogue between the two regions, the two cultures, and the two ideologies; Tarek’s father tells the mother, ‘the West has never been able to understand the East’. (Gaurav Puri)
8th December 2014 / 6pm
Once Upon a Time in Beirut / Jocelyn Saab / 1995 / Lebanese, Other / 104mins / Colour, BW
Saab’s body-of-work reimagines Beirut the city as a character, material and decaying, struggling to remain alive; she has her own history, her own myths, her own fantasies, and like everyone else who has ever lived, her life is nothing but a continuous resistance against oblivion. In Saab’s later What’s Going On (2009), the city (a girl, a metaphor for Beirut itself) performs her final dance around the ancient streets and terraces of Beirut, even as her lover struggles to preserve her memory in the pages of a book, therefore making her permanent and eternal, an object of history; in Once Upon a Time in Beirut, the old film-collector performs the same function. He saves the images of Beirut from the siege of a future that threatens to overrun it with great cruelty and callousness – it is nothing but a love story, and like all of Saab’s work, whether in photography or film, looks at Beirut through the eyes of a poet, hopeful but driven mad by one’s own romance and nostalgia. (Martin Brodsky)