Jocelyne Saab
Jocelyne Saab

» Digital writings

Lebanese Film Days

15 - 21 January 2007

What do we know about Lebanon -
apart from war pictures from news broadcasts?
Lebanon: the "Arabian Switzerland",
home of various high cultures for seven thousand years,
17 officially accepted religious communities,
and a film culture unique in the Middle East ...
Myrna Maakaron: My Lebanon

Myrna Maakaron, a Lebanese filmmaker who won
the Berlin Today Award at the Berlinale in 2004, invites
Lebanese filmmakers to give an introduction to her country
with documentary and feature films.

"The people no longer want to live. We, the Lebanese, have had enough, we can’t bear this war any more". This statement was made in July 2006 by a Lebanese man, who is now a naturalized citizen living in Germany. He was referring to the "Summer War", which consisted of 34 days of continuous bombing by the Israelis in response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by the Lebanese Hisbollah.
Calls for peace and well-meaning cultural projects don’t do much to alleviate the situation. NEVERTHELESS: In addition to the the military and political news we want to send messages from artists - stories about people from a troubled, beautiful, rich and poor country. The young Lebanese film director Myrna Maakaron lives in Berlin. In 2004 her film "BerlinBeirut" was awarded the first ever Berlin Today Award at the Berlinale, it also went on to receive many other prizes. She will give us an idea of her country with film-makers and films, in introductions and in a panel discussion.

Booking: Phone (0049/331) - 27181-12
Ticket for all screenings: 30 / reduced 25 Euros
Live music, daily

15/16/17/01/07 Dunia
Director:Jocelyne Saab, LB/Egypt 2005
The Lebanese film director Jocelyne Saab has made numerous documentaries and music videos with stars from the Arabic music scene. "Dunia" (2005) is her third feature film. The Egyptian censors wanted to ban the film, however, following international protests, President Hosni Mubarak personally passed it: A young female artist searches for her way between traditional commitments and intellectual and sexual self-discovery. An oriental, highly visual film, which emphasizes the liberal and artisitic traditions of Sufism.

15/16/17/01/07 Screenings
Jalla! Jalla!
Director: Josef Fares, S 2000
Film director Josef Fares ("Zozo"), at that time a 24-years-old film student in Stockholm, tells this story in a fresh and impetuous way: Roro from the Lebanon lives with his extended family in Sweden. His job: He removes dog-muck from parks and green spaces. His love: a Swedish girl. His parents: have of course found a suitable wife for him, one of his cousins. So: false promises of marriage, double game playing, misunderstandings, chases, arrest ensue….

18/01/07, 7 p.m.
OPENING with Dieter Kosslik (director of the Berlinale), director Volker Schlöndorff, Jürgen Hogrefe, Myrna Maakaron and her film BerlinBeirut

18/01/07, 7 p.m.
I Remember Lebanon
R: Zeina Aboul Hosn, LB 2006, Dok.,engl. OF, 6’
R: Myrna Maakaron, LB/D 2003
Beirut has 6 letters. Berlin has 6 letters too.
Berlin and Beirut were occupied, destructed, divided, reconstructed and today people still say "East and West" in both cities. Through the whole film Berlin and Beirut become one city. One space. A space, where you feel the weight of the past and the lightness of life sharing with me stories, adventures and memories. When you walk through Berlin or Beirut everything talks to you and seduces you. One of their common charms also, is Contrast: Berlin and Beirut are beautiful and ugly, strong and weak, proud and broken.
I have lived all my life in Beirut. I was only one time in Berlin during the Berlinale 2003.
The fact of being far away from home pushes me often to look for parts and faces of my Beirut. During this week, my eyes were going from one place to another trying to catch every little detail of the city. Something was touching my heart: Parts of Beirut were in Berlin. Many places, corners, buildings, walls looked similar in both cities. I felt the warmth of Beirut in Berlin. I felt the spirit of Beirut in Berlin. I was falling in love with Berlin.

18/01/07, 10 p.m.
R: Josef Fares, S/GB/DK 2005
Zozo a 12 year old boy lives in Beirut. He is a dreamer. In spite of the civil war, he leads a normal life with family, friends and school. But one day the inevitable tragedy strikes and Zozo is forced to make his own way through life. His only hope being to find his grandparents who have recently emigrated to Sweden.
This extremely personal and tender film from Josef Fares (a first generation Lebanese immigrant to Sweden) mixes realist and surrealist scenes.
"Zozo" is a heartwarming, melancholic film during which I cried at several moments.
I cried because it reminded me the war, my destroyed city, my family and what we had to go through during all the Lebanese wars. It reminded me my hopes, my fears, my anxieties as a child of war. It reminded me my grandparents, their warmth and love and how much their role was important in every Lebanese family.
Zozo made me think a lot of me being an emigrant, trying to adapt in a new country, discovering a new culture, missing my country … And being deracinated sometime! But always trying to see the positive side of life despite all the difficulties that one goes through when far away from home.

19/01/07, 6 p.m.
See You Later
Director: Fouad Alaywan, LB/Switzerland 2006
Affectionate and funny view of the every day life of a Lebanese immigrant family in Switzerland: A couple and their two grown-up sons, their traditions, their conflicts and their love for one another. One day destiny plays a trick on them…
The Chair Al Kursi
Director :Cynthia Choucair, LB 2002
The brothers Nader, 12, and Samer, 8, accidentally break a chair steeped in tradition. Afraid of being punished by their mother, they throw the chair in the dust-bin. But when they subsequently decide to rescue it, it is no longer there…
Merci Natex
Directors: Elie Khalifé, Alexandre Monnier, LB 1998
A wonderful parable on the arrival of modern times: The farmer Farès lives with his family in a remote mountain village. Whilst playing a game, he wins a prize which changes life in the once tranquil and archaic village forever……...
Van Express
Director: Elie Khalifé, LB 2004
Iyad and Tarek are poor but full of ideas. So they turn their old VW bus into a bordello on wheels. In a humorous way, the film depicts how the two friends defy their difficult situation…

19/01/07, 8 p.m.
I Remember Lebanon
R: Zeina Aboul Hosn, LB 2006, Dok.,engl. OF, 6’
West Beirut Ya awlad
R: Ziad Doueiri, F/N/LB/B 1998
On April 13, 1975, Tarek watches from the school windows as a group of masked men with automatic weapons ambushes a bus and massacres the civilians on board.
It is the beginning of the Lebanese war, the creation of the green line and the separation of Beirut in east and west.
"West Beirut" is a portrait of two boys growing up in the 1970s in West Beirut, Tarek and Omar. It is as well the portrait of Tarek’s family who, as many Lebanese families, was torn between staying or leaving the country. It is also a beautiful, innocent love story that grows between Tarek born in a Muslim family and May born in a Christian family.
When a war started, schools were shot down and as for Tarek and Omar that meant for us holidays. But soon we realized how much we suffered during the war, spending sleepless nights in shelters, without electricity, water and phones, facing poverty, hunger, humiliation and the threat of death. War moved from adventure to disaster.
"West Beirut" covers about eight years of the Lebanese war, using archive footage from time to time but Doueiri purposely keeps Tarek, Omar and May the same age throughout the film.
"West Beirut" is a film that I like particularly for its details and the painting of the funny and dramatic Lebanese daily life, as waking up to the crowing of a rooster, as queuing to get bread during the war, as hanging a bra on radio antenna of a car for safe passage, and especially for introducing the famous bordello that Tarek discovers in the Olive Quarter, meeting its renowned madam, Oum Walid …

19/01/07, 10 p.m.
In the Battlefields Ma’arik hubb
R: Danielle Arbid, B/F/D/ LB, OmE, 90’
Beiurt 1983: a background of war, a tyrannical family and a teenager drama.
In a daily life of uncertainty, of war, of passions and frustrations, Lina, a 12 year old girl, discovers the bitterness of life and the adult’s life without any consciousness about the good and the bad. She tries to challenge it. Lina’s existence turns around her aunt’s maid Siham, who is six years older than her and lives in the same building.
Siham doesn’t care so much about Lina but uses her for her own plans. As well as Lina’s family who constantly rejects her - especially her father who is a destructive and abusive person. Lina tries vainly to get constantly the attention of the others.
The film is built very intimately on Lina’s imaginary that is painted by very close shots of her and on her point of view.
"In the Battlefields" is an autobiographical film, describing a Lebanese family with mainly its heavy problems and tragedies. Not all the Lebanese families resemble to this one but it made me aware that in our country we rarely learned to communicate.
And it reminded me how many families were ruined because of the war, the lack of work and money.
I have pity of this family. After the film I was quite sad but I keep in mind how important it is to care for each other and especially love one another truly, especially in times of war when people should stick together.

20/01/07, 3 p.m.
Badkon Shi …t?
Director: Badih Massaad, LB 2005
A road movie about a group of young people aimlessly driving around in a car - their destination and why they are going there remain a complete mystery.
Searching for new dope, picking up a hitch-hiker along the way and having fun at his expense… modern life. A film which could originate from any corner of today’s modern world.
Proud to Say His Name
Fouad Badr Director: Serena Abi Aad, LB 2005
An authentic personal endeavour: A film student wants to find out if it is right to reject the death penalty. She asks members of her family and her friends. She gets in contact with a prisoner on death row, with whom she then exchanges letters, she visits him, she almost falls in love…The viewers witness a series of events, which the film-maker herself could never have envisaged happening when she first set out to make this film. A case for a psychotherapist or a modern Dostojevski?
The Crossing Al Maabar
Director: Marc Karam, LB 2000
A film about the unfathomable sense of death - a ball game, including torture and extermination becomes reality: In the Lebanon, the day before yesterday, yesterday, today…. In the case of virtually all young men in the near East, their violent fantasies can become a reality which actually feels completely different to what they first imagined, it becomes almost unbearable.
All for the Country Koullouna lil Watan
Director: Fadi Kassem, LB 2002
A parable, the end of which, everyone has to experience for themselves: Two men help a suicide bomber, they are arrested - the Israeli guards behave like fascists, the prisoners like martyrs. One of them dies, the other succeeds in escaping. And then....
Home Sweet Home Beit Byout
Director: Youcef-Joe Bou Eid, LB 2006
Poetic images of expulsion? The film-maker tells a laconic and tender story of war and its consequences for a family who are forever being pushed on. Poetry as artistic truth - the bitterness comes from our knowledge. The film shows what’s happening in the Lebanon today, as in many other places throughout the world. Thus making the cries of sorrow from certain groups in Germany, 60 years after the second world war, sound strange.
Wayn yo
Director: Andre Chammas, LB 1998
My people from Zahlé. The film-maker introduces us to the people from his isolated mountain village, gossipers, hyprocrits, those respected, the beautiful and the ugly. A farce? A comedy? A satire? He loves, exaggerates and respects his neighbours’ peculiarities, laughs about them but is happy that he gets away…
My Father’s House
R: Leila Kanaan, LB 2003
A surrealistic answer to "Wayn yo!" - with warm greetings from von Dali, Kusturica and Lauzon. Kanaan depicts her native country and parents’ home as an oriental madhouse, reminiscent of Fellini, where obsessions, the fullness and intensity of life, fears of war and downfall all come together in a Babylonian-like fashion.

20/01/07, 6 p.m.
July Trip
R: Waël Noureddine, LB 2006
The young film-maker drives to his homeland on his summer holiday, of course he has his camera with him. It is hard to imagine a more disturbing holiday video. The pictures tilt from the ashes, abrupt noises resound, it leaves him speechless, a war report instead of a holiday trip...
Beyrouth, ma ville
R: Jocelyne Saab, LB 1982
July 1982. The Israeli army advances towards Beirut. A fews days before this, Jocelyne Saab sees her house go up in flames. 150 years of history go up in smoke. A surrealistic, deeply personal portrait of a besieged city. It reveals beauties but also discloses secrets and uncovers lies, including those of the director’s own generation.

20/01/07, 8 p.m.
Talk and Panel Discussion
Expert on the Lebanon Marie-Claude Souaid-Hesse: History and the present day of a country
Myrna Maakaron and Bärbel Dalichow in discussion with the film-makers Jocelyne Saab,Wael Noureddine and Paul Mattar.

20/01/07, 10 p.m.
If, One Day, the People Iza el Chaabou Yaouman
R: Borhane Alaoui, Sylvio Sharif Tabet, LB 1993
A short documentary, but almost describing the entire Lebanese war atrocities.
Made by Sylvio Tabet and Borhane Alaoui in 1993, after the vote of the amnesty law in August 1991 by the Lebanese parliament that erases all the war crimes perpetuated during 17 years of war. As if the ruling class was on a hurry to bury the war cadaver in a way that the autopsy would not reveal the responsibles of the war crimes. Young Lebanese people talk about the war, about justice, condemnations, traumatisms … the audience doesn’t know which war they talk about. In fact it is the Civil War but it could have been as well the Syrian/Lebanese war or the 2006 Lebanese/Israeli war. All these wars destroyed and polluted Lebanon, broke families and killed innocent people … and the worst: They ended without any results.
Besides the causes of those wars are still not solved. Do we have to fear another war than?
I was watching this documentary breathless: 14 years after it had been made I realized that nothing has changed in my country. Nothing for the good, unfortunately.
Souha: Surviving Hell
R: Randa Chahal Sabbag, LB 2001
Souha Bechara is a young southern Lebanese girl who attempted in 1988 to assassinate General Antoine Lahad, leader of the south Lebanese Army, the pro-Israeli Christian militia. Although badly wounded, he survived and Souha was imprisoned for 10 years in the Khiam prison. (A prison always denied by the Israelis.)
In her documentary Randa Chahal goes back to Khiam with Souha in 2000, few days after the Israeli army withdraw from south Lebanon. Souha tells us her story.
We discover a strong, perseverant, fragile woman and we wonder how she and the other Lebanese prisoners could stand the torture, pain and inhuman conditions.
Growing up in Beirut, the south was somehow taboo for me. We never visited the south. And whenever a war took place there we always said, " It is in the south. Thank god it is not in Beirut". How could we say such a sentence?
Souha Bechara, was a name that I just heard when I was younger and never knew who she was until I watched Chahal’s film. On one hand I was shocked to see what happened kilometres away from us and on the other hand I was ashamed. Ashamed for two reasons: how Lebanese people have the heart to torture their own people and why I was never curious to know what was happening in the south and do something to prevent it. Is it my fault or my people’s fault?

21/01/07, 6 p.m.
Suspended Dreams Ahlam Muallaka
R: Jean Chamoun, Mai Masri, LB/GB 1992
"Suspended Dreams" links the story of four people as they attempt to reconstruct their lives after 17 years of a devastating civil war: two ex-militia fighters, a woman searching for her kidnapped husband and a stage actor from south Lebanon.
Finally, for me, the ones making the war have faces: the most outrageous parts in "Suspended Dreams" are when the two ex-militia fighters meet and talk about the atrocities they did during the war. These two neighbors from two different religious groups used to fire rockets on each other’s houses or kill passing people as a hobby.
What is shocking is that both carried arms with the ages of 10 and 11 years old.
One can understand how simple it is in such a fragile country to build up a militia and destroy a country years long by brainwashing teenagers.
Absurdly, today for most of these fighters the war was futile.
On the other hand Mai Masri and Jean Chamoun show openly that the Lebanese war was not only religious and not only bombs, destruction, kidnapping, loosing a family member, being kidnapped, being displaced it was as well leading to the pollution of the sea and the Lebanese nature and environment.
Another conflict though is as well mentioned: the Litani river water issue. Israel siphons water from southern Lebanon to supply new settlements in Israel and threatens the Lebanese villagers!
Through Mothers’ Eyes Min Ouioun el Oumahat
R: Philippe Aractingi, LB 1992, Dok., OmE, 52’
In his documentary, Philippe Aractingi gathers several Lebanese mothers from different religious groups and listens to their stories that took place during the war.
During the war, the Lebanese mothers held the family together, they sacrified their youth in order to give the best to their children, and often they lost a child, a brother or a husband. Most were dead or kidnapped and never came back.
I admire the women and mothers of my country and I am proud to be one of them.
In Aractingi’s film one scene is very painful and unforgettable to me:
a mother cries telling the bad fate of her four sons! One is speechless after hearing her. How cruel, absurd and useless a war is.
A very resourceful documentary that gives you a view about the main Lebanese religious groups, (knowing that we have more than 15 different ones) and how painful moments most of the Lebanese mothers had to go through during the war.

21/01/07, 8:10 p.m.
I Remember Lebanon
R: Zeina Aboul Hosn, LB 2006, Dok.,engl. OF, 6’
The Tornado El-Aasar
R: Samir Habchi, LB 1992
In 1992, Samir Habchi shot "The Tornado" in the ruins of the Lebanese War. "The Tornado" narrates the story of a young Lebanese, Akram, studying in Moscow who decides to come back home for the summer holidays.
On the eve of his trip he is informed by the television that a terrible explosion took place in Beirut. Regardless, Akram flies to Beirut where he will meet up with his old Lebanese friends. Their destinies intersect as the story evolves. Not in favor of violence and war Akram quickly finds himself an active participant. He will be trapped in a cycle that he thought he could avoid. A cycle similar to a tornado.
A very subtle film, mixed with realist scenes and surrealistic ones that stick to your brain. As for example the scene showing many women dressed in black crossing slowly the ruined Beirut down town.
"The Tornado" is maybe the first film I saw after the end of the war. I was impressed. First because I didn’t know that one could daringly tell about the war that his country went through. As soon as the war stopped I thought that I erased everything from my memory but actually it was still there: it took me 15 years to talk about it. Second because "The Tornado" has a great cinematographic language, a personal approach and is scattered with powerful symbols. A glimpse to the Russian cinema.

21/01/07, 10 p.m.
Out of Life Kharij al-hayat
R: Maroun Bagdadi, F/LB 1991
Patrick a French news photographer is captured and held hostage by one of the militias fighting during the civil war in Lebanon.
Someone covering the war becomes suddenly part of it. He becomes a victim.
With Patrick we experience the hunger, the thirst, the fear, the loneliness, the torture and the sleepless nights of a prisoner that never sees the light or the face of his kidnapers wondering continuously if he will live or die. Although Patrick starts having a mental damage, he is very courageous trying to maintain dignity in intimidating circumstances that his kidnapers make him undergo.
One of the most moving and powerful films made by Bagdadi about detention, about a crazy city and its people during 15 years of war: 1975-1990.
Since I was little I saw so many people disappearing and heard so often names of persons being kidnapped. And for the first time I assist for real to such an incident in Maroun Bagdadi’s film: how a kidnaper looks like, what are his motives, how he tortures his victim … It is true that during the war we used to hide at home and in shelters but outside the inconceivable was happening. How dirty and cruel was our war in fact!
I hope that thanks to such films the future generations will not repeat the same crimes.
Unfortunately today many Lebanese people are still kidnapped in neighbouring countries’ prisons. Most of those prisoners are innocent.
Bagdadi’s films are one of the best and most inspiring films made in Lebanon.Unfortunately Maroun Bagdadi died accidentally 12 years ago leaving behind a wife and three children.
("Out of Life" won the 1991 PRIX DU JURY in Cannes.)

Myrna Maakaron
Myrna Maakaron
Myrna Maakaron was born in Beirut in 1974. When she was one-year-old, the war broke out and lasted for (the next) 15 years. As her grandfather was one of the first Lebanese film distributors, her love for film began in her childhood. At the age of 15, she performed on stage for the first time. Since then, she has appeared in numerous stage plays and films, including "Once Upon a Time in Beirut" (Director: Jocelyne Saab, LB/F/GER 1994), "Civilised People" (Director: Randa Chahal Sabbag, LB/F 1998) and "Gate to Heaven"(Director: Veit Helmer, Germany 2003). From 1992 to 1997 Myrna Maakaron studied film directing at the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA). In the year 2000 she went to Paris to study drama at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. She has been living in Germany since 2002.
Myrna Maakaron, has been making and directing films since the1990’s. The most important of these include "Une Rencontre" (1995), "Conte d’adulte" (1997) and "Confusion" (1998). The 2004 Berlin Today Award was just one of the numerous prizes she received for her film "BerlinBeirut" (2003), which was also awarded the Discovery Channel Film Prize for the best German documentary at the 2004 Leipzig Documentary Film Festival. Myrna Maakaron is currently working on her first feature length film "The World Is Pink".

Jocelyne Saab
Jocelyne Saab
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1948, Saab studied Economics in Paris, following which she worked as a jouralist and war correspondent. Since the early 1970’s she has made over 20 documentary films in regions and countries such as the Lebanon, Eygpt, Iran, Kurdistan, the Sahara and Vietnam. She was the assistant director on Volker Schlöndorff’s 1981 film "Circle of Deceit". Saab’s first feature film to be set in West-Beirut was "Une vie suspendue", which she made in 1985. At the beginning of the 1990’s, she initiated and led a project on the rebuilding of the Lebanese fim archive in Beirut. In 2005 she directed 26 music videos with stars from the Arabic music scene. "Dunia" (2005) is her third feature film.
Feature films:
Une vie suspendue (1984)
Il etait une fois ... Beyrouth (1994)
Dunia (2006)
Documentary films (selected)
Le Liban dans la tourmente (1975)
Beyrouth jamais plus (1976)
Les Enfants de la guerre (1976)
Lettre de Beyrouth (1978)
Le Bateau de l'exil (1982)
Beyrouth, ma ville (1983)
La Dame de Saigon (1997)

Waël Noureddine
Waël Noureddine
Born in the Lebanon in 1978, Noureddine first received a BA in Literature and Philosophy, following which he studied Journalism in Beirut. From 2002 to 2004 he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 2005 he took part in the congress "Cinéma / Politique" in Paris - along with Jean-Luc Godard, F. J. Ossang, Philippe Grandrieux amongst others.
"L’homme à la caméra" (2000, experimental short film)
"Chez nous à Beyrouth" (2002, Documentary film)
"From Beirut, With Love" (2005, Documentary film)
"July Trip" (2006, Documentary film)

Paul Mattar
Paul Mattar
Born in Heliopolis, Egypt, in 1946, Mattar studied Economics in Beirut. He subsequently went on to study drama (acting) in Paris and he has performed in theatres in the Lebanon, Switzerland and France. He has both written and directed numerous plays. In addition to this, he composes and interprets music for the stage. He also works as an actor, director and composer for film and television productions. He works as a journalist, director of a publishing house and is the artistic director of a theatre in Beirut. Furthermore, he has been the director of the audiovisual department at the University Saint Joseph since 2003.

Volker Schlöndorff - Foto: M. Uhlenhut
Volker Schlöndorff
Born in Wiesbaden in 1939, Volker Schlöndorff went to France as a school boy in 1956. However, instead of staying for two months as originally planned, he, in fact, spent the next 10 years there. He then studied Political Science and Film in Paris. From 1960 onwards he worked on films by a number of French directors including Malle, Melville and Resnais. Schlöndorff made his multi-award-winning film "Young Torless" in 1965/66. His international breakthrough came with "The Tin Drum" in 1978, which received the Palme d’Or in Cannes and was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Jocelyne Saab ("Beyrouth, ma ville", "Dunia") was assistant director to Schlöndorff during the making of his film "Circle of Deceit" (1981) which tells the story of a German journalist in war-torn Beirut.
Films (Selection):
"The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum" (1975)
"Germany in Autumn" (1977)
"Homo Faber" (1990)
"The Legends of Rita" (2000)
"The Ninth Day" (2004)
"Strike" (2007)

Jürgen Hogrefe
Jürgen Hogrefe
Jürgen Hogrefe was born in Bergen/Celle in 1949. He studied journalism and has been an editor of Der SPIEGEL magazine for 18 years: From 1993 to 1998 Hofgrefe was based in Jerusalem where he reported on the near East: Until the beginning of 2003 he was the correspondent for German foreign policy at Der SPIEGEL’s office in the capital city. He is also an author and publisher, his publications include "Gerhard Schröder - A Portrait". Since 2003 he has been the authorized general representative of EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg Inc., of which he is responsible for the area of "Economics, Politics and Society" in Berlin.

Marie-Claude Souaid-Hesse
Marie-Claude Souaid-Hesse
Born in 1954 in Beirut, Lebanon, the sociologist and anthropologist Souaid-Hesse has worked as a researcher at the University of Lyon II, the University Saint Joseph in Beirut and at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Since 1999 Souaid-Hesse has been living and working in Germany. In 2004 she organised and directed the conference "Days of the Arabic World" ("Tage der Arabischen Welt") on behalf of the German parliament (Bundestag).