Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East: A Dictionary
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The contributors must submit their text in one of the following languages: French, English or Arabic. They must send it to the following electronic address: regards usj. The articles will be examined by the editorial committee and submitted to a double blind evaluation. The journal has an editorial committee, a reading committee, as well as a scientific committee nominated for three years.
Middle East Studies
Tauris, London, pages. Regards — revue des arts du spectacle Type:. English and French. Includes bibliographical references and indexes. ISBN cloth : alk. Motion picture producers and directors— Arab countries—Biography—Dictionaries. Motion picture producers and directors— Arab countries—Credits. Motion picture industry—Arab countries. A65A76 Hope for liberation and independence. Hope for a normal life where we shall be neither heroes nor victims.
Hope to see our children go to school without danger. Hope for a pregnant woman to give birth to a living baby, in a hospital, and not to a dead child in front of a military control post. Hope that our poets will see the beauty of the colour red in roses, rather than in blood.
Hope that this land will recover its original name: land of hope and peace. Thank you for carrying with us this banner of hope.
Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East | Arab–Israeli Conflict | Lebanon
In compiling it, I have drawn on the full range of material listed in the bibliography at the end of this volume. Statistics concerning national size, population, and gross domestic product GDP are xii taken from seven World Factfiles published as daily supplements to the Guardian in Individuals to whom I owe a very real and specific debt for information and encouragement beyond the call of duty are numerous.
I owe a huge debt to Martine Leroy, for access to her data base on Middle Eastern films. Moreover, I am deeply grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for awarding me the second Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship, which has allowed me to finance both this dictionary and its predecessor, the Dictionary of African Filmmakers. Though I have made every effort to check the information given, errors and omissions are inevitable in a work of this nature, and I would welcome contact from any readers who can help correct the mistakes and fill the gaps.
Their names are listed at the end of the relevant feature film chronology, but their work is not indexed. The Arab Middle East has not developed the kind of overwhelming output of fictional features on video, characteristic of Anglophone Africa especially Nigeria, where many thousands of feature-length videos have been produced and distributed since the s , so I have been able to include work shot on video principally Beta SP and more recently HD , as well as 35mm and 16mm film productions. Reference is also made to the increasing quantity of documentary material produced by the various Arab satellite television companies and intended principally for broadcasting.
Al Jazeera English, for example, has of late provided both funding and considerable editorial freedom for documentary filmmakers from the wider Arab world. It is interesting too to note that, despite the technological developments and new promotional strategies which are likely to lead to a totally different media situation in the coming decade, the bulk of fictional feature films made in the Arab Middle East, like those in Africa, continue to be shot and distributed for initial exhibition purposes on 35mm film.
In general, I have included in my chronological listings of fictional features all those works which are treated as such by the organizers of Arab and international film festivals, even if the works in question do not, strictly speaking, fulfill the conventional length requirements of a feature film. With regard to documentary production now almost entirely in some digital format or other , I have excluded from the feature listings all works in the conventional minute television format, though such works are referred to, of course, in the individual filmmaker entries.
The result, at the moment of going to press, is a list of over feature-length works made by around feature filmmakers, whose efforts are backed up by those of some short and documentary filmmakers, many of them students graduating from one of the numerous audio-visual training courses in the area. This dictionary offers broadly the same kind of information as that contained in its predecessor, the Dictionary of African Filmmakers.
The work begins with an introduction, which sets out to place the filmmaking in its historical context. In an area like the Middle East, which has been constantly torn by war and internal strife, it seemed to me crucial to spell out this contextual situation, because it has had so profound an influence on the work of all feature filmmakers and has also led to the production of a mass of committed documentary filmmaking. Part 1 comprises an alphabetical listing of all the Arab filmmakers from the Middle East whom I have been able to locate.
The names of those who have completed at least one fictional or documentary feature-length film shot on 35mm, 16mm film, or in some video format are distinguished by being set in capital letters. Because of the nature of film production in the Middle East, particularly in, and in relation to, Palestine, the listing of filmmakers includes documentary and short film directors.
Here too I have relaxed—as the filmmakers themselves do—any distinction between film and video productions. Film entries in these director listings include mention of date, length, and format, where this information is available. Part 2 deals in alphabetical order with the countries to which the feature filmmakers are conventionally aligned. Because of the minimal amount of feature filmmaking that has occurred to date in the seven states of the Gulf, these are grouped together at the end though there are huge differences between Yemen and its royal or princely neighbors.
Each chronology of national feature-film output is preceded by a list of feature filmmakers, followed by a similar listing of relevant short and documentary filmmakers, and supplemented by a selection of bibliographical references. The dates of films given here can be no more than approximate, since I have used a wide variety of sources, some employing production dates and others using release dates. Part 3 is an index of feature-film titles in both English and French. The Arabic transcriptions of the film titles are very simplified forms, derived from a variety of national sources and intended merely to identify and differentiate films, which, in many cases, do not have formal English or French titles.
These transcriptions are not indexed. The bibliography lists books on relevant aspects of world cinema and book-length studies of Arab filmmaking within the Middle East, as well as a selection of books relating to the political development of the various countries and areas of the Middle East. It is a striking testimony to the former power and continuing influence of the West that this parochial term, meaningful only in a Western perspective, has come to be used all over the world. It is even used by the peoples of the region it denotes to describe their own homelands. This is the more remarkable in an age of national, communal, and regional self-assertion, mostly in anti-Western form.
It excludes filmmakers from the Maghreb and from Egypt except for the handful of Egyptian filmmakers who have made the occasional film for Middle Eastern producers , as these have already been dealt with in an earlier volume, Dictionary of African Filmmakers. A noble but embattled state. Even for those Arabs who do belong to a recognized national state, the story has been almost as bleak, with a unified Arab identity denied by the divisive actions of the European powers, which, after World War I, arbitrarily set their borders and systems of government and, without consultation, introduced Israel into their midst.
It is a story of internal feuding and repeated defeat and humiliation at the hands of Israel and its all-powerful patrons. The fragmented history of Arab Middle Eastern cinema—with its powerful documentary component—reflects all too clearly the fragmented history of the Arab peoples and is indeed comprehensible only when this history is taken into account. Screenings were set up in the palace and at the residences of prominent citizens, and a first public screening was arranged at the Spontek Restaurant in a cosmopolitan district of Istanbul.
They all stopped there during trips to Moscow, still ruled by the tsar. He also initially headed the army film unit, which pioneered filmmaking in Turkey at the beginning of the First World War, before being expelled as an alien. Though the sultan, Abdul Hamid II, was a passionate supporter of photography, he disliked the cinema and offered no support to the foreigners who were seeking to introduce it into his realm. Promio is quoted as saying: I have little to say about my trip to Turkey, except that I had great difficulty in introducing my camera.
Defeat left Turkey at the mercy of its wartime enemies, and the victorious European states, France and Britain, occupied the whole Middle East and proceeded to impose their will upon the remains of the Empire. One of the many crucial European decisions and agreements regarding the Middle East had already been made in , with the unilateral declaration of support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine by the British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour.
This declaration led directly to the establishment of Israel in and changed the course of history in the Middle East forever. Chillingly, Balfour is quoted as saying that, In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-old traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the , Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.
In the early s, when Turkey transformed itself in defeat from an empire and caliphate into a modern secular nation-state built on the European model, various proposals were put forward by Arab leaders for the reshaping of their own lands. But emboldened by the increasing retreat of the United States into isolationism after the wartime interventionist idealism of Woodrow Wilson, the French and British governments felt able to ignore Arab wishes just as Balfour had done in The changes they made while their troops occupied the Middle East met with far greater opposition than Turkish rule had ever faced.
There were revolts against the French in Syria in , , and , a major uprising against the British in Iraq in , and continual fighting in Palestine, which stemmed from Arab opposition to increasing Jewish settlement. But French and English power prevailed. The Arabs had all these. Furthermore, as its hybrid pseudo-Hellenic name suggests, its stretch does not remotely 4 Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East correspond to any precolonial domain.
What stood in the way of an Arab state was not internal barriers. External forces kept the Arabs apart. On this basis, the French and the British took upon themselves not just the definition and boundaries of the new states but also the choice of their systems of government and the identity of the rulers who were installed. What had been Greater Syria was divided up to create three new states, Syria and Lebanon under French mandates and Palestine under the British, who promptly subdivided their area to create a fourth state, TransJordan.
Also under British mandate was the newly created state of Iraq, put together from three ethnically and religiously diverse Ottoman provinces, centered on Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra, respectively. The mandates were finalized by the mids, but though the ostensible aim was for these new states to be led toward independence, this occurred only in the very changed circumstances of the late s. No account was taken of Kurdish demands for their own independent state in the north, while the new Middle Eastern arrangements totally ignored Saudi Arabia, out of which Ibn Saud was to create a fully independent state by , and the already independent North Yemen, presumably because both were judged too difficult to colonize.
Given the upheavals of this pre-independence period, it is remarkable that any film activity at all occurred. There seems indeed to have been no film activity in Iraq until after independence in , but Syria and Leba- Introduction non both have pioneers to rank with Albert Samama Chikly in Tunisia and the Egyptians Mohamed Bayoumi and Mohamed Karim.
Both were silent features that found themselves in competition with the first Egyptian sound films. A further Lebanese pioneer, Ali al-Ariss, was less fortunate.
Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East
He had to leave his first feature, The Flower Seller unfinished, and he is reported to have protested outside the cinema screening his second feature, The Planet of the Desert Princess , because it had been re-edited by the producer. Even before they could accustom themselves to their new, artificial, boundaries and their imposed systems of government, they were plunged into war, when the state of Israel was formally established in The ill-prepared, disunited, and badly led Arab troops were no match for an Israeli army strengthened by the inclusion of the Hagana and Irgun paramilitary forces.
The eventual truce in left Israel firmly established and with its boundaries extended to take in another 20 percent of what the United Nations had intended to be Palestinian territory.
The — Arab-Israeli war was just the first of a seemingly endless series of international wars, invasions, conflicts, and expulsions to have plagued the Middle East over the past 60 years. There were three further general Arab-Israeli conflicts: the Suez invasion in , the Six-Day War in , and the renewed Arab invasion the Jom Kippur War , which brought the Arabs some limited success, in This led to a partial occupation of Lebanon which lasted 9 years, and was followed by a third fullscale invasion, in the 33 Day War.
From to , Iraq was at war with Iran, in a conflict that caused tremendous losses to both sides. Palestinian militants responded to Israeli state aggression with a first intifada in , followed by a second, beginning in and still continuing 8 years later, up to the Israeli assault on Gaza. These are merely the major international conflicts which created death and destruction throughout the area. As we now turn to the individual countries of the Arab Middle East, we shall find that they were all also plagued by internal conflicts—coups, regional strife, and even, in the case of Lebanon, full-scale civil war—which inevitably shaped and distorted both civil and cultural life, including the film production which concerns us here.
Lebanon Whereas the English imposed bedouin kings on their mandated territories of Iraq and Trans-Jordan, the French tried to establish democratic republics in the areas they controlled. Nowhere was the constitution bequeathed on independence more finely tuned and elaborately balanced than in Lebanon, a wholly artificial state carved out of the old Syrian province, in which, at the time, just over half the population was Christian Maronites and Catholics with traditional links to France, as well as Protestants with ties to the United States.
The remainder of the population was diverse: both Sunni and Shia Muslims, Druze, Jews, and a number of tiny groups. Christiandominated Lebanon adopted a pro-Western stance and tried to stand aside from the basic quarrels between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East it took no part in the wars of and The beginnings in the s were hesitant: Michel Haroun, a recruit from the theatre, made just one feature, Georges Kahi directed his first film in literary Arabic before turning to Lebanese dialect for his subsequent works, while Georges Nasser, having presented his Introduction feature debut at Cannes, shot his second film in French, in the vain hope of attracting an up-market audience at home.
The development of commercial filmmaking in Lebanon during the s and early s was aided by the disruption caused by the nationalization of film production in Egypt, with the setting up of the General Organisation for Cinema — —though the Egyptian studios still managed to produce features in the period — For their part, Lebanese producers made features in the same period, new cinemas sprang up in Beirut and elsewhere, and audience numbers soared.
The major commercial directors, whose careers all extended into the s—Mohamed Selmane and Rida Myassar, followed in the early s by Samir alGhoussayni—all produced a spate of films. Co-productions with Egypt and Syria were undertaken and this was, in one sense, the golden age of Lebanese cinema. But, as Zaccak notes, the growth in production was merely in quantity, not in quality.
Many of the films were based on Egyptian or Western commercial formulas, with no specific Lebanese identity even the dialogue of many films was in Egyptian dialect , and the key development required—the creation of the infrastructure needed for a film industry to rival Egypt—could not be achieved. The Broken Wings is virtually the only readily available film from the era when Beirut set out to rival Cairo as the center of Arab film.
The English subtitled version of The Broken Wings does not contain full credits and attributes the script to Khalil Gibran, the celebrated author of The Prophet. But since the writer died in , it seems inevitable that the script, though based on his autobiography, was in fact adapted by a professional screenwriter. Maalouf directs the studio set movie with fluid assurance and has made a thoroughly professional job of reshaping the material into the conventional form of an Egyptian film melodrama, even finding space for a lengthy belly-dancing scene one of the rare moments of oriental music in the film.
The broken wings of the title are those of women in an unenlightened patriarchal society, against which Gibran rails in vain. During his years of absence, he had studied film at UCLA and worked in Hollywood, most notably as camera assistant to Quentin Tarantino. These experiences find their direct reflection in the film, which follows closely the experiences of the exuberant and rebellious middle-class schoolboy Tarek, his close friend Omar, and a Christian refugee, May, as they live through their adolescent experiences and obsessions at the very moment the war breaks out.
The film captures brilliantly the initial uncertainties of the time, for adults and children, as events unfold around them without logic or meaning. The incident which plunged Lebanon into sudden and unexpected civil war in was no more than a trivial fishing dispute, but it brought to the fore a number of key underlying issues. Significantly, no one close to Tarek is either killed or wounded, and his parents, though left destitute and confused, are unbroken by events. Doueiri films with an often handheld camera and uses a jagged editing style to create closeness to the characters.
He captures the exuberant flow of events and skilfully uses music to blend his enacted story with real documentary and newsreel archive footage. No side is blamed and no political points are made. West Beyrouth was clearly conceived as entertainment which would also offer insights into the unique reality of the Lebanese Civil War years.
In this, Doueiri is totally successful. Other Lebanese Muslims fought for radical reform and a Lebanon stripped of its Western identity. The Palestinians fought for their own nationalism. Some Christians fought for political reform and Arab identity. There is much truth in the traditional Arab joke quot- Introduction 9 Under the Bombs , Lebanon Philippe Aractingi has 20 years of experience in documentary filmmaking from a production base in France and has recently developed an interest in improvisation.
These two concerns were brought together in , in the last days of the Israeli 33 Day invasion of Lebanon and during the ensuing uneasy truce. The two protagonists are contrasting figures. Zeina is a rich Lebanese Shiite expatriate, returning from Dubai to search for her son, Karim, lost with her sister in the bombing of their native village of Kherbet Selm. Tony is a working-class Christian taxi driver, also from the South, initially concerned primarily with being well paid for risking his life on a trip refused by all his colleagues. As a result, ever more powerful and destructive weapon systems were introduced into the civil conflict, and the savagery of the combatants rose steadily.
The Lebanese civil war lasted fifteen years in all, and finally came to an end only when the state had been bankrupted, the economy ruined, and vast swathes of the country, and especially Beirut, had been totally devastated. Little beyond destruction ness, gradually revealing their personal lives to each other. More important than this central dramatic core is the series of glimpses the film offers of the impact of the Israeli onslaught on ordinary Lebanese civilians. Apart from the central couple and the hotel receptionist with whom Tony has a brief sexual fling, all the characters are people directly living the disaster.
The images of human suffering are particularly harrowing, because these are real victims, filmed at the very moment when they are having to come to terms with the loss of their families. This human immediacy has a devasting impact on the viewer: as Philippe Aractingi has said, the experience of Under the Bombs was less that of making a film than that of living the film. Perhaps one hundred fifty thousand people had been killed and 15 percent of the population driven into exile.
Only Saab, who had studied economics at the Sorbonne, was not a professionally trained filmmaker. Many of their films were made with foreign finance— often from European television sources. But even when living in exile, their commitment to their country and its predicament, matched with a deep concern for the Palestinian cause, is very clear from the documentaries they made during the civil war period.
This group is the one which dominates much of what we think of as Lebanese filmmaking. The terms of the ceasefire which brought fighting to an end in did nothing to cure the inherent structural weaknesses of the Lebanese state. Huge efforts at reconstruction were made, particularly under the impetus of the Sunni billionaire businessman and sometime prime minister Rafik Hariri.
But by the time Hariri was assassinated in , many of the problems which had plagued Lebanon in the late s had returned. The Iranianbacked Hezbollah grew to a position where it could taunt the Israelis and provide the trigger for a renewed Israeli invasion of southern Iraq in , which killed thousands of innocent Lebanese in an all-out land and air bombardment which lasted 33 days.
But this time the threat was even more daunting: the destruction of the Lebanese secular Western-style democracy and its replacement with a theocracy based on the Iranian model. During the time of transition and unease after the end of the civil war, many of the documentarists of the s turned to feature filmmaking.
Their efforts have been supported by a diverse range of, mostly younger, feature filmmakers. Layla Assaf, who trained in Sweden, made numerous documentaries for Swedish television before completing her first feature in Lebanon. Equally striking is the work of those new filmmakers based in France—Danielle Arbid, Michel Kammoun, and Philippe Aractingi—along with that of the actress Nadine Labaki, who is based in Lebanon but wrote her first feature, Caramel , in Cannes. But like virtually all Syrian directors, he has had trouble with the film authorities and the censor, and he returned from years in exile to direct his fifth, and to date final, feature, The Extras, in The film as a whole is a masterly depiction of their awkwardness and insecurity, the result of living in a society which allows them no personal freedom.
Feisal was promptly expelled by the French, but, in compensation, was made king of the newly created mandated territory of Iraq by the British. When Syria became independent in , it continued to have problems with its national identity. Though lacking in the manpower and national resources to achieve its ambitions, it became a major proponent of war against Israel and of pan-Arab unity.
Salem, a wouldbe actor at the National Theatre who earns his living by working in a petrol station, is more dynamic, acting out an elaborate marriage proposal and staging play excerpts for her. But to her consternation, he can play only bit parts, doomed and ignoble figures. From early on in the narrative, the interior of the flat has been under threat from sinister and powerful state policemen lurking outside to catch and persecute the blind oud player who lives next door. Though she pretends all is well, there seems little hope for their relationship, as they go their own ways at the end of the film.
Combining precise observation, sensitive acting, and a perceptive use of sound, The Extras is a powerful study of the impact on ordinary people of a harsh and repressive regime. The third part, Cinema al-Dunya, has not been realized. The Night covers the events of a decade or more of Syrian history — and reflects the tortured politics of these years. Beyond this, the dominant figure in the whole is the often absent father, Alalla, whose life is closely enmeshed with the events of the times, particularly those involving Palestine.
The Night opens with Wissal and her son looking up at the night sky, and the narrative begins with her memories and dreams of her dead husband. Though he lives in Kuneitra, he is always a transient figure, and he is twice imprisoned by the authorities. Visually, the film is very formally composed, and the narrative, full of echoes and repetitions, operates on a number of levels simultaneously.
As a whole, The Night is a complex interweaving of intense personal experiences within the family and startling political transitions in the street outside. In , the General Establishment was granted a monopoly of film production and the following year released Men Under the Sun, a three-part feature directed by three Syrian newcomers, Nabil al-Maleh, Mohamed Shahin, and Mohamed Muwaddin. His films are immediately accessible, and he is one of the most popular directors with Syrian audiences.
The pattern was set with his first feature, The Nights of the Jackal, which is a basically realistic tragi-comedy, set in in the arid countryside near the port of Lattakia, where the director was born. But the film also has a touch of pure fantasy. His older daughter gets married, but the sec- actual military occupation.
Al-Assad came from the minority Alawite sect in Syria. As outsiders to the dominant Sunni Muslim community, the Alawites had been recruited into the armed forces by the French during their years of rule. Al-Assad rose steadily through the ranks from squadron leader to head of the air force and he had, by the time of the coup, become minister of defence. When Kamel grows tomatoes, they fall in price in the state-controlled market; when he volunteers for military service, he is promptly dismissed.
His one recognized skill is repairing radios. He carries his own with him at all times, enjoying the stirring music and believing the patriotic propaganda. When his final child, his youngest son, Bassam, leaves him, Kamel is totally alone. He had tried buying a whistle on a trip to Lattakia, but the jackals were not deceived. Now, still unable to whistle, he succumbs to the night and the jackals.
Beneath the surface farce, The Nights of the Jackal has a serious message about the place of the traditional Arab male, and of Syria, in the modern world. And they are not therefore among our priorities. For the past two decades he has lived in exile, though returning to Syria to direct the masterly study of the impact on personal relations of a totally repressive society, The Extras But it also trained two generations of Syrian filmmakers by offering bursaries for study in the Soviet Union at film schools in Kiev or Moscow. This shared training has given rise to a distinctive Syrian approach, while still enabling the leading filmmakers to have highly individual personal styles.
Though itself a tightly controlled state institution, the General Establishment has offered its filmmakers considerable freedom in the films they made, even if these works have been subsequently banned or denied screenings in Syria by the state censors. Attention in the West was initially captured by two filmmakers who made their feature film debuts in the early s, Samir Zikra with The Half-Metre Incident and Mohamed Malas with City Dreams , followed 8 years later by The Night They were joined later in the decade by Oussama Mohammad, whose debut film, Stars in Broad Daylight, appeared in Omar Amiralay, the sole documentarist in the group, who trained in France, has chosen to live in exile there since the early s, after his first feature-length work, Everyday Life in a Syrian Village , was banned.
Among Syrian directors of the s, only Abdellatif Abdelhamid has managed to direct a succession of eight features, from The Nights of the Jackal to Days of Boredom There have since been further striking debuts by directors trained in Moscow in the s and s, but neither Riyad Shayya Al-Lajat, nor Nidal al-Dibs Under the Ceiling, has been able to complete a second feature.
In the last decade, thanks to the growth of Syrian television and the advent of digital technology, new possiblities of production outside the General Establishment for Cinema have arisen. A number of Syrian newcomers, most still in their twenties and thirties and many based abroad, are active, making short fictional and documentary works, with the path to feature-length output pioneered by the Paris-based Hala al-Abdallah Yakoub with her experimental video autobiography, I Am the One Who Brings Flowers to Her Grave Introduction Iraq The cinemas of Syria and Iraq, like the political development of the two countries and the careers of their respective long-serving dictators, offer fascinating parallels and stark contrasts.
The years of the mandate were years of continual Arab revolt, and, like Syria, Iraq took years to find a national identity. Iraq became fully independent in as a monarchy, and this situation lasted, despite nationalist unrest, until , when a military coup by the so-called Free Officers abolished the monarchy and executed both the royal family and the prime minister.
There was no support for filmmaking from the royal government, and only fourteen features were made in —, with Hyder al-Omer being the sole director to complete two features. The coup did not produce a stable Iraq. There were regular assassination attempts on whoever assumed power, and further coups in , which brought the Baath Party to power for the first time, and in , which reestablished its rule. His response to personal authority was the immediate execution of all possible rivals and a purge of opposition supporters throughout the country.
As in Syria, it was a change of government through military action which precipitated the establishment of a state media organization in But the title of this, the General Organisation for Cinema and Theatre, points to the lack of autonomy of filmmaking in Iraq at this time. In its early years it was principally a documentary producer three hundred documentaries had been made by ,47 and its first three feature films were not released until — His early feature films of the s include two adaptations of Iraqi novels, The Thirsty Ones , dealing with the plight of the peasantry in a time of drought, and The Walls , which explores the urban struggle against the monarchy in the early s.
His most ambitious film, Clash of Loyalties, is a big-budget international coproduction, made from an original script and in two versions Arabic and English , with a huge budget provided by the Iraqi government. The handling of the spectacular battle scenes is impressive. Clash of Loyalties deals with the Iraqi revolt in against the imposition of the British mandate in Iraq. But rather than exploring the complex national and political tensions that exist in relation to this crucial historical moment, Jamil opted for an epic treatment in the manner of David Lean, drawing heavily on the camerawork of for the public sector in the following years.
From , the private sector continued to operate alongside the state organization, producing almost three times more features than the ten produced by the General Organisation before , when a virtual state monopoly was introduced.
For the new Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, was the year he began the Iran-Iraq war, invading a country over three times the size of Iraq in an assault which Saddam expected to last a month and lead to the overthrow of the Khomeini regime, but which instead dragged on for 95 months. One Iraqi critic has maintained that the leader of the revolt is depicted like the hero of a Hollywood Western and complained of the falsification of the role of King Faisal— seen here as a leader of the nationalist revolt, rather than as the compliant would-be ruler to be imposed by the British.
Despite this concentration on the British occupiers, many of the key historical figures who shaped the fate of Iraq, such as Sir Arnold Wilson, are omitted, and the crucial role of Gertrude Bell is downplayed. For all its impressive spectacle, Clash of Loyalties offers only limited insight into the historical realities of Neither country lost much territory, nor was there any change of regime in either nation. The conflict enabled Khomeini to consolidate the Islamic revolution.
And Iraq emerged as the most powerful military force in the region, outstripping Turkey and Egypt. He had been supported by the West throughout the Iran-Iraq conflict and received very ambiguous responses to his new plans. So, on August 2, , he launched his attack on neighboring Kuwait. As well as facing logistical and casting problems, alDaradji was arrested by the Iraqi police, shot at by the insurgents, kidnapped and beaten by militants, and then subjected to 5 days of maltreatment by the American military.
What enabled him to survive was his Dutch passport. These experiences find their reflection in the film, but its focus is on the sufferings of the Iraqi people, rather than on political issues. The central figures are a doctor and two patients at a Baghdad psychiatric hospital destroyed by the U. Mehdi had his hopes of progression blocked because his father was a on a fellow Arab state and the brutal occupation that followed provoked an immediate response from a startled world community.
The United States, keen to protect its ally and oil supplier Saudi Arabia, organized United Nations Security Council resolutions and a coalition of world governments for its biggest military operation since the Vietnam War. With total air supremacy and the failure of Iraq to use any of its alleged weapons of mass destruction, the coalition forces destroyed the bulk of the Iraqi forces within a hundred hours.
But the Security Council resolutions did not allow for regime change, so the defeated Hussein was able to survive and subsequently to wreak a savage revenge on those—the Shia in the south and the Kurds in the north—who, wrongly expecting coalition support, had risen in opposition. Ali is a patient because of his experiences as a conscript: being bombed by the Americans, losing his best friend in battle, and being tortured as a deserter.
Genre Film Sources
The tale of her love for Ahmed and the preparations for their wedding are told lyrically and shot in warm colors, but the visual quality of the film becomes far bleaker, as the impact of the Saddam Hussein regime and then the U. Ali makes a partial recovery and is able to help rescue some of the patients who have fled from the bombed and looted hospital. But Ahlaam, clearly the symbol of a tortured Iraq, is left to wander in her wedding dress through the empty streets of a nightmarish Baghdad, where she is raped and abandoned.
There is little hope for her at the end of the film, as she looks out over the Baghdad skyline from a deserted rooftop. Bush, was more than happy to attempt to finish 12 years later. In the circumstances, it is not surprising that Iraqi filmmaking has declined since little more than a feature a year, including documentaries shot in exile, for the past 28 years. Jamil trained in the United Kingdom, while al-Yassiri and al-Zubaydi who has worked largely in Syria both studied in East Germany and Hawal much of whose work concerns Palestine is a product of the Baghdad Academy of Fine Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East 18 Kilometer Zero , Iraq Hiner Saleem, a Kurdish refugee who eventually settled in Paris, set his first feature in the Kurdish community in Paris and depicts the journey of a refugee couple in his second.
The bulk of Kilometer Zero, his fourth feature, takes place in Kurdistan, where it was shot. The time of the action is , during the IranIraq War and a few weeks after Saddam Hussein launched his poison-gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja. Yet the film is shot in a sequence of formally controlled shots and edited with a slow rhythm, which matches perfectly the temperament of its thoughtful, somewhat passive hero, Ako.
War is depicted as a tragic farce, boredom interspersed with sudden bombardments, endured by men who dream of a Europe symbolized for them by Anita Ekberg emerging from the Trevi Fountains in La dolce vita. They meet dozens of similar taxis on a journey that emphasizes their similarities as ordinary people and their irreconcilable enmity as Arab and Kurd. Eventually they split up, abandon the coffin, and Ako is reunited with his family, only to be bombed again before being miraculously transported to Paris at the joyous moment of the fall of Baghdad.
France , and Jano Rosebiani Germany. Introduction Palestine and Jordan One of the advocates of a single Arab state, of which he assumed he would become ruler, was Hussein, the sharif of Mecca and notional head of the bedouin tribes, who had allied himself with the British in World War I. Ironically, two of his sons were among those most involved in the division of Arab lands into the separate states which they remain today.
One of the first acts of the British on taking up their mandate was to split Palestine, by dividing off the territories across the River Jordan to become a separate entity. Abdullah subsequently conspired with the Israelis in the lead-up to the war and, when assassinated in Jerusalem, left the kingdom to his mentally unbalanced son, Talal, who was forced to abdicate a year later. Filmmaking in Jordan has been very limited. In the s and s, there are two, little documented, features produced by the Palestinian pioneer Ibrahim Hassan Sirhan, who had been driven into exile into what was then Trans-Jordan, a patriotic piece by the Palestinian-born Mohamed Kaouach, and two works on the Palestine liberation struggle by Abdel Wahab al-Hindi.
In , the locally based Mahmoud Massad made a first feature-length Jordanian documentary, Recycle, shot on video but transferred to 35mm film. In addition, in the s, there has been a mass of short documentary work shot on video, particularly by those associated with the Amman Filmmakers Cooperative, set up by Hazim Bitar in Their progress toward this led to complaints of bias from both Jews and Arabs, and the years of the mandate were marked by continual disorders, in particular those of — , which are referred to by the Arabs as the Great Arab Revolt, and which the Jews call the Riots.
The Arabs could neither understand it nor deal with it. Much of this took place between the expiry of the mandate and the United Nations proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14, Khleifi, who was born in Nazareth, was one of a number of Arab filmmakers who studied filmmaking at INSAS in Brussels and went on to work initially for Belgian television. In Fertile Memory, he juxtaposes the personal stories of two Palestinian women who are completely unknown to each other. The other, younger, woman, Sahar, lives a very different life as a divorced single mother in Ramallah, teaching at Bir Zeit University and working as a novelist.
Both are victims of the assumptions of Arab patriarchal society one accepting, at her own cost, the other rebelling, and thereby causing herself new ular Palestinian forces were crushed, Palestinian society was pulverised, and the first wave of refugees was set in motion. Fertile Memory not only comprises two very different stories, it also involves two documentary procedures, with Sahar questioned by an unseen interrogator, while Roumia gives her own account, largely in voice-over, and participates in what seem to be staged scenes of domestic life.
One focus of the film is on the everyday gestures of the two women, but Khleifi has said that he intended the film to be not just about women but also for women. Throughout this beautifully edited film, there is a concern with the dignity of simple interior spaces and the beauty of the empty landscape. But their efforts were fragmented. In fact, by drawing on his skills at depicting the detail of everyday life and at the mixing of documentary and fiction, Abu Assad has made a much more compelling and involving work, particularly for Western audiences used to the media demonization of Islamic terrorists.
In a film concerned with murderous violence, the key moments are not those of physical action. It was during the late s, in Amman, that Palestinian cinema was born, with the efforts of the photographic archivist Sulfa Jadallah Mirsal and two exiled Palestinians working for Jordanian television from which they acquired their equipment , Mustafa Abu Ali and Hani Johariya.
At this point the definition of Palestinian cinema was unambiguous. It was for Fatah in Amman that they made No ticularly early on, when he has his photograph taken, and at the end, when he is about to detonate the bombs which will kill him and a busload of Israeli soldiers. When he finally articulates the hopelessness of his situation, his decision to respond to the humilation and violence he has experienced by a suicide bombing becomes only too understandable.
Gertz and Khleifi reckon that over sixty documentary films were made before It is both highly personal dedicated to the memory of his father and totally stylized, with the actions of Israeli soldiers constantly choreographed into balletic movements. The film has no linear narrative but is structured as a succession of often absurd or extravagant incidents. It opens with the frustrations of the father, mouthing obscenities as he drives past his smiling neighbors, and ends with the filmmaker sitting side by side with his mother in the kitchen, watching a boiling pressure cooker.
The film begins in Nazareth showing a life reduced to violent repetitive rituals, turning neighbor against neighbor in a series of senseless acts, all filmed without comment or explanation with a static, long-held camera. The life of ES in fani. Both dealt powerfully with Palestinian subjects. The fourth Arab-Israeli conflict the Jom Kippur War in and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC oil embargo redressed somewhat the balance between the Arabs and Israel and its Western supporters, but the uneasy peace was shattered by the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon in The PLO was deeply involved in this, and it was a Fatah attack on Israel which provided the trigger for a first Israeli invasion of Jerusalem is equally frustrating: since Manal lives in Ramallah, they can meet only in the car park of an Israeli checkpoint, expressing their passion only through their clasped and caressing hands as they sit, otherwise motionless, side by side.
The potential violence contained in all the scenes of everyday life finds glorious expression in a series of wonderful gags and fantasies. A date pip tossed casually from his car by the impassive ES on his very first appearance blows up an Israeli tank in a huge explosion. The elegant Manal, walking fearlessly through the checkpoint, reduces the Israeli guards to juddering wrecks and brings the observation tower crashing down. In the long penultimate parody sequence, Manal appears as an avenging Palestinian ninja figure, moving with surreal grace and magically destroying a team of trainee Israeli snipers with the emblems of Palestinian national identity.
Lebanon in The second full-scale Israeli assault in succeeded in expelling the PLO from Lebanon, leaving the Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatilla camps totally at the mercy of Maronite forces, which, with the complicity of the Israelis, slaughtered thousands of men, women, and children. It seemed difficult to imagine a bleaker period for the Palestinians than the s.
Yet, from the s, the Israelis increased their pressure on the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which they had occupied and administered since the war. In , the oppression sparked off spontaneous protests, particularly by the young and by children, which became known as the intifada, which resulted in Palestinian deaths, with 37, wounded and 40, arrested.
The various attempts at a political solution, culminating in the Oslo Accords in the s and more recently the so-called Road Map, have changed little for the Palestinians, as the Israelis continue their policy of building new settlements on the West Bank and of intensifying their occupation. At the time of writing, after the Israeli assault on Gaza toward the end of , there exists no sign of the emergence of any kind of viable state for the Palestinians. But many of the other new Palestinian directors lacked this background.
What they all had in common was a concern with creating images documenting Palestinian life. Most of the other key figures in Palestinian cinema have followed the same trajectory as Khleifi in moving from documentary in the s to fiction in the s: among them, Ali Nassar and Elia Suleiman, along with Rashid Masharawi and Hany Abu Assad who both received some technical training in the Netherlands.
Many of these filmmakers have lived, or are now resident, abroad, and much of their funding has come from European television sources. Indeed, Palestinian filmmakers, working under very dificult circumstances and often at great physical risk in a context which ex-President Jimmy Carter has likened to South African apartheid, have to take their funding where they can find it. Those who are Israeli citizens and have taken funding from Israeli government sources have on occasion been subjected to unjustified criticism by journalists from other parts of the Arab world, whose individual compromises with their own domestic autocratic regimes are often no more defensible.
But the commitment of Palestinian filmmakers to the cause of their people—along with their talent—is unquestionable. The film begins and ends with long-held images of the waves, and, throughout, the hardship of the men battling against natural forces is emphasized. When the Ottoman Empire disintegrated in , there was no move to impose a European solution on Saudi Arabia or North Yemen—they were simply ignored—and they achieved their independence in and , respectively. The five smaller states bordering the Persian Gulf, which with Saudi Arabia make up the Gulf Cooperation Council—Oman, the Trucial States subsequently the United Arab Emirates—UAE , Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait— were all British protectorates and enjoyed treaties which prevented them from being absorbed by their much larger neighbors Iraq had what it saw as historic claims to the territory of Kuwait, for example.
The narrative set against this background is a simple and conventional one: two young people, Moussaid and Noura, are in love, but they are separated by the social forces which keep her cloistered at home and by the poverty which drives him out to seek his fortune at sea. His efforts lead seemingly inevitably to his death but would in any case have been in vain, since Noura is married against her will in his absence. All this changed with the discovery of oil in the s and its exploitation after World War II. By the time the Gulf states achieved independence in the s and s, some of them were among the richest states in the world in terms of per capita income, and Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE were on the way to becoming major forces in the world capitalist financial system, their power as oil-producing states revealed through the actions of the oil cartel OPEC.
He is quite unable to cope with the totally unexpected impact of love, but, to make things worse, he is mistaken: the woman who has captured his love is in fact Ines, a humble girl without a family, who works as a managasher, applying the local variant of henna jet-black nagsh to other women, especially to brides. Ben Hirsi constructs a deftly shaped lighthearted narrative, broken up by snatches of questioning voice-over by a narrator intrigued by his discoveries of an unknown culture, and enlivened by musical interludes.
Very few people can ignore the visual images seductively enacting dramas before them. The newly educated young, in particular, are keen to enter the modern media world, and the new education system, in the UAE, for example, has provided young men and women with production skills in video and with the desire to make full use of them.
Divided in the nineteenth century, the largely unaccessible and reclusive North became independent when the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, while the South remained a British colony, better known as Aden. But this independence came to be dependent on Soviet aid, and when that ceased after the end of the cold war, it was conquered and swallowed up by its much larger northern neighbor in Unsurprisingly, the only Yemeni cinema is a cinema of individual exiles.
The three thousand plus Egyptian feature films produced since the s amount to three times the number produced in all the rest of the Arab world put together and, in terms of box office receipts, the gap is far wider still. But there has been a continuous tradition of filmmaking in both the Arab east the Mashreq and the Arab west the Maghreb since independence, tentative at first, but well established by the s and s and often flourishing in the last decade.
In terms of output, at around five hundred feature films in total, the cinemas of the Mashreq Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan are broadly comparable to those of the Maghreb Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia , and their shared characteristics, as well as the differences between them, are instructive.
There are many features common to both Maghreb and Mashreq, the first of which has already been noted: the work of the tiny handful of pioneers from the s silent era and the early years of of sound which was spread thinly across the Arab world. Only in Egypt and, to a certain extent in Lebanon, does this pioneering activity lead directly to some kind of national cinema.
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Outside these two countries, this pioneering work was followed by years of silence, and when filmmaking did resume, it was from a quite different base. Across the many divisions of the Arab world, a shared sense of commitment is apparent whenever cinema has been called upon to play its part in the struggle for independence and against violence. So too, at the origins of Palestinian cinema in the s, we find militant filmmakers directly linked to the groups involved in the liberation struggle the PLO, the PFLP, etc.
Though without such precise political affiliations, Lebanese and other Arab documentarists raised their voices against the civil war which erupted in But subsequently, in Algeria, this militant phase—like the work of the Middle Eastern pioneers—has little direct influence on what is to follow. But in Palestine and Lebanon, the committed activity of the s forms the basis for the powerful surge of documentary filmmaking across the Arab Middle East, which in turn helps shape the more tentative emergence or re-emergence of fictional feature filmmaking from the early s.
Another shared characteristic of filmmaking across the Arab world is the pioneering role played by Europeans at the beginnings of feature filmmaking. In Algeria, it was a Frenchman, Jacques Charby, who shot the first Algerian-produced feature film after independence. Subsequently European directors working in the Arab world have largely found their production funding at home and aimed their work at a wider audience. But various European film-funding bodies, particularly in France, have played a continuing vital role in the development of Arab cinema outside Egypt. For example, the French Fonds Sud, set up in and just one of the numerous French film production aid agencies, has contributed to films by fifty-one Maghrebian and thirty-two Middle Eastern Arab filmmakers, many of them resident in Europe.
The challenges these filmmakers face in maintaining authentic links to their homelands, while simultaneously engaging Introduction with foreign audiences, are very real, but are, in many cases, very successfully overcome. The situation of all these filmmakers is similar, in that they have to operate as individual auteurs seeking foreign funding for their work, but their personal reactions, and hence their filmic approaches and styles, are very different. These vary sharply from country to country, in response to particular opportunities—especially with regard to film training—and due to the impact of conflict and oppression as chronicled above in the specific context within which they have had to operate.
While it is possible to generalize meaningfully about Maghrebian cinema as a whole, the work of contemporary Arab filmmakers of the Middle East is much more tied to local developments within their countries of origin. Hence the need to deal with each country or area independently and to bear constantly in mind the specific political and economic context. Authoritarian regimes are the norm in the Arab world, and attempts to establish state monopolies for filmmaking have been widespread.
These differences indicate the further key underlying distinction between the two areas. Whereas the Maghreb has largely turned its back on Egypt from whose popular film audiences its particular forms of spoken Arabic largely cut it off and adopted almost exclusively the model of auteur film production which has its origins in France, some of the filmmaking developed in the countries 27 of the Mashreq relates much more directly to that of Egypt.
In the s, with the disruption caused to commericial filmmaking by the establishment of the state monopoly in Egypt, there was a serious attempt in Lebanon to build filmmaking on an industrial model, so as to rival the Cairo studios. Filmmakers whose careers resemble those of the prolific mainstays of Egyptian production emerged, headed by a trio of Lebanese—Mohamed Selmane, Samir al-Ghoussayni, and Rida Myassar—each of whom spent 20 years or so making up to two dozen commercial features for distribution throughout the Arab world.
The Lebanese pattern was also followed sporadically—and with markedly less international success—in Syria and Iraq. As part of the highly professional organization of its film industry, Egypt has developed an accepted path to filmmaking: years of study at the Higher Film Institute in Cairo, followed by a period of work as an assistant director and the making of two or three short films. In the Maghreb, the preferred pattern has been very different and study in either France or Belgium has become something of the norm. Retrieved November 13, Festival de Cannes.
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