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Highlighting today's cinema from the Maghreb and the Middle East, the Festival Cinémas  du Sud will be held at the Institut Lumière from the 10th to the 13th of April. A celebration of the seventh art which promises to be very inspiring as the Lebanese director Nadine Labaki does us the honor of being the patron of this 24th edition. To kick off the festivities, our audience will embark for Egypt, for a preview screening of Tamer Ruggli's Back to Alexandria. A luminous first feature film starring a pair of actresses that would make any filmmaker green with envy: Nadine Labaki, our godmother, and Fanny Ardant! Reunited for the first time on screen, the actresses play an explosive mother-daughter duo.

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Back to Alexandria will give us the opportunity to honour Nadine Labaki. This will be the fourth feature film presented at the festival in which our godmother stars! In previous editions, Lyon audiences were treated to Lebanese gems such as Georges Hachem's Balle perdue (2012), Oualid Mouaness' 1982 (2020) and Mounia Akl's Costa brava Lebanon (2022). So it was only natural for us to screen Tamer Ruggli's Back to Alexandria to open the festival.

Lebanese director, screenwriter and actress Nadine Labaki won the Best Short Film prize at the Arab Film Biennial at the Arab World Institute in 1998 for her graduation short film 11 rue Pasteur! This was followed by three iconic feature films:  Caramel (2007), selected for the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. Followed by Et maintenant, on va où? (2011), which won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Universally acclaimed, her third feature film, Capharnaüm (2018), won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. 

The festival celebrates the films of today, those of the past and the talents of tomorrow. The 24th edition of the Cinémas du Sud festival once again demonstrates its desire to share with the public works from the Maghreb and the Middle East that are firmly rooted in their time. Against the backdrop of the international conflicts we are currently experiencing, it is more important than ever for us to defend the mixing of cultures.

More than ever, this year's festival will focus on cinema as a universal language that makes a constructive contribution to the issues that are at stake in the contemporary Arab world,

WEDNESDAY 10th of APRIL
7.30 p.m : OPENING NIGHT


PREVIEW - Back to Alexandria by Tamer Ruggli (Egypt, 2023, 1h30)
In attendance of Tamer Ruggli

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Back to the Egyptian roots

 

With Back to Alexandria, director Tamer Ruggli signs a luminous first feature film about a mother-daughter duo who reunite after years of silence. A road-movie between Switzerland and Egypt, like a declaration of love to the women of his childhood. Fanny Ardant and Nadine Labaki form the amazing tandem in this Egyptian gem.

 

Sue, who has lived in Switzerland for many years, is a passionate psychologist. But her peaceful daily routine is turned upside down with one phone call. Her Aunt Indji tells her that her mother is seriously ill. After years of absence, Sue decides to return to her native Egypt to see her mother, Fairouz. An egocentric, hurtful woman with whom she cut ties over twenty years ago.

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Streets of Cairo

From Cairo to Alexandria, driving her pink convertible, Sue embarks on a journey into the past, confronting the ghosts she thought she'd left behind when she went into exile. Along the way, she can count on the unfailing support of young Bobby and his Aunt Indji, never short of colorful anecdotes. From Switzerland to Alexandria, via Cairo, Sue confronts her demons and tries to reconnect with her mother, Fairouz, an eccentric aristocrat who hurt her so much in the past. Can the two women find each other again before it's too late ? This is one of the issues at stake in Back to Alexandria, the first feature film by Swiss-Egyptian director Tamer Ruggli. With a keen sense of aesthetics, the filmmaker paints a luminous portrait of Egyptian women, particularly those from his childhood.

Fanny Ardant, Nadine Labaki: an amazing mother-daughter duo

 

"This film allowed me to bring my Auntie Hinji and my grandmother back to life : characters I grew up with, and whom I wanted to introduce to a European audience unfamiliar with this type of woman with great class and timeless elegance". Tamer Ruggli was right to "dream" of two actresses to embody this bewitching and explosive mother-daughter duo, as soon as the script was written : Fanny Ardant and Nadine Labaki. Once the script was complete, the filmmaker was able to meet them through friends: "I was able to talk to them about the script, and I was inspired by them and their personalities. They were very committed and put themselves at the service of these characters, so that it really resembled these Egyptian women : my grandmother, my mother, whom I wanted to describe and bring back to life in this film". The filmmaker's mother plays one of Sue's aunts. A true declaration to the women in his life, this story immediately appealed to director-actress Nadine Labaki: "When Tamer spoke to me about the script, I realized how well he knew his characters, how much he loved them. There was a very honest relationship with his incredible female characters". For the Lebanese filmmaker, shooting Back to Alexandria also marked her first collaboration with Fanny Ardant, "a fascinating woman in every aspect". With its five-star cast, acute sense of aesthetics and subtle script, Back to Alexandria has already won over international festival audiences. Tamer Ruggli, a filmmaker to be reckoned with.

Laura Lépine

THURSDAY 11th of APRIL
6.30 p.m : Previously unreleased film


 Un été à Boujad d'Omar Mouldouira (Morroco, 2022, 1h20)
In attendance of Omar Mouldouira

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Reverse Exile

 

After several international award-winning short films, director Omar Mouldouira signs "Un été à Boujad", a powerful first feature film about the upside-down immigration of a Moroccan family, portrayed through the eyes of 13-year-old Karim, who is trying to find his place in his father's heart and in a country he knows nothing about.

 

Summer 1986 : 13-year-old Karim leaves France to spend his vacations in Bejaâd, Morocco. Seven years after his mother's death, the shy teenager learns that his father Messaoud has remarried. Karim now has a stepmother and a half-brother. After more than twenty years working in a factory in France, his father decided to return to his native Morocco. But Karim struggles to fit in with this blended family and in a country he knows nothing about.

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A « frenchy » in Morocco

 

Karim, a student at the prestigious French high school in Casablanca, feels rejected by his family. While doing everything he can to win back his father's heart, the teenager meets a young outsider, 16-year-old Mehdi. This surrogate big brother will show him the hidden side of Boujad and teach him to defy the rules. The arrival of this young Frenchman in Morocco is the starting point for the feature film "Un été à Boujad" (A summer in Bejaâd), directed by Omar Mouldouira. A powerful story of initiation, also inspired by the filmmaker's own experience, as his parents were born in Bejaâd. "Through this film, I wanted to tell the story of immigration in reverse. I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of a teenager who agrees to accompany his father to a country he barely knows, a language he has barely mastered [...]. It's the story of this little Frenchy who arrives in a new country, even though it's his country of origin, in a blended family, who, in this context, he's trying to win back his father's love by any means necessary", confides the filmmaker.

 

Boujad, I love you

After tackling the theme of exile in his short film Messaoud (2006), Omar Mouldouira wanted to bring two worlds face to face : that of reverse immigration and that of adolescence, a period during which "you're a bit in between, you're a bit of a stranger to yourself: your body changes, your voice changes, your attitude changes". To construct this initiatory tale, the director chose Bejaâd as the setting and the 80s as the timeframe. More specifically, the summer of '86. “The story takes place in 1986, if you remember the context in France : it's three years after the March for Equality and Against Racism (in french Marche des beurs), and there was also the Pasqua law, which encouraged immigrants to return home with a cheque. That's what I wanted to talk about. Bejaâd is my parents’ and grandparents’ town, and was already the setting for my previous film. It's a town that has hardly moved, it's a bit stuck in time [...] You get the feeling that there's no temporality".

The filmmaker admits that there's a lot of his own father in the character of Messaoud, the head of the family in « Un Eté à Boujad ». A worker who returned to Morocco every summer in his " car R12 loaded with gifts" for the whole family. A habit that earned him the nickname of "the summer's Santa Claus", a "baba Noël", as Omar Mouldouira calls him. A few years later, the former student of Casablanca's high school Lyautey graduated as a sound engineer from the prestigious Fémis film school. This was followed by four multi-award-winning short films at international festivals. With his first feature film, "Un été à Boujad", Omar Mouldouira brings back to life the Morocco of his childhood, and offers a wonderful gift to all film lovers. His father nicknamed "Baba Noël" can be proud!

Laura Lépine

9 p.m

The Burdened by Amr Gamal  (Yemen, 2023, 1h31)

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The Yemeni light

 

Six years after his first feature film, filmmaker Amr Gamal confirms all the hopes placed in him with The Burdened, a hard-hitting film about abortion in Yemen. Inspired by real-life events, the film has been selected to represent Yemen at the 2024 Oscars.

 

"Having a child is a blessing. Without financial means, it becomes a misfortune." The whole of Ahmed and his wife Israa's painful daily life is contained in this conversation he has with a close friend. The couple live with their three children in the old port of Aden, Yemen. Due to numerous unpaid salaries, the father of the family had to quit his job in television to become a driver. Ahmed and Israa are already struggling to make ends meet in a country where daily life is punctuated by civil war. When the young woman finds out she's pregnant, the couple face a new crisis. They don't have the financial means to keep the child without jeopardizing the future of the whole family. The couple decides to have an abortion.

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A story inspired by a friends’ couple

 

But such a decision is fraught with consequences in a country where abortion is forbidden. Ahmed and Israa then embark on a veritable obstacle course, facing the weight of tradition and the gaze of a conservative society. It is this relentless struggle that The Burdened brilliantly depicts. Amr Gamal’s second feature film’s story deals, without Manicheism, with abortion, a taboo subject that came to the director's attention a few years ago : "It's inspired by real events. It's the story of a friends' couple close to me. When they decided to have an abortion, I saw what they went through, how much they suffered. [...] In 2015, they lost their jobs and their financial situation worsened. The wife became pregnant with their fourth child: to continue to be able to bring up their three children decently, they decided to have an abortion. It's a huge sacrifice not to have a child because of an economic situation [...] This story is about two people who love each other and who have to fight against the weight of tradition and the gaze of society so as to do what they think is right for their children," says Amr Gamal. And when it comes to a rocky road, the Yemeni filmmaker shows just as much fighting spirit as his characters, who are inspired by his close friends. The director made a point of shooting his film in the town where he grew up, Aden.

 

 

A film depicting Yemen's reality

While on the big screen, Ahmed and Israa struggle against the weight of tradition in a country undermined by civil war and the presence of Islamists, behind the cameras it was also an uphill battle for Amr Gamal and his team. Even if the director admits that making a film in Aden is undoubtedly "easier than in other Yemeni cities", shooting remains an ordeal : "It's always difficult to make a film in Yemen, because of the country's current situation and the authorities in place. Sometimes you're shooting and there's a brawl breaking out between two armed gangs, or power cuts, fuel shortages, no telephone communication, not to mention the very high temperatures. When filming began, Yemen was in turmoil: it suffered from inflation, there were regular demonstrations and then there was also the arrival of Covid.  A whole series of events occurred, so it was very complicated". For the filmmaker, it's essential to remember that the difficulties faced by the characters in The Burdened describe the reality of his country : "All these events have become our daily life. Everything you see in the film happens every day to Yemeni families [...] It's not a 'collage' of all the existing problems in Yemen that I wanted to put together in a film, it's the reality of everyday life!"

Representing Yemen at the Oscars

Eager to share his second feature film with the inhabitants of Aden, Amr Gamal is also pursuing his work as a cultural ambassador. In a country where theaters and cinemas were closed by Islamists following the reunification of the south and north of the country in 1990, the director managed to found the "Khaleej Aden" theater company in 2005. His play "Ma'k Nazel" became the first Yemeni play to be performed in Europe. His first feature film, "10 Days Before Marriage" (2018) was the first commercially exploited film in Yemen for the past three decades. The icing on the cake : the film was chosen to represent Yemen at the 2018 Oscars. With characteristic pugnacity, Amr Gamal and his team organized screenings of the film for the people of Aden : they rented two wedding halls, built a giant wooden screen and used a low-cost projector. "People came in droves : we had 70,000 admissions and it lasted for 8 months! And all the money was used to rent an electric generator because there were regular power cuts, and to pay for the rental of the halls. It was an incredible experience!" Six years later, Amr Gamal's second feature film was nominated as the official candidate to represent Yemen at the 2024 Oscars. In Aden, we're going to break attendance records again!

Laura Lépine

FRIDAY 12th of APRIL
3.45 p.m : Patrimony Session


 Les Dupes de Tewfik Saleh (Syrie, 1972, 1h44)
In attendance of  Khemaies Khayati, film critic and writer

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Light and shadow on the Palestinian exile

 

In 1972, Egyptian filmmaker Tewfik Saleh directed The Dupes, a masterful adaptation of Ghassan Kanafani's short story Men in the Sun. The critically acclaimed film tells the story of three Palestinians who try to cross the border into Kuwait in hope of a better life.

 

Abu Quais, an illiterate olive farmer, is an old man whose family has been moved to a refugee camp. Assad, a young Palestinian militant, tries to escape from the Jordanian police. At fifteen, Marwan drops out school to support his family. They're not the same age, nor do they come from the same family or village, but Abu, Assad and Marwan are united by the same dream : to leave their native Palestine in hope for a better life in Kuwait, their "promised land". Abul Khaizuran, a smuggler, convinces these companions of misfortune to attempt to cross the border, hidden in his tanker truck. Abu, Assad and Marwan embark on the journey of a lifetime across the desert for a handful of dinars. To escape the Iraqi and Kuwaiti authorities, the three men have to hide inside the metal water tank. A tank which, under the effect of the heat, turns into a furnace. But Abu, Assad and Marwan are ready to risk their lives for a better future in Kuwait.

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A metaphor of the fate of Palestinians

 

The film The Dupes brilliantly recounts the journey of Palestinians determined to escape their misery. Written by Egyptian director Tewfik Saleh, this black-and-white fiction is an adaptation of the short novel "Men in the Sun" by Ghassan Kanafani. Published in 1962 and translated into several languages, this novel made an international name for its author Ten years after its publication, its adaptation for the big screen is also making history in Arab cinema. By combining archive footage of the "Nakba", the exodus of Palestinians in 1948, sequences with images of Arab monarchs and leaders during various negotiations, and scenes in which the three main characters fight for their survival, Tewfik Saleh has created a highly political work, denouncing certain Arab governments. This fool’s game is in fact a game of massacre in which the powerful watch their people die of hunger and thirst in this stifling desert, a metaphor for the fate of the Palestinian people, forced into exile in 1948.

Refusing the bans imposed on him by Egyptian censors, Tewfik Saleh settled in Iraq and shot The Dupes in Syria. A talented mentor who teaches young filmmakers how to direct, he has taken the film adaptation of the greatest novels of Arab literature to an unprecedented level. Recently restored by the Film Foundation's World Cinema Project, the Cineteca of Bologna, the Syrian National Cinema Organization and the filmmaker's family, The Dupes, is given a new lease of life. Winner of the Tanit d'Or Carthage Film Festival, but banned by many Arab states, this poignant tale makes a stopover at the Festival Cinémas du Sud. A gem of Arab cinema, not to be missed !

 

Laura Lépine

6.30 p.m : Previously unreleased film

 Goodnight Soldier by Hiner Saleem (Kurdistan, 2022, 1h37)
In attendance of Hiner Saleem

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Shakespeare in Love in Kurdistan 

Awarded at the Mostra for Vodka Lemon and selected at the Cannes Film Festival for My Sweet Pepperland, filmmaker Hiner Saleem is the darling of international festivals. And with his twelfth feature, Goodnight Soldier, the Kurdish director's popularity with film fans is unlikely to wane. Watch out for this gem !

 

 

It's the story of a young man who loves a woman. But their families have been tearing each other apart for decades. An ancestral hatred that puts a strain on the bond that unites the two lovers, reminding you perhaps of the fate of a certain Romeo and Juliet. But this is not a story about the Montagues or the Capulets. The plot takes place in a village in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the heroes are Ziné and Avdal. Madly in love for several years, they dream to get married. When their families discover that Ziné and Avdal have been a couple for several years, war is declared. Through negotiations and duels in SUVs, the two clans fight to get their children to renounce their love.

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A weapon of mass seduction

 

Ziné is convinced that the strength of their love can withstand anything, but Avdal, a former soldier, has to go back to the front. Wounded in battle by a Daech bullet, the young man returns to his village. Devastated by the physical and mental scars left by the war, and convinced that he has nothing more to offer the young woman, Avdal decides to end his relationship with Ziné. While their families continue to tear each other apart, Avdald learns that he will have to return to the front. Beyond his love for Ziné, Avdal's life is now at stake. It is this Shakespearean love story that filmmaker Hiner Saleem brings to light in his film "Goodnight Soldier". A poignant tale of a love threatened by family conflicts. Not without humor, the Kurdish director breathes conviction and strength into the two heroes, Ziné and Avdal. Against all odds, these two main characters, played respectively by Dilin Döğer and Galyar Nerway, fight against their families, prejudice and the traumas left by the war on the young soldier's body and mind. Love becomes the last bastion against the cruelty of the world and all forms of extremism.

 

From Venice film festival to Cannes

It's a theme that runs through all the work of Kurdish filmmaker Hiner Saleem : from the sexagenarian who finds love in the cemetery in Vodka Lemon (2003) to the search for suitors by a political refugee living in Paris in Vive la mariée... et la libération du Kurdistan (1998), the director's first feature film. Hiner Saleem's subtle and humorous approach to romance has paid off, winning him the San Marco Prize at the Venice Film Festival, the Grand Prix at the Mons International Love Film Festival for Vodka Lemon and the Prix de la Jeunesse at the Cabourg Romantic Film Festival for My Sweet Pepperland (2013). The Kurdish director is also a regular at the Cannes Film Festival, where he presented Kilomètre zéro (2005) in the official selection, followed by My Sweet Pepperland in the « Un Certain regard » section. With Goodnight soldier, Hiner Saleem is sure to be showered with awards and love.

 

Laura Lépine

9 p.m : PREVIEW

 Six pieds sur terre by Karim Bensalah (Algeria, 2022, 1h36)
In attendance of Karim Bensalah

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Algeria: to life and death

 

Honored for his short films, Algerian filmmaker Karim Bensalah presents his first feature-length film "Six pieds sur terre" at the festival. A poignant tale of the initiatory journey of a young Algerian working in the Muslim funeral industry. A taboo subject that the director treats with finesse and modesty.

 

The son of a former Algerian diplomat, Sofiane dreams of New York and his former travels. Settled in Lyon for his studies, the young man leads a peaceful life. But the gentle dreamer is about to be rudely brought back to reality. Under threat of deportation following an administrative decision, Sofiane has to find a job to regularize his situation. In hope of staying in France, he accepts a job as a Muslim funeral parlour. The rituals of washing the bodies of the deceased became his daily routine. A harsh reality for this immature student.

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A choreography of death

 

Through this journey of initiation, a rebirth for this man who comes into daily contact with death, but also thanks to the people he meets, the young man gradually grows into adulthood. In his first feature film, Karim Bensalah thus depicts this quest for identity, one initiated by contact with dead bodies, a difficult theme that the Algerian director treats with great subtlety and modesty. "Death is a subject that often comes up in my writing. This is the first time I've tackled the subject so head-on, by focusing on ritual. I'm not religious, but I'm fascinated by Islam's relationship with death. The humility and recognition of finiteness, the return of the body as part of the earth's cycle, I find very beautiful [...] In the rituals performed on these bodies, there is this gesture that I find very codified, for me it's almost a choreography. I wanted to film this choreography", explains the filmmaker. Karim Bensalah's aim with this first feature film was to "make visible the question of death, which is increasingly invisible in modern society, without creating fear".

 

First lesson : humbleness

 

Through contact with the dead, the young Sofiane, hero of Six pieds sur terre (Six feet on earth), gradually questions his own identity and enters adulthood. This journey of initiation also begins when the student meets "El Hadj", who teaches him the important rituals of the Muslim religion. For his master, it all begins with a lesson in humility: "The dirty one is the one who judges people, whether dead or alive". A message of respect that this character delivers to the young man, who is initially blinded by his prejudices about death and religion. For Karim Bensalah, it was essential that this taboo subject be treated with modesty: "Obviously, I believe that there are as many ways of washing the body of a deceased person as there are washermen, but I wanted the character of El Hadj to have a generous outlook, and that's what he conveys to Sofiane. What was important for me was to work on the question of modesty, which is essential in the Muslim religion, which is why I never show the faces of the dead in the film". A delicate, sensual story that has already won over several film festivals.

Selected for the Cinemed festival in Montpellier, "Six pieds sur terre" was also screened at the Premier Plans festival in Angers and at the Festival of first feature film in Annonay. Like his character Sofiane, Karim Bensalah will be stopping off in Lyon to introduce Cinémas du Sud audiences to Six pieds sur terre.

Laura Lépine

SATURDAY 13th of APRIL
3 p.m : Previously unreleased film


 L'Île du pardon de Ridha Béhi (Tunisia, 2022, 1h30)
In attendance of Ridha Béhi

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Forgiveness, a « Cardinale » value

 

Selected at the Cannes Film Festival since his first feature films, filmmaker Ridha Béhi will present L'Île du pardon (The Island of Forgiveness) in Lyon. A moving tale of a Tunisian writer's return to his hometown of Djerba. The cast of this Tunisian gem includes the immense Claudia Cardinale.

 

Andrea Licari is an accomplished writer. Tunisian of Italian origin, the sixty-year-old has become a professor at the University of Rome. His peaceful daily life is turned upside down when he receives the terrible news that his mother has just died. Andrea faces the most difficult event of his life. To respect his mother's last wishes, Andrea is preparing to return to the island of Djerba where he grew up. There, he must scatter his mother's ashes. A journey that brings back painful memories as Andrea must confront his demons in order to find peace and forgive those who have haunted his entire existence.

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Faith in Djerba

 

The writer's inner conflicts are compounded by the weight of religion. He will have to face so many trials to honour his mother's memory and make peace with his past. This is the path Andrea must take to free himself from the weight of his childhood. A quest for freedom highlighted in L'Île du pardon (The Island of Forgiveness), Ridha Béhi's ninth feature film. In this work, the filmmaker explores the question of cohabitation between different communities in Tunisia in the 50s. Conflict between religions is at the heart of the story : from a shot of a character transformed into Jesus crowned with thorns, to the offensive efforts of a Muslim sheikh to convert Andrea's father. The film's title was inspired by The Epistle of Forgiveness, an eleventh-century satirical work by the Arab poet Abû-l-Alâ' Al-Ma'arrî. It's hardly surprising, then, that Ridha Béhi's feature-length film is all about religion, both in its essence and in the meaning of its practices. Illuminated by the light of Djerba, la Douce, the filmmaker revisits the Tunisia of the 50s, the Tunisia of his childhood, he who was born in Kairouan, the latter often referred to as the first holy city of the Maghreb.

 

Claudia Cardinale in the cast

 

Above all, Ridha Béhi highlights this writer returning to his native land to find peace, so as to advocate tolerance. Through all the Tunisian director’s films runs something of a forum for the cohabitation of communities.

Selected for the Cannes Film Festival's Directors' Fortnight with his first feature film, Soleil des hyènes (1977), Ridha Béhi has built up a body of work characterized by a sharp eye for our society. He makes a point of fighting prejudice and all forms of obscurantism. L'Île du pardon  is further proof of this. The film's hero, Andrea, returns to Djerba, the town of his childhood. For this journey of initiation, viewers will have the pleasure of reuniting with the legendary Claudia Cardinale, who lends her features to the character of Agostina. All aboard !

 

Laura Lépine

5.30 p.m : FRENCH PREMIERE

 The Teacher by Farah Nabulsi (Palestine, 2023, 1h58)
In attendance of  Gilles Portes, chief operator

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On occupied land

Four years after being nominated for an Oscar for her short film The Present, filmmaker Farah Nabulsi returns with a powerful first feature film about the daily lives of Palestinians in the occupied zone. A gem of realism starring brilliant actor Saleh Bakri, who was in the casting of Costa Brava Lebanon with our godmother, Nadine Labaki. A must-see !

Basem is a high school English teacher. He lives in Palestine, in occupied territory. A true mentor to his students, he takes young Adam under his wing. In the midst of family turmoil, Basem tries to reconcile his risky commitment to political resistance with his role as a father figure to Adam. The teenager is reunited with his brother, Yusuf, recently released from prison after being convicted of taking part in an anti-Israeli demonstration. A few days later, their house is demolished by the authorities. At the same time, a wealthy American lawyer is searching for his son, an Israeli soldier held by a Palestinian resistance group. During his engagements, Basem meets Lisa, a British volunteer working for a non-governmental organization. An encounter that may well change the professor's life... So many destinies and events collide in occupied Palestine, where violence is a daily occurrence.

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A film inspired by true events

 

Everyone struggles to survive and defend their loved ones. Throughout his first feature film, The Teacher, Anglo-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi portrays this constant struggle. A powerful work exploring the daily lives of Palestinians in the occupied zone : "My experiences traveling in occupied and colonized Palestine in recent years have opened my eyes to the injustice and discrimination that prevails there, and how this is institutionalized. I really wanted to be specific and tell the more intimate story of a person living this reality: exploring their daily life, their experiences and the emotions driving a person to make certain choices and decisions, forced by this harsh reality", says Farah Nabulsi. As close as possible to the truth about the Palestinians, The Teacher depicts, without falling into Manicheism or victimization, both the systemic and individual abuse of power to which the characters are subjected. Its characters are fighters, like Basem, engaged in political resistance and striving to protect his pupil for a better future. Farah Nabulsi drew her inspiration for the screenplay from the daily lives of Palestinians in the occupied zone : "I have met and had many conversations with Palestinians who have experienced many absurd and cruel things at first hand. These experiences also fed into the writting of the script. For example, the fact that the Israeli authorities and Israeli settlers have uprooted or burned over a million Palestinian olive trees since 1967 (some 12,000 last year alone) and demolished over 50,000 Palestinian homes and structures, including schools and water facilities, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless." And this harsh reality was witnessed by the film crew on several occasions.

An explosion a few kilometers from the shooting  location

 

Filmed in part in the Palestinian city of Nablus, The Teacher was a "mental and emotional challenge" not only for its director, but also for her team work: "when you're shooting in Palestine, you're also confronted with the colonization and military occupation taking place in real time all around you, such as the random checkpoints set up by the Israeli army or the closure of certain roads, which greatly disrupts the making of the film. One morning, on my way to the set, I saw a whole family standing on the side of the road in front of the rubble of their house, which had just been demolished a few hours earlier (again, a fact depicted in the film). Another day, soldiers blew up a house about two kilometers from where we had just shot a few hours earlier".

 

A fight for every moment also led by the characters in The Teacher. Previewed at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), this Farah Nabulsi gem has already garnered some 50 awards. A farandole of awards that confirm all the hopes placed in this filmmaker, whom short film The Present was nominated for an Oscar. With its sharp direction, powerful storytelling and perfect casting (the masterful Saleh Bakri lends his features to the character of Basem), The Teacher will surely continue to win awards!

 

Laura Lépine

8.30 p.m 

 Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous by Wissam Charaf (Lebanon, 2021, 1h25)
In attendance of Clara Couturetn actress

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Lebanon : Foreign Bodies

 

Wissam Charaf's second feature film, Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous will leave no cinephile unmoved. This luminous, poetic tale recounts the love affair between a Syrian refugee and an Ethiopian cleaning lady in a middle-class Beirut neighborhood. A seemingly impossible encounter that the director-journalist sublimates in every shot.

 

Ahmed is a Syrian refugee trying to survive by collecting metal on the streets of Beirut. Mehdia is an Ethiopian cleaning lady working in a middle-class Beirut neighborhood. On paper, nothing seems to unite them. "Iron, copper, batteries" : when the young man chants his words under the balcony of Mehdia's employers, their destinies are about to change. She is immediately drawn to Ahmed's electrifying gaze. It's love at first sight for these two sentimental refugees. Shortly after their meeting, Ahmed falls ill. His doctor "has never seen anything like it". The young Syrian is suffering from a strange pathology : his body is full of metal, part of his arm is beginning to turn metallic. But what is this mysterious disease gnawing at this survivor of the Syrian war ? Metal is omnipresent in Ahmed : from his steel-blue eyes, to the shrapnel that has scarred his body, no to mention in the batteries and copper that enable him to survive in Lebanon.

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Metallic lovers

Ahmed and Mehdia, the heroes of Wissam Charaf's film Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous, seem magnetized to each other, whereas metal, like a common thread owes nothing to chance : "The male character (Ahmed) has a disease that turns his body to metal. It's a metaphor for the victims of war. Having lived through the war in Lebanon, and having witnessed several other wars as a journalist, my conclusion is that war corrupts people, it gangrenes the whole of society, including the victims. [...] This idea of metaphor also comes from something very personal: as a child in Lebanon, I lived through the war: at the age of nine, I was wounded by a grenade: even today, my body still contains metal", confides the filmmaker. To interpret these "metallic" lovers, the Lebanese director was able to count on the talent of two young actors : Clara Couturet and Ziad Jallad. A duo that immediately appealed to Wissam Charaf.

 

A Mostra award-winning love story

 

The idea for this seemingly impossible love story was born in the director-journalist's mind when he saw two realities mirrored in his "bourgeois" Beirut neighborhood : that of Syrian refugees and that of Ethiopian workers. For Wissam Charaf, it was imperative to describe this reality, "without falling into miserabilism and exploiting people's suffering. [...] I wanted to do something more ambitious than that, so I asked myself what could be the link between these two marginalized, suffering people, and I thought that a love story uniting them would be the most interesting. [...] For me, the most important idea was to "rehumanize" these people through this love story. [...] The characters are very brave, they're fighters, but they're also fragile : physically and in their eyes. I also wanted to find the mix between all that, this duality that is also found in this story. It's never frontal, there's no drama on one side and comedy on the other; strength or fragility, I always try to find the balance between the two, it's a very oriental thing I think!" Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous has already won over many international festival-goers. This little gem also won the Europa Cinemas prize at the Venice Film Festival 2022. With all the trophies awaiting him for this second feature, Wissam Charaf has not finished touching metal!

 

Laura Lépine

SUNDAY 14th of ApRIL
4. p.m : PREVIEW


 La Mer et ses vagues by Liana and Renaud (Lebanon, 2023, 1h25)
In attendance of Renaud

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Beirut, a lighthouse in the night

Part fairytale, part musical comedy, part fantasy tale, Liana and Renaud's La Mer et ses vagues has everything to appeal to film fans. By mixing genres, the two filmmakers plunge the viewer into a daydream, the better to describe the reality and all the paradoxes of the city of Beirut. A preview of the film screened at Le Zola cinema.

A full-moon night in Beirut. Najwa and her brother Mansour follow a smuggler to reach a mysterious woman on the other side of the Mediterranean. The crossing promises to be perilous, but the duo are determined to take to the sea, come what may. In the heart of the city, a lighthouse goes out. Its keeper, Sélim, does everything he can to repair it and shed light on the city and its mysteries. Songs emerge: but where do they come from? Between light and shadow, to the rhythm of these characters, Beirut presents a thousand faces. Are the inhabitants plunged into a dream, or struggling to survive in the midst of a nightmare? One thing is certain: time sometimes seems to stand still in the Lebanese capital. Liana  and Renaud film La mer et ses vagues invites viewers on this metaphorical journey.

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A Lebanese dream

This debut feature draws on the codes of fantasy and musical comedy to embark audiences on a metaphorical tale of Beirut, a city in which mysterious characters sing, light, shout and resist. A dreamlike play that evokes all the paradoxes of the Lebanese capital.  It was an original feature of Beirut's architecture that guided the filmmaking duo in writing the script : La Mer et ses vagues (The Sea and its Waves) was born of a particularly zany discovery: in a district of Beirut, amidst the skyscrapers, stands an abandoned lighthouse. When we went inside, we met its keeper. A lighthouse keeper still paid by the Lebanese state to guard a lighthouse that no longer guards anything... Reality sometimes surpasses fiction in terms of implausibility! To this we added our interest in legends and myths, and our love of the Mediterranean". For Liana and Renaud, mixing genres helps to preserve and return "to the creative basis of what cinema is: moving images". Combining lighting effects, sung scenes and evocations of the supernatural, the filmmakers take viewers on a poetic journey. But without ever forgetting to describe the reality of Beirut, a city disfigured by the explosions of the 4th of August 2020. It also deals, , through the characters Najwa and her brother Mansour, with the plight of migrants who set out to cross the Mediterranean risking their lives.

 

A film shot with analog camera

 

Liana and Renaud have chosen to shoot this Lebanese tale with analog camera, in keeping with their commitment to independent, low-budget cinema, but always with a creative edge : "It's our first camera, and it's true that it occupies a very important place. It's the culmination of years of technique and mastery. And on the set, the team is quite young. There's a fascination with this object, because not everyone has worked with it before. When silence falls and you hear that little sound of the film rolling, something magical happens. It's also part of the film's soul". Beyond the aesthetic appeal of film, the organization of the shoot also marks their commitment to defending and envisioning this cinema as a craft: "This film represents a twofold battle for us. Firstly, to prove that it's still possible to make beautiful films with very limited budgets and crews - 1 camera, 1 sound engineer and two faces! We've always abhorred the film industry's delusions of grandeur, which often leads to the production of conventional films with 50 people and 20 million euros. Our second battle is the mixing of genres". An approach welcomed by the ACID filmmaking collective, which has chosen to support and accompany this film. In the Lyon night, audiences can count on the lights of the Le Zola cinema to guide them towards The Sea and its Waves.

Laura Lépine

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