Production: Les Films du Bal
Development Support: CNAP Centre National de Arts Plastiques
Additional Support: Marra.tein, Ashkal Alwan, Screen Miguel Nabinho
Support: CNC Centre Nacional du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée, Ministère des Affairs Étrangères et du Développement International – Institut Français
A woman finds herself, not sure how, in Beirut’s Hall of Fame after closing hours. Like Molly Bloom, and the more virtuous Penelope, this woman waits for her husband. She appears to have set a date with him. But he has not arrived. Where can he be?
Hanan – this is her name – says that she began to walk after having sighted the Lord of the Dawn with his arm held open towards her. The Lord of the Dawn is a reference from the Koran. What in fact has its arms held open is the monument of Christ King standing in the vicinity of the Hall of Fame, in the neighborhood of Zouk Mosbch.
Hanan is disoriented; she possibly suffers from some sort of dementia.
While she waits for her husband she interacts with the figures/statues in the Hall of Fame. She cleans the dust from their eyes, straightens out the baseball cap of another, she smooths out the cape of a third figure. She works so that they appear cleaner and better arranged. However, while she waits Hanan only makes an effort to improve the appearances of the figures that represent regional and world political leaders who are responsible for the chaos that ravages the Middle East. Despite Hanan’s effort, it will difficult for them to appear ‘clean.’
Hanan is Lebanese and Lebanon is a territory where others fight their wars.
Modern day Lebanon came as a consequence of the demise of the Ottoman Empire. In the 60s Lebanon was, for the West, the Switzerland of the Middle East, and Beirut was Paris. There was money, commerce, tourism from France and from other European countries as well, and cultural diversity. For instance, there was a cosmopolitan ambiance that masked the tensions. In Lebanon there are eighteen religious communities: Muslims (Shiites and Sunnis), Christians (Maronites, Roman Catholics, Protestants…), other Christians and many sects. Muslims make up a bit more than half of the population.
Lebanon shares a border with Syria and Israel. In 1976 the hostility between Muslims and Christians was exacerbated by the presence of Palestinian refugees who were expelled by Israel, leading to a civil war. Syria, which was backed by the United States at the time, occupied Lebanon. In 1978, Israel occupied the south of the country, in response to the offensive by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) lead by Yasser Arafat. Christian Phalangists entered in two refugee camps – Shatila and Sabra – and massacred men, women and children, ‘avenging’ the assassination of the Maronite president.
Hanan’s son disappeared during the Lebanese civil war. She also has a daughter, who studies photography in Cairo. It is through what her daughter tells her that she has some knowledge of the liveliness of the nights of Beirut, of the ‘movement’ in the neighborhoods of Gemmayzeh and Achrafiye. It is through her daughter’s eyes that Hanan sees the luminous part of the city.
Hanan is disoriented. Her state of disarray reflects the coexistence of disparate realities, of modernity and barbarism, of pool parties and explosions on the streets every other day.
Hanan claims to have become incapable of hearing the explosion and seeing the dead. She walks past them and does not see them. Hanan has become deaf. She has become blind. At the end of the monologue, after having tried in vain to clean and straighten out the dictators, perhaps she will become mute. Forever. After all, what good are words when no one hears them?
- Isabel Ramos