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Akram Zaatari

July 29, 2009 - August 26, 2009 8:00 pm

Within the framework of the exhibition earth of endless secrets, Beirut art center has programed screenings of Akram Zaatari’s video work.

Part one:

All is well on the border (al-shareet bikhayr)
1997. 43’. Arabic, subtitled in English
Three staged testimonies shed light on the experiences of Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli detention centers during the occupation of south Lebanon. Notions such as heroism and suffering are explored amid a dissection of the codes of representation and ideological indoctrination during times on conflict in this tribute to Jean-Luc Godard’s ici et ailleurs.

In this house (fi hazal bayt)
2005. 30’. Arabic & English, subtitled in English
A journalist and former resistance fighter tells the story of a letter he buried in a garden behind an occupied house in south Lebanon years ago. The filmmaker endeavors to find it, but in doing so he provokes the ire and anxiety of the house’s residents, neighbors and nearby intelligence officials. Yet the search yields joyfully unexpected results.

Part two:

Red chewing gum (al-ilka al-hamra)
2000. 10’. Arabic, subtitled in English
In this “video letter,” an unseen, unnamed narrator recalls an incident that took place fifteen years ago on Hamra Street, Beirut’s famed cosmopolitan causeway. He and the letter’s addressee, a former lover, followed a young street vendor and stole his one piece of masticated red chewing gum. The story gives rise to considerations of desire, pleasure, pursuit and longing.

Baalbeck: the drift 
2001. 23’. Arabic, subtitled in English
A photographer and a journalist have been assigned to cover a concert to be held among the majestic ruins of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon. On their way to the show, they get sidetracked when they catch sight of a young man. They follow him relentlessly, collecting the traces – or evidence – of his presence.

How I love you (shou bhabbak)
2001. 29’. Arabic, subtitled in English
In this study of sexuality among gay men in Lebanon, one couple and three characters discuss relationships, passions, commitments and failures in a society where homosexuality remains punishable by law. The video uses light to create a white veil over the subjects, which prevents viewers from seeing or identifying their faces. By obstructing the image, the work locates itself in a specific social context, at a time and place where certain rights are not granted.

Bathroom naughtiness (zaaraneh bel hammem)
2000. 2’. Arabic subtitled in English
A man and a woman stand facing each other, reciting lines from a poem. The poem, narrated from the point of view of a woman who spots a man from her bedroom window and invites him into her bed, subverts the sweetness of Arabic love songs with black humor and graphic descriptions of sex acts.

Crazy of you (majnounak)
1997. 26’. Arabic, subtitled in English
Set in the industrial suburbs of Beirut, majnounak explores male sexuality through interviews with three men who recount the beginning, middle, and end of a sexual encounter. The video examines the details of shaping the body, language, and song through fantasy. It also explores the ways in which masculinity is constructed, allowing the men to project images of themselves as courageous as they seduce and conquer. Yet through their stories, desire is reduced to a commodity and relationships lead to defeat.

Part three:

Video in five movements (video fi khams harakat)
2006. 9’. Silent
In the 1950s and 1960s, Hashem El-Madani, a studio photographer from Saida, discovered the pleasure of shooting super-8 film. He asked his subjects to shake hands, walk toward the camera and ascend or descend stairs. The video is an assemblage of Madani’s footage, a time capsule, and a tribute to the art of moving pictures.

Reflection (nour)
1995. 10’. Without dialogue
In this video about illumination and friendship, a boy discovers how to manipulate light with a mirror (an integral part of a camera) and introduces the idea of making images into the rituals of daily life among children living in the old city of Saida, Zaatari’s hometown in south Lebanon.

Wassat bayrout (with rachad el-jisr)
1992. 10’. Silent
A group of young boys play choreographed war games amid the architecture of downtown Beirut in the aftermath of Lebanon’s civil war. While the boys shoot each other with toy guns, the camera lingers on the areas inhabitants, most of whom were displaced by fighting in south Lebanon and are about to be displaced once more.

Her + him van leo (hia wa houa van leo)

2001. 32’. Arabic, English & French, subtitled in English

A nude portrait of a grandmother provides the pretext for visiting the Armenian-Egyptian photographer van Leo. The resulting documentary portrays a craftsman who was one of the few studio photographers of his time to consider himself an artist, too. The work seeks to critically consider photography from the 1940s and 1950s without resorting to nostalgia. It creates a dialogue between traditional studio portraiture and experimental video, traces shifts in artistic practice and terminology, and evokes the social, urban, and political transformations that took place over a half-century of Egyptian history.

The synopsises are written by Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

The screening will be followed by Q&A session with Akram Zaatari.