Les Femmes palestiniennes (Palestinian Women)
France, 1974, b/w and colour, original version in Arabic, French and English with Spanish subtitles, DA, 11',
Madinat Al-Mawta (Egypt, City of the Dead)
Lebanon, 1977, colour, original version in Arabic and French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 37'
Lettre de Beyrouth (A Letter from Beirut)
Lebanon, 1978, colour, original version in Arabic, French and English with Spanish subtitles, DA, 47'
—With a video presentation by Mohanad Yaqubi, curator of this series and a film-maker and producer, in the first session.
Palestinian women, often the forgotten victims in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, find a voice in Jocelyne Saab’s short film, a commission from French national television that was never broadcast. “I wanted to show images — almost inexistent at the time — of Palestinian women fighting in Syria. We’re talking about that moment just prior to Sadat’s visit to Israel and how the situation was very tense. While I was editing the film in the studios of Antenne 2, Paul Nahon, then senior editor of the foreign editorial department, grabbed me by the collar and threw me out of the editing suite. Palestinian Women was canned and was never aired on television”, Saab wrote.
The second film is a portrait of the City of the Dead, an inhabited cemetery on the outskirts of Cairo, on the fringes of the city’s dumping ground, a place which develops into a compendium of reproaches and bad consciences. Starting from this place, the film portrays the densely populated neighbourhoods of the Egyptian capital, hostage to their own overcrowding and misery and threatened, on a daily basis, by the passiveness of the authorities. “I still ask myself how I was able to combine surrealism and social realism in this film. The great poet Ahmed Fouad Negm was in prison at that time, simply because the regime was displeased with his anti-establishment texts and, in that era, anybody was imprisoned for no apparent reason. So I followed his companion Azzam at the foot of the prison windows to pick up the poems Negm would throw through the bars of his cell. Sheikh Imam sang his poems to the revolutionary students who gathered in the City of the Dead. It was exhilarating — we still believed we could change the world”, Saab said.
In the final film, made three years after the start of the Lebanese Civil War, Jocelyne Saab returns to Beirut and witnesses irrevocable change. She travels through its streets, climbs on buses and talks to refugees and members of the peacekeeping forces, enabling her to reflect on, in that brief interlude of peace, the toll of war.