Saturday, May 24, 2008

Crossing the borders : movies and music from Palestine

The Salt of this Land, a Palestinian movie, will be presented at the International film festival in Cannes (France). The film is about Emad, a young Palestian who tries desesparately to live in homeland, and Soraya, a third generation emigrant to the states travelling to her parents’ country looking for her roots.

A story which has something to do with the film maker’s one, Annemarie Jacir (آن ماري جاسر), born in Nazareth, raised in Saudi Arabia then in the USA. Since a few years, she lives now in the Occupied Territories or, better, she used to live as the Israeli authorites did not allow her to come back to her home in Ramallah, in spite of her American passport (something which helps usually).

Thus, the movie was finished not in Palestine but in… Marseille (south of France). Anyhow, Annemarie Jacir remains happy with that: with her movie, she will be able to express her ideas about the most sensitive issue, that of the right for the Palestinians to return to their homeland.

Rim Banna’s story, a singer from Nazareth, is about the same issue: how a Palestinian (artist) could make his/her voice heard across borders?

Since her beginning in the mid 80’s, Rim Banna has become a leading figure of the new Arab song which mixes traditional pieces with modern music and rythms. But, having an Israeli passport, she has more opportunities to meet her audience in the western countries than in the Arab ones.

For instance, she was invited some months ago to give a show in Damascus but she never got her visa to leave. Thus she decided to have a “virtual show” with her fans listening to her in an Internet coffee shop in Damascus, something she did also with for the Jordan, Lebanaese and Gazawis audiences.

To be fair, the Israelis authorities are not the only ones which make her travels to Arab countries almost impossible. Even if there are agreements between Israel and some Arab governments, the boycott issue, a difficult and painful one LINK, adds to the difficulties.

Nonetheless, Rim Banna was happy enough to meet some days ago her Arab audience, for the very first time, in Abu Dhabi. She had brought with her a little stone, taken from the ruins of a church in Saffuriyyeh, a little village close to Nazareth where it is said that Jesus’s mother was born.

It remains almost nothing of that village whose inhabitants live now in Nazareth or even in the Palestinian camp of Ain Heloue (Lebanon).

Is has been destroyed by the Israeli forces during the war.

Just 60 years ago.

Links to some videos and articles with the original post, in French.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lebanon : Worlds against Forgetfulness

The works of the Lebanese artists are more necessary than never when the specter of the civil war comes closer and closer. And it is the reason why they should not be gagged.

It could have been the case in August 2007 with “How Nancy wished it was just an April fool joke”, Rabih Mroueh’s last work. The play, which was said to fuel confessional divisions, has not been banned, thanks to the intervention of Lebanon minister of Culture, Mr Tarek Mitri (whose help was useful later against the ban of Persepolis, a French cartoon about the life of a young Iranian girl).

Under changing posters inspired by Zina Maasri’s work on the graphic use of such posters by political parties during the civil war, four “witnesses” tell the story of Lebanon, from the very beginnings during the mid 70’s, to the end of the play which ends, not in the beginning of the 90’s with the Taef agreements but with the last (at that time) events of the 25 January 2007, when fights in Beirut were close to send the country toward a new war. Just like now…

One could read Mroueh’s title as a way to wish, with the Nancy mentioned in the title, that nothing never happened and that all those events were just a “joke”. Nothing serious happened.

But it is just the contrary: with many other Lebanese writers and artists, Mroueh reminds us that - to put it in Mahmud Darwish’s words - Memory is necessary for forgetfulness (more or less the title of Darwish’s famous book about the siege of Beirut in 1982).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

May08: Happy Birthday Mr Preisdent!

May 4 was president Mubarak’s birthday, and an opportunity for the Egyptian oppositional movements to call for a second day of protestation.

Among many other reasons for that, the cost of living, the lack of job opportunities. And the recent agreement for the exportation of Egyptian gas production to Israel when Gaza population is in lack of everything because of the Israeli embargo.

The call for the strike has not been a great success, even after the Muslim Brotherhood joined the movement. An explanation could be the threats exerted by the Egyptian authorities who asked for instance the private phone companies to cancel some 250 000 lines whose owners were not very well known.

Indeed, those lines have been used in order to call strike. Thus, the real meaning of the last events may lay in the rising importance of IT facilities in public mobilization. In spite of the arrest of a rather large number of well-known political bloggers, calls for the strike spread on the web through new outlets like Facebook groups for instance.

IT facilities, like other artefacts of globalization, are already part of day-to-day culture of the Arab youth who are inventing new forms of social protestation and demonstration: wearing black garments for instance, writing on banknotes and, of course, playing protest rap songs like that one.

A short translation of the lyrics with the original post in French.
And more songs following that link.