Bezness

by Garay Menicucci
published in MER192

Nouri Bouzid, Bezness (1992).

What happens when a poor Arab country with a high birth rate, an enormous youth population and endemic unemployment bases a significant part of its development strategy on attracting European tourism? In Nouri Bouzid’s film, Bezness, the Tunisian coastal town of Sousse is the site for just such an experiment, with disastrous consequences for the local population.

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Nasrallah, On Boys, Girls and the Veil

by Walter Armbrust
published in MER200

Yousry Nasrallah’s new documentary film, On Boys, Girls and the Veil, touches on a paradoxical aspect of Egyptian filmmaking. Despite the ubiquitous hijab -- the neo-Islamic “veil” -- in Egyptian life, covered women are quite rare in the cinema. The reason for this is that both filmmakers and Islamists conflate the hijab with political discourse on the role of religion in politics and modern life in general. The topic of politicized religion -- or religion in any manifestation that intersects with modernity -- is not high on the agenda of the Egyptian film industry, and one therefore sees few covered women in Egyptian films.

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On the Right to Dream, Love and Be Free

Interview with Michel Khleifi

by Livia Alexander
published in MER201

Michel Khleifi, born in Nazareth in 1950, studied theater and cinema at INSAS in Belgium, where he currently resides. In 1980, Khleifi directed his first film, Fertile Memory (al-Dhakira al-Khasiba). Khleifi received international acclaim following Wedding in Galilee (‘Urs fi al-Jalil, 1987), which won the International Critics Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. His other films include Maloul Fete sa Destruction (Malul Tahtafil fi Dimariha, 1984), Canticle of the Stones (Nashid al-Hajar, 1990) and L’Ordre du Jour (1993).

Youssef Chahine's "Cairo"

by Nur Elmessiri
published in MER202

An unemployed young man wanders into a mosque where an Islamist is calling for jihad against those who falsely claim to be Muslim. The “fundamentalist” quotes the Qur’an: “For he who lives not by my law is but an infidel.” Prayer. Voiceover: “Cut.” The fundamentalist and the unemployed man jump up and walk off of what we had forgotten is, after all, a mise-en-scene in Youssef Chahine’s film Cairo.

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History as Social Critique in Syrian Film

by Robert Blecher
published in MER204

Muhammad Malas’ al-Layl and Ryad Chaia’s al-Lajat

History is back in fashion in Syria. The last few years have seen a flurry of Syrian films and TV series treating historical epochs from Zenobia’s Palmyra to the French occupation (1920-1946). The latter has been especially well represented in this “return to history” (al-‘awda ila al-tarikh). In particular, two films stand out: Muhammad Malas’ al-Layl (The Night) and Ryad Chaia’s al-Lejat (referring to both the name of the region of Suwayda in which the film takes place and the black volcanic rock common to the region). Previously screened in Europe, both have appeared recently in US film festivals.

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Boys in the Mud

Maghrebi Filmmakers in France

by Alec C. Hargreaves
published in MER211

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Women's Space/Cinema Space

Representations of Public and Private in Iranian Films

by Norma Claire Moruzzi
published in MER212

Post-Revolutionary Iranian cinema has attracted critical attention abroad while constituting a vibrant focus of cultural, narrative and technical experimentation at home. In the politically restrictive context of the Islamic Republic, film has become one of the key ways that sensitive topics are broached in civil society. One of the most important topics is the social and juridical situation of women, including the enforcement of legislation over women’s hejab, which refers to modest dress but can also mean modest decorum.

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Autumn Soldier

by Chris Toensing
published in MER256

Amir Bar-Lev, The Tillman Story (2010).

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Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Shooting Film and Crying

by Ursula Lindsey | published March 2009

Waltz with Bashir (2008) opens with a strange and powerful image: a pack of ferocious dogs running headlong through the streets of Tel Aviv, overturning tables and terrifying pedestrians, converging beneath a building’s window to growl at a man standing there. It turns out that this man, Boaz, is an old friend of Ari Folman, the film’s director and protagonist. Like Folman, he was a teenager in the Israeli army during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. And the pack of menacing dogs is his recurring nightmare, a nightly vision he links to the many village guard dogs he shot -- so they wouldn’t raise the alarm -- as his platoon made its way through southern Lebanon.

Football and Film in the Islamic Republic of Iran

by Shiva Balaghi
published in MER229

Maziar Bahari opens his documentary, Football Iranian Style (2001), at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, where a large mural of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic until his death in 1989, peers down on the 110,000 soccer fans filling the bleachers. Like 75 percent of Iran’s population, most of the crowd is under the age of 25. Bahari’s lens focuses on a security guard chastising a dancing spectator and pushing him down into his seat. Undeterred, the young fan kisses the guard’s face and resumes his rabble rousing.