Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Lucien Bourjeily

 

Heaven Without People (Ghada’a El Eid)

Directed by Lucien Bourjeily

Posted on March 2018

Everyone loves a family gathering – in theory.

What could be better than seeing all your loved ones in one place at the same time?

Josephine (Sarkis) is the matriarch of a Lebanese Orthodox Christian family. Getting her family together is like pulling teeth: they haven’t been in the same room for a meal for more than two years.

It’s Easter Sunday and she has prepared a feast for her children and their spouses (and two grandchildren, one too young to do anything but sleep).

The children are in various stages of functionality.

Serge (Samra) seems to be the most level-headed but he has been dating his girlfriend Rita (Shaer) for three years without any sign of commitment; she is concerned that she might be pregnant which Serge who is very much against taking care of a baby.

Leila (Semaan) is a strident political firebrand who is very critical about the government for which her father (Boutros) was once employed with.

Christine (Karam) is closest to Josephine but is having big problems with her teenage son Sami (Habib).

Elias (Hage) is married to Noha (Gebara) and is more than a little bit of a bully; the family treats him with contempt most of the time.

Josephine’s maid (Helou) tries to be in the background but she is treated with love by the family.

The conversation turns from politics to religion and tension soon begins to make things a little bit frayed at the table. Josephine then discovers that a large sum of money is missing, money that she and her husband – who despite his apparent vigor is actually in a fragile state of health – desperately need.

There’s no way to know who took it other than that it is someone at the dining table.

By the end of the meal all of the skeletons will come out of the closet and the things bubbling under the surface will grow into a full-on boil

I liked this movie very much. I believe the great Gene Siskel would have too.  Movies that are a slice of life, particularly in other cultures, were essentially his favorite kind of films.

I love learning about different cultures – the foods they eat, the traditions they hold to, the rituals that a meal brings with it I also enjoy the dynamics of a family (which generally speaking are pretty much the same everywhere) particularly when there is discord.

Few families love each other universally all the time. There are always squabbles.

The performances are pretty natural. I don’t know whether the performers are professional actors or amateurs. Either way the dynamics in this family are very believable and none of the performers seem to be wooden or stiff: they’re all comfortable in front of the camera which can be a big deal in movies like this one.

I had real problems with the camera movement. Cinematographer Ahmad Al Trabolsi utilizes a hand-held camera and circles the table constantly. While it does add an air of tension to the story it also serves to be distracting and downright annoying.

Some fixed camera angles would have benefitted the film and relieved the constant camera movement.

I will say that both cinematographer and director did a good job despite the confined and somewhat claustrophobic set (nearly all the movie takes place inside the small apartment of Josephine and her husband).

Sometimes directors and cinematographers will make a film look more like a stage play in these kinds of conditions but that didn’t happen here.

The film moves at  slow but steady pace, the tension increasing as the meal progresses and eventually the situation of the missing money is revealed to the rest of the family.

The climax is handled very nicely and left me wondering how the family would survive what happened.

A great film will leave you concerned for the welfare of its characters and that’s precisely what happened here.

The build-up may be a little too long for attention-challenged viewers but those with the patience to stick with the film will be richly rewarded – the final few scenes are truly amazing.

Bourjeily is certainly someone to keep an eye on. If you’re heading down to Miami to catch this festival, this is one you should put on your list.

REASONS TO GO: It’s a slow build to a fast boil. A lovely slice of life with a little bit of rot below the surface.
REASONS TO STAY: The handheld camera becomes quite annoying after awhile.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, some violence and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Bourjeily, who got his MFA in film from Loyola Marymount University (my alma mater), is making his feature film debut.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/10/18: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: August: Osage County
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
 Call Me By Your Name

Heaven Without People (Ghada’a El Eid)

Cheers!

(2017) Drama (MC Distributors) Samira Sarkis, Farah Shaer, Nadim Abou Samra, Laeticia Semaan, Hussein Hijazi, Ghassan Chemali, Wissam Boutros, Toni Habib, Jenny Gebara, Jean Paul Hage,  Mohamed Abbass, Etafar Aweke, Nancy Karam, Ivy Helou, Ziad Majdara, Maria Ziad Jabra. Directed by Lucien Bourjeily

Everyone loves a family gathering – in theory. What could be better than seeing all your loved ones in one place at the same time? Plenty, as it turns out.

Josephine (Sarkis) is the matriarch of a Lebanese Orthodox Christian family. Getting her family together is like pulling teeth; they haven’t been in the same room for a meal for more than two years.

It’s Easter Sunday and she has prepared a feast for her children and their spouses (and two grandchildren, one too young to do anything but sleep).

The children are in various stages of functionalily; Serge (Samra) seems to be the most level-headed but he has been dating his girlfriend Rita (Shaer) for three years without any sign of commitment; she is concerned that she might be pregnant which Serge is very much against.

Leila (Semaan) is a strident political firebrand who is very critical about the government for which her father (Boutros) was once employed with.

Christine (Karam) is closest to Josephine but is having big problems with her teenage son Sami (Habib). Elias (Hage) is married to Noha (Gebara) and is more than a little bit of a bully; the family treats him with contempt most of the time. Josephine’s maid (Helou) tries to be in the background but she is treated with love by the family.

The conversation turns from politics to religion and tension soon begins to make things a little bit frayed at the table.

Josephine then discovers that a large sum of money is missing, money that she and her husband – who despite his apparent vigor is actually in a fragile state of health – desperately need.

There’s no way to know who took it other than that it is someone at the dining table. By the end of the meal all of the skeletons will come out of the closet and the things bubbling under the surface will grow into a full-on boil

I liked this movie very much. I believe the great Gene Siskel would have too; movies that are a slice of life, particularly in other cultures, were essentially his favorite kind of films.

I love learning about different cultures – the foods they eat, the traditions they hold to, the rituals that a meal brings with it I also enjoy the dynamics of a family (which generally speaking are pretty much the same everywhere) particularly when there is discord.

Few families love each other universally all the time. There are always squabbles.

The performances are pretty natural. I don’t know whether the performers are professional actors or amateurs; either way the dynamics in this family are very believable and none of the performers seem to be wooden or stiff; they’re all comfortable in front of the camera which can be a big deal in movies like this one.

The one thing that I had real problems with was the camera movement.

Cinematographer Ahmad Al Trabolsi utilizes a hand-held camera and circles the table constantly; while it does add an air of tension to the story it also serves to be distracting and downright annoying.

Some fixed camera angles would have benefited the film and relieved the constant camera movement. I will say that both cinematographer and director did a good job despite the confined and somewhat claustrophobic set (nearly all the movie takes place inside the small apartment of Josephine and her husband).

Sometimes directors and cinematographers will make a film look more like a stage play in these kinds of conditions but that didn’t happen here.

The film moves at  slow but steady pace, the tension increasing as the meal progresses and eventually the situation of the missing money is revealed to the rest of the family.

The climax is handled very nicely and left me wondering how the family would survive what happened; a great film will leave you concerned for the welfare of its characters and that’s precisely what happened here.

The build-up may be a little too long for attention-challenged viewers but those with the patience to stick with the film will be richly rewarded – the final few scenes are truly amazing.

Bourjeily is certainly someone to keep an eye on. If you’re heading down to Miami to catch this festival, this is one you should put on your list. Tickets can be ordered here.

REASONS TO GO: It’s a slow build to a fast boil. A lovely slice of life with a little bit of rot below the surface.
REASONS TO STAY: The handheld camera becomes quite annoying after awhile.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, some violence and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Bourjeily, who got his MFA in film from Loyola Marymount University (my alma mater), is making his feature film debut.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/10/18: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: August: Osage County
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
 Call Me By Your Name

Theatre helps keep the peace in Tripoli (Lebanon)

A conflict resolution project

In the early 1900s Syria Street, in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, was a busy, prosperous thoroughfare, lined with khans where goods making their way up the coast from Beirut were brought, before being transported onwards to destinations in modern-day Syria.

Nowadays, most of the buildings here are pockmarked with bullet-holes.

Few structures on Syria Street, which bisects the impoverished neighbourhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, have escaped the scourge of violence that has plagued local residents.

A New article in The Guardian about ‘Love and War on the Rooftop >> http://gu.com/p/4ecgd/stw
‪#‎MakeArtNotWar‬ ‪#‎Tripoli‬ ‪#‎Lebanon‬ ‪#‎Play‬

When rehearsals for a new play began in this Lebanese city, the actors all carried knives
theguardian.com

Since 2008, rival militias in these neighbourhoods have engaged in at least 20 rounds of gun battles, leading to the deaths of more than 200 people and forcing thousands from their homes. (Fomented by ministers in the government)

These bursts of violence have increased in intensity since 2011, when the outbreak of Syria’s civil war accentuated old grudges and political divides between the two districts that date back to Lebanon’s civil war.

During times of conflict, residents of Syria Street have become accustomed to sharing the area with snipers.

In Bab al-Tabbaneh, a Sunni neighbourhood of 100,000 with historical connections to Homs, Hama and Aleppo, opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is strong.

In contrast, the majority of the 60,000 residents of Jabal Mohsen share the same Alawite faith as Assad, and have maintained support for the Syrian regime.

These ideological divides helped fuel violence in an environment defined by high youth unemployment and dire poverty.

This year, however, the cycle of gun battles has abated following raids by the Lebanese Armed Forces. (As the government agreed to stop the created violence)

In their absence, local NGOs and civil society groups are tentatively developing initiatives to bridge gaps between the two communities. “Initially, making contact with like-minded groups in Mohsen was difficult,” says Hanna Abou Khalil, a project co-ordinator at the Tabbaneh Youth Council. “But we are making progress.”

One striking example was the production of Love and War on the Rooftops, a play featuring 16 actors aged between 16 and 29. Hailing from both Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, most of the cast were former fighters.

To recruit these aspiring thespians to the cause, the Beirut-based civil society group March networked with the Tabbaneh Youth Council and NGOs present in Jabal Mohsen, such as Lubnan al Mahabba (Lebanon Love) and Chabab El Ghad (Youth of Tomorrow).

Auditions for the production began in February.

At the start, everyone carried knives,” recalls Lucien Bourjeili, a Lebanese writer and director brought in to direct the production. “They were suspicious of one another, and also us. An actor brought a grenade to one rehearsal – he was carrying it in a banana while acting. But by the end, a lot [of the actors] were not carrying knives.”

Love and War was staged in June at Masrah al-Medina, a theatre in the Hamra district of the Lebanese capital Beirut, 50 miles south of Tripoli.

“Most of the actors were fighters, people you should fear,” Bourjeili says. “But when you see them on stage, they are like other youth in Lebanon. The difference is that they live in poverty without economic prospects. The one thing that might make them some money is fighting.”

One of the key intentions of Love and War, Bourjeili says, was to highlight the socio-economic factors that have fuelled violence between the two neighbourhoods, and counter the negative stereotypes that are prevalent in Lebanese society.

According to a 2015 UN Economic and Social Commission survey, 56% of families in Tripoli live in poverty – but this figure rises to 69% in Jabal Mohsen, and 87% in Bab al-Tabbaneh.

Before appearing in Love and War, Samir Atris, a 25-year-old from Bab al-Tabbaneh, considered leaving Lebanon to fight in Syria. Hundreds of Tabbaneh residents have joined Syrian opposition groups including the Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.

There is no work, no opportunities, no healthcare here. Fighting pays a salary,” explains Atris, sitting on a bench just off Syria Street. “That’s why I fought here against Mohsen.”

“I used to think of people in Tabbaneh as terrorists,” says Ali Amoun, a 26-year-old from Jabal Mohsen who also performed in Love and War. “Many politicians help create hatred for their own interests. It’s the people who suffer.”

Early one morning in June, leaving his house before dawn, Amoun was stabbed in the ribs by an unknown assailant. The incident occurred shortly after he had appeared alongside his fellow Love and War actor Khidr Mukhaiber, a 21-year-old from Tabbaneh, on a primetime Lebanese television show to speak about the production.

The two had become friends during rehearsals – but not everyone in Tripoli was happy about this friendship between former fighters from rival neighbourhoods.

“I received calls from private numbers asking me why I was spending time with people from Tabbaneh,” Amoun says. “Others in the cast did, too.”

Undaunted, March – in collaboration with the Tabbaneh Youth Council – is now renovating a small building on an empty lot on Syria Street to serve as a cafe and performance space. Amoun, Mukhaiber and other Love and War actors will be involved in organising events and running the cafe.

Standing outside the new space – surrounded by foremen and painters from both Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen – Mukhaiber, who first took part in gun battles at the age of 15, says he is looking forward to developing new ideas and sharing expertise picked up during the production of Love and War when the cafe opens.

“I want to keep acting. Maybe there will be gun battles again, but I am finished [with that],” he says. “Before the production, I had never been to Mohsen. Now I visit Ali and he visits me. Our families have become close. We have both lost friends, but now he is like a brother to me.”

To read the full article please visit http://gu.com/p/4ecgd/stw

A conflict resolution project by MARCH
Written and Directed by Lucien Bourjeily

Acted out by the amazing youth and ex-fighters of Beb El Tebbeneh and Jabal Mohsen ..

An inspiring group of young people, much love to you all heart emoticon xoxo

YouStink campaign: Lebanese artist and activist Lucien Bourjeily badly hurt by Internal Forces

After the media were forced out of the Environment ministry where the youth movements were occupying for failing to resolve the enduring garbage crisis.

 Lucien Bourjeily is no stranger to controversy in Lebanon; his involvement in ‪#‎YouStink‬ is just the latest of the renowned director’s social activism.

Actor, director, playwright, Bourjeily rose to fame after publicly campaigning against state censorship of theater and film, with the help of MARCH, an NGO that hopes to foster tolerance and diversity within Lebanese society.

Holding an MFA from Loyola Mormont University in Los Angeles, Bourjeily brought improvised acting to the Lebanese stage, in an attempt, as he calls it, to create “immersive and interactive” theater.

He has previously led workshops on improvised acting, screenwriting, and directing.

StepFeed shared

 

His prominent role in the YouStink campaign may have brought him renewed attention, but the activist-artist has a history of fighting for civil society.
stepfeed.com|By Azza El Masri

As Lucien Bourjeily recovers from alleged targeted police brutality at the American University of Beirut’s Medical Center, the activist and director reassured fans and followers of the YouStink movement on social media that his fight against government corruption was far from over.

شكراً الكن كلكن…بحبكن كلكن وبوسكن… مفروض أطلع اليوم من المستشفى.. :* :)و عندي بس سؤال لوزير الداخلية: ليش شحطوا الإ…

Posted by Lucien Bourjeily on Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Translation: “Thank you everyone. I love you all. I’m scheduled to be released from the hospital today. I only have one question to the Minister of Interior: why did you kick out the press before you came at us? Why did you, as soon as you interrupted the press’ live coverage, use your boots, batons in a barbaric, totalitarian way? You are [part of] the dictatorship of shame. You have no dignity and no gull. Because we were 100% peaceful, you cut off the press so that you wouldn’t let them show the crime you committed. You [works as] the mafia and your corruption has invaded the government… but the people will hold you accountable, and it will do so soon.” 

Bourjeily told StepFeed Wednesday afternoon that he was out of the hospital, but still recovering.

Bourjeily was one of dozens of peaceful protesters who staged an 8-hour sit-in inside the Environment Ministry in Downtown Beirut Tuesday afternoon, demanding the immediate resignation of Environment Minister Mohamad al-Machnouk for his inability to solve a crippling trash crisis.

A picture showing him unconscious after being severely assaulted by officers went viral Tuesday night, causing public outcry on social media and the press:

But just who is Lucien Bourjeily?

Actor, director, playwright, Bourjeily rose to fame after publicly campaigning against state censorship of theater and film, with the help of MARCH, an NGO that hopes to foster tolerance and diversity within Lebanese society.

Holding an MFA from Loyola Mormont University in Los Angeles, Bourjeily brought improvised acting to the Lebanese stage, in an attempt, as he calls it, to create “immersive and interactive” theater. He has previously led workshops on improvised acting, screenwriting, and directing.

“If I have to describe my art in one word, I would say it’s thought-provoking,” Bourjeily said over the phone. “It provokes thought, like a book provokes you to think and go beyond what is obvious.”

In an LBCI interview from 2011, the award-winning director said he was “using art for social activism,” believing that every work of art has to deliver a pertinent message to its audience.

Bourjeily has repeatedly merged his art with social activism. In May 2014, his passport was confiscated by the Lebanese General Security ahead of a scheduled appearance in London where he was set to present “Bto2ta3… Aw Ma Bto2ta3?” (“Would it Pass or Not?”), an interactive play about censorship of artistic works in Lebanon. His play, which was banned in Lebanon, landed him a nomination by the Index on Censorship for its Freedom of Expression Awards.

CNN listed him as one of eight “leading lights” in Lebanese culture for his innovative work that had local and international impact.

Recently, he brought youth and militants from warring neighborhoods in Tripoli onto the Beirut stage in “Love and War on the Rooftop,” a play that was described “darkly funny” and praised for “confronting the taboo concept of reconciliation.”The production, which was also done in collaboration with MARCH, ran from mid-June to the beginning of August and brought a full house to standing ovation.

“The play has a message of breaking the taboos of sectarian speech and the manipulation of politicians, who are the true enemy of the Lebanese people,” he said.

Bourjeily’s prominent role in the YouStink campaign may have brought him renewed attention, but the activist-artist is no stranger to controversy – or fighting the Lebanese government for the advancement of civil society.

“Art could be a way into the heart and mind of the people,” Bourjeily added. “Art breaks the boundaries of the system.”

Censure: “Will pass, will not pass” (Bto2ta3 Aw Ma Bto2ta3)

Lucien Bourjeily, a writer and theater director, had his theater piece « Bto2ta3 Aw Ma Bto2ta3 » censured last September for critiquing Lebanon censorship of the General Security service.

This piece describe the phases that a production has to go through before passing censorship. The answer of the censorship service was 45 days late after the submission of the manuscript.

« Bto2ta3 Aw Ma Bto2ta3 », une pièce qui n’a pas fini d’embarrasser la SG

At the conference held in the hotel Le Gabriel this Nov. 10, 2013. Diana Assaf (lawyer of the NGO March), Lucien Bourjeily , and Léa Baroudi (general coordinator of the association.

The president of the press bureau in the General Security, General Mounir Akiki, denounced on the channel New TV the piece of theater for constantly mocking this public security institution.

Gen. Akiki claimed to have consulted 4 anonymous art experts in drama theater who corroborated that the piece is “a defaming hallucination, a parody of non existent realities that do not conform with the image of the Security. This is artistically a bad piece of theater that does not reflect reality…”

The NGO March held a conference to respond to the accusation of “Will pass, will not pass”

Léa Baroudi  had this to say: “Since when a piece of theater is to be banned for a bad quality and not enjoying the artistic flavor of Gen. Akiki, and since when the author has  to stick to reality?

Lucien Bourjeily said: “Fear of being censored is a menace to creative work of art that pressure the author to self-censorship…” He announced that a second version will be submitted describing how the first version was handled by the censors.

“We will follow the liar to his door” added Lucien.

The NGO March had not receive so far any official document banning the work.

David Cecil, Lucien Bourjeily, Mayam Mahmoud, and Meltem Arikan

The organization « Index on Censorship » nominated Lucien Bourjeily for its annual award of freedom of expression this March in London.

There several other nominee:

David Cecil for being arrested while producing a theater piece on homosexuality in Uganda

Mayam Mahmoud, an Egyptian rap singer who denounced sexual harassment

Meltem Arikan, a Turkish feminist


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