Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Christian

 

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

Monastery of Deir Mar Moussa: Pilgrims (Christians and Moslems) eat and sleep free of charge

Deir Mar Moussa is located half an hour from the village of Maaloula and 2-hour walk in the desert of Nabak from the highway joining Damascus to Homs.

Maaloula is the village whose people still speak Aramaic (the language of Jesus). Last year the terrorist Al Nusra faction kidnapped a dozen of Orthodox Christian nuns and liberated them 6 months later for about $8 million (Paid by Qatar?)

The church of Mar Moussa (named after the monk Moise of Ethiopia al Habashi) is organized as a Mosque: Carpets, cushions, you leave shoes at the entrance, a traditional cylindrical stove with large pipes as at homes, Bibles of different languages, low tables covered by candles and flowers, walls embellished by medieval icons and fresco… You just feel at home and comfortable.

Surprisingly, there is a “mihrab” inside the church for the Moslem pilgrims to face and pray.

You find various kinds of musical instruments, guitar, oud, tambourine… and the underground library contains manuscripts  in Arabic, French, Italian, magazines…and new books, poetry and novels left by tourists and pilgrims.

There is this feeling of brute primitive environment surrounded with warmth and intimacy.

You could sleep in the church when the dormitories are filled.

No one is asked to fill pages of information or shows his identity card or passport.

No one is asked to pay anything for the lodging and food offered at noon and in the evening.

Everyone is invited to partake in the cooked dishes of rice, lentils, bourgol…served in big caldrons, sort of self service buffet.  Meat, vegetables and fruits are rare: everything on the table is grown by the monastery.

In the evening, you are served cheese, marmalade, Syrian bread. zaatar and olive oil. You dip a piece of bread in the oil and then re-dip it in the za3tar.

There are no shops of any kinds and everything served is free.

You may volunteer to help in the kitchen and the washing of the dishes.

This church is a far cry from the European Cathedrals. You have to pay a hefty fee just to enter. When you enter a Cathedral, you have to follow directional arrows, sit on hard benches, cold sips through your bones, you are denied to speak and converse, you are looked upon with suspicion if you are not faking to pray: the place is not a cool place for taking a short break.

And all kinds of shops surround the Cathedral, at exorbitant prices.

Deir Mar Moussa is a representation of Syria. That’s Syria before this ugly civil war and the hordes of Wahhabi-type religious sects terrorizing the Syrians.  Extremist religious factions funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Arab Gulf Emirates.

Note 1: It is a good read of Stephan Chaumet’s “Au bonheur des voiles“, (Cruising amid women’s veils in Syria)

Note 2: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/the-host-the-guest-the-fear-the-ghetto-and-the-mosque/


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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