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JOANNA HADJITHOMAS E KHALIL JOREIGE

Article by Elio Sacchi

Translated by Federica Maria Briglia and Mattia Prelle

The cinema of Joanna Hadjithomas and Kalil Joreige – to whom the thirty-ninth edition of the Turin Film Festival dedicated a solo show and a masterclass, both curated by Massimo Causo – may lie between the beginning and the end of their artistic and cinematographic career. That means it is between the postcards of the opening credits of their first feature film, Around the Pink House (Al Bayt Al Zaher, 1999), and the box, the audiovisual archive of memory and remembrance that, like a very personal and foreign body, opens Memory Box (2021). Between these two extremes, within the more general framework of the history of Lebanon, of its destruction and of its reconstruction, there is a long and complex reflection on cinema, on the status of the image and, in particular, of the memory-image. When the past passes, the construction of a collective and shared memory becomes a difficult operation, which leaves enough room for memories and handy images that preclude the possibility of a complex narrative in favour of a superficial, conciliatory and pacifying narrative. This is what often happens after internal or fratricidal wars, which are followed by a reconstruction so fast that the past cannot be processed. This is also the case of Lebanon, considered the Switzerland of the Middle East in the 1960s: it was turned upside down first by a civil war and then by the conflict with Israel. The whole artistic parable of Hadjithomas and Joreige refers to this reality, and, in addition to cinema, crosses over into photography, performance arts and plastic arts. Their artistic parable contains its own moment of reflection and self-reflection. It is particularly evident in the performance Aida Sauve Moi, which makes explicit the questions that drive the expressive and creative urgency and necessity of the two directors: this is an indefinite and permeable border between reality and fiction, between personal experience and history. Their parable also contains the concept of latency, which is not only the physical, chemical and material concept of the negative impressed and never developed, but it also represents all the individual and particular latent stories, existing and never revealed, of the kidnapped and murdered Lebanese citizens, and of all the corpses that have never been found. Other elements included in their artistic parable include: the materiality of the image and of the testimonial object itself; the crossing and the attempt to take back public and collective spaces; and, finally, a boundless love for cinema. The last of these elements should be interpreted above all as an instrument of resistance and political commitment (in this regard, see Open the Door, Please [2006], a passionate and cinephile homage to the cinema of Jacques Tati). Joanna Hadjithomas and Kalil Joreige’s one is a self-reflexive cinema that also reflects on the status of the images it represents. This cinema has its genesis precisely in the overexposure to stereotyped images, whether they concern the civil war or the 1960s, as witnessed during the masterclass entitled Memory Work – Resistant Aesthetics in Hadjithomas & Joreige’s works (Rosita Di Peri also attended the event).

Actually, Around the Pink House has its origin in an earlier photographic project called Wonder Beirut. Hadjitomas and Joreige invented the figure of a Lebanese photographer, who immortalised Beirut in the 1960s and 1970s, before the civil war; the photographer then literally and materially burnt the buildings depicted on his postcards as they were bombed until the images were completely transfigured. The film does not tell the story of the Lebanese civil war, but rather the reconstruction of the capital in the 1990s, a period in which “the sound of bombs has given way to that of bulldozers” and in which the rubble shown in the background, physical and painful traces of a recent past, enters into a profound dialectic with the story of reconstruction and rebirth, which nonetheless involves the destruction of entire buildings. The maison rose itself is an archive of memory, of Lebanon’s history, a physical place that bears the marks of war, the memories of people who disappeared and the presence of refugees who were forced to leave their villages.


The maison rose is also an attempt done by a community to take its space back. This is the same public and collective space that Catherine Deneuve, the spirit of European cinema invoked in Lebanon as a foreign and empathetic body and led by Rabih Mrué (a recurring actor in the filmography of Hadjithomas and Joreige, he is a face that embodies the generational drama), wants to see but is prevented from doing so.
Je veux voir (2008) is a journey through a country devastated by the conflict with Israel. It stems from the need to show unconventional images (i.e. different from those broadcast by the various television stations) and to investigate new places, in a sort of palingenesis of the gaze and images of war. While in Rounds (2001), the wandering around the city – a Beirut that uses the rubble of buildings to build new roads by the sea – programmatically precludes the vision of public and city space, which is relegated to an off-screen that is always overexposed. Kiam 2000 – 2007, which began in 1999 and ended in 2008, is also the ideal counter-field to Je veux voir, since the detention camp described in it is an absolute off-screen narration, which can be only imagined by the human testimonies of the internees who invite us to reconstruct it in absentia. The film opens, once again, to an explicit reflection on memory. In 2006, in fact, the camp was turned into a museum and, still in 2006, was bombed by the Israeli army. Made almost entirely with rigorous close-ups and extreme close-ups, these vicissitudes gave rise to the need for Kiam: the urgency of the testimony necessarily refers to the camp, to its presence, it summons it and ultimately affirms its existence.


Their cinema is constantly in communication with the absence and the missing pictures, both personal, as in The Lost Film (Al Film Al Mafkoud, 2003), and collective (The Lebanese Rocket Society, 2012). And the ghost – as the directors admitted more than once – is a recurring figure in Lebanese culture and in its people’s daily life. A Perfect Day (Yawmoun Akhar, 2005) deals with ghost stories: piled up corpses in mass graves that no one discovered during the reconstruction of Beirut liven up and expand the story, claiming through a deafening silence their existence and death. This is a matter of faith and persistence of memory, because who believes in the ghost’s survival will be able to see it and reunite with it, whereas who tries to forget is forced to roam along the streets of a city that cannot be owned and cannot be seen (the contact lens do not adjust the sight, they rather produce a twisted and hallucinated vision of Beirut). Moreover, the film is based on the story of Joreige’s uncle, kidnapped during the war and still “missing”; one day, after many years, the directors found an undeveloped photo negative, a latent and phantasmal picture. The decision of transforming the negative-in-power into image-in-act corresponds to the desire of bringing back to light a unique and universal story, both personal and collective, through different concrete manipulations of the film. This story carries the marks of history, of the flow of time. Similarly, the city of Smirne is, in its reconstruction, a physical trace of the history passage: in Ysmirna (2016) the comparison between the early 1900s city map and the modern one shows the temporal distance of a mythical city, told by Joanna’s family and the one of the poet Etel Adnan (both of them have never been in the city of, respectively, their grandparents and parents), through an oral storytelling that intends to be a reenactment of a past in which one can find their roots.

Hadjithomas and Joreige’s more than twenty years of artistic activities and personal experiences break into a Lebanese family migrated to Canada, in the form of a big cardboard box. The package from Lebanon is an archive containing letters, photographs, notebooks, recordings of radio broadcastings and undeveloped films (Memory Box is freely inspired by the mailing correspondence that Joanna had with a friend of hers who migrated to Paris, suddenly interrupted after six years). This is an archive that causes the explosion of the underlying conflicts between the three different generations and, at the same time, it’s responsible for the deflagration of the film. Even if most of the films by Hadjithomas and Joreige have a material essence (and most of the films shown during the retrospective were projected in 35mm), Memory Box has a digital concept. Alex, the daughter, edits and manipulates the civil war testimonies according to her own grammar, which includes smartphones, instant communication, digital post-production and immateriality. The distance in space and time, and the reconstruction of the 1980s through their icons are not nostalgic at all, they are just needed to testimony and transfer the story. The intergenerational confrontation (the grandmother, Maia; the mother, who represents the directors’ generation; and the daughter) is about approaching the story of Lebanon, and thus becomes a matter of identity and belonging, that is opening up several possibilities of the storytelling for those generations that never experienced the conflict and whose memory may be lost.


The one of Joanna Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige is an artistically and conceptually coherent career that finds its raison d’être in the moral duty of making concretely, materially and visibly collective and public what the passage of the story of Lebanon has discolored, as if the past were an unimpressed and undeveloped film. An idea of political and civic cinema, a product of more than twenty years of activity that displays in the intergenerational confrontation of Memory Box the need to narrate the past in order to live the present and to imagine the future once again.

JOANNA HADJITHOMAS e KHALIL JOREIGE

Il cinema di Joanna Hadjithomas e Kalil Joreige – a cui la trentanovesima edizione del Torino Film Festival dedica una personale e una masterclass entrambe curate da Massimo Causo – può essere compreso tra l’inizio e la fine del loro percorso artistico e cinematografico, ovvero tra le cartoline dei titoli di testa del loro primo lungometraggio, Around the Pink House (Al Bayt Al Zaher, 1999), e la scatola, archivio audio-visivo del ricordo e della memoria che, corpo estraneo e così personale, apre Memory Box (2021). Tra questi due estremi, all’interno della cornice più generale della storia del Libano, della sua distruzione e della sua ricostruzione, si apre una lunga e complessa riflessione sul cinema, sullo statuto dell’immagine e, in particolare, dell’immagine-memoria.

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“RIEN À FOUTRE” DI JULIE LECOUSTRE ED EMMANUEL MARRE

Julie Lecoustre ed Emmanuel Marre presentano fuori concorso il loro primo lungometraggio, una storia che si muove lungo un doppio binario: la rappresentazione quasi documentaristica degli assistenti di volo di compagnie low-cost e l’analisi introspettiva della protagonista, che non riesce a elaborare un lutto.  

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“TROMPERIE” DI ARNAUD DESPLECHIN

«Il luogo in cui non si mente», per Emmanuel Carrère, è la letteratura (Yoga, Adelphi, 2021). Desplechin non adatta il più influente scrittore francese contemporaneo, bensì traspone uno dei più importanti autori americani recentemente scomparso, Philip Roth. Se Carrère parte dalla propria vita e inventa per farne trasparire il senso, Roth-Desplechin fanno esattamente l’opposto: usano la finzione per raggiungere l’autenticità dei sentimenti dei personaggi, riproponendo così l’annosa questione sullo statuto della relazione tra arte e vita.

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“PICCOLO CORPO” BY LAURA SAMANI

Article by Elio Sacchi

Translated by Mirko Giumentaro

Laura Samani starts from the base elements with which she gets her hands dirty: water and blood, milk and tears. But above all, she draws on the rituals and popular beliefs of a fishing village in Friuli, an area far from the advent of “progress” and “modernity” (light bulbs seem like a joke), suspended in an almost ahistorical, mythical, and archaic time. Agatha’s stillborn daughter cannot be baptized and she is therefore destined to wander eternally in limbo, unless her mother sets off to reach the distant and cold Val Dolais, where there is a sanctuary of breath where the miracle takes place: the stillborn child is brought back to life for the duration of one breath, enough to make it able to be baptized and named.

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“PICCOLO CORPO” DI LAURA SAMANI

Laura Samani parte da elementi bassi con cui si sporca le mani: l’acqua e il sangue, il latte e le lacrime. Ma soprattutto attinge dai riti e dalle credenze popolari di un villaggio di pescatori in Friuli, una zona lontana dall’avvento del “progresso” e della “modernità” (le lampadine sembrano uno scherzo) sospesa in un tempo quasi astorico, mitico e arcaico. La figlia di Agata, nata morta, non può ricevere battesimo e quindi è destinata a vagare in eterno nel limbo; salvo che la madre si metta in cammino per raggiungere una lontana e fredda val Dolais, dove si trova un santuario del respiro in cui il miracolo accade: il bambino nato morto viene riportato in vita per il tempo di un respiro così che possa essere battezzato e avere un nome.

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“THE OAK ROOM” by CODY CALAHAN

Article by Andrea Bruno

Translated by Aurora Sciarrone

A bar, a few lights on: some dim colored neon-lights, the counter’s illumination, an old jukebox emitting a soft glare in a corner. Paul (Peter Outerbridge), the bartender, is about to close the place while outside in the night,a snowstormblows.All of a sudden Steve (RJ Mitte) bursts in,a wanderercarrying a story from a different bar, of a different bartender, of a different stranger brought there by the storm. From this first one, a lot more stories come up, while midnight approachesand someoneis relentlessly driving in the snow.

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“THE OAK ROOM” DI CODY CALAHAN

Un locale, poche luci ancora accese: qualche debole neon colorato, l’illuminazione del bancone, un vecchio juke-box che manda pigri bagliori da un angolo. Paul (Peter Outerbridge), il barista, si sta preparando a chiudere, mentre fuori è ormai notte e infuria una tempesta di neve. D’improvviso irrompe Steve (RJ Mitte), un viandante che porta con sé il racconto di un altro bar, di un altro barista e di un altro sconosciuto condotto lì dalla bufera. Da questa prima storia ne nascono molte altre, mentre la mezzanotte si avvicina e qualcuno guida inesorabile sotto la neve.

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“UN CUERPO ESTALLÓ EN MIL PEDAZOS”, BY MARTIN SAPPIA

Article by Niccolò Buttigliero

Translated by Nadia Tordera

«Every noble, grandiose and impeccable instant is formed, filled, crumbled and recreated in a new instant that is created, formed, consumed, crumbled and redone in a new instant that is created, formed, filled, bent and connected to the next that announces itself, that is created, formed, filled and exhausted in the next that is born, that arises and succumbs and into the next that comes it arises, restores, matures and joins itself to the next that is formed… This continues without ending and stopping, without fatigue and accidents, with an immeasurable and monumental perfection» -Henri Michaux

«I wanted to do a show with a language I invented to bring people together for just one night. […] They insisted that I do it again but I didn’t want to». The theater of Jorge Bonino (1935-1990) is pure to the extent that every one of his works, words or actions is presence, an act inextricably linked to the moment in which it is expressed.

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“UN CUERPO ESTALLÓ EN MIL PEDAZOS”, DI MARTIN SAPPIA

«Nobile, grandioso, impeccabile, ogni istante si forma, si colma, si sgretola, si riforma in un nuovo istante che si crea, che si forma, che si consuma, che si sgretola e si riforma in un nuovo istante che si crea, che si forma, che si colma e si piega e si collega al seguente che si annuncia, che si crea, che si forma, che si colma e si esaurisce nel seguente che nasce, che sorge, che soccombe e nel seguente che viene, che sorge, si ripristina, matura e si unisce al seguente che si forma…E così senza fine, senza fermarsi, senza stanchezza, senza incidenti, con una perfezione smisurata e monumentale.» -Henri Michaux

«Volevo fare uno spettacolo con un linguaggio inventato da me, per riunire gente solo per una sera. […] Insistevano perché la rifacessi, ma io non volevo». Quello di Jorge Bonino (1935-1990) è teatro puro, nella misura in cui ogni sua opera, parola o azione è presenza, atto indissolubilmente legato all’istante in cui si esprime.

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“FUORI TUTTO” DI GIANLUCA MATARRESE

Torino, fine anni ’60. Le rovine della guerra sono solo un ricordo, il Belpaese è trainato dalla crescita industriale e parole come boom o miracolo economico guidano e plasmano l’immaginario nazionale. Qui due meridionali si conoscono, si innamorano, mettono su famiglia. Lei viene dalla Calabria, lui invece è pugliese, di Canosa. Cominciano come operai, poi decidono di mettersi in proprio e riescono ad aprire un negozio di calzature. Sono gli anni dei consumi di massa, i salari crescono e tutti possono permettersi un paio di scarpe nuove. È così che nasce Togo, il piccolo impero della famiglia Matarrese, una delle più grandi e redditizie cooperative piemontesi di vendita al dettaglio.

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“QUEEN & SLIM” DI MELINA MATSOUKAS

Queen & Slim è la storia di come un controllo di routine da parte della polizia possa trasformarsi in un’esperienza molto diversa per due afroamericani nell’America contemporanea. Rifacendosi alle sempre più numerose storie di violenza da parte di poliziotti bianchi su membri della comunità nera il film parte da una provocazione: cosa succederebbe se la vittima reagisse? Ernest “Slim” Hines (Daniel Kaluuya) e Angela “Queen” Johnson (Jodie Turner-Smith) stanno tornando da un deludente primo appuntamento quando vengono fermati da un poliziotto e, per legittima difesa, lo uccidono; la pellicola li segue nella loro breve ma intensa fuga attraverso gli Stati Uniti, nel tentativo di arrivare a Cuba.

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“WET SEASON” BY ANTHONY CHEN

Article by: Samuele Zucchet
Translated by: Chiara Franceskin

Wet Season is the second work by Anthony Chen, a Malaysian director who already won the Camera d’Or in Cannes in 2012 with Ilo Ilo. It is the monsoon season in Malaysia, and rains don’t want to stop. There are bodies of water that reflect and amplify the state of mind of the characters who populate this film.

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“WET SEASON” DI ANTHONY CHEN

Wet Season è l’opera seconda di Anthony Chen, regista malesiano già vincitore a Cannes del premio Camera d’Or nel 2012 con Ilo Ilo. È la stagione dei monsoni in Malesia, le piogge non accennano a fermarsi, si formano specchi d’acqua che riflettono ed amplificano lo stato d’animo dei personaggi che popolano questa pellicola.

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“ALGUNAS BESTIAS” BY JORGE RIQUELME SERRANO

Article by: Ottavia Isaia
Translated by: Viola Locci

What do six abandoned people on a desert island turn into? Algunas Bestias tries to give an answer. The second featured film directed by the Chilean Jorge Riquelme Serrano opens the contest Turin 37.

Ana (Millaray Lobos), Alejandro (Gastón Salgado) and their teenage children decide to take Ana’s parents (Paulina García and Alfredo Castro) to a desert island to talk about their own project: building a holiday eco-resort. But all of sudden, the keeper disappears and the family remains without water, phone signal and at the mercy of cold.

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“ALGUNAS BESTIAS” DI JORGE RIQUELME SERRANO

In cosa si trasformano sei persone abbandonate su un’isola? A questa domanda vuole rispondere Algunas bestias, secondo lungometraggio del regista cileno Jorge Riquelme Serrano che apre il concorso Torino 37.

Ana (Millaray Lobos), Alejandro (Gastón Salgado) e i due figli adolescenti portano i genitori di lei (gli ottimi Paulina García e Alfredo Castro) su un’isola disabitata per proporre loro il progetto di un eco-resort per turisti, ma quando il custode/tuttofare scompare la famiglia si ritrova in balia del freddo, della mancanza di acqua, senza segnale telefonico.

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“IL GRANDE PASSO” DI ANTONIO PADOVAN

Alla sua seconda esperienza alla regia, dopo Finché c’è prosecco c’è speranza (2017), Antonio Padovan ci presenta un’opera che è un’insolita e atipica mescolanza di film dal sapore fantascientifico alla Spielberg e commedia tutta italiana, senza dimenticare l’influenza dei film di Carlo Mazzacurati, regista della sua stessa terra.

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“IL GRANDE PASSO” BY ANTONIO PADOVAN

Article by: Silvia Gentile
Translated by: Lucrezia Villa

After his debut as a director with Finchè c’è prosecco c’è Speranza (2017), Antonio Padovan presents his second film, which is an atypical combination along the lines of Spielberg’s science-fiction films and Italian comedies, not to mention the great influence of director Carlo Mazzacurati, with whom Padovan shares roots. 

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“MADE IN BANGLADESH” DI RUBAIYAT HOSSAIN

Made in Bangladesh, come le etichette che troviamo sui nostri vestiti: fin dalle prime immagini il film si concentra sulle dure condizioni di lavoro cui sono sottoposte le donne che li producono, in stanze sovraffollate e senza misure di sicurezza. La protagonista Shimu (Rikita Nandini Shimu), dopo la morte di una collega in un incendio nella fabbrica, si ribella a queste condizioni e inizia a collaborare con una giornalista per fondare un sindacato che tuteli le lavoratrici (tutte donne, perché per loro è previsto un salario inferiore rispetto agli uomini e perché ritenute più facilmente controllabili).

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“MADE IN BANGLADESH” BY RUBAIYAT HOSSAIN

Article by: Ottavia Isaia
Translated by: Francesca Massa

Made in Bangladesh, just like the labels we find on our clothes: from the first frames, the film focuses on the harsh working conditions under which the women who produce them are subjected, in overcrowded rooms and without security measures. The leading character Shimu (Rikita Nandini Shimu), after the death of a colleague in a factory fire, fights against these conditions and begins to collaborate with a journalist to start a union that protects women workers (all women, because they are considered more easily manageable and they are paid less than men).

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