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February 12 – February 20, 2016

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige - Lost Films and Mediations

Based in Beirut and Paris, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (both b. 1969) are artists of the moving image whose work exists at the intersection of cinema and the art world, as well as that of documentary and fiction, just as their native Lebanon exists at the heart of Mediterranean geography—where the Arab world meets Europe—and at the intersection of the urgency of the present and the weight of colonial history.

They began their work as artists and filmmakers in the early 1990s as Lebanon’s fifteen-year civil war came to an end. To Hadjithomas and Joreige, it seemed as if the society around them wanted to ignore the destruction that had thoroughly disrupted the life and culture of the entire country.  Hadjithomas and Joreige wondered how images could be made to register the aftermath of catastrophe and loss, especially since so much of the violence had occurred invisibly, through the disappearance of thousands of civilians kidnapped by the various warring militias and never seen again. And thus began a body of work that seeks to point out gaps and absences on the one hand while also looking to the past for indications of a way forward.

Though mourning and violence were at the genesis of their image-making, the work of Hadjithomas and Joreige also exists as part of the recent international turn toward the archive as both a source of images and a resource to be investigated. Both their rigor and sense of play are evident in their installation work, involving photographs, artifacts and moving images, which has been shown in galleries and museums around the world, including Paris, London, San Francisco and Tokyo. Their films mix documentary and fiction in exciting and unpredictable ways while exhibiting an understanding of mise-en-scène, framing and editing that is truly cinematic. – David Pendleton

The HFA is pleased to present a retrospective of their films to coincide with the opening of the exhibit I Must First Apologize… at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, on display from February 19 to April 17, 2016. The culmination of a major project by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, this exhibition presents a body of work that looks at the history of online spam and scamming through film, sculpture, photography, and installation. For more infornation visit the website.

Special thanks: Henrietta Huldisch—MIT List Center for the Visual Arts.

 


Friday February 12 at 7pm

A Perfect Day (Yawmon akhar)

Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. With Ziad Saad, Julia Kassar, Alexandra Kahwagi
France/Lebanon/Germany 2005, 35mm, color, 88 min. Arabic with English subtitles

Years after the war and the disappearance of the man who was their husband and father, a woman waits obsessively for his return while her grown son mourns a lost love. On the day the two seek to have the missing man declared dead, life presents possible ways forward—but grief, guilt and easy distractions seem to bar the way. Hadjithomas and Joreige inserted their fiction into the reality that inspired it by shooting documentary-style in public places around Beirut. The result is a portrait of postwar youth caught between nostalgia for a mythic past and anxiety for the future. Print courtesy Celluloid Dreams via Tamasa/Connaissance du Cinema.

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Friday February 12 at 9pm

Khiam 2000 – 2007, The Film

Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
Lebanon 2007, digital video, color, 103 min. Arabic with English subtitles

Originally a French army barracks during Lebanon’s colonial period, the Khiam prison camp became a center for detention and torture by the South Lebanon Army, Israel’s proxy during the civil war. Featuring interviews with ex-detainees, this documentary is both an impassioned look at the layers of violence built into Lebanon’s recent history and a meditation on memory and representation. How does personal testimony become history in the absence of any corroborating images? This film is the latest single-channel version of a project that existed as an earlier documentary and then as an installation. Despite the obviously political aspects of the film’s subject matter, Hadjithomas and Joreige have stressed its existential nature as “a metaphysical reflection on man’s willpower and wish to live.”

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Saturday February 13 at 7pm

I Want to See
(Je veux voir/Baddi Chouf)

Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. With Catherine Deneuve, Rabih Mroué
Lebanon/France 2008, 35mm, color, 75 min. French, Arabic & English with English subtitles

This extraordinary blend of fiction and documentary finds Catherine Deneuve (playing herself) arriving in Beirut in the wake of the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. Wanting to understand the violence that has taken place, she is driven to southern Lebanon by actor Rabih Mroué. Their tentative encounter forms the heart of the film, a revisiting of Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Hadjithomas and Joreige have written about how, living in Paris during 2006, they felt compelled to address the war but were unsure of the role of filmmaking in the face of such violence. Rather than seeming a missionary of European charity or pity, Deneuve becomes an avatar of cinema’s power to witness, an emissary for both the directors and the audience as her face registers a contested landscape sensitively, sincerely and simply. Print courtesy Films Boutique.

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Monday February 15 at 7pm

The Lost Film (El film el mafkoud)

Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
Lebanon/France 2003, digital video, color, 43 min. Arabic with English subtitles

On May 22, 2000, the tenth anniversary of the unification of North and South Yemen, Hadjithomas and Joreige learn that the only print of their first film, Around the Pink House, has disappeared in Yemen. One year later, they travel to Sana’a to try to learn what they can of what has happened to the print; what follows is part gripping investigation and part essay film. The title ultimately refers not only to Around the Pink House but also to the gaps within the world of Arab cinema as a whole, caught between the often Orientalist expectations of Western audiences and the fact that the productions supported by the region’s elites often serve only to reproduce a dominant ideology.

Preceded by

Rounds (Barmeh)

Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. With Rabih Mroué
Lebanon/France 2001, digital video, color, 8 min. Arabic with English subtitles

In this short film, a man drives through Beirut, musing on the modernization taking place as the city is rebuilt in the wake of the civil war. Throughout, Beirut is evoked only through the driver’s thoughts and stories; nothing is visible through the car’s windows except an overexposed white light.

 

 

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Special Event Tickets $12
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige in Person

Friday February 19 at 7pm

Ashes (Ramad)

Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. With Rabih Mroué, Nada Haddad, Neemat Salamé
France/Lebanon 2003, digital video, color, 26 min. Arabic with English subtitles

Despite its length, Ashes packs a novel’s worth of insight into the tale of a family caught between unsettling truth and soothing tradition. The richly detailed exercise in magic realism is Viscontian in its close observation of the postures and movements of a wealthy Lebanese clan gathered for a funeral. How do we honor and remember our families and their pasts? What are ghosts other than our own unease about the unpaid debts we owe to our parents and the past?

Preceded by

Aida, Save Me

This lecture-performance grows out of a real-life event demonstrating the power of archival images: a woman recognizes a photograph, used in A Perfect Day as the portrait of a disappeared man, as the image of her husband. Hadjithomas and Joreige use this event as the seed out of which emerges a revealing and moving set of observations about both the role of images in their work and the ability of fact and fiction to affect each other.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige in Person

Saturday February 20 at 7pm

The Lebanese Rocket Society

Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
Lebanon/France 2013, DCP, color, 92 min. Arabic, English & French with English subtitles

When Hadjithomas and Joreige stumbled upon documentation of a group of Lebanese scientists engaged in rocket and space research in the early 1960s, they wondered why this bit of history had vanished so thoroughly from the memory of their generation and the one before. Thus began a work of archival research as the reclamation of a forgotten past that also points toward an alternative future. This historical documentary serves as a reminder of the time of the political optimism of pan-Arabism, before the disillusionment brought on by the defeat of the 1967 Six Day’s War—a time when rockets were about science, satellite communication and space exploration, not weaponry. DCP courtesy Urban Distribution.

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