by Ed Felien
A four day film festival of Arab filmmakers is set to run at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Avenue South, from March 27 through March 30. It is co-sponsored by MIZNA, the Arab journal.
"Divine Intervention" by Elia Suleiman
The series opens with two short films by Brahim Bachiri. La Fille de hyacinthe is an abstract film with confusing images that seems to lightly throb and pulsate. There are some voices in the background, but it's not clear what they're saying, or in what language. It ends with figures on the sand being washed away by the tide. La Porte du Sud (The Door to the South) is a door that two men come in and out. First they come in upside down, then upside down and backwards, then straight up, etc. There are some anguished faces at the end-a metaphor for the confusions of Algerian and Moroccan immigrants to France?
What do we learn from this-that North African Arabs when they come to France can make films just as vague, self-indulgent and tedious as the French? Perhaps that is too cruel. Bachiri's films do have the distinct advantage over most French films in that they are very short.
Mounir Fatmi, another North African immigrant to Paris, is mercifully a little more clear. The Others, It is the Others is a film with a simple premise. The camera goes up to people on the street and asks them, "The world is full of strangers. Who are the others?" The question is poetically vague, and it is fun to see people wrestle with the philosophic implications. Young people are more earnest. Older people are more cynical. Some people just brush it off and walk on by. The question is from Mohamed Dib's "the tree of sayings." There is, of course, in Islam, the tradition of the Kaffir-those people who are not Muslim. They are strangers to Islam. They are, therefore, unclean. They are the others. But this film wants much more to unite people of all cultures and revel in diversity, than to tie itself to a fundamentalist reduction.
The most powerful film of that part of the series I was able to preview was Crossing Kalandia, a Palestinian film about the institutionalized terror of trying to pass through an Israeli checkpoint at Kalandia. The filmmaker is an amateur and the 52 minute film has a home movie quality, which seems to intensify the horror. He says he wants to film ordinary events, so as not to melodramatize the situation, but even the most mundane events take on tragic potential. One of the most searing moments of the film is when he goes to a party and a Palestinian standup comic does a phone routine, pretending to talk to a member of the family who has left: "Oh, everybody's fine. . ." One son was killed by Israeli bullets but had a beautiful funeral. Another child was shot, but only in one eye, "He's fine." The macabre humor goes over well with the audience, which only confirms your suspicion that everyone under the occupation must be shellshocked.
The last film, The Satellite Shooter, is an American Palestinian film about a young boy, about 14, who fantasizes being a cowboy. Reality and fantasy seem to merge. The boy becomes absorbed into a Wild West fantasy and gradually takes from the myth what he needs and is able to reject what he recognizes is harmful. It's a perfect length at 16 minutes, but it leaves you wanting more.
Tickets are $5 per screening, $25 for a festival pass. Call Intermedia Arts, 612-871-6927, for more information, or check their website at: www.intermediaarts.org