“I know”… is the phrase that Tarek, the hero of the movie “West Beirut”, said to his mother, who does not know what is happening in Beirut. Its shadows are through the young heroes of his film who are trying to rebel against their reality, and clash with existential questions that they answer with comic situations that reveal the horror of the civil war, and the destruction it left behind in Lebanese society.
Ziad Doueiri succeeded in archiving the Lebanese war, and his work was able to be crowned with the Cannes Festival prize in 1988, and the Lebanese and with them discovered the world; The birth of an international film director with rebellious political tendencies that he revealed since the first scene in his first movie, in which the hero Tarek appears, distorting the French national anthem in the school queue.
After a long absence from the dialogues, and the difficulty of connecting with him, Ziad Doueiri returns in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera Documentary to tell about his ideas and cinematic vision: https://www.youtube.com/embed/dCkQ7qC0C6I?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
- You started your career in cinema in the United States, and worked with great directors such as “Quentin Tarantino”, but why did you return to work in the Middle East despite the problems faced by this sector instead of continuing in Hollywood?
I returned to Beirut because of my attachment to my country. The more you are away from your homeland, the more nostalgic you are for the country in which you grew up. At the same time, I felt that there are many stories in Beirut that I need to tell and convey on the screen.
We also do not forget that America at that time was aware of a kind of “Islamophobia” after the events of September 11, although I personally did not face any incident of racism or discrimination by Americans, but I felt that it was time for me to change the psychological and personal scene.
- In your movie “West Beirut”, you succeeded in documenting the civil war as a side element in the life of the two heroes of the film. Did you try, through the film, to tell us the story of your childhood during the civil war, and to what extent did the war affect your artistic background?
The story of the movie “Western Beirut” is largely a kind of autobiography, I took into account the dramatic aspect of the story when writing it, but without denying that I recounted an aspect of my childhood.
I have been away from Beirut for a long time, I emigrated from it in 1982, and did not return to it until 15 years later. I did not think of returning because of my professional stability in the United States, but the memories I took from Lebanon were not tragic, but beautiful and nostalgic memories.
When I wrote the story of West Beirut and decided to return to Beirut, it was because I was telling a story, and I believed that the story I was telling should be understood by Western societies as well. I did not want to write a story that only the Lebanese or the Arabs could understand, so I wrote the story in a universal way.
And when you ask to what extent the war affected my artistic background, I think the opposite happened. Through my long work in America, I was able to understand how technology can be used to tell the story and not the other way around, but we must not forget that Beirut itself has a lot of dynamism, and Lebanon A country hot with feelings and disagreements, and all of this provides you with a treasure trove of ideas.
- In your movie “West Beirut” you used several times real archive footage of the war in Lebanon. What are the technical reasons for this choice?