Arab Shorts 2011
Goethe Institute - Cairo
Co-Curated with Lara Khaldi
In the Name of the Father. Check the website here
The following exchange of emails took place between Lara Khaldi and Yazan Khalili over the course of three weeks in September while trying to write their curatorial statement. At the end, they decided to present it in this raw format as it allowed a more open discussion and exchange.
It is strange how we keep building those video programmes on intuition, and I keep thinking that we were so set on showing ‘My Father Is Still a Communist’ and building the programme around it, because we have such affinity with this film. This relationship with the missing father, as we've both in a way had this experience of a missing father, for different reasons, but all intermingled, war, politics, to run from a higher father... And there's also Hicham's film ‘Kaeef Ma Yikolu’, produced at the same time... Do you think the revolutions had something to do with suddenly remembering fathers, and our relationships with them? Perhaps all of this is a coincidence... Perhaps the whole curatorial process is a coincidence, but one makes a narrative out of it, and it suddenly becomes intentional?
Your last questions are tricky, because, in a way, they attempt to make us naked… expose us to the reader and viewer… You actually surprised me by asking these questions again, as I remember we had this discussion when we chose the films for the first programme we participated in, we didn't reach a conclusion, but then it was easier, we only had to choose independent Palestinian films, this time we need to have a curatorial intention, and yes we built it around ‘My Father Is Still a Communist’, or at least this film pressed the trigger for the selection process… But the narrative comes as we are looking and choosing the films, as we are combing the programme, making the order, and having this discussion… It is not a coincidence as much as a discovery process, with lots of luck involved...
So, fathers, we are always in conflict with their disappearance and their existence, I guess we are always in conflict with them, and now with the new revolutions this conflict will expand, now we have our revolution that can stand against theirs in the 60s and 70s, now we will not tell them ‘we wish we lived your time’, now it is our revolution against theirs... or narrative against theirs.. am I too enthusiastic here? Are we breaking away from them? Are we looking to become them? Revolutionaries... do we want to become fathers?
I am writing to you on the bus on my way from Jerusalem to Ramallah, and next to me are two young men staring, one is actually now standing and trying to brush against my arm, and it makes me think of what Freud said in ‘Totem and Taboo’ about sons conspiring to kill their fathers, and the birth of laws pertaining to desire. He argues that it is when the higher figure of the omnipresent father is defied by his sons, or the younger males in the clan, there is loss of control, havoc, and sexual freedom, but also the beginning of taboos and repression…
You ask a very important question, I think, are we imitating or are we breaking from a legacy? A friend of mine used to tell me that the older we get the more we resemble our parents, and it bothered me, as most of us see our parents as failures, especially our generation, and here I don't mean failures in a negative sense but they had a project that failed, and that resulted in a bitterness that we see...its visible. I don't know if Ehab has this experience, and I'm perhaps projecting here, but in his video, this portrait of his parents, silent, bleak, almost cold, although they are a family, all seems as if there's an attempt to show them in a light contrary to the image of a family house buzzing with life. I wonder if every son or daughter in different ways see their parents' lives partly as an incomplete project, a part failure – but to get back to repetition, maybe the only way in a sense to carry on is to actually keep repeating into eternity…
I hope the two guys didn't harass you a lot, ah, it is annoying, being harassed makes one feels strange, different, another, one suddenly gets confronted with oneself... It is funny, I always get harassed for my pony tail, and in the film ‘Moustache’ the character gets harassed for not having yet grown a moustache, one becomes obsessed with the way he/she talks, walks, looks.. etc.. a slight difference makes one in confrontation with society... the minute we decide not to become our parents we are accused of being revolutionaries. This is fine if this was intentional, but it makes one crazy being forced to be one...
My main issue with my father is that he doesn't recognize my criticism for their revolution as a continuation of it, he sees this as anti-revolution... i now accuse him of being conservative, he accuses me of being an ‘aimless young man’, I loved Hisham's film for its rawness, the raw and direct way he shows this conflict in, in this animalistic way... Sameh's film ‘Be Quite’ as well, even though it further complicates things because there's another authoritative figure that the son has to yet defy… It all makes me wonder sometimes if revolution is an instinct!!
My father is still a communist: intimate secrets to be published, Lebanon, 2011, 35 min
As they say (KIF MA YI QULU), Morocco/UAE, 2011, 13 min
Be quiet, Palestine, 2006, 16 min
Moustache, 2010, Kuwait, 14 min
The forty second winter, 2009, Syria, 15 min