A world redrawn: Lebanon film director fears nothing will change

Lebanese director Carol Mansour uses her phone to film while wearing a face mask and standing by graffiti reading in Arabic "power to the people", in Beirut. (File/AFP)
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Updated 27 June 2020

A world redrawn: Lebanon film director fears nothing will change

  • The director lost her father living in Canada to the COVID-19 disease
  • Under confinement, Mansour decided to make a “very personal” film about her mother who fled to Lebanon in 1948

NICOSIA: Prize-winning Lebanese documentary filmmaker Carol Mansour fears the world has learnt nothing from the novel coronavirus shock and will go back to square one or worse when normal life returns.
The director, who lost her father living in Canada to the COVID-19 disease, admits “what scares me the most” is that mankind has learned nothing from this crisis.
“Maybe the skies and the rivers have cleared up a bit, but if the coronavirus crisis can’t change us, I don’t know what can,” she told AFP in an interview on Zoom.
“I am very afraid of what will happen after the return to normal” because the crisis “apparently did not teach us anything.”
“I think that we will quickly return to where we were and perhaps worse,” with “three percent of the world population” remaining in charge of the planet.
In her own world, Mansour said the curbs linked to the pandemic have brought out “a personal dimension” in her work and pushed her to look differently at her city, Beirut.
As for her media, the future of cinema remains in suspense, although she has stayed creative in lockdown.
It’s as if “we pressed a stop button” since the virus swept across the globe, said Mansour, who lives in the Lebanese capital.
In collaboration with Daraj.com, an independent media platform, Mansour has produced two short films on the epidemic, including one on her father.
“Every day we hear about... the number of people who have died from coronavirus but I never imagined that my father would be one of those figures,” she says in the film “My Father, Killed by Covid-19.”
In a second video, Mansour focuses on contradictions in “her plans, hopes and concerns” for Beirut in the era of coronavirus.
“Beirut is ugly,” she said, “because of the indiscriminate construction, the proliferation of huge shopping centers and the continued demolition of old buildings.”
But that has been cut short by the epidemic and stay-at-home restrictions.
She explained that she could now walk in usually crowded streets, “alone among cats” because with confinement, Beirut “has become a city of cats.”
“Has Beirut become beautiful or has calm embellished it?” she mused.
The Lebanese director of Palestinian origin has won several international awards, including the 2018 prize for best documentary at the Delhi film festival for “Stitching Palestine.”
Under confinement, Mansour also decided to make another “very personal” film about her mother who fled to Lebanon in 1948 from Jaffa in present-day Israel and died in 2015.
The film addresses her mother’s discussions “on Palestine” while she was suffering from Alzheimer’s.
“I was filming it without intending to collect these videos to make a film,” she said.
Coronavirus has come at a time when we had already grown familiar with “new ways” of seeing and photographing.
“With ‘Stitching Palestine’ we shot segments via Zoom with 350 participants from 20 different countries,” she said.
“We watched the film, then a discussion took place. In this area, there has definitely been some change.”
As for Mansour’s private life, with the coronavirus, “I’ve discovered things about myself... I speak (more) now,” she said with a laugh.
She has also grown to appreciate the merits of a simpler life. “I only yearn for friends and hugs.”


In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

Updated 05 July 2020

In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

  • The Baalbek International Festival was streamed live on television and social media
  • The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem

BEIRUT: A philharmonic orchestra performed to spectator-free Roman ruins in east Lebanon Sunday, after a top summer festival downsized to a single concert in a year of economic meltdown and pandemic.
The Baalbek International Festival was instead streamed live on television and social media, in what its director called a message of “hope and resilience” amid ever-worsening daily woes.
The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem, followed by Carmina Burana’s “O Fortuna,” a 13th century poem set to music.

The program, which ran for just over an hour, included a mix of classical music and rock and folk tunes by composers ranging from Beethoven to Lebanon’s Rahbani brothers.
Held in the open air and conducted by Harout Fazlian, the 150 musicians and chorists were scattered inside the illuminated Temple of Bacchus, as drones filmed them among the enormous ruins and Greco-Roman temples of Baalbek.
Festival director Nayla de Freige told AFP most artists performed for free at the designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
The concert aimed to represent “a way of saying that Lebanon does not want to die. We have an extremely productive and creative art and culture sector,” she said.
“We want to send a message of civilization, hope and resilience.”
Baalbek itself became a militia stronghold during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, but conservation and tourism have revived the ruins over the past three decades.
Lebanon is known for its summer music festivals, which have in past years drawn large crowds every night and attracted performers like Shakira, Sting and Andrea Bocelli.
Other festivals have not yet announced their plans for this year.
Lebanon has recorded just 1,873 cases of COVID-19, including 36 deaths.
But measures to stem the spread of the virus have exacerbated the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Since economic woes in the autumn sparked mass protests against a political class deemed irretrievably corrupt, tens of thousands have lost their jobs or part of their income, and prices have skyrocketed.
Banks have prevented depositors from withdrawing their dollar savings, while the local currency has lost more than 80 percent of its value to the greenback on the black market.