Wednesday, February 21, 2024

“Bye Bye Tiberias”: An Archive That Matters More Than A Movie


“With our stories, we fight against destruction. These images present themselves as proof of an existence that is being denied.” “The stories these women tell, in this film, are not just passed down from one woman to another, or from daughter to mother, or from mother to daughter. They reveal the story of people who have lost their identity.” Words by Lina Soulem (Algerian-French director) (“Le Figaro” and “Agence France-Presse”, November 27, 2023), after the presentation of her second feature-length documentary “Bye Bye Tiberias” (2023). “Their Algeria” (2020). Stories – there are images, the person who perceives them as reality is alive to this day, and memories abound, and nostalgia for the past is, first of all, a reason for changing what exists (photographs, audio-visual recordings, oral stories). A tapestry, meant to be a cinematic documentary, never achieved that. Their “Algeria” ranking.

A large amount of the visual archive is stored in locations that allow access to Lina Sweelem. Accompanied by her mother, Hiam Abbas (a French-Palestinian actress and director), the young woman wanders between images, impressions and realities, meets relatives on her mother’s side, and navigates a geography that reflects the overlap between encounters, relationships, relationships. Land, Borders and History recovers family stories and attempts to recreate diaries that help shape feminist awareness (the characters are all women) in changing times, geographies, politics, society and relationships.

The tour becomes a visually unrestricted excursion, with at least some of the documentarians documenting it with a movie camera from the start. The story is the family first, the individual within the family second. “Bye Bye Tiberias” will be a cinematic, everyday and family extension of “Their Algeria”, without using a cinematographer to create a personal archive… documentary film. One of the features of the film “He is Algeria” is that it “recently” (as the film ends) is Lina Zweilem’s grandfather on her father’s side, Zinedine Zweilem (an Algerian-French actor), filmed with depth, vision, humanity. , socially, and in life (memory and the present, in particular), rather than an archive, it would benefit from a cinematic vision that has mastered the art of structure, reflection, and transformation of images and impressions into a coherent visual text. The story cuts down on speech in favor of old and current images.

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It is difficult to compare the visual catalog of the variety of forms and topics that Lena Zweilem acquires, currently the largest archive open to men and women interested in individual and collective memory in the world. This comparison is reminiscent of the amazing achievements of the Ukrainian Sergey Loznitsa and the British-Indian Asif Kapadia, for example: a large amount of old photographs and records, which – thanks to the art of montage, the ingenuity and aesthetics of the collection. Films that tell stories through that role are separated by the importance of each – precision, depth, and cognitive, aesthetic, and cultural awareness – of cinematic sensibility. PictureAnd every record.

Lina Zweilem’s first, more modest steps did not encourage such a comparison, but did not prevent her from thinking about an art that transforms the inanimate (photographs) and the moving (audio-visual recordings) into “speaking” images. , quietly and often without words. With Sweelem, the family’s rich archive and some of its members’ stories are limited to immediate descriptions, accompanied by laughter with regret, pain and repression, the latter completely excluded from subjectivity, as well as from the general, in The Palestinian Story.

Hiam Abbas is the daughter of a family that left her hometown of Tiberias and lives in Deir Hanna (Galilee). Family videotapes (early 1990s) record visits to the Sea of ​​Galilee, mainly during Lena’s childhood. The family women who appear in front of the camera by Toma Bromon, Frieda Marzouk and Zweilem capture what is being said and try to reveal what is hidden in their soul, spirit and emotions, some of them go with them. In their places, and in the past of each of them, history, life and stories.

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But it all seems mundane, and some scenes are repeated (especially when Hiam Abbas, in front of the Sea of ​​Galilee, points out the geographical boundaries separating Lebanon, Syria and occupied Palestine). But what has recently been captured (in the portrayal of characters) does not translate into a coherent series of scenes announcing the biographies of women, some of whom are separated from others for personal reasons (Abbas’s passion for acting prompts her to move to France) or common ones (one of her sisters finds herself in Syria after the occupation, where who stays in the city?

If “He’s Algeria” is a cinematic deconstruction of the long relationship between Lena Zweilem’s grandparents, one of whom is separated from the other and in weary exile in a stressful old age, the father (Lena’s father) appears faintly. Being separated from her mother was almost his absence; “Bye Bye Tiberias” – shown in the program “Window on Palestine”, in the 6th session (December 14 – 21, 2023) “El Gouna Film Festival” – does not care about the father, and the emotional relationships of Hiam Abbas, he describes with a mixture of childish-teenage breath. Instant spontaneous laughter is part of the simplistic narrative typical of past stories. Laughter is common, crying is rare, wandering around Palestinian towns is rare, memories flow, but their cinematic capture does not turn them away from the family record into documentaries that create a scene that affirms the Palestinian presence. A family, geography, memory and present.

Pandora Bacchus
Pandora Bacchus
"Coffee evangelist. Alcohol fanatic. Hardcore creator. Infuriatingly humble zombie ninja. Writer. Introvert. Music fanatic."

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