RANDA CHAHAL SABBAG RETROSPECTIVE
Screening Online: May 12 – May 21
Free / $5 suggested donation
In person screening: May 12 – May 19
Anthology Film Archives (NYC): 32 Second Avenue (at 2nd St.), New York, NY 10003 USA
For tickets and info go to Anthology Film Archives
Featuring works by Randa Chahal Sabbag.
A key figure in Lebanese cinema, as both a documentary filmmaker and a director of fictional narratives, Randa Chahal Sabbag was born in Tripoli, Lebanon in 1953, to a Christian mother and a Sunni Muslim father, both militants involved in the local communist party. It was her father who introduced Chahal to the cinema, at Tripoli’s ciné-club. She left Lebanon for Paris in the early 1970s to pursue her studies in film at the prestigious École Louis-Lumière – a highly unusual move for a young woman from a conservative city. When the Lebanese Civil War broke out in 1975, she returned to Lebanon, where she tirelessly documented the war.
Chahal’s earliest documentary, STEP BY STEP (1979), attempted to grasp the causes and ramifications of the civil war in Lebanon. In OUR HEEDLESS WARS (1995), a work that Jean- Luc Godard cites in his HISTOIRE(S) DU CINÉMA, the filmmaker turns the lens towards her family, whom she had been recording on video since 1983. Her last documentary, SOUHA, SURVIVING HELL (2001), is a portrait of Souha Béchara, a young Christian woman who was imprisoned and tortured after she attempted to assassinate General Lahd, the head of the South Lebanon Army, an auxiliary of the Israeli Army.
Chahal was also an exceptional storyteller, using humor as a means to deal with the absurdities of the war. In her fictional feature CIVILIZED PEOPLE (2000), she portrays the brutal absurdity of the urban warfare of Beirut during the 1980s, when many Lebanese fled the country leaving behind their empty apartments along with their domestic workers. The original version was heavily cut in its initial release thanks to what the Lebanese censors considered to be inflammatory insults against religion. Her last feature film, THE KITE (2003), about a fifteen year-old Lebanese girl from a Druze community who falls in love with an Israeli soldier, won the Grand Jury Prize (Silver Lion) at the 2003 Venice International Film Festival, among other Prizes.
These films should have been just the beginning of the career of a filmmaker who left the world too soon, at the age of 54, after a long battle with cancer. Writing in The Guardian in 2008, in response to her death, Olivia Snaije observed, “Chahal’s premature death leaves a void in the Middle Eastern world of film, where freedom of expression requires boundless courage and Tenacity.”
This retrospective is co-presented by ArteEast and Anthology Film Archives and is curated by Ginou Choueiri, ArteEast’s Director of Film Programs. The series is part of the legacy program “Unpacking the ArteArchive”, which preserves and presents 20 years of film and video programming by ArteEast. Versions of the program will be screened online on artearchive.org from May 12-21, 2023, and in-person at Anthology from May 12-19. Fore more info on the in person screening go to http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/.
Step by Step (Pas á Pas), Lebanon, Randa Chahal Sabbag, 1979, 80 min.
Sand Screen, Randa Chahal Sabbag, 1992, 90 min. (online only)
Civilised People (Civilisėes), Lebanon, Randa Chahal Sabbag, 2000, 97 min.
Our Heedless Wars (Nos Guerres Imprudentes), Lebanon, Randa Chahal Sabbag, 1995, 68 min.
Souha, Surviving Hell (Souha, Survivre á L’enfer), Lebanon, Randa Chahal Sabbag, 2001, 57 min.
The Kite, Lebanon, Randa Chahal Sabbag, 2004, 80 min. (in-person only)