- Title: FRANCE: Award-winning Lebanese film screens at Cannes Film Festival
- Date: 24th May 2007
- Summary: (MER2) CANNES, FRANCE (MAY 22, 207) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) JOANA HADJITHOMAS, CO-DIRECTOR OF A PERFECT DAY, SAYING: "There are things, there are small things that we are still living with after the war, like those who are missing. Khalil (Joreige), his uncle went missing in 1985 and we have heard anything about him since, and there 17000 people missing. This is not something relating to the past, it is from the present." (UNLCE WENT MISSING DURING WAR, THIS IS PART OF PRESENT NOT ONLY PAST)"
- Embargoed: 8th June 2007 13:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Reuters ID: LVA6MOXYW2RVR6BQH07GIIS8NMQH
- Story Text: An award-winning Lebanese film which follows two characters through homes, streets and nightclubs in Beirut over 24 hours has screened at the Cannes Film Festival. "A Perfect Day," the second feature to be directed jointly by husband-and-wife team Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, tells the story of a woman and her son who still grapple with the loss of the father of the family 15 years earlier during the country's 1975-1990 civil war.
The outset of the film sees mother Claudia and son Malek finally signing papers legally declaring the father's death, a move which sets off a sequence of painful recollections for Claudia, played by Julia Kassar. Malek, played by first-time actor Ziad Saad, is a borderline narcoleptic who spends much of the film running after his girlfriend and trying to get patch up the dying relationship.
Co-director Hadjithomas said she and Joreige based aspects relating to the film's production on details surrounding their own life in Beirut.
"The house that we see in "A Perfect Day," is our house. The street is our street. We are working on locations that we know very well and which have a lot of familiarity with us. This is how we work. Regarding the actors, there are actors but there are also friends, and the lead actor, he's not a professional actor but when we saw him we felt that he was what we needed for the role. So we kind of put things together by mixing our feelings with the city, and the city is also important in this film because we go around it a lot and around its streets," she said.
The personal conflicts raging within the characters' mind are set in motion by events from the country's historical and political past.
"There are things, there are small things that we are still living with after the war, like those who are missing. Khalil (Joreige), his uncle went missing in 1985 and we have heard anything about him since, and there 17000 people missing. This is not something relating to the past, it is from the present," said Hadjithomas.
By the end of the film, Claudia has managed to survive a night alone with her pangs of guilt for having declared her husband dead, and begins packing his clothes, which had been lying in her wardrobe, in boxes and suitcases. The film ends as Malek awakes at dawn at the side of a street after his girlfriend leaves him for what appears to be the final time, and takes off running along the beachfront. Waves crash and birds fly overhead at the beginning of the new day.
"The lead character, she sleeps and she also has problems sleeping. There is an idea that, at the end of the film, we are going to wake up, and the end of the film makes this clear. There is a run on the Corneiche that says we are going to wake up and that we are going to live, this is the idea of the film and you can read into it in a number of ways. You can read it like you don't know if he is running so that he will lose himself or wake up or if he is going to go back to sleep after he runs. Each viewer interprets it differently," said Hadjithomas.
Lebanese film featured strongly at this year's Cannes Film Festival. "A Perfect Day," winner of the Fipresci Prize at the Locarno Film Festival, screened as part of a day dedicated to Lebanese film at the Tous les Cinema du Monde selection, which also featured Assad Fouladkar's "When Maryan Spoke Out" and Michel Kammoun's "Falafel." Nadine Labaki's "Caramel" and Danielle Arbid's "A Lost Man" screened at the Director's Fortnight.
President of the Lebanese Cinema Foundation Aimee Boulos said the strong Lebanese presence at this year's festival was an important step in post-civil war Lebanese cinema.
"Lebanon has the films and it is showing that is has a generation which is creative, constructive, ambitious that wants Lebanon's voice, which is free and steadfast, to be heard by the world," said Boulos.
Joreige and Hadjithomas's next project is a short film starring French screen legend Catherine Deneuve. Hadjithomas said Deneuve will play the part of an international film star arriving in Lebanon to shoot a film.
Deneuve, who is in Cannes with a screening of her film "Apres Lui," said filming in Lebanon with the two directors was powerful experience.
"The film was very strong, it was a very strong experience, you know, really very special with a script but with very little dialogue, more improvisation. But the two artists that are, you know, that were directing it are people I like very much. I didn't know them very much but they have a very interesting point of view, you know," said Deneuve.
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