Dirs: Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige. Lebanon-France. 2008. 75mins.
The idea here is surreal: make something akin to a documentary with French icon Catherine Deneuve and well-known Lebanese artist/actor Rabih Mroue making a day trip by car fromBeirutto the ruins inSouth Lebanonleft over from the Israeli incursion in 2006. The film-making couple of Hadjithomas and Joreige, who proved their imaginative skills with the 2005 Lebanese-set fiction A Perfect Day, succeeded in making it happen. And brilliantly.
These politically-engaged Lebanese co-directors have broken new ground in the documentary/fiction fusion debate, and not only with their dream cast. Once word gets out that Je Veux Voir is such an original work, it will find playdates large and small across the globe. Deneuve’s participation will of course give it a boost.
In the film Deneuve is in Beirut for a glamorous gala, but insists ‘Je veux voir’ (‘I want to see’) the carnage wrought against innocent civilians in Israel ‘s pursuit of members of Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.’I feel it’s impossible to stay on the fringe,’ she adds. She means it. This is not the classic Hollywood scenario of an up-and-coming star meeting with a facilitator to find the right charity for his or her marketing image. It rings with sincerity and curiosity.
So Hadjithomas and Joreige, who know firsthand the sites Deneuve and Mroue will visit, arrange for a meeting - it is captured on camera - and the two embark on a surprisingly gorgeous two-hour drive to southern Lebanon in time to return to her appointed engagement.
To their credit, the directors are not didactic. The two passengers talk about life and seat belts and Belle De Jour: It almost seems normal. They establish a comfortable intimacy without overdoing it. Occasionally something they encounter will ruffle their feathers: buildings destroyed during the Civil War, low-flying Israeli airplanes, but more than anything, their destination - where there are no exhausted images of homes without roofs, gutted roads, because it is it is all gone.
We see the film crew only occasionally, and that is as it should be. Deneuve does not play the star, although Lebanese men do line up to stare at her. The only false note follows an ellipsis to the gala, where Deneuve eagerly awaits Mroue’s presence. Something here smacks of movie fiction, as if a romance might develop out of their shared compassion. Whether it does or not, the actress looks beautiful, but not so beautiful that she overshadows such an important film. This one is for the history books.
Mille et Une Productions
(49) 30 8411 0859
Zeina Saab de Melero