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The following essay was produced as part of the 2019 Locarno Critics Academy, a workshop for aspiring film critics that took place during the 72nd edition of the Locarno Film Festival.
Social media has made us myopic. As soon as something happens, no matter where in the world it may be, we turn to Twitter and Instagram, ready to devour instant, bite-sized explanations of the latest tragedy. But most of these explanations are crafted to serve those in power, and to keep political hierarchies intact. The same is leveraged through cinema; fiction and non-fiction films routintely “explain” the chaos of the Muslim world by moving between lazy stereotyping and deliberate demonizing; Muslims are branded as exotic (as in “Aladdin”) or dangerous (as in “Homeland”), and both scenarios enable Western powers to continue their self-righteous crusades and violent interventions in other countries. Meanwhile, audiences can be compelled not to question these narratives, because knowledge takes precedence over veracity: who can get it first, who can retweet and share it first. It’s a race for some language, any language, to help us make sense of the world.
Light - Processing - Fi - Al-thawra - Revolution
In the light of such urgent processing, “Fi al-thawra” (“During Revolution”) by Maya Khoury, which premiered at the Locarno Film Festival this month, and received a special mention in the first feature prize, is not an easy film to watch. It is something akin to a difficult poem, one you really have to concentrate on to sustain your attention, one you have to take the pains to stay with even as you keep asking yourself again and again: what exactly is going on?
Over the course of an exacting two and a half hours, the documentary yields little of what you would typically expect from a film exploring a country in a state of unrest. No insider’s view...
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