Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Director Close-Up

LFF 2009 Selection: "Once Upon a Sidewalk"

When I chatted with Gheith a few days ago, he couldn't help but express himself in color. He and his sisters are so different in personality that they are "like red, green and blue." People of similar culture are "of the same color." He even sometimes dreams in monochrome - and of an entire universe made of play dough, cardboard and paintings.

Gheith's artistic interests also draw from a diverse palette, and include film, video art, plastic arts and jazz. Perhaps this is why he is especially attracted to film and video, which he sees as a “recreating of space in 3-D: emotions, sounds, colors, texts, life.” Here are a few excerpts from our chat:

..né.à Beyrouth (nàB): Congratulations on being selected for screening at this year’s Lebanese Film Festival. Why did you submit your film to this particular festival?

Gheith Al-Amine (GA): I’m excited that my work will be screened at the Lebanese Film Festival. There are other festivals in Beirut which show up and coming Lebanese filmmakers, but ..né.à Beyrouth’s festival has a different audience, one that is focused on film and video. So it is a good venue for alternative videomakers.

nàB: You call your work an experimental video. What makes it experimental?

GA: I don’t want to pigeonhole my work or films in general with specific genre labels. “Once Upon a Sidewalk” has documentary aspects. It is also poetic, a different reality that talks to me.

This video is a homage, a tribute to women. I grew up surrounded by women – with my two sisters and my mother. The piece explores the representation of women as objects of desire. It also questions the medium of video itself by repeatedly manipulating parameters. I reconstruct a shot that was originally taken 9 years ago and each time I try to convey other meanings.

nàB: Do you have any new projects in the works?

GA: I am working on a few projects. One video installation, in which a painting is revealed in stop-motion, is a triptych video based on linguistics.

I’m also conceptualizing two documentaries, both exploring places that I have never visited but have often imagined because of important influences in my life.

My family is passionate about Arabic music, literature and politics, and has often told stories about Cairo in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Cairo of Um Kalthoum. I know Tangier through my favorite authors: William S. Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Mohamed Choukri, Roland Barthes, Jack Kerouac, Jean Genet. I want to see Cairo and Tangier through the perspective of these sources of inspiration, my own imagination and their socioeconomic realities.


  1. Thanx alot...who is this?

    Gheith Al-Amine.

  2. Thanks for the information. I might add, however, that residents of the city spell it as Tangier (as did Paul Bowles, Mohamed Choukri and many others), and the city in Morocco is spelled without an s on the end--not as Tangier. That's a common error.

  3. Himan - Noted and corrected. Thanks!

  4. Great interview with Gheith...he always displayed an artistic genius and he is full of talent. Keep it up!

  5. Thanks moustapha,i'm humbled!