Organization: IESAV, Saint-Joseph University, Beirut / ALBA, University of Balamand, Beirut
Jocelyne Saab, Reporter, Filmmaker, at the Service of History
March 18-19, 2024 - Institute of Theatre, Audiovisual and Cinematic Studies, Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth (IESAV, USJ) / Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, University of Balamand (ALBA-UOB).
Two study days organized by Danielle Davie (ALBA-UOB), Yara Nashawati (IESAV-USJ),
Mathilde Rouxel (IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence) and Hady Zaccack (IESAV-USJ).
"[In 1976, after the broadcast of my film Children of War,] I was sentenced to death as a traitor to
my community. I was hunted down and I'll never forget that scene. I'd made the film, which was
shown on France 2, on the news, so it was a prime time slot. That same day, while I was in Beirut, I passed by Hamra Street, the street we used to call the Champs-Élysées, near the Horse Shoe, the intellectuals' café, and there the newsagents were displaying newspapers on little cardboard boxes, and I saw the front page: "Condamner Jocelyne Saab", "Juger Jocelyne Saab". In the illustration, I had an eye patch and a prostitute's head. I was scared and I understood the war at that moment. I went up the whole street and bought maybe fifty copies of the newspaper, as if I wanted to be on the safe side. I read and reread that insulting, abusive, intolerant article."
Following her death on January 7, 2019, Jocelyne Saab left a rich body of work that was too little
known during her lifetime. After working as a journalist in Lebanon from 1970, and as a war
reporter for French television from 1973, she became an independent documentary filmmaker in
1974. Between 1974 and 1989, she made over twenty documentaries, both short and length features, in 16 mm. In 1984, she turned to fiction, then continued to make documentaries for French television, shot on video in the 1990s. In 2005, after seven years of hard work, she directed her major fiction Dunia, her first digital film, which was stifled by insidious censorship in Egypt, the country where it was shot. Saab then turned to other forms of expression: video art, mixed-media installations and photography, culminating in her latest work, a book of images, Zones de guerre (2018).
Testimony to a vanished world, these images were essential to Jocelyne Saab. At each stage of her prolific career, Jocelyne Saab revisits the films she made during the civil war that tore her country, Lebanon, apart. From one work to the next, the images return. Following the Israeli army's 2006 war against Lebanon, Jocelyne Saab built the installation Strange Games and Bridges (2007), in which images of the infrastructure destroyed by the Israelis in 2006 intersect with those of the 1975-1990 civil war, thirty years after they were filmed. Her latest feature-length project, a hybrid documentary in which she wanted to tell the story of the founder of the Japanese Red Army in Lebanon, Fusako Shigenobu, and the fate of her daughter Mei, hidden away for 27 years to protect her from Mossad, was also intended to show these images of a vanished Beirut.
Fundamental to the writing of history, Jocelyne Saab's images present another point of view, free
and daring, which has been exported to television channels and festivals around the world, and
which is worth revisiting today. Her films, shot across the Maghreb and Mashreq, over a long
period when the region's balances and imbalances were being reconfigured, immortalized an era
and a world in recomposition. Long in the shadows, inaccessible and difficult to distribute, they are
now arousing growing interest, which the filmmaker was unfortunately only able to experience in
Accompanying the screening at the Salle Montaigne of the Institut Français du Liban on March 14
and 15 of Jocelyne Saab's latest films, restored in Beirut by the Jocelyne Saab Association, as well
as the release of part of her filmography by the French publisher Les Mutins de Pangée, which
brings together Jocelyne Saab's first 15 documentary films that have recently been restored (1974-1982), these study days aim to provide a historical, artistic and political context for the emergence of these images. Bringing together researchers of different nationalities, offering cross-disciplinary approaches to the analysis of Jocelyne Saab's protean oeuvre, this meeting will explore Saab's work in its entirety, from her first documentaries to her latest works as a photographer. This work is a continuation of two study days organized at the University of Aix (France) on February 14 and 15 as part of the complete retrospective of Jocelyne Saab's films in Marseille.
These two days of study will explore a number of key themes in Saab's work, including the
relationship between history, memory and commitment, the question of archives and their
testimonial and political significance, the development of a poetics of exile, which will in particular
link the cinematographic and literary media, given Saab's close collaboration with poets and writers (Etel Adnan, Roger Assaf...), but also the visual arts, in relation to the influence of her work on contemporary post-war Lebanese artists (Walid Raad, Akram Zaatari, Lamia Joreige...). This scientific event has an interdisciplinary ambition, which will highlight the issues of intermediality at the heart of Saab's work and its reception.
More specific studies, focusing on some of Saab's canonical as well as marginal works, will anchor
this reflection on films, particularly documentaries, that have marked milestones in the history of
Arab cinema, while also constituting unpublished testimonies to major historical events in the
region (Iran, Utopia in Motion, Sahara is Not For Sale, The Ship of Exile, The Rejection Front...).
Links to Jocelyne Saab's entire filmography can be sent to anyone interested in taking part in
these study days.
Publication to come
The contributions from these study days will be published in the form of proceedings in the March
2025 issue of the biannual journal Regards (https://journals.usj.edu.lb/regards/index), published in three languages (French, English and Arabic) by Saint-Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon.
Submissions due by February 15, 2024
Notification of acceptance on February 18, 2024.
Study days on March 18 and 19, 2024, at the Institut d'Études Scéniques et Audiovisuelles (IESAV, USJ) and the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA, UOB).
Paper proposals should be sent by email to ddavie[@]alba.edu.lb, m.rouxel[@]hotmail.fr, hady.zaccak[@]usj.edu.lb