A view of war outside and in is the subject of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige‘s Atelier project “I Can’t Go Home“, about a pregnant Lebanese filmmaker stuck in Paris as war breaks out back home, while her doctor husband struggles at the center of it. Directors of numerous short films, Hadjithomas and Joreige also create photo and video installations and teach at the University of Lebanon.
About the program: The Atelier de la Cinefondation was created by the Cannes Film Festival to nurture specific projects from emerging filmmakers. In its third year, the program has selected fifteen projects looking for development or completion funding. Meetings and events between filmmakers and film professionals will be arranged during the Festival, May 18-25. Click here for more information on the program and projects.
Tell us about your background. Where you were born and did how you become a filmmaker?
We are both artists and filmmakers born in Beirut. We didn’t go through an art or cinema school, but took up cinema because we wanted to express our feelings about the Lebanese civil war, the violence it produced and which we had experienced, and the need to think about the way it would end. Making films became a need for us, a personal research, a reflection about the relation to image and to the representation in our region, the Middle East. We work on themes that feed our works as filmmakers and visual artists because we practice both simultaneously.
Describe your previous work, including your recent films and other creative projects.
We began as photographers and visual artists, then we went to cinema, by a feature film in 1999 entitled “Around the Pink House“. This is how we submerged ourselves in the cinema world. Afterwards, we turned to a form that left us more freedom, that of documentaries such as “Khiam” in 2000, and “The Lost Film” in 2003. In 2003, we went back to fiction with a short film called “Ashes” before producing a feature film “A Perfect Day” in 2005. Moreover, we shot in 2006 a short film called “Open the Door, Please” and we are currently finishing a new short film which is temporally entitled “I Want to See“, featuring Catherine Deneuve and an actor we often work with, Rabih Mroueh. We keep on shifting from long to short, from installation to films. An idea, a desire harps on us and what we like most is to explore the various means of expressing it. Our cinema is definitely of the artistic type but is very much open to others, it is a cinema of feelings and emotions which explores new narrative forms.
What is “I Can’t Go Home” about and what inspired you to pursue it?
During the summer of 2006 and the war in Lebanon, we were compelled to remain in France and lived the war at a distance, as spectators, mainly through a new array of images on TV, digital ones through blogs, internet, mobile phones. From that starting point, we imagined a love story between a young pregnant woman, obliged to remain in France and her husband blocked in Lebanon, a story of pregnancy and cinema, a double gestation, in which each character will learn about himself, will feel love again, will find reasons to believe in this world… It is a film that reasserts our love for life and cinema in spite of the wars and the instability we have been through in past 31 years in our country.
What do you hope to accomplish for the project while you are in Cannes?
During the festival we hope to close up the financial set-up of the film. We are looking in particular for co-producers. We hope to meet people, share with them our hopes, our wishes, our vision of cinema, to share another territory, that of art and cinema.
What are some of your favorite movies and influences?
There isn’t one main influence, but some very precise influences for each film. We love cinema but most of our inspiration derives from artistic work and also from our encounters. The people we meet are our main source of inspiration, as well as our own life experiences. Nearly all our films relate to personal experience. In “I Can’t Go Home”, we tell about experiences of a war from afar and about the experience of pregnancy which is so rich that we felt we had to show it, with its moving and strange (sometimes funny) dimensions.
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