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JOCELYNE SAAB


Jocelyne Saab is a filmmaker and a photographer. She was born in 1948 and grew up in Beirut. In 1973, she became a war reporter in the Middle East, covering the war of October for Magazine 52, the third television channel in France. In 1975 she directs her first feature film, a documentary released in Parisian cinemas: Lebanon in Turmoil, distributed by Pascale Dauman. She will then cover the Lebanese war for fifteen years, during which she directs almost thirty films, including Beirut, never again, broadcasted on France 2 in 1976, Letter from Beirut and Beirut, my city, broadcasted on France 3 between 1978 and 1982. In 1977 both Egypt, City of the Dead and The Sahara is not up for sale are shot and released in Parisian cinemas. In 1981, she shots Iran, Utopia in the the making on the days following the Iranian revolution, which receives several international prizes. In 1998, Saab goes to Vietnam and directs a documentary called The Lady of Saigon, which is awarded best French documentary by the French senate. The film was broadcasted on France 2, and in many international festivals.


In less than thirty years, Jocelyne Saab directed thirty documentaries that were awarded prizes in European and international festivals. However, her filmography is not limited to documentaries: in 1981, Jocelyne Saab had the opportunity to turn to fiction, as the assistant director of Volker Schlöndorff. His film, shot in Beirut during the war was called Circle of Deceit. In 1985, she directs her own first feature film, A Suspended Life, selected at the Directors’ Fortnight of Cannes and released in three Parisian cinemas. In 1993, she dedicates a docufiction to the 100th anniversary of cinema: Once Upon a Time Beirut, which is essentially made up of archival images and old film rushes on Beirut, was broadcasted on ARTE. In 2005, her film Dunia, produced by Catherine Dussart and shot in Egypt, deals with the theme of pleasure. Following the scandal provoked by the film, she is sentenced to death by Egyptian fundamentalists. Still, the film is praised in many international festivals, and was notably selected for the competition at Sundance Festival in the USA. Five years later, Dunia has become a cult film in the Arab world. In 2007, Jocelyne Saab turns to contemporary art, and puts together her first video installation on twenty-two screens at the National Museum of Singapore. A retrospective on the entirety of her works on the war, it is entitled Strange Games and Bridges.

She then exhibits her first photographs at the Abu Dhabi fair in 2007 then successively at the Art Paris fair, in Abu Dhabi galleries and in Beirut, in 2008.


In 2009, she finishes a new feature film What’s going on?, shot at her hometown. She questions a potential rebirth of Beirut, and more generally, its creation process in all its depth. In 2013, she teaches at IESAV, the Institute of Scenic and Audiovisual Studies of Beirut, where she directs a feature film with the students around the charismatic figure of Henri Barakat. In the same year, she directs six films on the theme of sex and genre in six oriental Mediterranean cities, reunited under the title Café du Genre in the context of the exhibition Au Bazar du Genre at the MuCEM, Marseille.


Throughout her life, she organizes several important events. In 1992, she commits to the rebuilding of the Lebanese Cinematheque. To this end, she undergoes an incredible archival work and registers over two hundred fifty films that mention Beirut and Lebanon before, during and after the war. She was awarded the Order of Chevaliers des Arts et des Lettres for this monumental work, which she achieved while editing her film at the time, Once Upon a Time Beirut, now the mark of this endeavor. From the archives, she also organizes in 1993 the cycle of screenings Beirut, one thousand and one images, at the Arab World Institute, an event that presents all Arab films selected for the rebuilding of this Lebanese Cinematheque.

In 2013, she becomes the founder, artistic director and global representative of the Cultural Resistance International Film Festival. In this context, she proposes Asian and Mediterranean films that question through their history the situation of Beirut today. A cinema that heals the country’s wounds and brings us to think about the possibility of peace and intercommunity respect. This festival spreads across the entire Lebanese territory.


Towards the end of her life, she conceives a last series of photographs, One Dollar a Day, and directs several art videos: One Dollar a Day and Imaginary Postcard in 2016, and My Name is Mei Shigenobu, which was released as a posthumous work (2019).


 

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