Lebanon Cinema and Literature

Cinema. – According to SPORTSQNA, Lebanese cinematography was marked from the very beginning by enormous difficulties. In fact, only in 1931 a production company, the Lumnar films, appeared on the horizon, being able to produce the first feature, Muġāmarāt Abu Ubayd (“The adventures of Abu Ubayd”), moreover made by a filmmaker of Italian origin, G. Pidutti. For a long time, foreign filmmakers and technicians have formed the backbone of Lebanese cinema, helping the development of the nascent art and helping to raise the technical level of studies. It is since the 1950s that cinematography acquires its own national character, sometimes reflecting the different cultural and political factions of the country. Most of the production is however directly inspired by melodramas and sung films produced in neighboring Egypt. Proof of this are the films of Salmān, author among other things of the musical comedy al-Lahn al-Awwal (“The first melody”, 1957). The sixties and seventies saw the flourishing of the industry especially from the point of view of technologies, so much so that the studios in Beirut are used by Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian directors. The political events of the early 1980s prevented the emergence of new talents, but among the Lebanese documentary makers who left some mark there are Burhān ῾Alawiyya (Kafr Qāsim, 1974, on the massacre of an Arab village by the Israelis) and Mārūn Baġdādī (al-Ḥurūb al-ṣaġīra, “Little Wars”, 1983). The latter was also noted for al-Raǧul al-maḥǧūb (“The Veiled Man”, 1987, about a French doctor involved in the fratricidal violence in Beirut),(La vita suspended, 1991, awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, also inspired by an episode of the civil war).

Literature. – Lebanese writers, who emigrated to Egypt and America at the beginning of the century, gave a great impetus to the development of contemporary Arabic fiction and poetry. The Lebanese Ǧurǧī Zaydān (1861-1914) was one of the most significant exponents of Egyptian culture, bringing the vogue of the historical novel to the Arab world; while another emigrated to Egypt, H̱alīl Muṭrān (1872-1940), was one of the architects of the new Arabic poetry. The Lebanese emigration to the United States and Brazil favored contact between Arab writers and the Western world. Thus was born the school of mahǧar (“emigration”) which reached its maximum expression with Ǧubrān H̱alīl Ǧubrān (1883-1931), writer and poet in Arabic and English, author of the famous The profet (1923), and founder in New York (1920) of the al-Rābiṭa al-Qalamiyya cultural circle. Amīn al-Rīḥānī (1876-1940) and Mīẖā᾽īl Nu῾aymah (1889-1988) should still be mentioned among the founders of this circle.

For the narrative, the important date is 1939, when the journalist and diplomat Tawfīq Yūsuf ῾Awwād (1911-1989) published al-Raġīf (“The loaf”), which is normally considered the first Lebanese novel of some importance. A fruitful writer, ῾Awwād has left us several collections of short stories, including Qamīṣ al-ṣūf (“The Wool Shirt”) from 1937, and the novel Ṭ awāḥīn Bayrūt (1972, “The Mills of Beirut”) on the consequences of the war of 1967 in Lebanon. In 1953 the writer Suhayl Idrīs (b. 1923), author of the novel set in Paris al-Ḥayy al-lātīnī (“The Latin Quarter”), founded the prestigious literary magazine al-Ādāb, which collects the works of the best prose writers and poets from all over the Arab world, from Morocco to ῾Irāq.

The Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967, the Lebanese civil war, the Israeli occupation of the South of the Lebanon will be recurring themes in the works of many Lebanese writers, such as Ḥalīm Barakāt, Syrian by birth, author of a novel with the prophetic title Sittat Ayyām ( 1961 “Six days”) and Awdat Ṭā’ir al-Ila al-Bahr (1969, “The bird returned to the sea”). Among the writers, the names of Amīlī Naṣr Allāh (b. 1931), who wrote a novel on the problem of Lebanese emigration to Canada, Ṭuyūr aylūl (1962, “Birds of September”), and Tilka al-ḏikrayāt (1980, “Those memories”), in which she describes the abduction of her husband during the civil war; by Ḥanān al-Šayḥ (b.1945),(1980) and the collection of short stories Ward al-Ṣaḥrā ‘ (1982, “The desert rose”) among the Shiites of southern Lebanon; and Laylā Ba῾albakkī (b. 1938) who attracted attention very young for his novel on women, Anā Aḥyā (1961, “I am alive”).

In the field of contemporary poetry, the name of Adonis (Adūnīs) stands out, pseudonym of ῾Alī Aḥmad Sa῾īd (b. 1930), Syrian by birth, naturalized Lebanese since 1956: author of numerous collections of lyrics – some translated into different languages ​​-, is certainly one of the major architects of the renewal of Arabic poetry; he collaborated in 1957 with Yūsuf al-H̱āl on the foundation of the magazine Ši῾r (“Poetry”), and in 1969 he founded the magazine Mawāqif.

Lebanon Cinema