beirut, before

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Beirut Outtakes (2007), by Peggy Ahwesh

This beautiful film is cut from pieces of film found in an abandoned movie theater in Beirut. The film clips appear to show segments of newsreels, advertisements and trailers for films that one might have seen a Beirut theater in the 1950s, 60’s and 70’s.

What is eerie about Ahwesh’s video is not only the glimpse we get at life in Beirut before years of constant war, but also the strange combination of violence (American westerns), Orientalist sexuality (gyrating belly dancers), and feminine domesticity (women shopping for home appliances). This cocktail of violence, sexuality and domesticity seems so painfully modern, so appropriate for a forward-looking city, ‘the Paris of the Middle East.’ Ahwesh’s film is a cloudy mirror, a surface which shows us the reversed, distorted, but absolutely accurate image of what we are (not) now.

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