David Friggieri | Sunday, 20 September 2009

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Le temps qui reste

Something strange has happened to me over the past few years. Every single film I watch which is based in Israel, the Palestinian territories or Lebanon has me shedding tears.
It’s not so much the plot of the film, often woven round the tense political situation in the Middle East, which sets off the emotions. Rather, it seems to be the actors’ expressions, their faces, their physical presence and the language they speak, their humour.
Surrounded by Belgians and the usual international crowd of expats in some dark art-house cinema, I have caught myself laughing out loud alone at some minor detail in the film: a boy’s expression, a grandfather’s shrug of the shoulders, an absurd joke.
There I was last week sitting through Elia Suleiman’s delicate semi-biographic Le Temps Qui Reste feeling – more than thinking – “This is me, this is us!” Except that, of course, it isn’t really us because in so many ways we are a much more complicated people than either the Israelis or the Palestinians you see on screen in these largely documentary films.
The ‘cultural hybridity’ that Ranier Fsadni wrote about in The Times this week has, I think, found remarkably fertile soil in our own island and any resistance to it appears to me to be largely theoretical. A people who often speaks a dismaying hodgepodge of three
languages yet rarely masters any of them has got some serious issues to contend with in terms of cultural hybridity.
Perhaps films like Le Temps Qui Reste remind me of an island which was less aware of itself, less modern, less connected, less smart, less networked and less pretentious. Perhaps they remind me of a lost innocence in which Malta did not aspire to be a Mediterranean Hong Kong based on the holy trinity of financial services, micro chips and concrete. Not to mention the Americanized electoral campaigns and ever-so-British yearly pantomimes.
Elia Suleiman’s film touched a raw nerve as I attempt to navigate this multicultural, culturally hybrid, globalised world that we’ve created.

Kont Digà
Another film which promises to touch a raw nerve is Kont Digà, written and produced by Mark Dingli and Sacha Sammut, which tells the story of a young Maltese artist who returns to Malta after a long stint away from the island. The photography in the trailer looks beautiful (think Crialese’s Respiro), the subject matter interesting and the cast is mainly made up of old classmates and friends of mine. Conscious of the ambient kitsch and fake, I sense that the filmmakers’ main concern when writing and shooting Kont Digà was to transmit something genuine, something basic about their characters and their country.
Personally, I’m going to watch this film with a strange type of critical eye: I look forward to seeing whether Mark and Sascha are capable of making me shed as many tears as Elia Suleiman did.


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David Friggieri
Le temps qui reste

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