Her film project about caricature in Egypt and Syria transforms under our eyes into a feverish meditation. The film still questions the place and role of caricature under dictatorial regimes and after these regimes have started to collapse. Yet it has become a larger reflection upon Art as it is understood and looked up to by many intellectuals of the Middle East whom we know so little about. Marie-Pierre Duhamel Müller
Durée : Long-métrage (120')
Année : 2012
Format de diffusion : DCP / Hdcam
Image : Sabine Lancelin, Jacques Mora ; Montage : Dominique Pâris
Coproductions : Avec les soutiens du Fonds Sud, du fonds d'innovation audiovisuelle (CNC), du SANAD Fund d’Abudhabi Film Festival et du Fonds Arabe pour la Culture
Sélections festivals : 2013 : Festival International du Film de Göteborg, Cinéma du Réel, Festival du Film de Femmes de Créteil, Cinémas du sud à Lyon, Rencontres Internationales des Cinémas Arabes à Marseille, Festival Images de la Diversité et de l’Égalité ; 2012 : Festival International de Toronto dans la section TIFF docs; Compétitions internationales Festival del Popoli, RIDM, Abu Dhabi, CPH Doc, IDFA - Reflecting Images
Diffusion Tv : Ventes internationales : WIDE Management
Au cours des deux années qu’a duré la réalisation du film - du début de l’été 2010 à celui de l’été 2012- d’immenses bouleversements se sont produits au Moyen-Orient, et notamment dans les deux pays du film, L’Egypte et la Syrie.
Un film comme celui-là, sur la liberté d’expression et sa répression dans ces pays ne pouvait que s’embarquer dans le cours effréné des révolutions à l’œuvre… En interrogeant l’expérience de différents caricaturistes égyptiens et syriens avant et pendant ces volte-face historiques contre le despotisme, ce film essaie de tâter le pouls d’une liberté appelée aussi à garantir notre avenir et notre droit à l’expression, et à nous préserver des censeurs.
L’écrivain et journaliste syrienne Samar Yazbek accompagne ce film de sa réflexion et de son ressenti, depuis Damas dans les mois précédant la révolution syrienne, jusque dans l’exil en France 5 mois après son déclenchement.
As if we were catching a cobra Rasha Salti - Toronto International Film Festival
The art of caricature has thrived in the Arab world for more than a century, and attained particular importance during the time when Arab states began to claim independence, as caricature artists were singularly able to reflect the everyday woes of citizens who have never been made fully aware of their rights. As regimes have become more despotic and repressive in the second half of the twentieth century, caricature artists managed to continue working despite increasingly strict censorship laws. With many other artists living under authoritarian rule, what is pointedly not said — a telling absence that is immediately decipherable by readers — makes the work even more evocative and subversive.
When director Hala Alabdalla embarked on her documentary about the art of caricature in Egypt and Syria, the popular insurgencies that would soon rock the countries were still unimaginable. In Cairo, she interviews Mohieddine Ellabbad, a veteran caricature artist, illustrator and graphic designer, and also meets emerging artists from the younger generation that he has mentored. In Damascus, she interviews infamous caricature artist Ali Farzat, who is busy preparing to transform his atelier into a public gallery, and Hazem Alhamwi, a younger artist, who displays on camera all the drawings he never dared to publish. She also interviews novelist and essayist Samar Yazbek, who reflects on the place of irony, laughter, censorship and insubordination in contemporary Arab letters.
Suddenly, in the midst of filming, the winds of revolution swept through Tunisia, Egypt, and shortly thereafter, Syria ; Ellabbad passes away ; Farzat is beaten senseless by thugs from the Syrian regime, his hands broken ; Yazbek is arrested and interrogated before being released, and is eventually forced to seek asylum in France to guarantee her daughter’s safety. As the making of the film itself blends quite literally with its subject, As If We Were Catching a Cobra becomes an electrifying, intimate, passionate documentary on the fearless tenacity of Arab artists fighting for freedom and justice.
Marie-Pierre Duhamel-Müller, ancienne directrice artistique du cinéma du Réel, réalisatrice, enseignante, collaboratrice pour la Mostra de Venise et le Festival du Film de Rome :
Hala Alabdalla’s new film goes much beyond its pitch and its "subject matter." And it takes the viewer much beyond the surface of a "human rights" manifesto. Paris : a film is being made. Locations notes, documents, e-mails, Skype chats and preparation video diaries have become the main material of Hala Alabdalla’s project after the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria have started to change the face of the region. Her film project about caricature in Egypt and Syria transforms under our eyes into a feverish meditation. The film still questions the place and role of caricature under dictatorial regimes and after these regimes have started to collapse. Yet it has become a larger reflection upon Art as it is understood and looked up to by many intellectuals of the Middle East whom we know so little about. Whether graphic designer Hazem Alhamwi, essayist Samar Yazbek or caricaturist Ali Farzat, all those with whom Hala Alabdalla meets share high ideas about what being an artist means. Hence their amazingly intense way of describing and analyzing their personal path : the fight against fear and the poison of compromise, the torment of feeling powerless, the sense of commitment, the loss of illusions, the temptation of withdrawal. They all know how powerful images can be and how much irony is a threat to all powers. At the beginning of the film, writer Samar Yazbek defines caricature as "a form of bitter intelligence." Later, "As if catching a cobra" is Farzat’s metaphor to describe a constant and exhausting effort to outmaneuver the dictatorship, its police, spies and bureaucracy. Dictators fall yet other "snakes" come or survive : pressures and control come today from the religious authorities, the military, the big companies, the corrupted bureaucracies, the old prejudices (against women or against minorities). In her editing room, the director assembles a shot of Damascus under the rain and a song of longing, the sad eyes of the exiled writer and the sun over Tahrir Square. Poems are heard where the desire to live challenges the fatality of death. Voices are heard : not "interviews" but people thinking out loud. Images, memories, poetry, hopes and torments are composed into a chorus. The film is a lyrical journey to a country that still exists only in the editing room. The editing room as a heart and a mind.