News / Middle East

Young Libyans Find Escape in 'Secret' Cinema

Reuters
In the basement of a villa in central Tripoli, young Libyans seeking an escape from violence and disorder watch an American movie classic screened using a simple projector and laptop.
 
They may feel they have plenty to relate to in James Dean's teenage character as he battles society's constraints and institutions in “Rebel Without A Cause''.
 
Nearly two years after the revolution that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's progress towards democracy has been stalled by political infighting and the growing boldness of some of the powerful rebel factions that helped end his 42-year rule.
 
“It's now part of our routine. We wait patiently every week for the next screening, as these movie classics are unavailable on television channels,'' said Mohammad Nattah, a 23-year-old medical student.
 
“It's free and our way of escaping our current reality.''
 
Every week, the young crowd files down the villa's stairs to the lower level where rows of white, plastic chairs are lined up facing the wall that serves as a screen. Latecomers miss out on the unglamorous seating and make do with the floor.
 
The program ranges from Hollywood mainstays like “The Godfather'' to “Ahlaam'', a film about the Iraq war, told from an Iraqi point of view. The films are shown with Arabic subtitles.
 
Screenings are open to everyone but the organizers try to keep a low profile. Libya's biggest political party is founded on liberal values, but society is deeply conservative.
 
Sharia (Islamic law), for instance, is taken for granted. The difference, say members of the audience, is how it is interpreted, although strict attitudes tend to prevail.
 
In Libya's capital, unrelated men and women are rarely seen mingling in public, in keeping with traditional Islam, and the most radical groups are opposed to cinematography altogether.
 
This week's “Rebel Without a Cause'', a 1955 film about a conflicted teenager who gets into trouble and is misunderstood by his parents, is especially poignant for the audience, whose ages range between 18 and 30 years old.
 
In one corner of the basement, a couple that missed out on seats cuddle against a wall, behavior unheard of in public places in the new Libya.
 
Hope of reviving Libyan film-making
 
Discussion after the film is encouraged. The founders of the cinema club want to revive the Libyan film industry and hope debates about classics will help achieve this goal.
 
“I was astonished to discover there is a young generation that understands and appreciates this art,'' said one organizer, Khaled Mattawa, a well-known Libyan poet who teaches creative writing at the University of Michigan in the United States.
 
“My idea was, we have a projector, we have the films and the walls of course, so why not make this place our cinema? When we started, we just didn't expect to have so many fans.''
 
Mattawa, who is spending time in the capital teaching at the University of Tripoli, argues cinematography is one of the most democratic means of expression because it reaches out to a broad spectrum of people.
 
“Art is the process of learning a culture of co-existence,'' he said. “Films lead to novels, and novels lead to philosophy.''
 
Going to the cinema was among the many activities that Gaddafi outlawed for periods of his dictatorship to protect his regime from what he regarded as the threat of cultural invasion.
 
Hundreds of media outlets, artists and musicians sprang up when Libya was freed from his rule. But with security across the country again starting to deteriorate, some in the audience worry that Libya is moving in the wrong direction.
 
“Even though this movie was filmed in the 50s... the production quality is very good compared to what Libyan film makers are able to do in 2013,'' said Turkia Bensaoud, a woman in her early twenties who works for a charitable agency.
 
“The quality of life presented in the movie is also very good compared to us today. That's why we keep asking ourselves - are we moving backwards?''
 
While recent film festivals in the capital and in Benghazi, Libya's second city in the east, have proved hugely popular, they have also been targeted by Islamist militants.
 
The festivals have mostly screened films made in the region, with many produced by Egypt's well-established movie industry, but also from Iraq and several African countries.
 
In a recent example, Tripoli's movie festival held at the Radisson Hotel a couple of weeks ago was cut short on its third day after receiving bomb threats.
 
“Perhaps this activity will upset those who do not want us to live with other cultures, but we have to take a chance and enjoy the freedom for which we Libyans fought,'' said Bensaoud.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid