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

Video On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid