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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid