“All that is left of my parents’ relationship is a large number of audio-cassettes, sent as love letters during the time of civil war in Lebanon. When I was a child I created imaginative stories about my father as war hero fighting with the communists.” Ahmad Ghossein
An opening reminiscent of all the tapes that have crossed my childhood. Family weddings and receptions on VHS, blurred images and a messed up magnetic sound.
Then the voice over of a tape. Those oh so familiar tapes recorded and re-recorded on before they are sent abroad to a family member, a loved one.
It is the voice of a woman from the south, Maream Hamade and as the narrative lingers forward, we understand that her husband has travelled abroad to secure a living and she is left alone year after year raising their children.
What is so captivating about the story is not only that the backdrop of it is the civil war but that it is seen through contemporary eyes, through the eyes of someone trying to put pieces together. Through layers of old photographs into which an aged father tries to encrust himself as if trying to recuperate what was lost on him during his travels. A father added to the family album, to memories he was absent from. It is a story conveyed by the wanderings of Maream through the meanders of the house. Wake up, watch TV sleep, wander, look back upon a past. The audio tape resonates the voice of the mother aching at the realisation that time is passing by, youth is passing by and life is dwindling. The voice remains hopeful, “inchalla these days will be redeemed”. They are not! They are long gone and no matter how many photoshopped and reconstructed image, the past is past, and what one had missed out on is long over.
What reeled me in was the voice of the woman, the war through her eyes. Her strength and beauty unabashed.
Above it being the story of a family, it is a story of the south through the voice and eyes of Maream. A story of the Israeli Occupation. The streets become empty, the food scarce. Life becomes more and more expensive. The family deals with the lira then as the movie rolls, the dollar is introduced, the daily need is set to almost 14$. She has to manage, to raise her children to bring food on the table and the father figure needs to be more heroic than that. Needs to be a communist fighter fighting for the liberation, needs to have a grand cause. Childhood heroes never fallen. Heroes of a different kind. One has to find a way to answer the little questions when it comes to feelings of abandonment.
Maream seems to be a super woman, she pours out so much of her feelings on those tapes and still repeats that there is so much more to be said. She is the kind of woman who will find a midwife in another village and give birth to return to her home in the couple of hours after labor. As the years unfold, the narrative, the voice changes. The feelings change. Maream”s understanding becomes a notch of resentment. Exhaustion drops in as raising four kids during the war becomes a feat. She continues to record her letters as gunshots are heard in the backdrop of a few takes.
The images, like the voice, linger. The emptiness of the spaces so obvious. Blacked out streets and a semi constructed house. Through which the living wander. Always wander. It is not only their youth that was taken but the generation which followed seems to wander through these memories trying to clutch onto pieces of what remains, to create a sense from the nonsense, from scraps of narratives left.