0

تعليقـات

Facebook

Twitter

Google

send


NOW

Vatche Boulghourjian’s  FIFTH COLUMN [Hinkerort Zorasune] is a deep-felt exploration of the meaning of culture as it impacts both individuals and the community to which they belong. The short film was shown at the AYAM BEIRUT [CINEMA DAYS OF BEIRUT] film festival on September 17, along with a number of other Lebanese and Arab productions.

Although different in terms of specific theme and background, most of the short films shown dealt with chance circumstances that change an individual’s world.  BEIRUT EXPRESS by Houayda Azar, KARAKOZ by the Algerian director Abdelnour Zahzah, and  Sabine Chamaa’s  A TUESDAY all explored  themes of transience, alienation and loss, and the attempt of people to carve out meaning through relationships in a world that is devoid of hope or sense.

Fifth Column stands out for its haunting portrayal of cultural and economic desolation and hopelessness. Set in the Armenian quarter of Burj Hammoud, it tells the story of a young boy, Hrag, and his unemployed  father.  Hrag runs away from home, carrying a gun in his school bag.  The father looks everywhere for his son who has not gone to school.   A poignant scene shows the boy begging an old shoemaker in a decrepit shop to give his father back his job. We learn that the old craft of making shoes is no longer in demand, and the shoemaker can barely make ends meet himself.  The tools used for making shoes are contrasted with the gun the boy carries, instruments of creativity being replaced by the instrument of death.

The film explores the problem of a new generation that can no longer understand the importance of heritage. Culture, community, craftsmanship and creativity are extinguished by a stark modernity that is unrooted except by a common language and fading memories. Although the film is set in the context of Armenian culture, the implications are universal.  The new generation is epitomized by the two bullies who stalk Hrag and beat him up.  Hrag no longer attends school, with its institutional feel of a prison rather than of promise and learning, the teacher appearing only as a disciplinarian, a warden rather than an educator. 

The nightmarish urban landscape of peeling walls, small unkempt spaces, and electric wires forming a jungle canopy provide a backdrop to Hrag’s desolation. Hrag is brilliantly portrayed by Harry Simitian, whose ability to project poignant incomprehension and loss lends focus and energy to this  powerful and painful film. His eyes are our eyes observing and seeking to comprehend the haunting end of an era and a culture. “Throughout my acting of  the role of Hrag, my mind was preoccupied by the fact that Hrag and I are both children of Armenian origin that are living in Lebanon yet so different in terms of the situations, economic, cultural, and educational, each one of us are in,” said the young actor.

The film culminates in a scene between Hrag and his grandmother in a retirement home, where the old lady reminisces about her dead daughter’s gift as a musician, a talent that ended when Hrag was born: “You were her fifth column,” says the grandmother to Hrag, implying that the birth of the boy brought about the mother’s loss of creativity and culture.

But the film does not end on a hopeless note. The final scene between Hrag and his father, who find each other on an apocalyptic beach covered in debris, carries the possibility of hope. The connection that binds the father and child holds the promise that that old and resilient culture will survive and persevere, for that beach is a part of the city and open to the sea, promising both safe haven and voyages of exploration, be they temporal or allegorical.

Fifth Column won first prize at the Lebanese Film Festival in August 2010, and was officially selected by the Cannes Film Festival Cinéfondation, winning  third prize.