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First Look: Essential Cinema



13 December 2023

First Look: Essential Cinema

Discover the 19th Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival with Essential Cinema, a pluralist retrospective proposing revisions and additions to what might be considered canonical cinema.

A Stolen Meeting (Varastatud kohtumine) • Leida Laius • Estonia • 1988 • 102 mins

BFMAF presents a new restoration of A Stolen Meeting (1988), the seventh and final feature of Leida Laius one of Estonia’s most distinctive directors. The tenacious Valentina, recently freed from prison in Soviet Russia, heads back to her native Estonia on a quest to find her son Jüri. A Stolen Meeting touches on powerful themes of migration, rootlessness and motherhood at the end of the Soviet Era.

Bedwin HackerNadia El Fani • France, Tunisia • 2003 • 99 mins

Bedwin Hacker (2003) Nadia El Fani’s pre Jasmin Revolution espionage fable follows our hero Kalt as she hijacks the airwaves to broadcast political messages from a remote mountain village in Tunisia. Things quickly turn into a sexually charged cat-and-mouse game between Kalt and French intelligence officer Julia as they struggle with oppositional missions. Brimming with queer and revolutionary potential Bedwin Hacker is keenly critical of the security apparatus of the French state and how this is used to target immigrant communities.

The Hour of Liberation has Arrived • Heiny Srour • Oman • 1974 • 62 mins

Heiny Srour’s often censored and newly restored The Hour of Liberation has Arrived (1974) is the only film to document a radical historic moment where the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arabian Gulf (al-Jabhah al-Sha’abiyah li-Tahrir ‘Uman wa-al-Khalij al-‘Arabi, PFLOAG) momentarily created a secular, feminist and equalitarian society in Dhofar, Oman. The Hour of Liberation.. shows how The People’s Army liberated a third of their homeland and built the first road, hospital, waterhole, pilot farm and school in the country.

Phantom Beirut (Saat El Tahrir Dakkat) • Ghassan Salhab • Lebanon • 1998 • 116 mins

Full of ghosts and the power of remembering and forgetting, Phantom Beirut (1998) was Ghassan Salhab’s debut feature film. With collaborators including artists Rabih Mroué and Akram Zaatari the film is set in the late 1980s and towards the end of Lebanon’s Civil War. Fully embracing a “stranger comes to town” narrative, Khalil the film’s central protagonist returns to Beirut after ten years, where his friends and family assumed he was dead. Featuring documentary elements and interviews with the lead actors, Phantom Beirut is an extraordinarily articulate film on how the most brutal of power politics impact the psyche and inter-relations of people living through them. Life is lived in the moment. Loss and hope are inseparable.