A new documentary, Stronger Than Bullets by filmmaker Matthew Millan, about music during the Libyan revolution is now available through Al-Jazeera English:
Amidst the bloody revolution to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, a defiant music scene emerged from the dust of war. After 42 years of non-Arabic music being banned, Benghazi suddenly resounded with a melodic fury, with hip-hop, heavy metal, rock, blues, and even country music echoing around the city.
“Stronger than Bullets” introduces the musicians who are free to play at last, and follows them as they stand shoulder-to-shoulder, guitar to rifle, alongside rebel fighters.
After months of war, Gaddafi’s death paved the way for the musicians to celebrate their victory with a triumphant music festival. Yet when the tyrant fell, shadowy elements emerged to halt the festival at the 11th hour, as victory descended into conflict and chaos.
Soon the situation came full circle back to the days of the tyrant, and the musicians had to scatter to the four winds. Will the music scene thrive once again, or will it remain mired in post-revolutionary blues?
La Pionnières (“The Pioneers”) is a documentary depicting Libya’s first democratic elections in 2012, the first after four decades of dictatorship, through the eyes of two women. It is produced by Vanessa Rousselot and presented by La Huit. I have yet to see the film, and would welcome comments and thoughts from those who have. The description is as follows:
“In July 2012, Libyans experienced their first national democratic elections after 42 years spent under the dictatorship of Qaddafi, 6 months of civil war, and more than 20,000 deaths. For the first time, women could participate in elections. They 625 to try their luck. “Pionnières” depicts a country at a historic moment through the struggle of two women. During the revolution, Myriam El-Tayab, in resistance against her own family, was beaten while pregnant. She wanted to build a country in which both supporters of the regime and revolutionaries could live together in peace. Layla El-Sounoussi traverses 400km of the desert region of Mourzouk, in the south-west of Libya, to go speak to men as they leave mosques in order to teach them what democracy is all about and why women should participate in political life. This rare document captures the short period when Libya seemed headed along the path of democracy before sinking again into chaos.”
“En juillet 2012, les Libyens vivent leurs premières élections démocratiques nationales, après 42 ans passés sous la dictature de Kadhafi, 6 mois de guerre civile et plus de 20 000 morts. Pour la première fois, les femmes peuvent se présenter aux élections. Elles sont 625 à tenter leur chance. « Pionnières » donne à voir un pays dans un moment historique, à travers le combat de deux femmes. Pendant la révolution, Myriam El-Tayab, s’est battue, enceinte, en première ligne de front contre sa propre famille. Elle veut construire un pays dans lequel supporters de l’ancien régime et révolutionnaires vivraient ensemble, en paix. Layla El-Sounoussi arpente les 400km de désert de la région de Mourzouk, au sud-est de la Libye, et va parler aux hommes à la sortie des Mosquées pour leur dire en quoi consiste la démocratie et pourquoi les femmes doivent participer à la vie politique. Un document rare faisant état de cette courte période où la Libye semblait emprunter le chemin de la démocratie. Avant que le pays ne sombre dans le chaos”
Libya in Motion is a series of short films that were made over the past three years by emerging Libyan filmmakers and produced in collaboration with the Scottish Documentary Institute. They were made during workshops in Libya, organised by the British Council and run by Scottish Documentary Institute, in partnership with the Advanced Institute of Art Techniques – Tripoli.
“From Tripoli to Benghazi, meet a grandmother sewing the national flag with relish, a young woman determined to become a film director, a fisherman philosopher, illegal migrants caught in limbo in a detention centre, a group of young filmmakers trying to fund their fiction film and many others. A collection of brief insights into the lives of people trying to find normality in a world of chaos.”
The list of films is as follows. A few are already available online.
Grannys Flags – Directed by Naziha Arebi
Graffiti – Directed by Ibrahim El Mayet & Anas El Gomati [See trailer]
The Secret Room – Directed by Ibrahim Y. Shebani
The Salesman – Directed by Ibrahim Algouri
Poet of the Sea – Directed by Farag Akwedir
The Driving Lesson – Directed by Omar Bushiha
From Tripoli (2014-2015)
The Mosque – Directed by Farag Al-Sharif
The Runner – Directed by Mohannad Eissa
The Sandwich Maker – Directed by Samer S. Omar
Land of Men – Directed by Alaa Hassan Saneed & Kelly Ali
Dead End – Directed by Ahmed Aboub
Drifting – Directed by Samer S. Omar
Mission Impossible – Directed by Naimi Own
For this blog’s first post about Libyan Jews, it is most fitting to start off with Vivienne Roumani’s 2007 documentary entitled The Last Jews of Libya. The synopsis:
“The Last Jews of Libya documents the final decades of a centuries-old Sephardic Jewish community through the lives of the remarkable Roumani family. Thirty-six thousand Jews lived in Libya at the end of World War II, but not a single one remains today. A tale of war, cultural dislocation, and one family’s ultimate perseverance, this fifty-minute film traces the story of the Roumanis of Benghazi, Libya from Turkish Ottoman rule through the age of Mussolini and Hitler to the final destruction and dispersal of Libya’s Jews in the face of Arab nationalism.
Based on the recently discovered memoirs of the family’s matriarch, Elise Roumani, as well as interviews in English, Hebrew, Italian, and Arabic with several generations of the Roumani family and a trove of rare archival film and photographs, it is an unforgettable tale.”
You can watch the film’s trailer below:
As well as an interview with the filmmakers:
Here is a short documentary film depicting crafts and production in Libya during the 1960s. It belongs to the Huntley Film Archives, one of the largest independent film libraries in the UK. I have not yet been able to locate any information on who made the film, or for what purpose.
هنا فيلم وثائقي قصير يظهر فيه الصناعات اليدوية في ليبيا خلال الستينات من القرن الماضي. الفيلم جزء من ارشيف هنتلي، احد مكتبات الافلام الكبيرة في المملكة المتحدة. لكنني لم استطيع ان اجد معلومات عما سبب انتاج الفيلم او من خرجه.
Al-Jazeera English is releasing a multiple-part documentary about the political life and times of King Idris called ‘Libya’s Forgotten King‘. The episodes are available online and can be watched at AJE’s website or on Youtube (below).
In the first part of the documentary we hear from a number of local voices including historians based at the University of Benghazi, and political leaders and activists from the time of kingdom until today, such as former Prime Minister Mustafa bin Halim and Saleh al-Naeli. Historian Anna Baldinetti (who has written a book about the formation of Libya after the colonial period) was also interviewed for the documentary. Although the narration is a bit weak, including mispronunciation of names and places that could have been avoided, the documentary material gathered and interviews with Libyan historians more than make up for it. However, one has to ask, why King Idris is characterized as “forgotten”. I seriously doubt that any Libyan has forgotten him, and all scholars of Libya certainly haven’t either; so, is it only for the average Westerner that associates Libya only with what came after 1969 that Idris is “forgotten”?