29 January 2021
For each of the features in competition, IFFR asked a critic, writer, academic or programmer to write a short reflection in a personal capacity. The resulting series of ‘Appreciations’ aims to encourage viewers − and filmmakers − at a time when there is no physical festival. Giona A. Nazzaro shines a light on Agate mousse.
Considering the ever faster erosion of political discourse, whatever remains of our perception of reality can only be measured − or reinvented − by how we shape the idea of our bodies. Our bodies are political tools that create their own strategies and seductive languages. So, the body becomes both yardstick and principle of individuation of the real, if not an altogether new reality principle itself.
This process marks the renewed possibility of saying: “I, a body.” It does not stem from a returning individualism. Instead, it marks the return of democracy. This is the process through which we can be related with others, with the Other. It offers a strategy to override the old, dominant categories that have passed their use-by date. This element is key to the cinema of Selim Mourad, one of the filmmakers who lucidly argue that the body should become a new locus of narration
Agate mousse is the third instalment of a trilogy that includes Linceul (2017) and Cortex (2018). It would be interesting to screen the films sequentially, and consider all the internal references. One could say Mourad tries to rethink how ‘within’ and ‘without’ are related: it is uncanny how, already in Linceul, he evokes a situation of seclusion, which nowadays appears to be the political, existential condition. Echoes of Baghdadi’s caliphate would come in through the windows of Mourad’s apartment in Beirut; Daesh collapsed in the period between the making of Linceul and Cortex. The film’s images mirror this interaction between echoes of war outside and a rewriting of desires and seduction on, and in, the body. Mourad’s body is a device that records history’s movements through images with a pointillist’s accuracy. The films become the visual documents produced by this cartographic device: records in motion, a testimony in the present tense.
After the August 4, 2020 explosion in Beirut that devastated a large part of the city, Agate mousse stands out as the razor-sharp reflection on the state of things in the Middle East, and in Lebanon in particular. The scarred body of Beirut is an image of a reality principle that needs to reinvent itself through the filmmaker’s eyes and body. A burning short-circuit. Selim Mourad is a ‘cineman’ who documents and, above all, by recording, reinvents and recreates, offering the audience new places of refuge when history seems to be closing in on itself.
Giona A. Nazzaro is the Artistic Director of Locarno Film Festival.
‘Appreciations’ aims to encourage viewers − and filmmakers − at a time when there is no physical festival. Discover more short reflections on the features in competition.