Jungle River Deep, Mountain High: Depicting Landscapes of Emigration and Home in Lebanese Prewar Cinema

By Ghenwa Hayek
Submitted to Session P5226 (Transnational Anxieties over Home, Migration and Violence, 2018 Annual Meeting
Media Arts
Lebanon; Other;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
In this talk, I explore how the Lebanese films of the 1950s and 1960s articulate anxieties over the effects of emigration on Lebanon. Looking comparatively at depictions of Brazil and Ghana in the films Il? Ayn? (dir. George Nasser, 1957) and Ab? Sal?m f? Ifr?qiya (dir. Gary Gareb├ędian, 1964), I argue that, despite their obvious generic differences - one is a neorealist melodrama and the other is a slapstick adventure comedy - both films share an equal concern with the possibility of using cinematic language to argue against emigration. The presentation focuses especially on the visual landscapes and geographies emphasized in both films. By comparing the filmed spaces of the diaspora with Lebanon's urban and rural landscapes, I show how both films critique the straitened choices and circumscribed lives of Lebanese men in the first decades of independence. Since strong rural masculinity is a powerful imaginary trope of patriarchal nationalist culture, I argue that these depictions of emigrant men cast a shadow of anxiety over the viability of the new nation-state.