The bird of Palestinian cinema and its memory enters the “shadow of absence” .. Nasri Hajjaj chooses an artistic end for himself

On a cloudy and rainy Austrian morning, the eternal “immortal refugee” searched for the remains of his body, his memory and his identity that had disappeared from the patches of night, and declared that no land could fit the body of his beloved Palestine, and that no human land preserved his memory pierced with worries, and that no land recognized his Palestinian identity burdened with humanity.

His body, burdened with cancer and pierced with needles, longed to sleep in the arms of his beloved who embraced him in his “soft” childhood, youth, vigor, old age and age.

He is the eternal lover of art and life, the immortal refugee – as he used to say about himself – from injustice, the eternal traveler without bags, the eternal dreamer of his Jerusalem bride, always stumbling with the wounds of his people and his country, the eternal singer without a rababa like his friend Darwish screaming from behind the exile “Ah, my wound The arrogant.. my homeland is not a bag and I am not a traveler.. I am the lover and the earth is beloved.

The storyteller who is united in cinema

The beloved mutant chameleon who changes her name every time, the color of her skin and eyes, her hair and her voice to hide from view, and the enemy lurking in all parts and hidden in the memory of nostalgia, in order to meet the lover refugee and give him love, generosity, kindness, tenderness and motherhood. Ain al-Hilweh camp in southern Lebanon, a third time in Sidon, once in Syria, and once in Tunisia.

She is the same beloved that he wanted to embalm in the name of his daughter Sham, and just as his girlfriends gave him all this feeling, kindness and love, he wanted to return the favor to them and give them all the rest of his body leaking holes, so it was his last will, as written and published by his wife Abeer, to burn his body and scatter his ashes in the ground His grains and his little homelands, the evocative testament as a final shot in one of his films, in which the artistic act reached its most symbolic climax.

But it is certain that Nasri Hajjaj whispered in the ear of his wife, Abeer, after he wrote his will, and stressed that the largest bundle of ashes should be for the first and last beloved, engraved on the stone of the heart and attached to the niche of the soul, Palestine.

Hajjaj, who turned into an artistic story, a peak moment of creative action, and a rare cinematic shot in which the hero’s body and ashes melt with the beloved’s body and soul and unite in an eternal kiss, after which the story, the film and the tale ends. Is there an end to death more poetic, artistic and symbolic than this?

Because Hajjaj is united with the story and the artistic narrative act, so he lived and died as a “storyteller” and chose for himself this end and expressive will of the cinema, which he himself confirms in one of his meetings: “I can say that I am a storyteller, and I enjoy telling stories, I came to the cinema from literature.”

Humanization and coding of death

Hajjaj, who died last September 11 in Vienna after a struggle with illness. In all his cinematic works, he used to humanize death, symbolize it, rid it of the simple vernacular view, and elevate it to philosophical horizons and mystical spiritual meanings, and this was translated in his films “In the Shadow of Absence” and As the poet and the sparrow said.

In “The Winter and Summer Journey” between the first cry and the last heaving, Nasri Hajjaj carried the burden of his heart alone, and got lost in paths, countries and the Bekaa, searching for the remains of his childhood, the sagging body and the revolution of his soul between the Ain Al-Hilweh camp in which he was born, the Sidon cemetery, where his mother rested, and in Tunisia, where he died. His Palestinian memory and cinematic dreams, and in Syria, where his artistic and poetic passion opened, recalling in all of this the house of his Umayyad grandfather, the Saqr of Quraish Abd al-Rahman al-Dakhil, and his eternally buried weeping cry, “Oh, rider who loves my land. “. It is as if he is begging for his beloved, his land, his dream, and his Palestine, according to Darwish, “Some of me are with me, and some with you, and some of me long for each other, so would you come?”

Identity and the search for memory of place

Hajjaj, born in 1951 in Ain al-Hilweh camp (southern Lebanon), to a refugee father from the town of Naameh in the Houla Plain in the Lower Galilee, and a Lebanese mother. He holds a degree in English literature from the Royal Society of Arts and Letters from London, and a master’s degree in social policies from the British Middlesex University, He is the artist, writer, intellectual, and fighter who participated in the ranks of the Palestinian revolution, accompanied its beginning, its peak, its diaspora, and its failures. He believed in its creators and symbols, such as Naji al-Ali, Ma’in Bseisu, Samih al-Qasim, Mahmoud Darwish and Yasser Arafat. He wrote about the revolution and united with it.

He took advantage of his love for cinema and employed it in the service of the Palestinian cause and humanitarian issues such as asylum, immigration, homeland, identity and dialogue between cultures. The issue of identity represented one of the major issues that characterized all his cinematic works, so he pursued and pursued it through the memory of place, nostalgia, life, the image of the lost homeland and the idea of ​​death as well.

His documentary film “Shadow of Absence”, which won the Bronze Dowry Award for Documentary Films at the Dubai Film Festival in 2007, was a true translation of these human issues that he is working on, especially the issue of identity and its relationship to memory as a place, nostalgia and imagination, where the camera moves with a poetic artistic touch to explore an identity The lost Palestinian, through dozens of cemeteries of Palestinian creators, revolutionaries and symbols, buried in the diaspora in different parts of the globe, and Israel deprived them of their right and their last simple will to be buried in their motherland, Palestine.

About the first idea he had of writing and the birth of the movie “Shadow of Absence,” Hajjaj says in one of his interviews, “In 1999, on my first visit to Palestine after obtaining the national number, I went to visit my ancestors’ village (Al Na’ameh) in the Houla Plain in the Lower Galilee, and when I set foot in My feet are the land of Naameh. I was struck by a condition that I had never known before and I felt that I was about to die, and at that moment, in the face of the question of death, all the stories of Palestinian death and their connection to the place collapsed in my mind, and I asked myself the question that had never crossed my mind: If I died now, would I be able to To be buried in Naameh, the land of my ancestors, and where my father was born, and where his dream of return and death was? From the question of the relationship between death and life, homeland and exile, as in the experience of the Palestinian, the idea of ​​the movie “Shadow of Absence” was born.”

Film critic Amir Al-Omari confirms this strong relationship between the film and the issue of memory by saying, “Nasri Hajjaj in his film (Shadow of Absence) is preoccupied with the idea of ​​Palestinian memory, by researching death, poetry, places, the meaning of life condemned to death, and the meaning of death with The existence of a memory that preserves and preserves, but also with life, while remaining and continuing to express the rejection of injustice and the call to reject death, and to triumph over life.

Perhaps through this film and this alienation we understand his suggestive will that he wanted to take revenge on the Zionist enemy who deprived him, his fathers, grandfathers and friends of a simple grave in his land Palestine. And his encirclement, yearning for a vast heavenly, mystical and philosophical realm.

The bird dreaming of freedom

And because Hajjaj lived poverty, injustice, need and homelessness in many exiles, he was weaned as a Palestinian in the diaspora on the dream of return, and was breastfed by the coveted cloud of freedom, and wrapped in a robe of patience on cold winter nights under the zinc of the camps, so we see him in his stories, writings and films, biased without hesitation to the principles Revolution and freedom and victory for the oppressed marginalized classes, regardless of their affiliation, and he translated these deep human convictions in his support for the Arab revolutions since their outbreak, we see him declaring in one of his dialogues, “Since the Syrian people took to the streets chanting for their freedom, I stood by this chant, as I stood for Besides the cheers of Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and Yemenis, I can only be with the peoples in their aspiration for freedom, justice and equality and their deliverance from oppression, starvation and enslavement.

He is the child who dreams of the right of return and the right to embrace the soil of his mother, Palestine. His heart is dripping with a feeling of paper and poetry influenced by the Lebanese environment in which he was born and the Rahbaneh school in which he was raised. Zinc ceilings, and that when it rains they dream like us about Palestine.”

In this same context, his latest film “The Bird”, in which he dealt with the issue of slavery, subservience, and prison encirclement in exchange for the yearning for freedom, came through the story of a mother imprisoned in an Arab prison who gives birth to her child inside this prison.

The film, which won the Golden Olive Award for Best Short Narrative Film at the Jerusalem International Festival, exposes the submissive and pacified intellectual through the character of the prisoner who is dragged and scolded by the jailer while he is in his shabby clothes without the slightest resistance from him.

The image of the prisoner also unfolds when he tries to tell the innocent girl the story of the colored bird, so the girl born in prison asks him: What does a bird mean? She is the one who never left the prison door and does not know the meaning of “Asfour”, in a black comedy by director and writer Nasri Hajjaj.

It is as if he wanted to tell the story of the generations of militants who languish in prisons, as well as the story of the Arab peoples who were born and live in homelands besieged psychologically and physically by oppression, torture and intimidation, which are closer to prisons than to homelands. , who else?! Free Palestinian creator Nasri Hajjaj.

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