Song of All Ends
The film follows the life of a family of 6 in the Shatila camp, a series of days made of nothingness and boredom.
Slowly, through hardship and dreams, we discover a family grieving the loss of their youngest daughter, little Houda, passed away during the 2020 Beirut port explosion.
This will lead them to abandon all their possessions in search of a new beginning.
A Note From a Traveler
When I saw
death performing its ablutions in the fountain
People around me crossing the streets in their sleep
It seemed that my dreams were
pyramids of sand
crumbling before my eyes
I saw my day fleeing
in the opposite direction
far away from that cursed city…
We choose the beginning
But the end chooses us
And there is no road except the road.
from Sargon Boulus, 1944-2007 Hamil al-Fanus fi Laylal-Dhi’ab (The Lamp Carrier in the Wolves’ Night) Cologne: Dar al-Jamal, 1996 [Translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon]
This poem pinpoints much of the drama the family is going through during the course of the film. For this reason we decided to have the Father recite it as if it was of his own making, a reflexion of the difficulties and complex decisions they were forced to make for the family.
EVOLUTION OF THE PROJECT
This project is the result of a 2 year relationship with the community of Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian residents of Shatila Camp and more specifically with the Alhaddad family.
A previous work featuring the family was the self-published 2021 book “THE LIMITS OF RUPTURE” - shot in the days and weeks following the Beirut explosion of August 2020.
Between January and March 2022 I have completed two further journeys in Shatila for a total of 6 weeks, shooting around 25 hours of footage and several hours of sound in and around Alhaddad’s house.
JEAN DE SPONDE - Stances and Sonnets
Mes yeux, ne lancez plus votre pointe éblouie
Sur les brillants rayons de la flammeuse vie,
Cillez-vous, couvrez-vous de ténèbres, mes yeux :
Non pas pour étouffer vos vigueurs coutumières,
Car je vous ferai voir de plus vives lumières,
Mais sortant de la nuit vous n’en verrez que mieux.
My eyes, do not throw your dazzled point
On the brilliant rays of the flaming life,
Sleep, cover yourself with darkness, my eyes:
Not to stifle your customary vigour,
For I will show you brighter lights,
But out of the night you'll see better.
A phone conversation is taking place between 2 women while images of an abandoned house scroll in front of us: one woman expresses her worries towards the other and about the lengthy journeys her family has faced. It it’s further mentioned the presence of some visions recurring over time. We also understand that the women are part of the same family.
We spend our first day with the family, almost completely within the walls of their home, where each character is presented in his/her routine until night falls. This is when Shatila turns dark and the streets become silent. In here a little girl (Houda) is roaming over the lanes of the camp, finally reaching the tall and precarious compound where the family lives. From this moment on her presence will be sensed every night by the parents until the 3rd night, when Houda will reveal to them that the day to abandon all their belongings has come and they will be finally reunited together.
On the second day we start entering into the realm of boredom and hopelessness, with Mother holding onto a strong sense of loss and despair in missing her daughter, Father worried and incapable to react, and the kids each responding differently to the situation. The grandfather is the only one who manages to maintain a level of wisdom and control, however passive.
The nights are characterised by visions the parents have (perhaps collectively) of Houda in a desolated place, eventually recognisable as the demolished silos of the port of Beirut, where the explosion occurred.
On the 3rd day, our characters are felt even more imprisoned in their home, a condition further acerbated by the almost biblical of rains pouring over the plastic-covered roofs and inundating the streets of Shatila.
After Houda reveals herself to Father on the 3rd night, the family decides to leave, abandoning all they have and pursuing a life made of primordial and more elemental conditions, proving themselves still united and hopeful that Houda will be forever with them.
In August 2020 at 6pm a warehouse in the port of Beirut was the epicentre of the most powerful artificial non-nuclear explosion in history.
The devastating event had dramatic consequences for the already economically affected people of Lebanon.
Although the numbers of deaths and injured are known, less evident is the losses that the population had to face at the time and that still hunt them today.
ON SHATILA CAMP
The Camp was built in 1949 to contain the large infuse of Palestinian refugees been forcefully expelled from their land. In 1982 it was the theatre of one of the worst events in the history of the country: the Massacre of Sabra and Shatila.
Since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011 the population has more than doubled, accommodating now thousands of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese families. Alhaddad’s family is one of them.
A PHILOSOPHICAL INTRODUCTION
I believe in the theory that life is absurdity: nothing in the world is clearly explainable.
(While problems in the realm of physics can be approximated to a satisfying degree, more stringent issues such as psychological and existential ones are far from being clear to us.) Hence we look for ways to normalise the World, our world, the world we live daily. This is what we call ‘understanding’: the process of assuming some reasons are sufficient to explain certain facts.
Such a process of normalisation is far from universal: it only applies to an individual’s personal World. This is why when we face realities far removed from ours we feel a sense of discomfort and incomprehension, denying to ourselves the relativity of our presuppositions.
I believe filmmaking, above all arts, can help reducing the discrepancy between these Worlds: films can project us into the most foreigner of corners and allow us to understand, hence to normalise what was at first strange, different, incomprehensible and absurd.
I further believe that this is the most enriching and fundamental of all human achievements: to appreciate and perhaps love the strange, yet human differences that collectively make us who we ultimately are.
THE LISTENING APPROACH
I have tried throughout my latest works to preempt as little as possible, commencing the journey perhaps with a simple word, a feeling or a basic philosophical question, letting the world around me dictate the process. I came to the conclusion that the least we assume, the more options can open in front of our eyes: all is required is a listening eye, rather than a predetermined mind.
After all the World has its own meaning, inexplicable as it might be, so what one can do is merely to find out with which signs such a meaning can be expressed.
In the case of Song of All Ends, this work is the result of a 2 year relationship with the family Alhaddad and the community of Shatila. Over the past year I have been more and more convinced that only by putting myself into a completely foreigner environment and living it truly, I could eventually understand and be sufficiently open to appreciate what makes this subject so inspiring and ultimately familiar.
Intimacy is a difficult goal to achieve. It requires trust and reciprocal respect. This is further complicated when your subjects don’t have a clear understanding of the filmmaking process.
You need to be one with your subject. There are no shortcuts.
That’s where I have so far put most of my investment: giving myself the time needed to tune my mind to appreciate and contemplate what is at first different and absurd, to then be able to elaborate naturally and honestly the central points of my research.
There is never an instance where this leads to nowhere, except when it’s rushed. And I can hardly imagine a different way that doesn’t inevitably implicate disrespect for the subject of my enquiry.
For this reason my latest 2 works could only be made by being technically self-sufficient and autonomous, living, sleeping and eating with the family inside the camp (for SoAE) or living with Amerco in the bushes of Soweto (for AMERICANO!) and scheduling the work around their needs.
There have been days where nothing could be shot, and days where at most one scene could be completed. Other times we managed to shoot entire scenes, sometimes particularly complex.
‘Song of All Ends’
Technical Details: 1.43:1 @ 25fps
73' - B/W + COLOUR
Source Format: PRORES 4K
1st Shooting: January - February 2022
2nd Shooting: March 2022
3rd Shooting: May 2023
Locations in Lebanon: Shatila Refugee Camp, Beirut - Saoufar - Barouk
A SHORT NOTE ON GAUGUIN’S LAST WORK
Looking for a society more simple and elemental than that of his native France, Gauguin left for Tahiti in 1891 where the painting D’où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous? was created.
The painting is considered "a philosophical work comparable to the themes of the Gospels”. The three major groups in the painting reflect the overall themes presented in the title: the beginning of life, the daily existence of young adulthood and, according to the artist, the acceptance of everything, the resignation to all thoughts.
Together, the painting from right to left suggests the cycle of “birth-sin-death”, to which is added, in the centre, the image of a little girl surrounded by kittens representing purity.
As Gauguin describes: “the figures appear as if they were floating in space rather than resting firmly upon the earth”.
These elements together with the title of the work have been particularly influential when developing the ideas behind Song of All Ends.
The eternal pursuit for the elemental, the various stages of reasoning about life and the purity in the image of little Houda, her life lost due to an act of human indifference, are fundamental blocks of this drama which is as fictional as it is real.
PEDRO COSTA I have been long stoked by the intimacy with which he has been able to portrayed his characters in Fontainhas. PC has manipulated time and space in a new meditative form, rich in minimalistic details, patient and inquisitive.
SHARUNAS BARTAS The early cinema of SB is characterised by silence as a medium of communication, reflecting over each instant as a rare opportunity to listen to the world in a pure and respectful way.
PIERPAOLO PASOLINI Poetry without boundaries. PPP has offered numerous inputs in my career as a cinematographer and in recent years as a storyteller. Above all his direct approach to the men and women facing his unobtrusive camera, maintaining a high level of dignity in both form and meaning.
GIANFRANCO ROSI A filmmaker’s journey in unreachable corners, searching for the underlying sense of the world. A series of windows of reality that are as close as it gets to a small miracle.
Here listed are some approaches from contemporary directors that have guided me in my work