Freedom House Screens Banned Lebanese Documentary
December 8, 2010
On Wednesday, December 1st, Freedom House hosted a panel discussion on transitional justice in Lebanon, followed by a screening of the Lebanese documentary Chou Sar? (“What Happened?”) at the E Street Cinema. At the panel, Chou Sar? Director De Gaulle Eid, Habib Nassar of the International Center for Transitional Justice, and the Lebanese journalist Pierre Abi Saab discussed censorship and the government’s approach to reconciliation in a country still coming to terms with its civil war.
De Gaulle Eid also attended the film screening that evening to introduce his film and answer audience questions afterwards. Banned in Lebanon for exposing controversial questions about transitional justice and reconciliation, Chou Sar? follows Eid as he returns to Lebanon after nearly twenty years living in France, where he tries to come to terms with the memory of the massacre where thirteen members of his family were killed.
Over one hundred people attended Wednesday’s showing of Chou Sar?, the first screening of the film in the United States. After the film, De Gaulle Eid spoke about his vision, about the intensely personal nature of his journey, about how his story is shared and echoed by so many others in Lebanon, and about the state’s policy of suppressing the nation’s memories of the civil war. He argued that politicians and political parties profited from the war while the victims were left to pay the price, and pointed to a lack of international pressure as a crucial factor in the ongoing failure of transitional justice in Lebanon. During the question and answer session following the screening, audience members asked about the artistic style of the film, the director’s struggle with Lebanese censors, the nature of provocative cinema, and the impact the movie has had on Eid’s family. Confronting questions of tragedy and memory that many Lebanese continue to grapple with, the film was an affecting experience for many in the audience.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.