Sunday, June 11, 2006

“Sharida, do you think civil war could possibly break out in Holland...?”

“Well, let me tell you this, back in the seventies, we didn’t think it could happen in Lebanon either.”

This is what Jean Said Makdisi, (university lecturer, novelist and sister of the all-famous Edward Said), told me in her Beirut apartment in 1993.Her question about the possibility of a civil war in Holland sprang to mind again last night, when I went to see Zozo in Amsterdam, a film written and directed by Josef Fares (Jalla! Jalla!). The film was shown on the Arab Film Festival 2006. Now, having made a lifetime hobby out of Lebanon, I have seen quite a few films about the Lebanese civil war, but none really got to me as did Zozo.

The film is about a 12-year old boy Zozo who is growing up in war-torn Beirut in 1987. At one point he loses his parents when a shell explodes in his home. Zozo then embarks on a journey to Sweden where his paternal grandparents live. When he finally gets there, he finds it quite difficult to fit in. It is the kind of film where you really long for a happy ending. You want the boy to be safe and happy. The good part is Zozo does have a happy ending, that is, insofar as anyone having lived through the trauma of losing one’s parents through a bombardment, can ever be happy again.

The director of Zozo is Josef Fares. He was born in Lebanon in 1977 and moved to Sweden some ten years later. At the age of fifteen he started making short video films, winning several prizes at amateur and youth film festivals. Six years later he was the youngest student to be accepted into the directing class of the Swedish Film School. His first full-length feature ‘Jalla! Jalla!’ (2000) was a favourite film in Sweden. ‘Kops’ (2003) set a new box office record in Sweden’s cinemas. ‘Zozo’ is Fares’ first non-comedy film.

If you wish to see the trailer, click on: