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The song ‘Fil bahr’ (At Sea) extols the moon in twenty-eight different ways before finally making its point about the fleeting nature of love at the end. Different variations on one and the same thing, each an original: Twenty-Eight Nights and a Poem is an interpretation of the archive of the Scheherazade photo studio. Photographer Hashem el Madani opened the studio in 1953 in the Lebanese city of Saida after spending years photographing people in front of their shops, in public squares or at the beach to satisfy their wish to appear before the camera. Some of the poses he captured on film were adopted by those who saw the photographs and subsequently took on a life of their own. They were recorded by photo and 8 mm cameras and are accompanied in the film by songs recorded on cassette tapes and played back on a laptop, together with el Madani’s stories. In one children’s programme, a polyphonic song is used to teach the alphabet. The archive’s numerical ordering system is topsy-turvy because the booklet with the list of recordings was held the wrong way round. The archive does not actually exist in itself, but is generated by a system of recordings and transmissions in infinite variations. (Stefanie Schulte Strathaus)

Production: Akram Zaatari, Beirut
Screenplay: Akram Zaatari
Camera: Akram Zaatari, Bassem Fayad, Mark Khalifeh
Format: DCP 1:1.85, Colour
Running time: 120 min
Language: Arabic

Photo: © Akram Zaatari

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur