Film

Revolutionary Lebanese filmmaker Heiny Srour's film included in Venice Classics

'Leila and the Wolves' to be screened along William Friedkin's, Jean Renoir's and Pier Paolo Pasolini's work at the 3rd Permanent Festival of Restored Films retrospective in Venice.
Revolutionary Lebanese filmmaker Heiny Srour's film included in Venice Classics

Since her debut documentary feature Saat El Tahrir Dakkat (The Hour of Liberation has Arrived), released in 1974, Heiny Srour's has been regarded as a filmmaker whose central themes revolve around the position and plight of women, in the Arab world. In Lebanon, more specifically, where Srour was born in the 1940's.

Her only narrative feature is Leila wa al ziap (Leila and the Wolves) which was released in 1984. About it, Srour has famously said: ” My aspirations for the film were artistic and feminist. In terms of style, my favorite filmmaker was Fellini. And when I saw 8 ½, I realized that cinema was a very powerful medium that could express everything I wanted to say. But my main motivation in overcoming so many hurdles was feminist."

Srour was the first Arab woman filmmaker to have been selected to screen her film in the Festival de Cannes, where The Hour of Liberation Has Arrived premiered.

Rarely watched in the last couple of decades, now Leila and the Wolves will find new life among a few other classics like The French Connection (1971), directed by William Friedkin, starring Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider; La règle du jeu, by Jean Renoir; Uccellacci e uccellini by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Coogan’s Bluff  by Don Siegel.

Because from February 10th through May 26th, every Thursday at 7 pm the Cinema Rossini movie theatre in Venice (Salizzada de la Chiesa o del Teatro, 3997), will host the third edition of the film series Classici fuori Mostra. Permanent Festival of Restored Films, organized by La Biennale di Venezia in collaboration with the City of Venice’s Circuito Cinema and the professors of film studies at the Università Cà Foscari in Venice and the Università IUAV in Venice.

The programme will include fourteen film classics (and one “behind the scenes”) recently restored by the most important film libraries around the world, in the original language version with subtitles in Italian. Each film will be introduced by an expert and followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience.

“Classici fuori Mostra [as the retrospective is titled] returns, preceded by the success of the two previous editions, held respectively in the open-air arena at the Giardini in the summer of 2020 and at the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale in the summer of 2021" explains the Director of the Venice International Film Festival Alberto Barbera. "The third edition not only gives continuity to the idea of proposing activities that extend beyond the traditional timeframe of the Venice Film Festival, by appealing to the residents, it also has another objective: to involve the vast population of students that energizes Venice – relying on the real and valuable collaboration of the city’s Universities and its professors of film studies, with the aim of making the students the protagonists of this initiative. For this reason, each film will be introduced by an expert (professors and critics have enthusiastically agreed to take on this mediation challenge) and followed by a “Q&A” session at the end of the screening. This is a re-edition of the time-tested film forum formula, which is coming back in style by virtue of the curiosity and the desire for debate that cinema again appears to be stimulating after years of passive home viewing”.

Leila and the Wolves tells the story of Leila, a young Lebanese woman residing in London who time-travels throughout twentieth-century Lebanon and Palestine. The film is an exploration of the collective historical memory of Arab women told through dramatizations of situations faced by women in these countries. Shot over seven years, and in often treacherous conditions, Srour’s film is a masterpiece of filmmaking, mixing together archival footage, fairy-tale storytelling, aesthetically bold imagery, and dramatisations of situations faced by women in Lebanon and Palestine, from early twentieth century to the beginning of the 1980s.

There is a fundraiser active at the moment to help restore two of Srour's films, and you can contribute here.

Venice Classics is the section that since 2012 has presented the world premiere screenings at the Venice Film Festival of a selection of the finest restorations of classic films completed over the past year by film libraries, cultural institutions and production companies from around the world. Venice Classics is curated by Alberto Barbera with the collaboration of Federico Gironi.

See the program on the website www.labiennale.org.

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