»I don’t care about anything. The whole world is closing on me. Why should I care anymore?«, Reda al Saleh laughs for a moment before his face darkens, and the hopelessness of his statement is reflected in his gaze.
In 3 Logical Exits, Mahdi Fleifel returns to Ain El Helweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. The artist himself has Palestinian roots and has accompanied Reda, who lives there, since his childhood. The black-and-white images of a conversation between the two in Arabic are juxtaposed with color images from various periods of Reda's life, illuminating past encounters between the artist and the protagonist in a collage-like manner. We follow Reda through the camp, to his accommodation, back to his past – see pictures of his childhood, youth, and his wedding. A very personal look at the life of a young man without much hope for a better future.
With audio recordings of a telephone conversation with Marie Kortam, a sociologist with a research focus on globalized violence and segregation, the artist adds a further, sociological level to the personal recordings. Reda's story is placed in a broader context and functions as a representation of numerous Palestinians whose very existence in Lebanon is seen as a threat. They have been living on the fringes of society for several generations, have no right to Lebanese citizenship, and are thus marginalized in public and political life. The only way out seems to be to submerge into the consumption and sale of drugs, to join one of the rebellious factions, or to emigrate – three logical exits – the only coping strategies for a life marked by exploitation, discrimination, and racism. A personal and at the same time reserved, raw look at poverty, frustration, and violence makes clear the hopelessness of life in Ain El Helweh. With slow sequences of cuts, black-and-white shots, and hardly any musical background, Mahdi Fleifel lets the strong images and words speak for themselves. He creates an intense, almost agonizingly calm atmosphere that can barely leave the viewer untouched. (Lara Legeland)
There is no better medium than cinema for my message. I want to give visibility to people and stories - past and present. I want to humanise the narratives we read about, to add context, thoughts and individuality to them. I want to present them with texture, image and sound so that they are felt. In reference to Steve McQueen, I too will “not allow the dust of the past to settle.” My role as a filmmaker takes into account the fact that I come from a place where narrative is part of the war, my past is being erased, and I want to be part of the generation that brings it back to our collective memory. There is a disconnect between the understanding of the violations and atrocities occurring on a daily basis as part of an occupation, and the acceptance of this occupation on the basis that we are occupied by a so-called democracy. My hope is that my work ignites a proximity to a semblance of truth within a shared imagination. (Mahdi Fleifel)
Images: Mahdi Fleifel, 3 Logical Exits, 2020 © Mahdi Fleifel/ Courtesy Square Eyes