The Berlin Film Festival kicked off Monday in a completely virtual version with the film “Maya Notebooks”, whose directors had to face the consequences of the devastating explosion in Beirut Port and the pandemic, to accomplish the first Lebanese work to compete for the “Golden Bear” award in four decades.
The film, entitled “Memory Box” in English, is among 15 works competing for the grand prize awarded Friday by the Berlin Festival, the first major European cinematic event of the year.Similar to the “Sundance” festival during the winter, the organizers of the German event chose to create a completely virtual version as the sectors operating in the sector try to keep the production wheel in order to meet the requirements of the masses hungry for entertainment, especially during the home quarantine period and the closure of cinemas.
The last participation of a Lebanese film in the official competition of the Berlin Festival dates back to 39 years, with “Beirut the Encounter”, directed by Burhan Alawiya.
“Maya’s Notebooks” is based on a true story about the discovery of a set of letters and cassette tapes that Haji Touma had sent to a friend during her teenage years in the 1980s during the Lebanese war.
In the film, the parcel fraught with the smell of the past arrives in Montreal at the home of Maya, a Lebanese woman who immigrated to Canada and lives with her teenage daughter Alex. The revival of these ancient memories prompts Maya to reveal her secrets and insights about her experiences during the war.
The works of Haji Touma and Greg were praised internationally, and films were shown to them in major events and centers, including the Cannes Festival, Tate Modern in Britain, the Pompidou Center in Paris and the Moma Museum in New York.
“Maya’s Notebooks” includes retrospective scenes that take viewers back to Beirut during the 1980s, but the bleak atmosphere of war does not obscure the young generation’s thirst for love and their eagerness to find an outlet for them in a city known for its hustle and bustle and love for life.
She was working with her husband on their film in Beirut when an explosion of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate struck the Beirut port on August 4, killing more than two hundred people and wounding thousands, leaving destruction and chaos in large parts of the Lebanese capital.
Festival organizers hope to hold public shows and an award ceremony in June if epidemiological conditions allow.