RELEASE DATE: 2017-01-02
RUNNING TIME: 20min
DIRECTOR: Karim Rahbani
"I am not beggar". Lost in the middle of the Beqaa Valley after fleeing the Syrian war, young Abed and his sick grandfather find their way to the city of Beirut, only to face a merciless destiny.
Karim Rahbani comes from a family of musicians renowned for their vibrant oriental music and musicals. He took part in several plays and short movies as an actor, while pursuing filmmaking studies at (IESAV – USJ) Beirut, Lebanon. He directed two short films that were screened at numerous film festivals. After the acclaimed WITH THY SPIRIT, CARGO (2016) is his new short film.
Drawn to the tenderness and complexity of close familial relationships, I am particularly fascinated by the bond between a grandfather and his grandson. A relationship that often reveals the parallels between old age and youth, the uncertainty, the vulnerability and the urge to nurture and protect.
I want my new film, Cargo, to expose the reversal of these roles. In this film, the child cares for the ailing grandfather, financially and morally, ensuring that they both survive the trials and tribulations of war’s dreadful aftermath.
During the pre-production of my last film, With Thy Spirit, I began to search for a small boy to play a pivotal role in the piece. Finding this boy proved almost impossible until I came across a small Syrian child begging on the busier streets in Beirut.
His name was Abed Al-Hadi; my ultimate inspiration for both my previous and new films. Our meeting led me to consider what kind of society or, spiritually speaking, what kind of divine justice would force a child to wander the streets, begging for money. Misery and unhappiness can imbue a man, in this case, a boy, with a powerful energy. I was also left to wonder about the whereabouts of his parents. Having fled Syria since the outbreak of the civil war, Abed was the main breadwinner. His begging supported the entire family. My current film is partially based on Abed’s life.
Naturally, fiction and form have led me to make changes in my story. His grandfather remains, but the other members of his family have vanished, already casualties of the war. Being from Lebanon, I have experienced war and understand the cost of conflict. But the scale of the Syrian refugee situation has astounded me. The mass of people that fled into Lebanon in 2012 now constitutes over half the country’s entire population. Like the rest of the country, I was troubled by these statistics and witnessed, first-hand, the devastating impact that it had on our demographic, economic and social situation. Yet, equally, I felt solidarity with the refugees and their plight.
The experiences of children like Abed and the helplessness of their families moved me in ways that are hard to express, in ways that Cargo will. I have always been fascinated by Iranian cinema and Italian neo-realism. In some way, I find their situation mirrors ours. It may be rooted in the religion or the geography. The characters that interest me are a merging of Iranian and Italian cinema. In this film, the acting is of primary importance. I have, in effect, been directing my lead actor (Abed Al-Hadi Assaf) ever since we met and worked closely with him on my first film. As for the grandfather, his character is more about his facial features and the way he stares than about the dialogue he’s expected to do. Those features will help deliver more accurately the inner monologue he will be thinking and feeling.
As for script writing, I wanted to explore a new route, which is co-writing. This way, I would have twice the input and twice the “artistic brain-power”, especially that they would be coming from my father Ghadi Al-Rahbani whom I chose as a co-writer. For what it comes to cinematography, the whole movie will be shot with a handheld camera style, so that the cinematic language also reflects the protagonists’ state of being: strayed and lost. On the other hand, the chaotic and confused motion throughout the whole film will give more significance to the last sequence of the movie, in which the camera will be calm and steady while travelling on fixed tracks.
The color treatment will start off with an earthy tone and will evolve and change gradually with the dramatic flow. This movie is envisioned to be shot in three locations in Lebanon: the Bekaa Valley, the streets of Mar Michael, and an indoor room. The filming period will spread over six days, and could be extended depending on how high the budget goes. Finally, through all my cinematic tools such as the script, the acting the cinematography, the sound, the art direction and through the help of a trusted crew that I previously worked with, I want this piece to ask some decidedly difficult questions about our world.
Why should one little boy bear such a burden? Why is he forced to choose between humiliation and death? Is this the face of justice on earth? Is this Divine Justice’s true manifestation?