[2015] The Fourth Stage (Al Marhala al Rabiaa)

Short film directed by Ahmad Ghossein (Lebanon/  2015 / 37” / Arabic with English subtitles.) Cinematographer: Karam Ghossein. Screened at Berlinale Forum Expanded (2016).

In Al Marhala Al Rabiaa, Ahmad Ghossein weaves a complex and unlikely union of illusion and myth between three concurrent worlds of which he is part: that of cinema, magic, and the changing landscape of southern Lebanon.

The film traces the motivations and implications of the disappearance of a famous magician and ventriloquist named Chico, whom Ghossein assisted as a child. The duo would tour villages in the south of Lebanon, performing captivating magic tricks to bewildered children. Over the years, the magician gradually began to retreat from the public sphere. Al Marhala Al Rabiaa also captures the apparition of monumental geometric sculptures in Lebanon’s south. The majority of them are unmarked; they do not commemorate specific events or people, yet their vertical and futuristic forms extend majestically into the sky, as if to announce a time to come. Situated at the outskirts or entrances of towns, close to valleys and mountains, and in public squares, the sculptures perforate the rural and urban fabric and lead the artist to wonder: Have illusion and magic, as elements that are essential in shaping a country’s collective imaginary, been replaced by other ideological and religious systems of fabulation forged by political parties and the nation state?

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