Filmgrenser: Le cerf-volant/The Kite
Le Cerf-volant (The Kite, in Arabic طيّارة من ورق, 2003), by the late Randa Chahal Sabbag, is a bittersweet love story and coming-of-age story set on the Lebanese-Israeli border, satirical and utopian at the same time. It highlights the humourous and tragic dimensions of the border as experienced by a Lebanese girl living on the border to Israel who is married off to her cousin living across the border, in Israel itself. The film’s premise is similar to that of another film of the absurdity of living on the northern borders of Israel, Eran Riklis’ The Syrian Bride (2004). In Le Cerf-Volant however, the marriage does not work out, and Lamia (played by Flavia Bechara) has fallen in love with the Israeli border guard Youssef (played by Maher Bsaibes). The absurd premise of the film is that neither Lamia nor Youssef are Moslems or Jews; both belong to a religious minority, the Druzes, some of whom live in communities crossed by the highly militarized border, struggling to adapt their traditional way of life to their modern situation.
The film begins with a symbolic scene in which a kite decorated with a Lebanese flag falls into the zone between the border fences. Lamia climbs through the barbed wire to retrieve the kite, observed all the time by a worried Youssef in his watchtower on the other side of the border. The film continues to play on the absurdities of the border – marriage arrangements worked out on megaphone across no-man’s land, complicated protocolls of border crossing, border fences which move mysteriously in the night – all the time intertwined with Flavia’s struggle to establish herself as empowered woman. The final scene of the film is marked clearly as a dream sequence as a kite hovers in the background, symbolizing Lamia’s utopian dreams and transgressive love for Youssef. Again, Lamia negotiates the barbed-wire fences and minefield of the border zone, this time in order to reach Youssef. The film ends with the beautiful and mournful tones of ’Ana Bashrak el Bahr’ as sung by Egyptian singer Nagat el Saghira.
How can borders be absurd, comic and tragic at the same time? Why do border settings so often feature in love stories and coming-of-age stories? Why do the realities of the border seem so dreamlike and disorientating? How does a Lebanese woman film-maker negotiate the violent “dislocation” of the border in a tight-knit landscape of interconnected villages? Why two films on the same theme in 2003-2004? Randa Chahal’s film won the Silver Lion and other prizes at the Venice Film Festival.