Every Day Is a Holiday

in 58th Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival

by Angelika Kettelhack

Enjoy your life as long as you are still living.

Dima El-Horr, a young Lebanese filmmaker, born 1972 in Beirut, is one of the four female directors who screened their first or second films in Competition during the Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival. Dima El-Horr has made a film that moves and gets under the skin. Due to its very unusual pictures and sounds it goes beyond our expectations. Why? For as long as we build on the English version of the title Every Day Is A Holyday  we will be off the track. The young director, too, is not very happy with this English heading for her first full-length feature film since it evokes the impression of a very light and superficial issue. The French translation CHAQUE JOURS EST UNE FETE  is indeed more correct but also not really appropriate because Dima El-Horr talks about an existence full of grief, sorrow and violence. Her film seems to be an abgesang or a swan song to normal life. Due to this her aspiration is to invite us to enjoy life in the sense of Carpe Diem. Every day could be our last day,so we should try to live it happily.

This message Dima El-Horr presents to the spectator with a film that astonishes, a film that proposes a new and a different cinematographic approach. Already the beginning of her picture put us under a spell; In a brilliant and breathtaking opening sequence a wedded couple is running hand in hand inside a dark tunnel with a glistening and dazzingly backlight. The man in his white suit keeps looking back. In an endless setup of running away from an imminent yet unknown peril, he tears himself slowly away from her hand. The woman in her wedding dress runs a few steps behind him but cannot catch up. She calls his name. In vain. He has vanished in the dark without a trace.

A dream sequence under water in slow motion shows the couple, still in their floating wedding garments, making love, before the bride is back in the tunnel. Here she is suddenly confronted with some thirty women, who all carry big photographs of their disappeared men. All these women have the same destination: a dreadful prison in the middle of the desert. From this moment on the film turns into a road movie. Initially the women are traveling by bus,but soon the old driver is killed by a stray bullet and the bus is no longer roadworthy. So the women have to continue their way alone if they ever want to find their sons, brothers or husbands again. An absurdly aventurous odyssey begins. Implied signs are understood by the spectator;these women are not prepared for a long march through the dessert, a walk that would have lasted already more then three hours when going by bus. They do not know the way, they did not bringanywater and they do not have the right clothes or shoes to cross the desert.

We follow three women: Tamara (Raia Haidar), the young bride with her unhappy love affair, who speaks French and only a little Arabic, Lina (Manal Khader), who wants to find her husband, who is condemned andimprisoned for life, in order to make him transcribe their divorce papers. The third woman Hala, is played by the wonderful Hiam Abbass whom we know from the israelian movie Lemon Tree. In Every Day Is A Holyday  her Arabic has an accent because in this film she is meant to be born in Haifa. She is mad with fear while hiding the gun of her husband, a prison warden, who has forgotten it at home. She wants to bring it to him secretly before he would be sentenced for this delinquency. All three women are not veiled or wearing black garments, as probably assumed in an Arabic country by western viewers. After all, in their little summer dresses or trousers and especially with their high heels ( see photo ) they want to please their men, whom they had missed so desperately. Like this the filmEvery Day Is A Holyday  is also a love story despite the absence of men. This current state is a result of wars and is related to the political reality of Lebanon.

Without the love for their men these three women would not have continued their purpose that turns more and more into a journey of fear and horror. Thrilling, concerning their survival in the desert, and on top of this they are constantly threatened by the hopeless political situation in Lebanon where there are bomber groups constantly cruising the sky and groups of refugees, mainly woman in black and children in tatterswandering with all their belongings through the desert. These people have left their villages because of emerging rumours of massacres in this undeclared civil war in Lebanon. This fact is never seen in pictures but only associated by a very elaborated sound track;we hear the faraway uproar of the war, the thunder of jet fighters, the squeak of tanks, the rumble of gun fire. Even sandstorms and tempests are comming nearer.

When finally the three women will reach their destination, the prison is nothing more than a burned-out ruin. The viewers already could have guessed this extermination when they faced the long funeral corteges in the desert accentuated by the call to prayer of the muezzin. Every vague suspicion poves to be true at the end of this movie. Dima El-Horr has created a film between fantasy and nightmare, a drama about collective memory and identity problems in her shattered homeland. She has done this with prodigious pictures that will entrench themselves into our remembrance.

Edited by Tara Judah