Now heart his: sound de­signer and direc­tor Rana Eid's de­but doc­u­men­tary

For sound de­signer and direc­tor Rana Eid, the au­ral qual­i­ties of a film are what make a cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ence. She talks to EW about her de­but doc­u­men­tary Panop­tic and why she’s go­ing against the grain of con­ven­tion

Emirates Woman - - Contents - WORDS: IAIN AK­ER­MAN

We have a huge prob­lem with cen­sor­ship be­cause it’s the mil­i­tary sys­tem that is judg­ing if a film can be seen or not. But this is not their job,” says the sound de­signer and direc­tor Rana Eid with con­vic­tion.

Ear­lier this year her de­but doc­u­men­tary, Panop­tic, fell foul of Le­banese cen­sors, de­spite pre­mier­ing at the Lo­carno Fes­ti­val in Switzer­land and screen­ing at cine­mas around the world. Now it will never see the light of day in Le­banon, be­cause Rana re­fused to re­move a sin­gle sen­tence and any mil­i­tary pres­ence.

“In a way I was happy that the film dis­turbed the [Gen­eral Di­rec­torate of] Gen­eral Se­cu­rity,” says Rana, who has been work­ing as a sound edi­tor since 2003. “I am talk­ing about a whole mil­i­tary sys­tem that is con­trol­ling the coun­try with­out re­ally ac­cus­ing it of any­thing. It was only my own mem­o­ries and trau­mas.”

In a way the ban was in­evitable. The film ex­plores Le­banon’s schizophre­nia, ex­am­in­ing a façade of con­sumerism that lies above ground and a subter­ranean, macabre world that lies below.

Cen­tral to the film is the Adlieh De­ten­tion Cen­tre, which is sit­u­ated in an old un­der­ground park­ing lot in east Beirut. It is pri­mar­ily used to hold for­eign­ers jailed for work per­mit vi­o­la­tions and do­mes­tic work­ers who have es­caped abu­sive em­ploy­ers. Above it runs a bridge. “I was shocked and ter­ri­fied to dis­cover that there were peo­ple un­der a bridge that I take to go to work ev­ery day,” says Rana. “We are pass­ing above peo­ple we are not even aware of. We don’t know their con­di­tion, their state of mind. “What is it with us and the un­der­ground? I spent a lot of my child­hood in shel­ters dur­ing the Civil War. I thought that the war ended with the gen­eral amnesty, and yet since then we have not only de­cided to for­get every­thing – the war and the crimes – but to hide all prob­lems un­der­ground. “So I de­cided to re­dis­cover the city from its un­der­ground. To try to un­der­stand it and to un­der­stand the sen­tence we al­ways hear: ‘We are peo­ple who refuse to die’. Is it re­ally like that? Or is it that we just can’t die any­more?”

Panop­tic has no nar­ra­tive as such, al­though Rana’s re­la­tion­ship with her de­ceased army gen­eral fa­ther is used as an an­chor. Nar­ra­tion and dif­fer­ing vis­ual styles are also used, but it is sound that takes the lead­ing role.

“For me the iden­tity of a place, and of an im­age, comes from its sound,” she says. “Even the iden­tity of a per­son. That’s how I worked on Panop­tic. I was lis­ten­ing to the places be­fore talk­ing to my cin­e­matog­ra­pher so I could un­der­stand what I wanted from a place, and es­pe­cially my po­si­tion to­wards it.

“I said to my­self that I would not use ef­fects dur­ing post­pro­duc­tion, so I recorded every­thing. All the sounds of the film are di­rect sounds with­out any ad­di­tional ef­fects. I only lay­ered those sounds. Even when I wanted dis­torted sounds, I recorded it dis­torted.

“Dur­ing post-pro­duc­tion I was edit­ing the sound of each place be­fore the [film] edit­ing, or in par­al­lel away from the edit­ing room, so I could un­der­stand the rhythm of a scene. And all the am­biances were out of sync. The sound was not recorded at the same time we were film­ing, so I could have this un­com­fort­able feel­ing we have in our city. I even broke the per­spec­tive. For ex­am­ple, when you have a shot of the city and the bridge from above, the sounds were recorded un­der the bridge.”

Much of the record­ing and film­ing took place in lo­ca­tions that re­quired hard-to-ob­tain per­mits. As such, it took three years to film for a to­tal of 25 days. The Adlieh De­ten­tion Cen­tre per­mit took a year-and-a-half to ob­tain, while one for the un­fin­ished Burj El Murr sky­scraper took seven months.

“It was dif­fi­cult to sus­tain the en­ergy for three years. To keep con­sis­tent,” ad­mits Rana, who was born in Beirut and re­ceived a master’s de­gree in film sound from the Univer­sité Saint Joseph in 2002. “The places I filmed in were very heavy psy­cho­log­i­cally and full of bad mem­o­ries and traces of death. They were tene­brous, so the line be­tween be­ing pro­fes­sional and be­ing de­pressed and af­fected was very thin.”

As one of the coun­try’s most ac­claimed sound ed­i­tors, Rana has worked on projects such as Ziad Doueiri’s The In­sult, Vatche Boul­ghour­jian’s Tra­mon­tane and Ge­orges Hachem’s Stray Bul­let. Panop­tic, how­ever, is her first di­rec­to­rial work, and has proven to be ther­a­peu­tic. “I was try­ing to un­der­stand the city and how it af­fects my well­be­ing,” says Rana, who es­tab­lished her own au­dio post­pro­duc­tion com­pany, DB Stu­dios, in 2006. “As Ber­tolt Brecht said, ‘life is pol­i­tics’. My po­lit­i­cal and so­cial views af­fect me, so of course my work will be af­fected. “For me, any kind of work you do has to be a ne­ces­sity for you. And try­ing to talk about what is hap­pen­ing around us, dis­cussing it and maybe analysing it, is a ne­ces­sity for me. I think if you re­ally be­lieve that what you are work­ing on is a ne­ces­sity, then ev­ery piece of work will be hon­est, au­then­tic and uni­ver­sal.”

Left: Sce­ne­sof­po­lit­i­cal un­restinRana Eid’sde­but doc­u­men­tary Panop­tic

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.