Ahmad Ghossein’s My Father Is Still a Communist uses audio messages his mother recorded for his father who was away for work, Ghossein draws a picture of a social, economic and political landscape where people might not be heroes, but are so in the eyes of their children.
Trying to survive the harsh economic realities of the civil war, Rashid Ghossein traveled to Saudi Arabia to find employment. He had to support his wife Mariam and their children, who stayed behind in their village in South Lebanon.
Time passed and Rashid was still unable to find a job close to his family and could only return home for vacations. Mariam found herself on her own for most of the year, busy raising and taking care of the children.
Before Rashid left, the couple had only one child, Jalal. They later had three more, Ahmad, Nabila and Karam.
During Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, their financial situation deteriorated. The children grew up around their mother, far from their absent father.
The only communication between Mariam and Rashid were voice messages they used to exchange on cassette tapes from 1978 until the late 1980s. The tapes are now the basis for a short film called My Father is Still a Communist (32 min), directed by Ahmad Ghossein (b. 1981), their son.
The film will screen at Metropolis Empire Sofil this week as part of “Scrapbook: A Month of Lebanese Cinema.”
The only communication between Mariam and Rashid were voice messages they used to exchange on cassette tapes from 1978 until the late 1980s. The tapes are now the basis for a short film called 'My Father is Still a Communist'.Although the video is simple in its composition, it is rich in details in terms of its historic, economic and political connotations. It also tells the love story of a beautiful woman called Mariam.
Accompanying the audio recordings, the video shows pictures and scenes which mostly depict the director’s mother today. The director adds his father to the family photo album he was absent from.
From this simplicity, Ghossein creates an atmosphere that captivates viewers from beginning to end. It takes them to realms of love, sorrow, joy and beauty.
When Mariam recorded her sincere emotions on cassette, she could not have imagined that many people would one day hear what she whispered to her husband.
“And here’s a kiss on your lips. And here’s another on your chest. If you are listening to the tape at night, close your eyes now and dream; dream of how we used to be,” says one message.
Mariam tells her husband about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon the way she personally experienced it with her children. We hear the voice of baby Ahmad as she explains to Rashid about the deteriorating conditions and the shortage of food and meat in the market.
She blames her husband for his absence and his leaving her alone under those difficult circumstances. She tells him in details how she gave birth to their new child, Karam, and makes him listen to the baby cry.
Ghossein dedicates My Father is Still a Communist to the mother who struggled to raise her children and maintain her family in the absence of her beloved husband amid difficult circumstances. It is a personal film in which the director tries to answer questions about his past and his absent father.
As a child, Ghossein made up a story to justify his father’s absence. He was with the communists fighting at the front… Today, as a director, he tells the real story of the man he loved and considered a hero, and who is still a communist.
My Father is Still a Communist: Starting May 24 – Metropolis Empire Sofil (Ashrafieh – Beirut).
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.