Death is not always the end. It can also be the beginning of a new way to know a loved person. ‘Safelight’ is a short film that approaches such a subject in a beautiful praise brought to the memory of an extraordinary woman that her grandson really understands only after her death. Ghadi Al Alam offers us a tender project about an emotional connection created even beyond the grave. The theme of the family intertwines with the theme of history, and thus the two central characters (grandson and grandmother) become two souls who “communicate” from two different epochs, beyond spatial, temporal, and generational boundaries. The narrative structure is quite familiar to the audience, and while the psychology of the characters is not well explored enough, the result impresses with the coherence and sensitivity of the director’s vision. This parallel between the present and the past, which implicitly encapsulates a fragment of Lebanon’s recent history, is ensured through objects that become the relics of another era and the “silent witnesses” of a special existence.

 

Basically, the short film evolves like a pseudo-detective journey through which the grandson discovers some memories that reveal not only some crucial episodes in his grandmother’s life but also the fact that she invented for herself a new identity. Identity, moreover, becomes a delicate subject in ‘Safelight’, which, in the context of the armed conflicts that the director briefly tackles, illustrates the fragility of the human being as a victim of a relentless political mechanism.

 

To some extent, Ghadi Al Alam builds his female protagonist like a tragic Greek heroine, like an Antigone who rejects and feels rejected by her own country’s written and unwritten laws after losing a person she loves. In the same way, as in any Greek tragedy, her death is a confirmation of the inner strength and beauty of the protagonist, a presence as strong as it is evanescent. This journey through the hidden corners of the past is supported by a coherent and emotional cinematic narrative, which, although it may give some viewers the impression that ‘Safelight’ is a project still unfinished, it also makes us a promise that this story will be further developed into a feature film.

 

For the sensitivity and coherence with which it depicts an emotional connection that transcends historical boundaries, ‘Safelight’ was awarded the Film of the Month distinction in the December 2021 edition of TMFF.

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