MOUNA MOUNAYER I WRITER I DIRECTOR I PRODUCER I WIFE and not necessarily in that order…

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29 Nov 2013

I have the great honour and pleasure in announcing that I have been working with UNRWA to help launch their unique visual archive on the history of the Palestinian refugees since 1948. The site was launched yesterday after a great deal of hard work from teams on either side of the Atlantic. If you want to have a look at the archive please visit the UNRWA home page for the link.
The following extract is taken from the UNRWA home page for the Archive Collection;

“Collective memory is a vital element of communal identity, and this rich archive documents one element of Palestinian identity: the refugee experience. Digitization was our only option for preservation and I am grateful to the Welfare Association, Bank of Palestine, PADICO, Wataniya and PalTel, as well as to the Governments of France and Denmark, for making this possible.” – Filippo Grandi, UNRWA Commissioner-General.

Ever since it was established, UNRWA has recorded all aspects of the life and history of Palestine refugees through film and photography. This has led to a rich audiovisual archive, containing more than 430,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides, 75 films and 730 videocassettes. In 2009, the UNRWA Archive was inscribed by UNESCO in the Memory of The World list, recognizing its historical value. Digitizing the archive not only rescues and preserves all the material, but also makes it easier to categorize and disseminate, giving new life to this historical resource.

The archive consists of images and films taken by UNRWA photographers (and their predecessors) throughout the tumultuous second half of the twentieth century and start of the twenty-first. It includes iconic images of Palestinians having to leave their homes, in 1948; the establishment of refugee camps, in the 1950s; the second flight, in 1967; the hostilities in Lebanon; and the unrest from the second half of the 1980s to the early twenty-first century. The lives of Palestine refugees are central to the archive, often in the context of UNRWA work, but its portraits of important public figures and scenes of turbulent political events serve as a reminder of the troubled context that has become part of the community’s collective memory over the past six decades.




11 Oct 2013 1 Comment

The buzz at this evening’s closing ceremony at the Beirut International Film Festival was palpable. A week long celebration of film ended with an award ceremony for the best short films and best documentaries. Having watched all the films as a member of the jury it was my great honour to read out the winners. Out Of The Darkness a documentary by Lebanese Sonia Habib won the gold Aleph statuette and Sanctity, a Saudi Arabian film by Ahd Kamel won best short film. I want to thank the organisers and most especially Ms Colette Naufal for allowing me to participate in this wonderful forum for Lebanese and regional films. It was refreshing to see a younger generation of film makers tackling tough subjects from rape to pleasure marriage and from revolution to the right to drive. Unfortunately due to the political instability plaguing us at the moment most of the winners could not attend the festival or pick up their prizes.



31 Dec 2012 2 Comments

Looking up at the stars, from my balcony overlooking a wintry Mediterranean sea, my heart smiles to see Orion looking down on me.  The great Greek hunter, father of the biblical Nephilim, ancient Egyptian constellation of rebirth and the afterlife has been my winter companion these past twenty years.  It seems fitting that the constellation is shining brightly in the sky on this last day of a defining year, a giant frozen Nimrod forever chasing the seven sisters across the dark void.  I have often asked myself why this particular constellation calls to my senses and my intellect?

At the end of this year and end of this age, it occurs to me that the symbols of Orion are very relevant in my life as it has played out in 2012.  The first part of the year I spent inventing an afterlife for myself.  The life I wish to live after the end of this life and just like the Mayans meant by the end of an age, so I mean by the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, built on the ashes of my life experience.  If anything, 2012 showed me that it is time to move into a new phase of being, working, living.  But how does a middle-aged woman go about re-inventing her life?

I find that I, like most people, hold on to things tightly, things like experience, like success, like pain, like fear.  So for a start, I had to let go and hope the fall did not break my neck.  Then I had to decide on my path and no matter how murky, set about finding people to help me clear it.  This I did with the aid of partners, friends and colleagues.  I travelled and I met new people with exciting new ideas for an old analoguer like me, ideas which will allow me to re-invent myself in a brave new digital age.  I know I am being deliberately vague but I can’t reveal my secrets just yet, though I can mysteriously say that the American bible belt is in my future and you can make of that what you will.

You are probably asking yourselves why re-invent your life?  Surely the status-quo we all work so hard towards should not be messed with but I say to you that just when you want to sit and stretch on your laurels life has a way to shake things up making you move on to new and frightening places, with or without your permission.    So like Orion, I spent six months hunting in the void and found the beginnings of a re-birth and vision which will shape my future and hopefully put food on the table at the same time.

In the last part of the year, I directed a biography documentary series on the life of one of Lebanon’s most famous war lords.  Like the Nephilim this man was viewed by some as a god-like giant and by others as a harbinger of death and destruction.  I feel oddly close to this man whose life was a tightrope walk between bloodshed and demise, living in a period of this country’s history which I did not experience first-hand.  Working on the series it occurred to me that he, like Orion, was hunting for a solution to the many problems swamping his people, his country and his identity.  I wonder sometimes if he is standing behind me while I edit his life into viewable chunks.  His charismatic face calling out to me from the afterlife about his longings and his regret.  Watching him in jerky black and white images or Polaroid coloured video I wonder what he would make of this digital age of ours and what he would make of me re-interpreting his life?  I can see him waggling his finger and shaking his head in sorrow because here, in Lebanon, seemingly nothing changes, only time passes.  But that sentiment is not absolute, things do change and in the retelling of a life cut short by assassination my protagonist is now like Orion stuck as a giant in the void of this country’s history.  And it is so easy to get stuck in the quagmire that is the Middle East.  Its problems stifling.  Its vision short.  Yet for all that my rebirth will be from here because no other place can invent and re-invent a stubborn hunter like Nimrod, a phalli-centric god like Osiris, a skirt chaser like Orion and little old me.

I wish you all a lovely happy New Year.



22 Jul 2011 6 Comments

I am neither a mad dog nor a man and only half English at that but sometimes I feel like I have tarried too long in the midday sun.  Beirut in the midday sun in July is hot, humid and divine – if you’re looking from a distance.
Close up the city is awash with sweat, noise, pollution,  bleating car horns, angry drivers and harried film-makers.  Harried, grumpy and bad-tempered.  I’ve been sitting in the traffic for two hours after having my stitches removed.  I have been at home for over three months with a herniated disk pressing on my the sciatic nerve of my right leg.  This is the second herniation I have had in less than a year – in the same disk.  Long story short, had the operation, bought the t-shirt, re-wrote the book (on how I must live the rest of my life) and decided to give blogging a go.  The herniated disk actually got me blogging to family and friends when I went off to a clinic in southern Germany for three weeks to lose weight and do some therapy on my back in the hope that I could avoid a second operation. You can read the Buchinger Klinik Diaries in a separate post.

So here I am creating my first blog with nary a clue about tags, posts, pages, categories, links stats, dashboards et al.  It’s not that I haven’t read blogs or love some bloggers but I have never stopped to think how it is all created and what an effort people put into their blogs.  It is not just the writing which is hard enough – to come up with topics everyday or week that people will like reading and following – but the behind scenes, the creation of the blog framework, if you will,  is a story in itself.  So I did what any producer worth his or her salt would do I called up the people who I thought would know how to do it and got them to explain it to me.  Oh yeah, that worked – not.  Yes I pride myself at being quite technically advance as I deal with new fangled technology everyday as a film-maker; cameras, peripherals, sound kits, editing equipment – you name it I’m up on it.  Ok, ok I know its name and what it can do but I don’t know its inner workings.  Setting up a blog got me a lot closer to the inner workings of idiot proof interfaces.  I really didn’t want to know what went on behind the scenes but it has become a challenge.

In that spirit, The Mad Dogs And Englishmen post will be an update on the behind the scenes creation of this blog and all other technical machinations I may encounter in the future.

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