Unpretentious, the short documentary “In Memoriam” has only one character: the Syrian Jorge Samman. Driving his car and leaning over a low table, between puffs of cigarettes, he talks for ten minutes about his family. Then the credits increase.
Despite the simplicity – or precisely because of it – “In Memoriam” is one of the highlights of this edition of the Arab World Film Festival. The short film documents Brazilian filmmaker Otavio Cury’s search for his family roots in Syria. Thus, the film ends up addressing fundamental themes of the Arab community in Brazil, whose story I tell moreover in my recently released book “Brimos”.
In 2001, Cury traveled to the Syrian city of Homs in search of more information about his family. His great-grandfather, Daud Constantino al-Khoury, had been one of the leading Syrian playwrights. The filmmaker transformed this experience in the documentary “Constantino”, from 2012. Told in first person, the film has a very authoritarian and visceral character, accompanying Cury’s self-discovery.
It was in 2001 that Cury met Jorge, his grandfather’s first cousin. In 2009, during a second trip, the Brazilian filmmaker recorded his conversation with his loved one using a portable camera. Jorge, however, fell ill before the official recordings of “Constantino” at the end of 2009. Therefore, he unfortunately does not appear in the 2012 documentary.
This new film, “In Memoriam”, saves these first images. He also saves Jorge’s character. The apparent simplicity of his speech hides layers and layers of family history, an important testimony to the experience of Syrian migrants in Brazil. Jorge recounts the life and death of his loved ones. He also flirts with the fantastic and the poetic, tells Cury on this Orientalíssimo blog. For example, in the story of the man who dies while hugging a horse. It is an interesting oral history document for anyone interested in the field.
In the ten short minutes of conversation, Jorge talks about the institutions founded by Syrians in Brazil – like the Clube Homs – and the ex-governor Paulo Maluf, of Lebanese origin. He speaks Spanish because, although he was born in Syria, he lived in Argentina like so many other migrants.
The short film “In Memoriam” runs until September 16 at the Arab World Film Festival. Like other films, screening is free. There is more information about the event in a previous article here on the blog. The director Cury is also participating in a conversation this 1st at 5 p.m. with the filmmaker Wissam Tanios, the dean of Unifesp and creator of the program Soraya Smaili, and the historian Murilo Meihy.