"Sleepless Nights" and the Clown (Me In)

"Sleepless Nights" and the Clown (Me In)
Sleepless Nights ( documentary dir.Eliane Raheb)
Through the stories of Assaad Shaftari, a former high ranking intelligence officer in a Christian right wing militia, responsible for many casualties in the protracted civil war in Lebanon and Maryam Saiidi, the mother of Maher, a missing young communist fighter who disappeared in 1982, the film digs in the war wounds and asks if redemption and forgiveness are possible. 

One of the scenes shows bits of the process from when Assaad Shaftari was taking a Clown Me In workshop. 

Naturally, we (Gabriela Munoz and myself- Sabine Choucair) were so thrilled to have someone like Assaad Shaftari going through the workshop. Moreover, we were very happy to have been involved in such an important movie like "Sleepless Nights".

I have been reading and hearing lots of controversial reactions toward this scene. ( mostly extreme ones)
Below some bits and pieces from different articles. Would love to hear your thoughts in case you've watched the movie. 

And if you haven't yet, it is still showing in Lebanon @Metropolis Empire Sofil, Achrafieh, at 4:30 pm, 7:15pm and 10:00pm ( until the 30th of October)  

Shattuck Cinemas (Berkeley)
Oct. 26, 2013 2:30 pm 

bits and pieces: 

"في الفيلم مشهد يلعب فيه أسعد الشفتري دور المهرج، كل من يشاهد الفيلم سيصاب بنوبة محددة أثناء مشاهدته ربما ضحك وربما بكاء، وربما سترتسم على وجهه ضحكة والدموع تنهمر. مشهد المهرج يحملنا الى العلاقة الجدلية بين الأمل والمسامحة الذاتية وعلاقة الآخرين وموقفهم من الجريمة. ظهر في عيون أسعد أنه لم يسامح نفسه، يقول ابنه في أحد المشاهد ” لازم يخفف اعتذارات “. ربما هو لن يتوقف عن الاعتذار لأنه لم يعترف بكل الأخطاء بعد.
"In the film, Assaad Chaftari plays the role of a clown. While watching this scene you will surely feel something extreme, you might laugh or cry, and maybe smile and cry at the same time.  This clown scene leads us to the dialectical relationship between hope and self-forgiveness and the relationship with others. we could see in the eyes of Chaftari that he did not forgive himself. His son says in one of the scenes: " he should apologize less". Maybe Chaftari won't stop apologizing because he did not confess all his sins yet". 

"قالت لي سيدة صديقة بعد العرض أنها لم تجد مبرّرا لمشهد تمثيل أسعد الشفتري دورَ "المهرّج" كما لو أنه خرج عن موقعه في فيلم وثائقي. أنا كان رأيي العكس تماما. لقد بدا المشهد أحد أقوى عناصر الفيلم وأكثرِها إبداعاً. إنْ لم يكن أقواها. كان هذا المشهد، الذي أدّاه الشفتري بنجاح، التعبيرَ - الذروةَ عن المسافة الشاسعة عن نفسه التي استطاع تحقيقها. كانت قدرة مفاجئة على التهكّم على نفسه. التهريج بمعنى المعاقبة الشديدة للنفس. وبهذا كانت لحظةَ قوّةٍ للفيلم ولأسعد الشفتري لا لحظة خِفّة... غيرُ التوثيقيِّ أي المتخيَّلُ يؤكّد قوّةَ التوثيقي أي الواقعي. أكاد أجزم: يؤكّد صحة التوثيقي." جهاد الزين- جريدة النهار

"A lady friend told me that she did not find any justification for the scene where Assaad plays the role of a clown, as if he came out of his position in a documentary film . I had the exact opposite opinion. The scene was one of the strongest and most creative parts of the film. This was the scene where Chaftari alienated from himself.  He had this great capacity of ridiculing himself. Clowning in the sense of self punishment and for that this was a moment of strength etc..." Jihad El Zein, Annahar newspaper

"In other places, the film appears to fragment its images for the sake of style. It veers into outright surrealism late, when Abbas is shown acting as a clown during a therapy session. The filmmakers think this is important enough to title this section of the film, "The Clown," but I found it digressive and mannered, a quality that it transfers to the overall film itself. It tends to recast Abass's participation in the reconciliation process as a farce, though that's admittedly the point. These kinds of arty excrescences are an encumbrance on a film that is probably too long." krelllabs.blogspot.com

"In one morbidly hilarious and satisfying scene Saiidi bitingly dismiss the psychobabble of a therapist blithely sweeping matters under the rug; in another, Shaftari performs as a clown in a theater exercise. These are “scenes” in the sense that Raheb is constantly searching for new twists and turns on engaging with and reconsidering the past. " Nicolas Rapold, filmcomment.com

 "Sleepless Nights spins to an almost surreal final act, as the performative aspects of cultural “remembrance” are shown in clown shows and cheesy songs." Robert Greene, Hammer To Nail.com

"Raheb supplements the film’s emotional palette with sparks of humor – often in the wry observations of Shaftari’s wife and son – and a peculiar moment near the end of the film when the retired assassin is shown performing during a clowning workshop, red nose and all." Jim Quilty, The Daily Star

في أحد المشاهد الختامية، تتبع المخرجة الشفتري في جلسة علاجية يتحوّل فيها الى مهرّج، ونراه للمرة الاولى في وجه مختلف. ساندرا الخوري Albaladonline

In one of the final scenes, the director follows Chaftari to a therapy session where he becomes a clown, and for once, we see a different face of him. Sandra El Khoury, Al Balad Online newspaper


Are the slums of Egypt any better than other slums in the world?

I spent 15 days in Egypt during the month of June. 
I initially went to volunteer with Al Mawred in the slums of Cairo and more precisely in Istabl Antar and Ezbet khayrallah area! 

The kids! and the slums ! 
when i first got there i couldn't help but wonder if they were any worse than the Indian slums! or the Brazilian ones! 
well.. at least people in Istabl Antar are productive (something that is rare to find in other slums i visited)

On the way, from the mini bus window

First picture i took upon my arrival

They are all looking for a 2nd 3rd or 4th wife! anyone interested? they asked me to post their picture!!!!

Then i started working with kids on different themes. mainly we focused a lot on animals! bodies, voices, attitudes etc...

when we all met in the big theatre space, the only way to get their attention was to mime and clown around!

and to tell them stories from the "flower's garden" repertoire which they enjoyed very much!  pic by: Halim Al Chaarani

these are candles that he would like to have so he can get rid of darkness at night when there's no electricity and when his father is away!
our goodbyes


Janana mobile festival - 29 March till 2 April 2013

Like every year Clown Me In performs and gives workshops for Palestinian refugees (and this year for Syrian refugees as well) by touring with Al Jana during Janana Mobile festival.

Mask making workshop this year was a great success. The best so far I guess

Social Therapy with Syrian Refugees in the Bekaa – (Mercy Corps org) February 2013

6 days of social therapy sessions and 6 other days of follow up with 14 Syrian Refugees ( age: 17 to 35) living in Baalbeck. Most of them had just moved to Lebanon in the past 3 to 4 months after facing harsh conditions in Syria.

The group was amazing and they were so good in creating the conditions of their own therapy.

The activities were divided into different parts, among which: collaboration and improvisation using means including music, theatre, poetry, community projects, sports, and storytelling.
Social therapy enables people to experience life in new ways. It does not seek to solve problems, but to help participants accept life's difficulties and create practical, positive ways to deal with them which they surely did!

Mlawan Campaign (Flower’s garden) December 2012- Jan 2013

Mlawan is a campaign that encourages caregivers and children to lead a healthy lifestyle.

I had the pleasure of taking part of this campaign where I devised and performed

"Flower's Garden": a storytelling performance where kids are introduced to three stories about the beauty of nature, the strength of children, the importance of a healthy community life.
The performance is presented in an adventure like style where mime, clowning, circus techniques, hula hooping, role playing and physical theater merge in an interactive form.

We toured more than 30 schools and centers in Lebanon, performed for more than 4000 kids. Although the performance was very well received by kids who interacted with “flower” all the time I found it disgraceful to see teachers and school directors not knowing how to behave in a theatre.
Are they only used to pre recorded theatre productions?

The campaign is going to be launched again next month and flower’s garden will be touring again. I certainly will have a new rule!
ONLY kids will be allowed in the theatre :)

Karyat Al Insan (Drugs rehab center- Lebanon) November 2012

Clown Me In spent a month time with 20 guys who are trying to get emotionally and physically unattached to the use of drugs.

We did some clowning/storytelling and social therapy during one month. I would definitely say it was one the best experiences in rehab centers so far where we (as a group) were given the complete freedom to do everything we wanted with no restriction of any kind.

We surely had lots of fun during the workshop but also lots of true tough genuine moments.
I love these guys; they really taught me the importance of trust in a country where we always doubt everything and everybody.

here are some notes i got when i left them.