The Tornado | Chicago Reader

The Tornado

Reportedly banned in some Arab countries, this 1992 feature by Lebanese director Samir Habchi considers the senseless killing and social chaos in Beirut during the late 80s and early 90s, toward the end of the civil war. Witnessing and later participating in the random violence is an art student who's returned from Moscow to visit his family. The narrative is barely coherent, jumping from the student to fringe characters (one is gunned down by militiamen, another blown up in his car), and the minimal dialogue prevents us from deciphering any motivation. Habchi's visual technique is crude, but his images of the war-torn city are still potent. 84 min. Also on the program is Mona Hatoum's short video Measures of Distance (1988, 15 min.), in which images of the filmmaker's Palestinian mother are superimposed over her letters; read in voice-over by Hatoum, they describe the mother's life in Beirut in 1981, the family's present state of self-exile, and her yearning for her daughters in distant lands. The tenderness of her words compensates for Hatoum's archly self-conscious style. Both works are in Arabic with subtitles.

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