||Al-Husayn, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad
and the son of the first Shi‘ite imam, ‘Alî,
was slaughtered alongside many members of his family in
the desert in 680. This memory is torture to me. But, basically,
one can say “this memory is torture to me” of
every memory, since each reminiscence envelops at some level
the memory of the origin of memory, the torture that had
to be inflicted on humans in order to make them remember
(Nietzsche). The memory that the yearly commemoration of
‘Âshûrâ’ is trying to maintain
is not only or mainly that of the past, but the memory of
the future, namely the promise of the Parousia of the twelfth
imam, the long-awaited Mahdî—notwithstanding
the passage of a millennium since his occultation—as
well as the corresponding promise of Duodeciman Shi‘ites
to wait for him. ‘Âshûrâ’:
a condition of possibility of an uncon
— Premiered at Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art,
Cairo, 21 September 2002.
— Théâtre Béryte, USJ, Beirut,
17 June 2003.
— Al-Ma‘mal Foundation for Contemporary Art,
Jerusalem, 16 July 2003.
— Part of né @ Beyrouth, Centre Culturel
Français, Beirut, 21 August 2003.
— Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, USA, 26 August 2003.
— part of The Possible Narratives, curated
by Christine Tohme (Ashkal Alwan) and Akram Zaatari, 14th
Festival Internacional De Arte Electrônica—Videobrasil,
SESC Pompéia, São Paulo, 27 September 2003.
— “Focus Jalal Toufic,” 16th International
Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA), 22 and 29 November
— “The Lebanese/ Palestinian Documentary Films
Week,” Tehran, Documentary and Experimental Film Center
(DEFC), 23 and 26 December, 2003.
— Centre pour l’image contemporaine, Geneva,
Switzerland, 18 May 2004.
— Laughter, curator: Christine Tohme, LIFT
(London International Festival of Theatre), the Barge House,
London, 20 June 2004.
— “Flicker at Buffalo: Correspondences in New
Media, Film, and Poetry,” Squeaky Wheel, 17 November
— Brighton Cinematheque, November 2004.
— Museum of Contemporary Art (Museet for Samtidskunst) in Roskilde, Denmark, 22 May 2005.
— Go Between, the Bregenzer Kunstverein and Magazin 4, Palais Thurn & Taxis and Magazin 4, Austria, 16 July - 4 September 2005.
In memory of the 680 A.D. slaughter of
Al-Husayn, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, a yearly
commemoration of ‘Âshûrâ’
takes place in Lebanon. In Jalal Toufic’s rigorous
video [‘Âshûrâ’: This
Blood Spilled in My Veins], footage of the accompanying
rituals are intercut with related blessings and prayers,
as well as lamentations and elegiac music, all presented
in extended takes with no commentary. To these events
are added recorded interviews with Gilles Deleuze and
Jacques Derrida, and a classroom lecture by the filmmaker
himself. Without directly addressing ‘Âshûrâ’,
their considerations open up our experience of the commemoration.
One of the final scenes takes place at the end of the
ten-day ceremony when participants lacerate themselves
with swords. This act helps maintain the memory not
only of the past, but of the future, in particular the
promise to await the redeemer, the twelfth Imam. Hovering
between a theoretical exploration and an ethnographic
documentation, between excess and minimalism, ‘Âshûrâ’
is a fascinating examination of the relationship between
rituals, memory, and history.
Kathy Geritz, Associate Film Curator, Pacific Film Archive