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Elie Habib (a.k.a) Siska

Bayna Hayakels Studio Baalbeck (In the Ruins of Baalback Studios)

Doc. expérimental | 16mm | couleur | 47:29 | Liban | 2017

The work is about the ruination of film heritage in Lebanon navigated through the country`s cinematic heydays of the late 60s and early 70s - a period that witnessed a rise of Egyptian producers and directors moving to Lebanon to make films partly due to Nasser`s nationalization of the Egyptian cinema. The story of this film project evolves around one of the biggest production studios in the Arab world, and its lost archive. Located on Charles Helou Boulevard in the East of Beirut, the remains of Studio Baalbeck, a white modernist villa with open doors, broken windows and a garden full of wild plants and pine trees, appear like a lifeless place. But even if this biggest production studio in the Arab region initiated in 1962 had fallen victim to the Lebanese civil war (1975 to 1990), it has nevertheless left behind a treasure of an archive of voice recordings and films that still are famous throughout the entire Arab world, spanning productions from Erbil to Amman, and from Damascus to Cairo. Negligence by the Lebanese authorities has led to mold growing on parts of this archive inside the damp underground warehouses.

Siska`s body of work has two strong features, working with archive and memory through experimental use of analogue filmmaking. His installations have a strong site-specific feature that he usually develops exclusively for the respective location. His pursuit conjures pertinent questions regarding the ruination of Arab cultural heritage and the conflicted relationship between individual rights and the duties of the state, and the ever-illusive gaps between the personal and the collective. His practice usually starts with an intuitive approach, stretching documentary forms towards fictional territories while remaining faithful to the essential questions at sake managing somehow to extract a poetic, almost fairy-tale quality to the narratives he explores. Siska was born as Elie Alexandre Habib in Beirut Lebanon in 1984, graduated from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts ALBA in Beirut with a master degree in cinema studies and film directing. Now he lives and works between Beirut and Berlin. Siska` work was shown in prominent contemporary art venues and film festivals in New York, Berlin, Beirut, Cologne and Paris.