"The film unravels in a poetic and filmic way the daily work, which has to be done in between the bombings. Few images and even less sound takes us inside of a routine in which in the end the car is always too small to carry so many coffins”.
The international jury of the 13th edition of It's All True - International Documentary Film Festival, held in São Paulo, gave the Award for Best International Short Film award to Merely A Smell, for:
"transmitting, without music or excessive gestures, in 10 minutes and just five shots, the anguish of death .."
Accepting the award, Maher sent the following letter of thanks:
“It was a pleasure to start with for "Merely a Smell" to be selected for the international competition of "It's all true" film , and an added delight for it to receive the Jury's appreciation.
Though unfortunately I am not with you and can't see your faces, your smiles nor your sorrow, I do feel that the Jury's award is a sign that some of the "smell" that penetrates our daily life in the region, as well as the resistance of its people in the search of just paths, has reached through to you. That same smell which I have experienced as early as 1982 with the invasion of Beirut by the Israeli Defence Forces and the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, is one we have been invaded by as early as 1948 when the Palestinian people were colonised and expelled from their land.
The 17 dead, whose smell permeates the film, are from Aynata, a southern Lebanese village and their continued death has little been condemned. At the same moment, the European ship embarks on Beirut to select the few it considers worth of rescue from death and its smell, while the death of all remaining others continues to be an insignificant trivial occurrence. Black and white contrasting colours and distinct sounds were the only manner I could find to express moments such as these; a manner that continues searching for a cinematic language, as opposed to the language of reportage, to convey an experience as deep and personal.
Though geographic space distances us from Brazil and the rest of Latin America, I am sure that we are brought closer by intersections in each of our pursuit of a just paths for the life our societies, and I hope when I join you in future festivals, that we would be much further ahead in such paths.”-------------------------------------------------------
Merely a Smell was awarded The International Jury for Documentary Film award (the Golden Dove) of "The International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film - DOK Leipzig", the largest German and one of the leading international festivals for artistic documentary and animated films.
What the Festival had to say about the film:
"Five shots – one dedication – the rest is your imagination."
"A dead person is a scandal. Many dead people, on the contrary, create a logistics problem. You have to get rid of them, because the dead burried under the ruins of bombarded houses smell badly und endanger the health of those who survived. Naturally, pictures by international news agencies know nothing about this. They simply squish our perception of the never ending catastrophy in the Middle East by providing always same images of always same ambulances surrounded by always same crowds of screaming men, fireing shots from their Kalashnikovs to the sky. Where is the remote control? Great art by Lebanese director Maher Abi Samra – who had already pictured a totally new image of the Palestinian nightmare with his film “Roundabout Shatila” – is the ability to withdraw from superficiality, and place the essence of facts in the foreground In this case: the removal of the dead after a bombardment. Transport of the dead through the ruins of Beirut by night. Loading a lorry with coffins. A glance from the deck of a ship off the coast of Lebanon over a tortured city. A short, but great film."
Read more about the Award Winners here.