Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 January 2020

Diff: Tramontane director Vatche Boulghourjian says film is full of metaphors about modern Lebanon

A movie still of Tramontane (Rabih). Courtesy DIFF
A movie still of Tramontane (Rabih). Courtesy DIFF

There is an uncanny resemblance between Tramontane director Vatche Boulghourjian and tennis star Boris Becker. “Noone has said that to me for a while!” the first-time feature film director explains. “But I used to get that all the time.”

Well just as Becker burst onto the scene by winning his first Wimbledon, Boulghourjian has made an ace with his own first feature film. Tramontane is a story about the past coming back to haunt you and arrives at DIFF after its world premiere at the Cannes film festival.

Young blind musician Rabih (Barakat Jabbour, who himself is a blind violinist and singer) must get a passport so he can travel with his Lebanese choir to play in Europe. Rabih is informed that his identity papers are false. From there his life unravels as he discovers his mother (Julia Kassar) is not who he thought she was, and how his own past is tied to the Lebanese civil war.

“One of the inspirations of this film is a theologian called Professor John Hull,” says the 40-year-old director. “He lost his sight and wrote about what it’s like to be blind and how blindness affected his relationships to others around him and his memory.”

“In one paper he talks about how blindness is commonly misused in literature to describe how someone is morally misled or in denial, so we come to this film where we have a blind man who has more clarity of mind and a goal to search for a truth. Even though he has a physical handicap those around him have a spiritual handicap.”

Boulghourjian’s own past as a documentarian comes through in the Tramontane’s realist aesthetic. The film includes many metaphors about life in Lebanon today, one of which is the importance of a passport: “It is a form of identification issued by a government that gives you your right to belong to an administrative space,” says Boulghourjian. “It’s about how this administrative crisis turns into an existential crisis, somehow.”

Tramontane is showing at Souk Madinat Arena on December 9 at 8.15pm and Vox Cinemas at Mall of the Emirates on December 10 at 2.45pm

For details go to www.dubaifilmfest.com

Updated: December 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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