Pandora’s Box comes from the past, opening a magical door to a small family that leads to what they tried to forget and suppress, but just as we can’t erase the events we lived from the page of time, we can’t stop the memory when it receives an alarm stronger than the sequence of days that bury memories.
The Lebanese film “Maya’s Notebooks” (Memory Box) about this moral force carried by pieces of inanimate objects, capable of evoking missed days, including happiness and pain. “Saad El Din” for the best Arab film, after it was shown at the Berlin Film Festival as well.
“Maya’s Notebooks” were co-directed by Joanna Hajji Touma and Khalil Joreige, and it was inspired by the director’s life, who, before its presentation, stated that she wrote letters on a daily basis, as Maya, the heroine of her film during the Lebanese war, wrote down the details of her life, and saved them for time in a box. But instead of letting her daughter discover it like a heroine after years, she opened it with her viewers through the medium of cinema, so that Joanna’s notebooks became the notebooks of everyone who lived the Lebanese war and its woes in the form of pictures on the screen.
A giant collage, a mosaic of stories, pictures, audio recordings, more than one time line, and characters from past and present cross each other… “Maya’s Notebooks”
The events of “Maya’s Notebooks” begin with a small family consisting of three generations of Lebanese women, the grandmother, the mother Maya and the daughter Alex, who live in Canada, in a warm house in the midst of freezing cold, whether that material is due to the winter weather and snow, or the psychological resulting from the diaspora. She can even talk to her grandmother in Arabic, while the latter tries to please her middle-aged daughter by bringing up distant Lebanon in the form of famous foods, and the details of the rituals of celebrating Eid, even if everyone misses the joy.
The granddaughter and grandmother put the final touches on the intimate details of the celebration of the feast, until a large box for the mother arrives from Lebanon, which the grandmother tries to hide away from her daughter’s eyes, until she discovers it by chance, and shocks her as if it is a real ghost incarnated from the past with its fat and flesh.
Invisibly, the daughter Alex opens her mother’s chest, and begins to get acquainted with another version of Maya, completely different from the closed mother she has known since birth. It did not prevent her from having a great first love, or establishing friendships filled with the intimacy and warmth of her teenage and young years.
These notebooks and audio recordings were the most important motive of life for Maya in her dark days, during which she conveyed her joy and sadness to the friend who traveled abroad. Letters and notebooks were not just a primitive means of communication appropriate to the era, but rather Maya’s only way to prove that she is still alive despite the pain in the absence of The real brother, the figurative mother and the father even though they live in the same house.
Collage of nostalgia and pain
The movie “Maya’s Notebooks” can be considered a giant collage, a mosaic that includes stories, pictures, audio recordings, more than one time line, and characters from the past and present intersect with each other, and the daughter Alex used the mother’s notebooks and recordings to trace this past, before the film takes us, through Flashback, to the young Maya herself, to watch, like a dream, how she was parallel to her daughter’s journey in discovering the truth about her mother as she did not know her before.
This diversity of narration methods prevents boredom in the cinematic film even if the story is very simple, here the spectator follows it through multimedia, and creates an intimate relationship with the characters whose journey he cares about. This relationship in particular is the comparative advantage that differentiates the film from other films that dealt with the Lebanese war. The link between the war and our interest in the character of Alex and her relationship with Mother Maya gave the film an emotional weight, and a warm side away from the misery of war and death present as well, in parallel with the mother’s experiences with loss. .
These multiple narration methods used many different cinematic techniques, such as photographic images processed to appear as if they were actually filmed in the eighties, combined with real images of the Lebanese war, and videos made by moving photographic images, which gave the film a vitality in addition to an unscripted look. traditional.
No wonder the heroines of the film are three women, three successive generations, each of whom has been affected by the war differently. But why women? In war, a man goes in search of his destiny to uphold the principles he believes in, or a religion he defends, and women and children survive, unlike many warriors, but a life polluted with painful memories.
And while warrior stories may be exciting for commercial action movies, the ones that make really good movies are those of women, their own war to preserve lives, communities, and day-to-day living.
Are our memories really what we lived, or a revised version that we cling to to be able to endure life?
At the head of the family’s women in “Maya’s notebooks” is the grandmother who lost the son, then lived with his soul husband who died prematurely. One night, he decides to end his life, leaving behind a scandal that she tried to orchestrate before deciding to take her daughter to self-exile, away from all this pain she experienced. In her country, from which she carried only a few customs and foods, she tries to remember them and exclude painful memories.
And the daughter whose life was divided into two halves, a childhood and adolescence full of life, we got to know her through her forgotten notebooks, a story of love, friendship and daily resistance to death and blood that surrounds her, until her resistance broke and she surrendered. She emigrated and not only left behind her relationships, but the old version of her, about which her daughter did not know, the third link in the women of the family.
Alex is a rootless teenager, who knows nothing of Lebanon other than the food her grandmother cooks, and a few Arabic words she tries to pronounce in a broken language, like the bonds she has with her country. A stranger with a mother who hid her true identity from her, and a grandmother who decided to radically forget the past, knowing about it only those framed pictures, and warm stories carefully chosen to represent what has passed.
The women of the family met only twice, the first on the night of Eid, when the mother discovered the hidden box of notebooks, so she cried in her past represented by the grandmother who did not disclose his existence, and the future represented by the daughter who is trying to explore the truth of the mother against her will, and the second time in conclusion, in Visiting the cemeteries of family and friends in Lebanon, on the journey back, after all the secrets were revealed, and it is time for each of the three women to reconcile with a past that cannot be erased and transcend it to a future that may seem better with wounds, this time with wounds.
Maya’s Notebooks is not the first collaboration between Joanna Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, they have previously presented several films, including “A Perfect Day” and “Je veux voir”, both of which, in addition to “Maya’s Notebooks”, deal with a theme Memory and its ability to preserve the true image of the past, especially with regard to the Lebanese civil war, to consider “Maya’s Notebooks” an extension of this favorite topic for the duo, and the question they are trying to answer, are our memories really what we lived, or a revised version that we cling to in order to be able to endure life?