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from the press 1993 / newer texts

From the Press 1993
In the end, there are only fragments of memory, says the son. THE NIGHT pieces them together using a visual language of extraordinary potency, combining a range of oriental metaphors with intimate human portraits. Every day life and fortunes of a city and its people. All this and more is captured by the impressive cinematography. Like a cook at an eastern banquet, director Malas has concocteda rare feast of politics and poetry, with a unique spicing of piquant humour”. (Berlinale Journal, February, 15th 1993)

Strikingly staged but largely impenetrable, this Syrian feature (the first to be presented in the NYFF) is a subjective, episodic, highly stylized account of a half-century of conflict in the modest. (Daily News, October, 1st 1993)

From «Exodus» on, the creation of the state of Israel has often been recounted from a western P.O.V. “THE NIGHT” fascinates because it looks at this historic event from the Arab perspective, a real and a symbolic defeat. Malas highly pictorial style is unique. Image by image, block after block, Malas brings the period to life. The film leaves a strong final impression, but remains hard to pin down. (Variety, February, 15, 1993)

Richard Pena, the director of the New York Film Festival sayed: You’ll see several films that could be called personal epics. These are film that take an ambitious look at a broad swath of history but filter it through one person’s experience”. “The Night” a Syrian film, looks at the struggle of Arabs in southern Syria to establish a sense of identity was one of these examples. (The New York Times 8. 4. 1993)

Several main features have already unspooled at other major fests, including Venice, Cannes and Locarno. Gregor says simply, “Some especially important films have been taken because they deserve it, even though they’ve been screened elsewhere.” … Some of the more eclectic films this year come from the Middle East. Syrian director Mohammed Malas “The Night” is a story both autobiographical and political. (Variety, Feb. 8, 1993)

Rightly the main award of the festival was given to the Syrian film AL LEIL by Mohamad Malas. (NZZ)

From the interwoven layers of time extremely deep images, which also visually always symbolize a clear view to something else, unearth details of a much more complex biography in which the history from below irrefutable unmasks the history from above as well as the individual and national life lies. (Film Dienst)

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World cinema. The 10 best ... The 10 best Arab films The Guardian, 6 July 2013
Fifty years of movie magic, from Tunisia to Iraq, as chosen by Omar al-Qattan, film-maker and chair of Shubbak – A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture
The Night (Al-Lail) Mohammad Malas, 1993
A great Syrian film. It is about the director's home town of Quneitra, on the borders of the Golan Heights, which was almost completely destroyed by the Israelis after the 1967 war and remains in ruins. The film is a historical-autobiographical epic of three generations, taking you from the Syrian fight for independence against the French in the 1930s, through the 1948 war with Israel, and into recent times. Malas is probably the most highly regarded living Syrian director – he is still based in Damascus as far as I know – and this film is heavily influenced by Tarkovsky in the use of long, contemplative dream and memory sequences where time is as important an expressive element as space, dialogue or movement.
source: The Guardian

This Dream we call Cinema - by Zachary Najarian-Najafi for cinephildreams.blogspot on June 13, 2014
Al-lail (1992) aka The Night
Like Tarkovsky's The Mirror, and Terayama's Pastoral: To Die in the Country, Mohamed Malas's The Night is about confronting the past, and attempting to overcome the sweet nostalgia, and the bitter tragedy. Starting with a series of abstract recollections narrated by Malas's alter-ego, and his mother, Wissal, the film settles down into the story of his parent's marriage, his father's political activism, the coup-ridden birth of independent Syria, and everyday life in the now largely destroyed town of Quneytra. His father died humiliated and tortured by his inner demons after the Arab-Israeli War, and for Malas, his hometown evokes feelings of shame and longing for many Syrians, especially those who lived there (as well as the hundred or so holdouts who still do). Malas himself has said, "I’ve experienced things and places that are no longer there, no longer visually accessible; but in my head they are so vivid and I want to share them with the world. As a filmmaker, I see this as a responsibility; a calling." His images are lyrical in the best sense of the word, and have a kind of golden glow to them, even the horror comes through in soft-focus, laced with a longing for a time and place forever gone. But Malas is not detached from reality, there is real anger here, anger towards the people's failure to stand up for themselves, and anger at the authorities, both international, and national, for abusing and suppressing the legitimate desires of the people. The Night is also a eulogy for a lost childhood, and a cry of sorrow at the loss of his beloved father. But ultimately, this a hopeful film, the people who populate it are a hopeful people, and there is a belief in the future, that maybe, things will get better.
source: cinephildreams 

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