text about the film
Light and Shadows... Cinema Writes its Own History - by Rashid Issa for ajjazeera.net, 22.7.2014
One can't see in the tales and biographies of people anything but the tale of a whole country. This is strongly applicable to the innovators who are the spirt, memory, and conscience of their countries.
The story of the Syrian cinematographer Nazih Shahbander - as shown in the jointly produced film Light and Shadows by cinematographers: Omar Amiralay, Mohammed Malas, and Osama Muhammed - wasn't a personal story at all. It was a story of a country and its cinema, and how the demise of cinema represents the demise of everything else.
It wasn't possible for innovative directors such as Amiralay, Malas, and Muhammed to employ the opening scene haphazardly. The scene which entitled "The Anthem" in which Nazih Shahbander decided to redirect the Syrian National Anthem accompanying every film screening in the cinema where he used to work.
Then, the picture of the president was displayed at the beginning of the anthem as if he -the president- was saying "O People! Worship Me", according to Shahbander's phrase in the film. He only wanted to make the anthem associated with the country regardless to the president. However, he was summoned and questioned by security officials about his deeds, although they were more understanding and less brutal then.
Light and Shadows (1994, 42 minutes) - was prepared in commemoration of the 100 anniversary of cinema - dates back to the first years in the journey of the Syrian pioneer cinematographer Nazih Shahbander. He talks about his fascination with electricity, the techniques of cinema production, and the audio recording only when he was 14. He described the arrival of the first speaking film in Damascus in 1932. The French film Un Trou Dans le Mur (Hole in the Wall) was the first to be screened. The Syrian audiences were so excited and they chanted long live France because the speaking machine was made in France.
Shahbander thought about making an audio recording machine and he was competent to do so. Here the film displays the first recorded song by him in 1934. The song entitled A Bulbul Singing Love, composed and sung by Mustafa Hilal. That seemed to be a door to more work for the ambitious young man.
He began work in Beirut. Then, he was asked by Ahmed Jala, the owner of Jala Studios in Egypt, to shoot some scenes in Lebanon before he was offered to work in his studio in Egypt. "We valued Egypt so much", Shahbander said. He added "The studio was a small garage not as big as The Ummayed Mosque, as I imagined, Egypt then was poor."
Shahbander relates the story of the Syrian film Light and Dark in 1928. Only few scenes left depicting the remaining decoration in which the film was shot. He says, "This place is part of the villa rooms where Light and Dark was shot. Worn-out furniture and decoration and so am I, but it was clean and tidy according to some indications."
Shahbander says, "The film was made according to the blackmailing investor with whom I used to work. Yet, my desire was to make a film about a spaceship that land in the wild. Then a human-like young man comes out. He came to learn good morals of people on this planet and takes them back to his own. Then he expresses his disappointment over what he saw on this plant and returns home."
The documentary film here depicts 50 years old scenes from Light and Dark. We see much dust visible on the tape. The film also depicts some cinema equipment, such as recording and displaying machines. Then comes the voice of the late director Amiralay asking what shahbander prefers to do with this equipment, Shahbander says "I don't prefer to sell this equipment. Rather, I will leave them to vanish the way I do."
Alone in the busy life
The cinematographer, Nazih Shahbander, pursues his dreams in his eighties "I had a project in mind prior to Light and Dark, almost before 1928, but I am afraid time will not allow me to do it." Surely, it is the 3D cinema which has become an amazing achievement in the world of cinema.
Shahbander talks about the story of Dark and Light which was produced in 1928 and has only a few scenes left depicting part of the remaining decoration in which the film was shot.
The film strived in filming the moments of silence and space. As a viewer, you feel like you are in a museum that is only visited by the lovers of more authentic art. He is a lonely man who walks slowly, eats alone, and wanders about alone in the corridors and hallways of the old place and between the old equipment, "No one is with me other than these antiques", then Shanhbander picks up his coffee and proceeds to his bed alone while the film is turning into darkness.
The film soon asserted that Nazih Shahbander was not there alone in the film presented to him and to his peers who spent their lives in order to secure a place for cinema in their country. There were filmmakers, such as Amiralay, Malas, Muhammed, Hanna Ward, Abdulqader Sharbaji, Emile Saadeh, Anwar Al-Aqaad, Shamel Amiralay, Mazen Barakat, Ibrahim Matar and others.
Beautiful is the documentary scene of Nazih's biography. Undoubtedly, it leaves the door open to lament over this esteemed figure, but it also leaves the door open for grief over the loss of the achievements and talents of a country in cinema and other fields.