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Director’s Note / clips from Q&A after screening

Director's Note
On a visit to the Uffizi museum in Florence, I was astonished by the portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero Della Francesca. The two profile paintings are placed facing each other. Their two gazes seemed to be interlocked for eternity. It was like seeing two individuals with intertwined destinies who can, nonetheless, never really meet.

The painting carried for me all the symbolism of my own relationship as a Lebanese man with Sandro, an Italian man. Shared passions, common cultural references and an inexplicable chemistry constantly draws us to one another but, at the same time, we are faced with real and imagined boundaries that prevent our two worlds and two realities from ever merging.

For the past four years, we became a nomadic couple meeting during road trips and vacations in Europe. Gradually, I developed an obsession with the idea of capturing these shared moments somehow emblematic of happiness with the loved other. I recorded sounds, took a plethora of photos, and made short videos with my camera and my phone. Returning to my reality in Beirut, I would attempt to reconstruct those moments with the help of this growing archive and my evasive memories. I was aware, however, of the impossibility to build a narrative for this relationship based on established daily routines and common future prospects.

I come from a part of a world where homosexuality is criminalized and dark forces of extremism and intolerance are constantly looming over individual aspirations. Sandro comes from a European reality ever marching towards a seeming utopia for the gay individual and the gay couple.

There are real barriers between us related to the fact that with a Lebanese passport, it is difficult for me to live in Europe, which is increasingly making its borders closed in face of immigrants from the South. Also, Italy does not still recognize gay marriage nor for that matter any form of union between homosexuals.

But beyond these real tangible elements that separate us, our condition stemmed a deeper discussion about the nature of a couple in our modern world, what it means to share life with someone else, form a family or dream of a common future.

These thoughts and elements became the basis of my film, Eccomi … Eccoti, an intimate poetic and political essayistic film. 

The film is built as a virtual road trip between Lebanon and Europe; a collage of different visual and auditory material. In Lebanon, I search for peace and acceptance by my social and natural surroundings. Aware of the looming danger of being “caught” or discovered as gay, I become fatalistically drawn towards the vortex of exile and social ostracism. I wander in the city where I grew up to find a place for myself and attempt to mend my broken relationship with my father.

In my trips to Europe, I experience the bliss of freedom and security but I am also aware of the collective indifference and the solitary anonymity I could face.

In this state of suspension between two realities of increasingly diverging worlds, the solace seems to only come from the warmth of one’s shared petty existence with an Other. And when it’s impossible to share daily life with that Other, then only cinema can knit the fragments together to build a seemingly uninterrupted narrative.


clips from Q&A after screening
Raed Rafei at the Q&A following the screening at the Arab Film Festival San Francisco 2017, clip 1 | clip 2 (both youtube)