|OFFICIAL SELECTION / INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION||FIDMARSEILLE 2012|
world premiere /competition Marseille Espérance prize
CABARET CRUSADES: THE PATH TO CAIRO
Wael Shawky’s project is both strikingly beautiful and curious, starting with what inspired the whole thing: ‘The Crusades through Arab Eyes’ by Amin Maalouf (1983). Reversing perspectives, this essay highlights the extent of power struggle as conflicts of interest divide both camps: betrayals and assassinations spread far and wide without ever intersecting with issues regarding respective religions.
Shawky has managed to turn this vast web of intrigue into a Brechtian ‘distanced’ story. First come the puppets, a hundred and twenty of them, made of finely worked handcrafted ceramics following the Santons of Provence technique (and filmed in a church in Aubagne!), representing historical figures filmed according to a cinematic shot breakdown. This mini-‘big production’ thus pays tribute to a popular tradition which brings out medieval epic tales to counter pompous heroism and stress the decisive turning point our fates have been brought to. Then comes the chronicle’s structure organised into various ‘acts’ echoing either a cabaret revue when featuring singing parts or a Grand Guignol performance when showing horrendous murders (The Horror Show File was the subtitle for the first part). In this chapter, the action spans 46 years, from the end of the first Crusade in 1099 to the start of the second one, fostered by permanent concern with questioning our representation of History while joining past and present together. (JPR)