Those Who Remain with director Eliane Raheb
The Who Who Remain is a documentary by Lebanese director Eliane Raheb which screened on Friday evening. It was which was well received by the audience. Resounding laughter filled the room when Farmer Haykal cursed yet again. Director Eliane Raheb and Rabih El-Khoury of the ALFILM Festival presented the film together. Raheb was happy to be able to attend the festival and was looking forward to seeing the audience’s reactions.
In her documentary, Raheb accompanies and portrays the farmer and restaurant operator Haykal, who lives in a remote village in northern Lebanon, only 10 kilometers from the Syrian border. The region is located in the mountains and is difficult to access, especially in winter. Symbolizing the remoteness of this region, as Haykal explains, stands the name Al-Shambouk, which derives from the French Champs de Bouc, the field of goats – because only goats used to live here.
The perpetually pipe-smoking Haykal is accompanied by the documentary filmmaker in his everyday life, which consists mainly of managing his land – whether sawing peach trees, harvesting apples, expanding his house or the entertaining his guests. When he wasn’t delighting the audience by cursing wildly, the warm farmer always has a dry answer to Raheb’s questions. Haykal also feels the extent of the civil war in Syria, which is within sight of the mountain on which he lives. Haykal struggles above all with the falling price of fruit, which is an important source of income for him.
In addition to his work, the audience got to know Haykal personally – behind the often rather rough-looking farmer hides a lonely man. Haykal says that he grew up in a family with 8 children. When Raheb asks him why he called is called Haykal (German Temple), he answers promptly: everything he builds in his daily life is like a temple. Actually, the name has a Christian-Maronite origin, which is based on the ideas that Jesus preached in the temple. As a child Haykal initially dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, later a pilot. The civil war in 1975 thwarted his dreams but Haykal said that the whole country had also been torn apart. As he muses about his past and Lebanon, you feel a deep-seated disappointment. Later, Haykal states that Lebanon has always been at war – peace has never really existed.
Haykal gives the most intimate insights into his life when he talks about his family. His wife Barbara left him and disappeared with the four children. The simple life was simply not enough for her, she wanted to see the world. Had he not been so strong, says Haykal touchingly, it would surely have broken him. The children now live in Lebanon and Germany and they do visit him from time to time. It’s obvious that Haykal still hopes that Barbara and his children will return to him eventually. In addition to being frequently unintentionally witty, and an outwardly tought-looking man, Haykal is at the same time a deeply hurt and forlorn person. Probably his closest associate is Ruwaida, who has supported him in his work for 13 years now. Ruwaida is a unique character, who brings an additional charm to the film. She throws nails on the street to make life more difficult for the truck drivers who would have spoiled their apple harvest by constantly kicking up dust. Ruwaida tells the director that she considers Haykal to be like a father to her – he was there for her when her family rejected her. The relationship between the two is an entertaining spectacle, marked by affection, as much them swearing at each other. Ruwaida, according to Haykal, is the heart and life of the place where he lives.
In the after-film Q & A, Raheb told the audience how she came up with the idea for the film. She was looking for a simple character, embroiled in a more complex context. She needed to take some time reconsider her personal relationship with Lebanon. Haykal reminded her of her own grandfather, who worked as a farmer in southern Lebanon. In a way, according to Raheb, the film is also a tribute to people like her grandfather and Haykal. She met Haykal while hiking in the mountains by chance after she ate in his restaurant. Before she started making the film, she visited Haykal many times for research. The aim was to become someone who was not perceived as a strange, but to be part of the community in order to make a film that was as authentic as possible. The small crew of only 5 to 6 people made a contributed to this effect as Haykal no longer noticed the team whilst he was working. The film was shot in 12 days, split over 3 seasons.
The audience was especially interested in Haykal’s family. Raheb understandably did not say much on this subject, in order to protect their privacy. However she did say that Barbara was German but born in Lebanon. The children visited him only very rarely but Raheb could feel Haykals hope that he could one day welcome his wife and children back to the farm.
Haykal and the village are very happy about the movie. Together they organized a screening in Haykal’s Restaurant. The audience was visibly amused when Raheb revealed that Haykal welcomed 40 people.