Visualising the Past, Rebranding the Present IV: Bitter Coffee

The last in a series of four films that explore our relationship to the past through the practices of heritage tourism in the Middle East. Rebranding the Present IV (Jacobs 2010) borrows from ethnographic modes of representation, contrasting interviews with authority figures with those of local Syrians who knew my collaborator Zaher Al Saghir. To show the contrast between officials discourses and local expressions of culture I used ‘match cut’ edits. Sequences of formal, office-based interviews with state representatives are intercut with noisy in-situ commentaries from Zaher’s friends, colleagues and neighbours in the Old City. The film cuts from the Minister of Tourism (in front of a portrait of President Assad) telling us ‘tourism is an image’ to a man selling bird seed to young Syrian couples who believe feeding pigeons in front of the Omayyad Mosque will help them conceive. Sound edits stray into the next scene so that banging from a metalwork shop resonates into the next scene where a retired French lighting engineer shows us his beautiful restored house in Nofara (a quarter in the Old City).

  • Jessica Jacobs
    Sinai Sun (2006)
  • Jessica Jacobs
    Sinai Sun (2006)
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    12 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 31, 2013
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    Syrian Arab Republic
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Jessica Jacobs

Jessica Jacobs is a geographer and filmmaker based in Sharm El Sheikh, Sinai and Queen Mary University of London. A former journalist and travel writer for Rough Guide: Egypt, she has published widely on many aspects of tourism in Sinai and the Middle East and is the author of Sex, Tourism and the Postcolonial Encounter: Landscapes of Longing in Egypt (Ashgate 2010). Jessica’s first research film Sinai Sun (2006 34mins) explored the relationship between tourism and Bedouins in the Sinai, and was funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK). The film was selected for the Margaret Mead Travelling Film Festival in 2007 and is now used in tourism course modules in the UK, US and Germany. Between 2008 and 2011 she produced a series of films ‘Rebranding the Levant I, II, III & IV’ as part a wider £399,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (UK). These films have been used for teaching, screened at film festivals and been the focus of sold-out curated events at the Tate (London) and New York (Alwan Centre for the Arts). In 2010 Jessica began to develop a series of filmmaking workshops with Bedouin communities (funded by the Royal Film Commission Jordan). Jessica’s innovative research methods are now the core of a ground-breaking teaching handbook ’Film as a Research Method: A Practice-based guide’ (London and New York Sage) due to be published later this year.

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