Private Project

On ne cache pas le soleil avec un doigt ! Chapter 1

Chapter 1 : Un trou de Memoire

A 6-hour film in 5 chapters.
A film on the struggle of undocumented immigrants in Paris in 1996 (les Sans Papiers de Saint-Bernard) and today, social and political struggles on the ground, labor strife, the conditions of refugees and the undocumented, the city itself, its public spaces, the inclusion/exclusion of its inhabitants.
An epic 6 hour 5-part documentary unfurling the hopes and dreams of the struggle against immigration control 20 years ago and today, through the prism of memories, those of the filmmaker who was a militant involved in that struggle in 96, and her comrades who surface through archival material against the backdrop of Paris today.
A meditation on the city, with its rivers and trains portrayed as veins and blood running throughout, its inhabitants a vital part of that body, appearing in reflections on its multiple surfaces, mirrored, shadowed, anonymous and one.

  • May Kassem
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 23 minutes 31 seconds
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - May Kassem

Directors's Biography:

Born in Beirut in 1975, May Kassem is a filmmaker, screenwriter, radio producer, music composer and teacher, who has made 16mm films, videos, documentaries, and animated films.
She graduated from Brown University’s Modern Culture and Media Department with a B.A. in Art Semiotics. In 1998, she completed an intensive course in Screenwriting through the FEMIS in Lebanon “PROFFIL” (Programme de Formation à la Fiction Longue) and has been teaching Screenwriting ever since (at New York's School of Visual Arts, and in Lebanon). She also works as a script-doctor.
She got her Masters degree in Film: Directing from USJ’s IESAV faculty.
May also produces and presents music programs on 96.2 FM Radio Liban « Poivre Noir, Piment Rouge » (world music), « Champ Sonore » (electronic, contemporary music, and sound-scapes), and “Vendredi Vibrations”.

Her early film work focused on the impact of art on society/politics, mainly shot on 16mm, was exploratory and experimental in nature. Then, working around the theme of migrant workers, and the marginalization of segments of urban populations, she made several documentaries, “Qui ecrira l'histoire” about the plight of undocumented immigrants in Paris in 1996, and “Joker” (1998) as Beirut was being rebuilt by Syrian construction workers. A few traditionally animated films followed, center around the sea, freedom, surveillance, and migration.
She made a couple of video portraits of her colleagues at Radio Liban 96.2FM, maintaining the allure and anonymity of radio, while relaying impressions of the hosts’ personalities and spirit.
Returning to more political expression, initially a propaganda piece, in 2016, she made a short video about the social and political struggle in Beirut, sparked by the garbage crisis. “Reverse-Shot: Diary of a Struggle”.
Also in 2016, she completed a feature documentary based on the life of actress and singer Nourhane who was active in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, who had suddenly quit the stage, and who is also her grandmother. “Nourhane, a child's dream” won many awards at festivals worldwide, was commercially released at Metropolis Empire Sofil Cinema in Beirut, and met with great public success and acclaim from the press.
In April of 2017, May finished “Free Waves”, a feature documentary around the struggle for the preservation of the public beach in Beirut, the end of radio transmission through electromagnetic waves, and the earth's fragile place in the cosmos.
In the Spring of 2017, she was granted an artist residency through the French Institute at the Cité Internationale des Arts de Paris, for a very personal film project around memory, her personal video, audio and photo archive, the cities of Beirut and Paris, political and social struggle over time.
Two film projects were born out of this residency, a totally independent fiction “Winter Ballad” (1h42m) in which she also acts, and a documentary essay on the history and legacy of the struggle of undocumented immigrants in Paris, 20 years ago and today. The struggle of les Sans-Papiers de Saint-Bernard in 1996 grew tremendously with the backing of unions, popular support, and gained essential media coverage. May was a young filmmaker at the time, supporting the struggle, living with it day in and day out. “On ne Cache pas le Soleil avec un Doigt !”, a 6-hour documentary essay in 5 chapters, reminisces over the history and legacy of that struggle, through personal and collective memory, against the backdrop of an evolving urban landscape, that of Paris today – exploring public spaces, ongoing struggles, migration, frontiers, borders, both physical and political.
In the pipeline are a couple of documentary projects, one that deals with the political and social struggle in Beirut, and another which might pertain to three cities dear to May’s heart, Paris, Beirut, and New York, three cities as one – and a couple of very very short animations.
May lives in Beirut. For the time being.

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