A Film a Week - Only the Winds

 previously published on Asian Movie Pulse

The opus of Karim Kassem could be divided in two parts. In the US, where he lives, he is a cameraman that took part in filming titles like “Women Who Kill”, “Patti Cake$” and “Becoming Warren Buffett”. In his home country of Lebanon, he pursues the career of a filmmaker. So far, he directed half a dozen of shorts. “Only the Winds” is his feature-length debut.

The first controversy about it is its labelling. At Visions du Réel, it was screened as a documentary, while at IFFR, where we had the chance to see it in Harbour section, it was labelled a drama. To be completely on the safe side, let us say it is a docu-fiction / auto-fiction hybrid of sorts.

The filmmaker Karim Kassem, played by himself, comes to Beirut with an idea to make a film about the blind children in the mountains. With a medical condition regarding his eyelids and the treatment that leaves him blind for a certain period of time, he gets an urge to do more of the research about the blindness itself. With the help of his TV-actress friend Hind (Zeinab Hind Khadra, seen in “Halal Love” and “C Section” movies and “Al Hayba” TV shows), he gets the chance to observe the children in the school for the blind, hoping he could find the cast among them. The trouble is that he neither has the proper budget nor the proper treatment for the film he plans to shoot…

Actually, labelling is the least of the problems with “Only the Winds”, since it is quite hard to pinpoint or merely discuss what the film is about at all. On one side, it surely concerns the blindness and the limited means of communication between the blind and the sighted people. On another, it is also about the filmmaking and the creative process on a wider level. Craft-wise, the film is solid enough and Kassem (as the unofficial cinematographer) and Mohamad Hissi (as the official one) even enjoy playing with the perspective at times, shifting between the first- and the third person, while its production values exceed the shoestring budget it was made on. Also, Lyne Ramadan, who plays the biggest role among the school children, could be seen as a proper discovery if she decides to go on acting.

Certainly, there is a level of “meta” that is used to bridge the gap between the two topics, and Kassem actually lays his deck of cards on the table near the end of the film, but it seems too little and too late, especially after two hours of something that could essentially described as idle running. What we read in the synopsis is what we get, no more and no less, and also with no added depth to it. And judging by the description of Kassem’s next project “Octopus” in which he comes to Beirut to shoot a film, but gets derailed by the well-known and documented explosion in the harbour, it is just his filmmaking schtick at the time being...

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