Now Eat My Script: Writing the Experience of Syrian Refugees

August 4, 2014

“It seems we kill the intimate moment of death each time we record it,” observes the silent narrator of Mounira Al Solh’s Now Eat My Script, a video that ruminates on representations of violence in the context of Syria’s civil war.

Mounira al Solh, Now Eat My Script, 2014. Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut. Full credits below.

Please note: this video contains graphic images of animal carcasses.

Twenty-five years after the end of its civil war, Lebanon has become a refuge for more than a million Syrians fleeing civil war in their country. By the end of 2014 Syrian refugees are expected to make up a third of Lebanon’s population. Already home to nearly 500,000 Palestinian refugees, Lebanon now has the highest population of refugees (in proportion to its total population) of any nation in the world.

These numbers sketch the contours of a story, hinting that there are humans who have been displaced from their homes, who have witnessed the deaths of family members and neighbors, who have seen cities and villages reduced to bricks, mud and bullet-ridden facades. But still, numbers of refugees or casualties do not suffice for stories.

Not only are there no such numbers in Mounira al Solh’s Now Eat My Script; there are no images of refugees. Nor is there footage of dead bodies lying in the rubble of ravaged cities. “It seems we kill the intimate moment of death each time we record it,” observes the silent off-screen narrator. Referred to alternately as “our distracted writer,” “she” and “I” in subtitles, this elusive narrator—whose life story mirrors that of Al Solh—recalls her family leaving Beirut for Damascus in 1989 and her aunt driving from Damascus to Beirut during the present conflict.

Distracted from writing a dissertation “about how you shouldn’t be pregnant, penetrated, proto-feminist or post-feminist, and horny, all at the same time,” Al Solh’s narrator shares anecdotes and weighs ethical questions related to violence, trauma and representation. She wonders whether to write about a woman who killed herself “while her husband filmed her with his iPhone.” She considers the story of a Syrian militant who ate the heart of an enemy fighter, then mulls the superiority of the story to the popular YouTube video depicting the same act. She scorns a neighbor who wants to make a film about refugees “for the world to pity them.” Indeed, for Al Solh, who is presently sketching the faces of Syrian refugees in Lebanon for a series titled “I strongly believe in our right to be frivolous,” it is not enough for heartrending stories about refugee suffering to supplant data; for refugees to be human, their stories should be filled with absurdity, contradiction and desire—even frivolous desire.

Now Eat My Script is a story of war—and a story about stories—that withholds representations of violence. Al Solh’s camera hovers over a car packed with food to be smuggled across the Syria-Lebanon border and pans slowly across the segmented carcass of a slaughtered lamb. “What does it mean to slaughter?” the narrator asks. “Can someone really register trauma?

Written and directed by Mounira Al Solh
Line producer: Abla Khoury, Ginger Beirut Production
Director of photography: Karam Ghossein
Focus puller: Salim Sadaka
Production assistant: Elie Deek
Equipment: Platform Studios
Sound design: Nadim Meshlawi
Foley artist: Karine Bacha
Postproduction: Rez Visual
Colorist: Belal Hibri
English text editors: Mirene Arsanios and Pranav Behari
Thanks to: Al Amal Institute for the Disabled, Mansion Zoukak Al Boulat, Nassib El Solh, Hanane Bdeir El Solh, Abdelhadi Chami (Abu Sakhra), Mohammad Al Rifai, Ahmad Abu El Tout, Ghassan Maasri, Firas Hallak, Fadi Tofeili, Eyad Houssami, Belal Hibri, Clara Sfeir, Remco De Blaaj, Mondriaan Fonds, Michelle Franke, EM Chill Beirut, Nabih Semaan
With the support of Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut & Hamburg