• Rasha Kotaiche

Parisienne - Danielle Arbid

Arab British Centre have partnered with South Social Film Festival to host the Sunday CineClub in which they screen films online, including a Q&A session with the Director or Actors.

Today's screening was Parisienne (Peur De Rien) by Director Danielle Arbid.

Arbid and leading actress Manal Issa are Lebanese born creatives, who both moved to France to study and develop their crafts. Separately may I add. The film follows 18 year old Lina (Issa) who moves to France from Lebanon to study. This film is semi-autobiographical of Arbid herself. The film follows Lina through romance, friendships, racism, politics, immigration; a true representation of being a migrant trying to sink her feet into the place for a more stable future.

Prior to the screening, Arbid did a Q&A (as seen in the image above), providing insightful answers to give thought when viewing the film. Arbid explained how this film isn't one proving the empowerment of women, no, the lead is already aware of her position and power and how to use it, how to fight against what she believes is wrong. You might argue that this is not prominent as she is used by men, who are very forward may I add, for their fantasies. You very much see her naivety in her journey of meeting people of the land; even surrounding herself by known racists; but by playing a long she succeeded in securing a place to live for herself. I digress. Who isn't naive when in a new country? You're learning the lay of the land, stay low and observe as you try to understand this society. As soon as she returns to Lebanon, you recognise she does know her place, and she uses her voice, as she is accustomed to the people and the place.

In the Q&A Arbid detailed what is explained above, this film follows a woman exploring France for what it is and what it will be for her as she settles down. It is not a romanticised Paris, you don't see beautiful views, you don't see her roaming around in love and preppy. What you see is her falling into relationships with men who are drawn to her for her beauty and her resistance; she is not easy, she doesn't fawn at the click of your fingers, making them more eager through intrigue and I will also say, desperation.

Another point made; often we find migrants being presented to search for others of their background, to find a group they resonate and recognise, often to present nostalgia. However, Lina is leaving Lebanon to leave Lebanon, not find it somewhere else. Another positive of this film is that it does not talk negatively of either country; you may often find a migrant to be represented in a way that they either speak of their homeland with rose tinted glass or by being brutally against it. For a film directed by a Lebanese woman, there were no Lebanese-related politics, which was refreshing.

The beauty of this film is that it was realistic, there was no showing off of their ethnicity/nationality/politics (there was of course scenes focusing on a group of people who follow certain beliefs, however I saw this as more of a representation of the different communities you can come across, especially within university.) Stemming from that, being alone in a country, you will find yourself falling into any crowd when trying to understand it.

Continuing with the beauty of this film; Manal Issa held a Q&A after the film, talking about her experience doing the film, her relationship with Arbid and what she thought about the film, and the public response to it. Issa herself had just finished studying when she joined the cast, she resonated a lot with the character, and with it being her first film, her acting was very much close to her real reaction. As you watched her meet people in the film, her emotional reaction was the direct reaction as she had just met them. She wasn't accustomed to film life, so her relationships with the actors developed whilst on set, as she learnt what it meant to be on a real set. Her naivety within character wasn't far off from her genuine naivety as a new actress.

Listening to Arbid and Issa speak helped navigate my experience and thought process when watching the film. There was no holding back in the making of this film. Being a university student myself, I have experienced and witnessed many similar events. As time goes by you learn more, and know how to respond, however in those first few moments, you accept whats going on around you, you stay silent.

What I noticed throughout the film is at the start Lina is reserved, silent and their is a darkness over her face, she is hidden, she observes or ignores, and simply lives. As time goes on, her feet begin to sink in to the ground, she begins to find her place, reveal her voice, and her face becomes brighter, her body becomes lighter. The very last frame freezes on Lina smiling; the radiance that emits from her face, the bounce in her step; she is free. She has her place, she has her voice, she is now able to be who she has always been.

The biggest lesson from this is how learning first hand is stronger than learning from the voice of another. Lina throws herself into society, rather than avoiding it from what she had heard from others or the media.