The film raises the problem of violence in all its forms
Sunday – 4 Ramadan 1444 A.H. – March 26, 2023 A.D. Issue Number 
Beirut: Vivian Haddad
“I am particularly interested in the way violence becomes invisible. How does our world even live outside of what is felt? And how is it difficult, therefore, to transfer and share what we have suffered?” With these words, the Lebanese director Ali Sherri explains the theme of his movie “The Dam”, which began showing in Lebanese theaters. And he had participated in “Cannes Film Festival” in the category of “Directors’ Bimonthly” for the year 2022.
Shri believes that the topic he addressed comes from his own history. He was born at the beginning of the war in Lebanon, and grew up in Beirut amid the conflict. And he continues, “However, I do not carry any physical traces, meaning that my body was not harmed, I am not disabled, I was not killed.”
All the feelings of violence, oppression, and submission to a painful reality, Shri conveyed through his camera, using Sudan as a place to shoot the film. There he found poverty and the absence of hopes through a primitive life with no bright way to escape from. It comes to your mind, in a subconscious way, that the pain the Lebanese are going through constitutes a drop in the dark sea of Sudan.
The film tells about the young Maher, who works in a traditional brick factory, fed by the waters of the Nile near the Merowe Dam, in Sudan. Every evening, Maher wanders secretly in the desert to construct a mysterious building made of mud, so that his muse, looking closely at her, speaks to him and guides him to his mysterious fate. And soon after the uprising in Sudan, life begins to gradually emerge in that enigmatic architecture.
The nature of Sudan is conveyed by Ali Shri with an attractive camera (film distribution company) – the hero of the film is Maher in one of the touching scenes
Despite all the melancholy that overwhelms the 90-minute film, the nature of Sudan captivates you, as Shri depicts it as a thin thread that connects life and death, so it is the only space that provides the viewer with a dose of oxygen to escape from the feeling of suffocation.
The film reflects an intense realism that its followers touch, as if they are watching a “documentary” because of the facts and information directly related to it. The hero of the work, like the rest of the participants in it, do not play roles, but rather perform the same task that they do in their daily lives.
They are all people who live and work there, including their boss who plays himself. Among the workers are many Manasirs. They are people who were expelled from their lands when the dam was built, but they remained in the neighboring areas. They have no other means of subsistence than to work in bricks or to become gold diggers.
As for the hero of the film, Maher, Shri describes him as follows: “Unlike others, he loves his job, stays and trains newcomers, and has a very strong relationship with these places and practices. He invested a lot in the movie and we basically did it together. We have become very close and exchange conversations frequently via (WhatsApp).”
Violence appears in all its unseen forms in the film, to conclude that a dog was killed by Maher who was feeding him, and then we do not know what prompted him to kill him. The viewer is informed of this through the sound of the dog fighting. Most of Maher’s reactions are vague. If he smiles rarely, we don’t know the reason, and if he cries, we feel sorry for him, while he looks at a brick statue falling due to winter. And when he stands before the scene of a fire breaking out in a camp for excavation workers, he stands by without making any reaction. These contradictions present in all of Maher’s actions convey to us the extent of the torment and pain experienced by people like him for a personality burdened with imbalance.
Ali Shri takes us back to the time of clay, this material from which humans made many things. And he takes us with him to different eras in Sudan as a constant element of life there. Major events are taking place, on a contemporary scale, with the dam and regime change for Omar al-Bashir. And we come to a part of a very wide and long history since the era of the Pharaohs and the worship of Amun. All the way to Jebel Barkal, where the film takes place.
The film’s scenes are recreated by Sudanese music clips and songs that accompany different scenes. Among them is when Maher lies on the sand reciting the lyrics of a song. We see him relax with a comfort that we rarely see in the context of the movie. In addition to violence, the film deals with various issues, such as the issue of water, the Sudanese revolution, and others. Shri puts imagination at the disposal of his camera and points out a very common belief. It is the idea that the mixing of earth and water generates life. The imaginary creature, which accompanies the film’s protagonist, Maher, plays a role in indicating the extent of his dreams.
In the end, it can be said that “The Dam” is a movie that has its own language in conveying successive messages without embellishing them or making “touches” on them. Dialogues are minimal and visual art dominates. In general, he provides his viewers with new cultures that generate a rich background for him. It will continue to be shown in Lebanese theaters until March 29.
The press and media people had accepted the invitation of the company distributing the movie “MC” to attend its premiere at the “Grand Cinema” in the “ABB” complex in Ashrafieh.
It should be noted that “The Dam” is the first feature film directed by Ali Shri, after his two short films “The Excavator” and “Anxiety”.