You Gotta Give 'em Hope
You gotta give 'em hope.Milk was assassinated on November 27, 1978—11 months after taking office—for his political views and his homosexuality. A small-minded and frustrated little man, threatened by inclusiveness and progressive thought, shot Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
The city erupted. Protests, both peaceful and violent, continued for months. The gay community, which had flocked to San Francisco's bohemian, laissez-faire nature, were not going to return to the closets they had escaped because a wretch with a gun thought he could gain power by killing.
Today, no one seems to bat an eye about gays in public office in San Francisco. In fact, it appears that heterosexuality is a liability for candidates running in Districts 5 and 8. Milk's death almost tore apart the city by the bay. Milk's life kept the city together. He gave people hope.
Israel started firing missiles into Lebanon on July 12 this past summer. They were responding to rockets fired by Hezbollah terrorists into Israel, as well as the seizure by Hezbollah of two Israeli soldiers (who may have been illegally in Lebanese territory). The rain of warheads into Lebanon continued for a month. Some 1,000 Lebanese, mostly civilians, were killed. More than 3,000 were wounded. A million or more lost their homes. Israeli casualties numbered 162, mostly soldiers, dead.
In the rubble of Beirut, a seven-year-old film festival refuses to surrender. Ayam Beirut Al Cinema'iya is underway with a reduced program of 40 films instead of the planned 100. Artistic director Eliane Rehab and festival director Hania Mroue have managed to get filmmakers into the shattered nation, and screenings will continue through Sunday, 9/24.
In an interview with the BBC, Mroue talked about housing refugees in Beirut's only art house cinema, and the importance of presenting films as a defense against fear.
“People continued coming to the cinema the next day, even though war had started," [Mroue] says. “They came. I don't understand how and why they came even though Beirut was being bombed, but they came. And even the third day they kept coming.”—BBC News.
The festival includes features, documentaries, and shorts from around the world. Appropriately enough, Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers (1966) is included. The only film from the United States is James Longley's Iraq in Fragments (2006).
An earthquake on May 7, 1976, killed nearly 600, injured 1,000 and displaced 800,000 in Italy's northern Friuli region. Without electricity, with food and water in short supply, people were shocked to see a couple of youngsters carrying a portable movie projector and several cans of 35mm film. Piera Patat and Livia Jacob had rescued their personal archives of silent film treasures. Recognizing the power of film to bring a community together in the face of crisis, they set up their projector at night, powered by car batteries or other generators, and showed classic films on the remaining walls. This became a ritual that continued after recovery began. It's now the Giornate del Cinema Muto, the largest and most important festival of silent films in the world.
Films give people hope. The courage of Rehab, Mroue and everyone associated with Ayam Beirut Al Cinema'iya should inspire us all.
They've prepared a moving video letter to the world about their situation, and why they are continuing with not just the festival, but their lives as citizens of Beirut, a historically significant cultural capital. Folks with a broadband connection can link here. Dial-up users should use this link.
Text copyright 2006 by Richard Hildreth. All rights reserved.