The strange tale of the Lebanese Space adventure. In the early 60’s, during the cold war and the apex of Pan Arabism, a group of utopian students and researchers at the Haigazian University enters the race to space and create the Lebanese Rocket Society. They produced the first rocket of the region. The project had no military character and was aimed at promoting science and research. Between 1960 and 1967, at the time of the Space Race and revolutionary ideas more than ten solid fuel Cedar rockets were launched. The launchings gave rise to celebrations. The Arab defeat of 1967 put an end to the initiative. The documents, photos and mainly films relating to the space project have almost disappeared. This unusual and heroic adventure, which had made the front pages of the press, is nowadays forgotten. It appears like an anecdote in the course of history, a story kept secret.
Joana Hadjithomas Khalil Joreige
(Beirut, Lebanon, 1969) directed films presented and awarded at various international film festivals. Their works have been exhibited in galleries and museums. With the latest feature Memory Box (2021) they participated in competition at the Berlinale, while with their debut film A Perfect Day (2005) they won the Fipresci award in Locarno and with the subsequent Je veux voir (2008) they participated at the Certain Regard section in Cannes. Their documentary The Lebanese Rocket Society: The Strange Tale of The Lebanese Space Race (2012) won first prize at the Doha Tribeca Festival. Several retrospectives of their films have been presented in institutions such as Cinematek in Brussels, the Lincoln Center, the MoMA and the Flaherty Seminar in New York, the Tate Modern in London, Paris Cinéma, the Institut Français and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, the Harvard Film Archive, the Locarno, Nyon and Gijon festivals, while in 2017 their installation On Unconformities was awarded the prestigious Marcel Duchamp Prize. Their artworks are part of major private and public collections including British Museum, Center Pompidou, Fond national d'art contemporain, MCA Chicago, Solomon R. Guggenheim and Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Hadjithomas and Joreige are the authors of numerous publications namely The Rumors of The World: Rethinking Trust in the Age of the Internet (2015) e Two Suns in a Sunset (2016). They are often invited as university lecturers in Lebanon and Europe. Both artists are co-founders of the production company Abbout Productions with Georges Schoucair, as well as executive members of Metropolis Art Cinema and the Cinemathèque in Beirut.
Al Bayt al Zaher (Around the Pink House, doc, 1999), Khiam (doc, mm, 2000), Barmeh (Rounds, cm, 2001), Al Film Al Mafkoud (The Lost Film, doc, mm, 2003), Ramad (Ashes, cm, 2003), Yawmoun akhar (A Perfect Day, 2005), Open the Door, Please (ep. del film Enfances, cm, 2006), Khiam 2000-2007 (doc, 2008), Je veux voir (2008), The Lebanese Rocket Society, The Strange Tale of the Lebanese Space Race (doc, 2012), Ismyrna (doc, mm, 2016), Memory Box (2021).
“The project investigates the apparent absence of the Lebanese space program from our personal and collective memory, shedding light on our perceptions of the past and present and our imagination of the future, exploring the notion of a collective dream. The project enables us also to consider the mythologies and historic events of those years: pan-Arabism and its decline after the Arab defeat by Israel in 1967, a moment which confused our societies, our parents’ generation, and which transformed deeply the Arab world and, first and foremost, images of ourselves. Documents and archives as well as reconstitutions and art installations attempt to question this story and the ideas of reenactment, reconstitution and restaged in the present time.”