In last week’s New Yorker, Lawrence Wright writes about Syrian filmmakers in “Captured on Film.” The article isn’t online (though you can get a good summary, along with stills of the movies discussed, from the slide show with Wright’s voiceover linked at this page), but I wanted to share this striking passage:

In 1978, in conjunction with the French journal Cahiers du Cinéma, the club sponsored two weeks of “cinema and politics.” There were two screenings a day in a seven-hundred-seat theater rented for the occasion. “We sold out every performance,” [Omar] Amiralay recalled. The critics of Cahiers du Cinéma had chosen eighteen films, but the Syrian government banned more than half of them. Instead, the French critic Serge Daney sat on the stage and narrated detailed descriptions of them. “It was a screening without an image—an absolutely beautiful happening,” Amiralay said.

(Incidentally, the phrase arte povera was in my head because of this post at Grant Barrett’s blog, though I was already familiar with it. The post serves as a nice little snap vocabulary test—of the thirteen words listed, I knew seven and made more or less successful guesses about a couple more. One of the latter is macarism, whose more general definition is extremely pleasing.)


  1. I just had to look up macarism in three dictionaries before I found it. It IS a nice word though once I figured out what it meant!
    The fact that they passed on the information despite the movies being banned is really awesome. It shows that if people are committed to something, the government can do little to stop their desire.

  2. Exactly.
    All the words are defined at the linked post, by the way; you just have to scroll down.

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