Social Studies / Films by Maher Abi Samra, Marwa Arsanios, and Jumana Manna

Social Studies
Films by Maher Abi Samra, Marwa Arsanios, and Jumana Manna

Maher Abi Samra, A Maid for Each, 2016.

Co-presented by ArteEast
Social Studies
Films by Maher Abi Samra, Marwa Arsanios, and Jumana Manna

Followed by a conversation with Jumana Manna, moderated by Amir Husak

Admission is free; suggested donation $5

September 16, 2022, 7pm
172 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

The program Social Studies presents Christian Ghazi’s 1969 film A Hundred Faces for a Single Day in conversation with three films from Lebanon and Palestine made between 2008 and 2016.  

Ghazi’s avant-garde cinematic manifesto captures a society at the cusp between Lebanon’s so-called Golden Age and the protracted civil war that would erupt soon after in 1975. Depicting the early days of a revolutionary moment—in which the filmmaker was a participant—that brought  Palestinian and Lebanese liberation struggles together with workers’ movements, the film is a  scathing critique of Lebanon’s political and cultural bourgeoisie, as well as a warning against neglecting one’s own internal pitfalls.

Decades after Ghazi’s Hundred Faces, the films of Maher Abi Samra, Marwa Arsanios, and  Jumana Manna can be said to turn our gaze inwards once again to grapple with social oblivion conveniently masked by more pressing political concerns. Their films ask how the task of building a shared social consciousness becomes constantly consumed by sectarian divisions, military occupation, and corruption, whereby any kind of social reckoning or emancipation remains a mostly private undertaking. When will such efforts gain entry into politics?

This program is co-presented by ArteEast and e-flux Screening Room and is curated by Amal Issa. This series is part of the legacy program Unpacking the ArteArchive, which preserves and presents over 17 years of film and video programming by ArteEast. Maher Abi Samra’s A Maid For Each, Marwa Arsanios’s I’ve Heard Stories 1, and Jumana Manna’s Blessed Blessed Oblivion will be screened in-person at e-flux Screening Room on Friday, September 16, at 7pm followed by a conversation with filmmaker Jumana Manna moderated by Amir Husak. The full program, including Christian Ghazi’s A Hundred Faces for a Single Day, will be screened online on from September 17-23. For more information on the online screening, visit

Maher Abi Samra, A Maid For Each 
2016, 67 minutes | Lebanon/France/Norway/UAE | Arabic and Amharic with English Subtitles

Today, having a live-in maid in Lebanon is no longer a luxury nor a distinction of social class, but a common practice for upper and middle (mostly urban) classes since the end of the civil war in 1990. Domestic work is a real market in Lebanon, segmented according to the nationality and ethnicity of the workers, and in which the Lebanese employer is master and the worker the property. Zein owns a domestic worker agency in Beirut. He arranges for Asian and African women to work in Lebanese households and assists his clients in choosing “mail-order” housemaids that will best suit their needs. Advertisement, the legal system, police are on his side. He agrees to open his agency to us. 

Marwa Arsanios, I’ve Heard Stories 1
2008, 4 minutes | Lebanon | Arabic with English Subtitles

Built by Polish architect Karol Schayer in 1957, the iconic Carlton Hotel was, in its time, a popular meeting place for gay men in Beirut. Between 1973 and 1993, the hotel was also the setting of three murders that might or might not have been related to sexual encounters. Among the victims of these (probably) passionate crimes was Lebanese politician and businessman Henri Pharaoun. Known as the designer of the Lebanese flag and, for much of his lifetime, as Lebanon’s wealthiest man, Pharaoun was found dead beside his driver/bodyguard, both stabbed multiple times. The nature of the murder went unreported, but was rumored to have been committed by a former lover who had also worked for him. Arsanios’ reconstruction of the event—made just prior to the hotel’s demolition in 2008—blends animation and video, gossip, and fact in an effort to give the crime a place in the city’s history.

Jumana Manna, Blessed Blessed Oblivion,
2010, 21 minutes | Palestine | Arabic with English Subtitles

Blessed Blessed Oblivion weaves together a portrait of masculine performativity in East Jerusalem, manifested in gyms, auto body shops, and hair dressing parlors. Inspired by Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1963), the video uses visual collage and music as ironic commentary. Anger’s subjects—leather-clad bikers—serve as a counterpoint to the culture Manna attempts to portray, that of male “thug” culture in East Jerusalem. Simultaneously psychologizing the characters and seduced by them, Manna finds herself in a double bind similar to the conflicted desire that animates her protagonist as he drifts from abject rants to declamations of heroic poetry or unabashed self-praise.

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Lebanon, Palestine, Middle East

Maher Abi Samra was born in Beirut in 1965. He studied Drama Arts at the Lebanese University in Beirut and Audio-Visual Studies at the Institut National de l’Image et du Son in Paris, and has worked as a photo-journalist for Lebanese dailies and international agencies.

Marwa Arsanios is an artist, filmmaker, and researcher who reconsiders the politics of the mid-twentieth century from a contemporary perspective, with a particular focus on gender relations, urbanism, and industrialization. She approaches research collaboratively and seeks to work across disciplines. She is cofounder of 98weeks Research Project, and is currently a PhD candidate at the Akademie der bildenden Kunst in Vienna.

Jumana Manna is a visual artist and filmmaker. Her work explores how power is articulated, focusing on the body, land, and materiality in relation to colonial inheritances and histories of place. Through sculpture, filmmaking, and occasional writing, Manna deals with the paradoxes of preservation practices, particularly within the fields of archaeology, agriculture, and law. Her practice considers the tension between the modernist traditions of categorization and conservation and the unruly potential of ruination as an integral part of life and its regeneration. Jumana was raised in Jerusalem and lives in Berlin.

Amir Husak is a documentary media maker and Assistant Professor of Media Studies at The New School in New York. Combining emergent and traditional media, essay, and experimental techniques, Husak’s work explores documentary as social practice and investigates representations of economic infrastructures, borders, and migration. His works have been shown at international venues including the Cinemateca Distrital (Bogota, Colombia), Sarajevo Film Festival (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Stadtmuseum Graz (Austria), South by Southwest (US), Sundance Film Festival (US), Crvena Association for Culture and Art (Sarajevo, Bosnia), and TV Cultura (Brazil). Husak is a co-editor of the volume on socially engaged art and activist media in Bosnia-Herzegovina titled Kriza, Umjetnost, Akcija (Crisis, Art, Action; 2016). He holds a PhD degree from the University of Leeds, UK.

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