A Documentary by Karim al Hakim
The Hangar (UMAM D&R)
March 16, 2010
Zokak el-Blat is a Beirut neighborhood which first appeared in the 19th century. It is situated between the areas of Raml el Zarif to its west, al-Bashoura to its east, al-Museytbeh to its south, and the Riad al Solh Square to its north. Although the meanings of Zokak (alley) and el-Blat (tile, mansion) are unambiguous, Zokak el-Blat is confused by its past and present.
Unlike many of its Beirut counterparts that endured strife, and whose names were transformed significantly, Zokak el-Blat stands apart. Whether in speech or symbolically, its name indicates the mix of identities and languages, as well as the numerous cultures the neighborhood embraced and sheltered. Naturally, all of these residents left traces of their domicile on the area, and these are not restricted to its architectural elements. Rather, they are evident primarily in the features and characteristics that persist, such as languages, smells, and nostalgia.
There is indeed a rhythm apparent in the human migrations that have characterized and shaped this area, and they provide a lens with which to view Lebanon’s own successes and failures. Here, the filmmaker attempts to capture the essence of the migrations made through Zokak el-Blat by recording them in the language and narratives of some of its inhabitants. Simultaneously, this unique documentary captures the astonishment experienced by its young Lebanese filmmaker as he discovers the many different identities held by Zokak el-Blat.
This documentary was produced as part of the project entitled, “From the Phoenician Alphabet to the Nahda – Zokak el Blat: Paths and Figures.” It seeks to explore the history of this uniquely authentic Beirut neighborhood by showcasing not only its architectural elements, but also its historical and still unfolding heritage.
Karim al Hakim was born in Beirut in 1983. He studied International Relations at Université Saint Joseph in Beirut before moving to Paris, where he earned a Masters Degree in Political Science. His thesis focused on Lebanese Communists and the relationship they had with political Islam during the 1970s and 1980s. Zokak el-Blat: Fragments of Memory from a Beiruti Neighborhood represents his first filmmaking experience.