This is the first entry in my brand new blog, which actually is not even on line yet. But I arrived in Beirut this afternoon and this seems to be the right moment to start writing. This trip is quite unlike any of the many other travel I do. Eight months ago there was war here, the whole country was being bombed by Israeli airplanes. The west end of the country was yet again being invaded. Whole neighborhoods of Beirut were brought down to rubble. Bob (Bob Ostertag, composer and musician, my long time collaborator) and I decided that the piece we were currently working on, that we later entitled Special Forces, somehow had to assess this outrageous situation.
Doing this was totally in line with what our project Living Cinema had been about up to that point.
In effect, we had been reacting to 9/11 (this actually was the initial impulse), to the invasion of Iraq, to the reelection of Georges W. Bush and to many other smaller events. This new development in the Middle East crisis seemed altogether much more important than the theme of computer games per se on which we were laboriously working at that time. So, quite spontaneously, we merged our ‘game piece into the ‘real world hot politic of war. This seemed like the obvious and inevitable thing to do.
Just a few weeks after we made this decision, we were contacted by Sharif of Irtijal (an improvised music festival in Beirut held in April every year) to ask if we were ready to come perform at the 2007 edition. We had been in contact with Irtijal for more than a year and we did not make it to the 2006 festival for reasons of timing and schedule. But because of the intensity of the war, we thought that we would not hear from them, at least for this year. And here they were. We told them what we were working on and that it would be a priority for us to do the official world premiere of Special Forces in Beirut, if that was possible. They felt the same way about it. We performed the piece as an untitled work in progress at the Guelph Jazz Festival in Canada and at the Bolzano Transart Festival in Italy, we rehearsed it at UC Davis, California, in November. This was not without many questions and hesitations about the piece, that I will discuss in later posts. Due to the internal political instability of Lebanon and the risk that it evolves in a new civil war, the project remained uncertain until just a few weeks ago when the Irtijal people confirmed that the festival was going to be held. So here we are. I arrived today and Bob will arrive a bit later next week.
Starting this blog by setting the stage for what we came here to do was easy enough. But I am still not exactly clear about what the exact scope of this will be. I certainly don’t intend to use it for petty talks about my daily life and feelings. Some years ago and for many years, I have been writing a work diary (“un journal de travail” as the French edition of Brecht works calls it) which was a very important tool to reflect on my work and how to pursue it. I stopped writing it after my feature (La Plante humaine) was finished and when I started writing my first book (L’ange et l’automate). After that, during my last years at the National Film Board of Canada when I became producer and studio director, writing on a daily basis did not seem a necessity anymore. This was a period a radical changes in my career which led me to become an independent artist and filmmaker with an array of new activities amongst which performing became preeminent. My work diary was not meant for publication, it was only for my own personal use. I will have to develop my own sense of what bloging really is about. Contrary to the diary, it is public right from the start, but not in the same way as writing an article for a magazine, which involves a whole process of its own, much more controlled. A blog is a more spontaneous endeavor and it remains at the limit of the public space in that it is not so much actively offered to the public, like in a magazine, but just made available to access for those who care for it. What I can say now is that it is going to be about the creative process as it develops.