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June 3, 2011—
Khalil Zaarour was flipping through TV channels a couple of years ago when a report came on air of a woman who had been struck dead while crossing a road.
She was one among a group of mothers who have camped near the UN building in Beirut for the last six years to draw attention to the 18,000, including their children, who disappeared during the Lebanese Civil War.
“The following week, I went down to the tents and started talking to the mothers,” says Zaarour, an LAU graduate and film instructor, describing what drove him to write and direct Malaki-Scent of an Angel, an 80-minute documentary that exposes these women’s heart-wrenching stories.
The film revolves around six families that know nothing of the whereabouts of their loved ones — they don’t even have clues to suggest whether or not they are still alive. It includes real interviews with the families, combined with fictional scenes that bring to life their dreams of being reunited.
Zaarour says it was the first Lebanese documentary that made it to the country’s commercial cinemas where it played throughout April.
In early May, the film won a Special Jury Prize for a feature documentary at the 6th Monaco Charity Film Festival. Zaarour’s film beat 14 other documentaries for the prize, garnering six of the seven jury votes.
One of the demands of the women, Zaarour explains, is the creation of a DNA bank to help reveal the identities of war victims buried in mass graves across the country.
“Lebanese don’t want to open this file because in a way they all participated in the kidnappings and killings,” Zaarour says, referring specifically to the dismissive government officials.
“No one could ever understand what these women are going through,” Zaarour says.
“These women tried everything — through politics, organizing rallies,” he says. “This time they did it through art. Maybe their voices will be heard this way.”
The film is no longer in theaters, but there will likely be local screenings over the next couple of years. Updates are posted on the film’s Facebook page.
Zaarour, who received his B.A. in communication arts from LAU in 2001, previously wrote and directed The Window (2006), a 13-minute film that won the Best Film Award at the 13th European Film Festival 2006 in Beirut, and The Strangers (2007), a 35-minute documentary about deprived families living in cemeteries and citadels in Tripoli. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts in film directing.