In the 1980s, and during the civil war, I lived in the Muslim part of Beirut. I was about sixteen when I came across a human skull through a slightly open metal gate of a Christian Maronite cemetery. The skull was in the middle of the doorstep, and disgusted me by bits of blackened skin left on it. I was not that surprised as it was common to hear about some guys stealing from the dead’s caskets, or messing with them for curiosity or just for fun. One man was said to have slept inside the casket to scare his friend!
Later that day, I saw that some boys have picked up this skull and ran after each other holding it on a stick before it fell to the ground. I remember the reactions on their faces and how the fall has frightened them a bit which made them kick it with their feet, and later pass it like in soccer. Soon enough the skull was crushed into pieces. Our neighbor, a father who worked as a teacher and who had a good home library, was sorry and shocked, probably even terrified, to have seen some kids playing with a real human skull. He said he couldn’t sleep or eat since then, and at the time I wondered why he was so affected by this incident as I had no feeling towards it whatsoever.
It was not until I saw “Bouncing Skull” (2007), by Paolo Canivari, that this memory came back to me. It was extremely difficult to watch it fully from the beginning, and I was very much disturbed by the film, which triggered Beirut memory, to the point that I kept closing my eyes and skipping scenes.
I decided to reenact this memory by simplifying the elements of it and asking some children (amateur actors) to redo the events. I might have exaggerated in some parts, but what was important for me was to realize this memory somehow.
The film was shot in Jordan where I moved to live following the war in Lebanon in 2006. The location is a backyard that overlooks the UN buildings.
In Beirut, I searched for the cemetery and the boys who carried the skull, and documented these recollected encounters.
The work revisited this memory by triggering its details and makers. In the space of dealing with this revisit, further discoveries came to rest in my consciousness.