Standing Men

Des hommes debout

- FRANCE, LEBANON / 2015 / Arabic, French / Color / Blu-ray / 55 min

Director, Script: Maya Abdul-Malak
Photography: Claire Mathon
Editing: Florence Bresson
Sound: Dana Farzanehpour, Josefina Rodriguez, Mathieu Farnarier, Emmanuel Croset
Producer: Anne-Catherine Witt
Co-production: Orjouane Productions, Synapse TV
Production Company, Source: Macalube Films

On a Paris street corner stands a little shop containing three phone booths which migrant workers from the Middle East use to talk to their distant families. The owner serves coffee and cake over the counter, and we overhear the men chat in Arabic about their families, their work, and their daily lives. The sentiments shared in this gathering place for immigrant men resonate with Moustafa’s conversations with his family in Algeria—to whom he will return for the first time in fourteen years—and with letters the director’s father wrote to his family in Lebanon long ago. The nostalgia they bring makes it feel as though time has stopped.

[Director’s Statement] Living in Belleville in Paris, being both French and Lebanese, I wished to film the immigrants of my neighborhood. I chose a “call shop” (a shop with telephones for long-distance calls) where a group of men is always gathered, standing inside and outside. I wanted this call shop to be the only setting of the movie—a fixed location for questioning the condition of being an immigrant. How can we anchor ourselves somewhere while our horizon remains linked to our homeland? Can we negotiate between here and there? How can we feel connected to our motherland without being there? Our country of origin is both absent and present, invisible and palpable, outside our scope and overwhelming.

As I started shooting, I discovered a pile of letters in my parents’ house. These letters were written by my father when he arrived in France in 1972 to his family in Lebanon. The echo was obvious between these letters and the “standing men” I was filming, especially Moustafa, who became the key character of the movie. His immigrant experience tells the story of all immigrants.

- Maya Abdul-Malak

Born in Beirut in 1980, Maya Abdul-Malak is a Franco-Lebanese filmmaker. After earning her qualification to teach university-level modern literature, she worked for a few years as a script supervisor on fiction films. She also co-wrote several documentaries in Lebanon and France. In 2010, she directed her first documentary, Au pays qui te ressemble (In the Land that is Like You), which was selected for several festivals and awarded best documentary at the Persona Festival. Standing Men is the second film she has directed.