Film Review: “Ghost Hunting”

Ola Alhaj Hassan
Staff Writer

“Ghost Hunting” is a hybrid of documentary and fiction. Palestinian director, Raed Andoni, asked former prisoners to recreate their experiences at the Maskobiyya Israeli detention center to produce a film that sits in between the real and the imagined.

After winning the prize for top documentary at the Berlin film festival in February, “Ghost Hunting” finally reached Lebanon where it got screened for a few weeks in September.

On the 24th of September, Beirut’s Metropolis Cinema welcomed  the film’s director, Andoni, alongside the editor and sound designer at an event organized by “Talents Beirut”. They  discussed the process of making the film, in a case study under the title of “Blurring Reality and Fiction”.

In his talk, Andoni explained that making this film was more of a need than a mere wish for him. Andoni, having been detained at Maskobiyya for a year, claimed the presence of ghosts born inside of each prisoner as a result of the horror and torture that they face. Therefore, this film acts as a means for him, and other ex-prisoners, to hunt down these ghosts.

The film features parts scripted by Andoni himself and others that were improvised spontaneously during the shooting. As the prisoners narrated their accounts and re-enacted them upon one another, fiction blended with reality and created a grey area where the two genres mixed.

Director Raed Andoni at the Berlin International Film Festival – first recipient of the Glashütte Original Documentary Award for Istiyad Ashbah (Ghost Hunting). Credits: Berlinale.

Great human emotion is portrayed by the film, and its effect is enhanced by the real people who stand in for the typical professional actors. In addition, instead of focusing on fully revealing each prisoner’s story, the film focuses more on the depth of each prisoner’s character, and the development of their character throughout the filming process.

The film sheds a lot of light on the brutal, inhumane way in which interrogation happens inside Israeli detention centers. It also protests occupation very effectively through showing its horrifying consequences on communities, as well as on individuals’ mental and physical health.

Aside from telling their stories on prison and contemplating the formation of their sociopolitical identities, the characters in “Ghost Hunting” open up about their families, and their love lives towards the end of the film. It is as if enduring the pain caused by so many evoked memories, which eventually generates a force of trust that unites the characters with one another, and unites the viewer with them as well.

Watching the film is a bittersweet experience; it puts its viewer in a position to witness so much suffering, but also in a position to see people reconstructing the setting of their suffering (by literally building up the set for the Maskobiyya prison) hence giving it parameters in the hope of being able to defeat it and overcome all of its ghosts.

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