Behind “the pink house”

Around the Pink House


I watched again one of my favorite Lebanese movies. For everyone that has not seen it yet pick up a copy or at-least read about it. 


This blog entry will discuss the  movie, “Around the Pink House” that highlights how post war policies on the macro level regarding reconstruction and the internally displaced affected people’s ability to recover from the war. The ambition of this entry  is to highlight the importance of personal narratives and experiences within spatially just reconstruction plans and policies, which were disregarded, and shows how the top down macro scale decisions continue to disturb the post-war geography of the city. 

Documenting the invisible struggles:

The movie begins with a day to day event interrupted by a traffic jam in a neighborhood with men in uniform running in-between the cars. The scene of daily life mixed with a scene of militias and day to day war scenes highlights a confused and forced transition from the war period to the post war period. The people stuck in the traffic are not disturbed by the militia men running through and are discussing an explosion that is shown on a television in a cafe.  

This starts the conversation about reconstruction and what this new type of city destruction will bring to the residents of the city. One man in a  café proposes that the new plan for a new ‘world’ city is going to save the neighborhood with an upsurge in the economy.
 
 
The movie then focuses on the pink house by showing us a man looking into the day to day activities and windows of the houses residents.  We see the the pink house in the activities of its residence.  
The camera slows down several times during the movie; the music becomes eerie and shifts into the private moments of the characters. The moments only share a common house, the pink house,  but their memories and thoughts are varied all affected by the trauma and displacement of the war.   

These portraits create multiple narratives that show that the groups opinions about post war reconstruction were not based on peoples religions but on their a geo-political locations  and outlook on social justice.
Around the Pink House - screen shots
 
The day to day activities of the house are then suddenly  disturbed by a real estate agent that walks into the house to lecture the two displaced families occupying the house about how they should leave the house for the pride of Lebanon.  The film then focuses on the conflict between the macro scale investments, the high income investor, and micro scale situation, low income war displaced families in the city.   

Around the Pink House - screen shots

The feud starts within the neighborhood between the people that believe that the future of the city and its plans don’t include them versus the people that trust that the future will create a trickle-down effect that will recreate their preset circumstances in a more positive light. Eviction haunts the characters and the war is only represented in the stories of their past eviction from the village to the city. Reconstruction and economic development creates another shift of displacement and the house becomes a symbol of their resistance. 

Ownership and the right to living in the city become issues that are discussed between the members of the house and the residents of the neighborhood. A petition  is signed in support of the residents of the pink house is passed around the neighborhood and exacerbates the division. The house residents are offered by the government a compensation of 3000$ that is not enough for them to rent a house in the city for over a year. 

The war displaced families are disregarded in the cities reconstruction and future and their alienation is reinforced when they try to label themselves as a group. Are they illegal residents, refuges or occupiers?  The residents of the pink house recognize that the reconstruction project is too big for them to face and be a part of alone. They can not agree if it is their right to ask to stay or decide their future or do they have to beg for their voice to be heard and for them to be able to shape their future. 

The internally displaced refuges in Lebanon make up a large amount of the Lebanese society. The residents of the pink house expresses they are a part of the community, mainly from the south of Lebanon that for the past thirty years have been pushed around and moved unwillingly by the government, political parties, militias, Israeli occupation, or pure instinct in search for safety. This disregard to them again  highlights  the start of a resistance against the governments reconstruction projects and proposals. The premise that the community resistance attempts to propose, and is documented in the film, is housing and peoples trust in the government, institutions and reconstructions instead of infrastructure for peace. The resident’s question each other, asking what this reconstruction move is, and what would they want, money or a feeling worthwhile and legitimacy . 


The rallying for social justice includes both material and the non-material terms, such as security, legitimacy and dignity.  The movie begs its audience to recognize this and understand that social justice for some such as the displaced and refugees are intrinsic ad more important than economic benefits.
 
The neighborhood divides. One group decides to trust the reconstruction projects even though they seemed exclusive. They assumed that these changes will create a slow but eventual trickledown economy for the rest of the small local business owners. The other group decided that their pride honor and right to live and work in the city are threatened.

Around the Pink House - screen shots

  The green line present in the civil war is redrawn in the neighborhood, dividing again two parties that disagree about the future of the city and country. The political and social conflicts in the city are reborn, post conflict, and the green line in the film shows that the conflict might be less violent than the war but yet it is as severe and dangerous. 

In between these intrinsic discussions about legitimacy, human rights, displacement, memories, traumas and compensation a lawyer appears and gives hope to the residents of the pink house. Can they get their rights from legal government  institutions? The lawyer contacts the resident a few days later to tell them that the law is vague and unclear and the displaced movement will have to work outside the institutions to receive their rights.  

 
Socially just planning

Planning becomes an intrinsic tool to work with and analyze as it is the primary strategy by which decisions politics and interventions by states and institutions at the macro level interact with the politics of everyday life at the micro scale. The film highlights this by depicting the human scale effects of planning. 

Conflicts within diverse cities, or towns and the rise of the multiplicities of social movements make the field of planning both in practice and theory interweaved with contradictory claims perceptions and ideologies.  The film does not attempt to simplify the process and documents its complexity by showing that even the displaced in the same neighborhood have contradictory claims and opinions but also highlights that the ones in the same group share a common trajectory.

Post war planning in Beirut attempted to identify itself as a pure market driven approach. Yet, whether this is the  case or not, the shaping of the built environments and in turn it empowering and dis-empowering agencies is an “inherently political and powerful activity” (tewdwr-jones2000p.124). This process becomes very sensitive and important in postwar reconstruction were power, legitimacy, trauma and violent civil conflicts still underlie and guide all social relations in interactions on the neighborhood and street scales. The film stops at this sensitive stage and does not depict the aftermath of such macro scale insensitive planning which resulted in a more fragmented and divided city.

The film:
Hadjithomas J. and Joreige K , 1999,  “al bayt al zahr” also called “Autour de la Maison Rose” or “the pink house”


1 comment:

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing us about this update. Hope you will not get tired on making posts as informative as this.
    Bau Konzept Arbeitssicherheit

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