Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Elodie Bouchez, Zeina Durra, Karim Saleh, Marianna Kulukundis. 
Photo by Francoise Durand Getty Image.
By: Sara Murphy
Rooftop Films in collaboration with the Ace Hotel debuted the screening of director Zeina Durra’s film, The Imperialists Are Still Alive! this past Sunday.  This was a free sneak-peak of the movie, (officially selected at the Sundance Film Festival last year) before its New York premiere at the IFC Center on March 4.  The Ace Hotel was an apropos location—a hangout spot where one could imagine Durra’s heroine Asya (played by French actress, Elodie Bouchez) waltzing in, wearing a fur coat and heels.

Shot using a super 16mm camera, Durra mentioned in her brief Q & A after the screening that she was inspired by Scorsese’s cult classic, After Hours (1985), Stillman’s Metropolitan (1990) and 60s and 70s era film aesthetics. The feature achieved the grainy texture Durra desired, but the picture quality looked blurry and often times out-of-focus, leaving the viewer to wonder if it was a deliberate choice, or an outcome related to inexperience. Stylistically, Durra’s ode to iconic eras was a theme carried over into costuming, as well as popping up in the film’s title—a line taken from Jean Luc Godard’s La Chinoise (1967)—which debatably may or may not capture the story’s essence. 

Scene from The Imperialists Are Still Alive! by Zeina Durra
Scene from The Imperialists Are Still Alive! by Zeina Durra

Durra’s film however centers on Asya, a successful visual artist and cultural hybrid of Palestinian/Bosnian/Lebanese/Jordanian descent, raised in Paris and living in New York. The film is a New York portrait, but an international story, reflective of Durra’s own cultural heritage and upbringing. Sarcastic and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, Durra weaves together several vignettes of nightclubs, art galleries, loft apartments, Chinese restaurants and cab rides (pictured above) into a cohesive palette of vibrant colors. Durra fought hard to not let the producers turn her script into a conventional story. She deliberately wanted to explore themes of rendition, imperialism, war, resistance, displacement and post feminism, from a perspective closer to the milieu she grew up in. “The idea that Arabs or Muslims brought up in the West find themselves constantly torn between their roots and their 'Western' lives has always annoyed me, since I have never related to that conflict,” Durra comments.

Scene from The Imperialists Are Still Alive! by Zeina Durra

Sophisticated, independent, rebellious and cool, Durra takes viewers on a journey that has no resolution, but rather allows us to peak into the lives of wealthy international hipsters who fluidly transfer from Arabic, French, English, Spanish and more—navigating New York’s subcultures—simultaneously keeping one eye on the political conflicts in the Middle East. For Durra’s characters, “home” has a transient meaning and money buys freedom.  Have a watch at the trailer (below) to have a taste of The Imperialists Are Still Alive!

The Imperialists Are Still Alive! Trailer

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