Hatim El-Hibri

Hatim El-Hibri is Assistant Professor of Media Studies in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies. He earned his masters and doctorate from New York University’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. His current research is in the history of media technologies and urban space in the Middle East, and examines the cultural politics of Arab satellite broadcasting in light of the history of the visualization of Beirut. His work has appeared in the Arab World Geographer and the International Journal of Communication. His general research and teaching interests synthesize global media studies, visual culture studies, urban studies of the Middle East, and the history of technology.

Hatim El-Hibri’s project: 

The Before / After Shot: Solidere’s Corporate Films, and the Work of Images in Postwar Beirut

On the surface of things, Beirut’s city center seems, in the first half of the 2010s, to be an impeccably polished place with a bright future. From the opening of boutique outdoor shopping malls, to a new waterfront, to an ongoing weekly organic farmer’s market, few places in Lebanon boast of such dramatic post-civil war transformation. Even fewer have been the site of comparably intense public controversy and financial speculation. Just two decades ago, so-called ‘Downtown Beirut’ was defined by its abandonment and ruins than outdoor cafés and designer stores. This contrast—between visions of recovery made real and the ruins of conflicts past—is the subject of A Project as Grand as Hope, a film produced in 1992 by Solidére, the private real estate firm that was given control of a significant part of Beirut’s central district after the formal end of the civil war (1975-1990). One of the key aesthetic conventions in A Project as Grand as Hope is the juxtaposition of images of damaged buildings with images of well-manicured urban spaces-to-be. While this kind of Before/After shot became ubiquitous in the visual culture of postwar Lebanon, the early corporate films of Solidére in particular encapsulate the centrality of the work of images in the cultural economy of postwar urban transformation. The changes at the surface depicted in Solidere’s corporate films are indicative of the suturing of the project of recovery to new financial circuitries, in which the Before/After shot played a key role.

Based on extensive fieldwork and archival research in Beirut, this essay examines Solidére’s deployment of the Before/After shot in three corporate films. I first examine the context that the company emerged from and has created. I then analyze the variations of the Before/After shot embodied in these films, interrogating the contrast they create, and the subject position of an idealized Citizen-Investor that they naturalize. I also examine the Before/After shot as a cinematic embodiment of the forms of spatial visualization more commonly found in GIS (geographic information systems) software introduced to Lebanon in this period, in which space and the meaning of rubble are translated into a set of data points in selectable informatic layers. This image is key to understanding both the transformation of urban space in this war-torn context, and the social, affective and political transformations that it has entailed—a representational burden often placed on symbols of youth.



OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Barbara Bishay (July 19, 2014). Hatim El-Hibri. eume-city. Retrieved July 21, 2024 from https://doi.org/10.58079/ol4e

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