Memory Boxis a profound and moving film that tells a beautiful and complicated story, in a creative and emotional way. The sun might go down, Memory Box says, it also always rises back up again.
Often we recognize the world the way we have seen it pictures before. But the way of picturing something, may inform the way we watch it. Something similar happens in Memory Box made by the Lebanese Canadian artist duo Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. On Christmas Eve, a box filled with letters, pictures and diaries arrive on the doorstep of Maia and her daughter Alex’s home in Montreal. The contents are an archive of Maia’s teenage years in Beirut. Just like how her daughter captures everything on her smartphone, so too did Maia capture her entire life. But now she wants nothing do with it anymore. The archive is closed.
Alex can’t contain her curiosity and starts to read, watch and listen. She dives into her mother’s soul, back when she was her age.
The centre of Memory Box is the relationship between mother and daughter, but it blossoms into a rich and layered exploration of time, heritage and memory. It is also an intoxicating look back to the Beirut from before the civil war.
The coming of this cardboard box of Pandora (modelled after Hadjithomasand Joreige’s own diaries and pictures of the war) gives both of them a chance to set up a quest through collective and individual memory. Large segments of their film are therefore made from images that are more commonplace than experimental camera art. It fits splendidly. These are techniques of alienation through which we can recognize the world and make memories tangible.
Even though Memory Boxis a film with a warm mother-daughter-relationship, it is also a love letter to Beirut, the broken jewel at the Mediterranean Sea. The last images of a sunrise over a city, accompanied by Let There Be Lightby Bunny Tylers, feel like an urgent call to action.