As If We Were Catching a Cobra
As If We Were Catching a CobraOriginal Title: Et comme si nous attrappions un cobra
Director: Hala Alabdalla
Syria, France, United Arab Emirates | Arabic
The art of caricature has thrived in the Arab world for more than a century, and artists have
been singularly able to reflect the everyday woes of citizens who have never been made
fully aware of their rights. With many other artists living under authoritarian rule, what is
pointedly not said – a telling absence that is immediately decipherable by readers – makes
the work even more evocative and subversive.
In Cairo, director Hala Alabdalla interviews Mohieddin Al Labbad, a veteran caricature artist,
illustrator and graphic designer, and emerging artists from the younger generation that he
has mentored. In Damascus, she interviews infamous caricature artist Ali Farzat and Hazem
Al Hamwi, a younger artist, who displays on camera all the drawings he never dared to
publish. She also interviews novelist and essayist Samar Yazbek who reflects on the place of
irony, laughter, censorship and insubordination in contemporary Arab letters.
Suddenly, in the midst of filming, the winds of revolution sweep through Tunisia, Egypt, and
shortly thereafter, Syria. Al Labbad passes away; Farzat is beaten senseless by thugs from
the Syrian regime, his hands broken; Yazbek is detained and released and decides to flee the
country for her daughter’s safety. As the making of the film itself blends quite literally with
its subject, As If We Were Catching a Cobra becomes an electrifying, intimate, passionate
documentary on the fearless tenacity of Arab artists fighting for freedom and justice.
- Rasha Salti