ﻣﺎ ﺇﺳﻤﻚ

MAESMAK (2008)

A short tale by Georges Salameh

Watch movie here (english subtitles): maesmak

Experimental – Documentary

duration 20’20”


Maesmak is What’s your name? in Arabic.

Maesmak is a meditative exploration of one day spent in Rutba in late 2002, to plant an olive tree against the war, just before the invasion of Iraq.

Narration & Voice Over

Yousif Latif Jaralla – storyteller

Pantelis Anaghnostopoulos – traveler

William Odling-Smee – doctor


Marina Gioti – Alexandros Salameh


Fanis Avraam  Victoria Taskou  Voltnoi Brege – Muslimgauze


Laura Sestito

Production – Distribution



MRI, Media Research Inc. (exclusive Japan)

Previous screening

Alternativa Film&Video Festival 2008 (Competition) – Belgrade – Serbia – (December 2008)

Punto De Vista Documentary Film Festival (Competition) – Pamplona – Spain (February 2009)

Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival (Market) – Greece (March 2009)

LIDF09 London International Documentary Festival (Competition) – London – UK (April 2009)

Hotdocs Canadian International Documentary Festival (Market) – Canada (April 2009)

Cine Pobre – 7th International No-Budget – Low-Budget Film Festival (Competition) – La Paz – Mexico (May 2009)

VIDEOEX International Experimental Film & Video Festival (Competition) – Zurich – Switzerland (May 2009)

2 ANNAS Independent international Short Film Festival (Competition) – Riga – Latvia (May 2009)

Curt.doc Short Documentary Festival (Competition) – Vidreres – Spain (June 2009)

Signes de Nuits Festival Internationale de Création Visuelle (Competition) – Paris – France (June 2009)

SoleLuna Festival Un Ponte tra le Culture (Italian Premiére – Special Event) – Palermo – Italy (July 2009)

Busho Short Film Festival (Parallel Screenings) – Budapest – Hungary (September 2009)

Luksuz Film Festival (Competition) – Trška Gora – Slovenia (September 2009) Award: Best Experimental Film

CON-CAN Movie Festival (Competition) – Tokyo – Japan ( September 2009)
Audience Special Award

Reggio Film Festival (Open Category) – Reggio Emilia – Italy (September 2009)

Pentedattilo film festival (Competition) – Reggio Calabria – Italy (September 2009)

Docudays Beirut International Documentary Festival (Parallel Screenings) – Beirut – Lebanon (September 2009)

Aza Short Film Festival (Competition) – Thessaloniki – Greece (September 2009)

Italian Doc Screenings (Market&Library) – Trento – Italy (September 2009)

Viscult Film Festival (Competition) – Joensuu – Finland (October 2009)

Darklight Festival (Competition) – Dublin – Ireland (October 2009)

Festival du Nouveau Cinéma 38th edition (Competition) – Montréal – Canada (7-18 October 2009)

Strange Screen Experimental Film Festival (Competition) – Thessaloniki – Greece (14-17 October)
Award: 2nd prize for Best Experimental Video

Curtocircuito Short Film Festival (Market) – Santiago De Compostela – Spain (13-16 October 2009)

Fesancor International Chilean Short Film Festival (Competition) Santiago – Chile (October 2009)

Cortopotere Short Film Festival IX Edizione (Competition) – Bergamo – Italia (October 2009)

Cinemed International Film Festival (Experimental Panorama) – Montpelier – France (November 2009)

Miradas International Festival of Documentary Cinema (Market) – Guía de Isora – Spain (November 2009)

Cork Film Festival (Free Radical Film Competition) – Cork – Irland (November 2009)

Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival (Competition) – Kassel – Germany (November 2009)

Teheran Short Film Festival (Competition) – Teheran – Iran (November 2009)
Award: Best Documentary International Competition

 International Short Film Festival (Competition) Evora – Portugal (November 2009)

Blown Up A la recherche des élèves de Deleuze (Exibition curated by Silvia Maglioni & Graeme Thomson) – Paris – France (December 2009)

Cortintrecci organized by Reggio Film Festival – Reggio Emilia – Italy (December 2009)

Arab Film Festival (Competition) – San Fransisco & Los Angeles – U.S.A (October 2010)

Al Ard Doc Film Festival (Competition) – Cagliari – Sardegna/Italy (February 2011)




Remembering what is already forgotten

Set in 2002 in Rutba, Maesmak is a poetic documentary that portrays a road trip to Baghdad, a go-to-death journey experienced by a Greek traveller, an English doctor and an Iraqi story-teller. All this happens just a few weeks before the invasion of Iraq.

Far from claiming to speak on behalf of people’s experience, this documentary respects the distance between the observer (the travellers) and the observed (the Iraqis). The film’s images are in a dialogue with the travellers’ discourses, but are not subsumed by them. They delineate psychological journeys of people who feel their forthcoming death, see the inevitable, negotiate what cannot be bargained. Constituting a map of emotional process of dying on both an individual and collective level, the film keeps posing the persistent question: “maesmak?” meaning “what is your name?”

Georges Salameh made a film about remembrance of what is already forgotten, what is already erased “from the books of creation, where the name and the date of birth is not there.” He builds up a story where the voice-over splits in three different voices (of the traveller, the doctor and the story-teller), the images succeed each other outside any rational sequencing and the irrationality of death and war is what binds and holds these images together. Salameh thus manages to speak about the unspeakable: death. He gives us a testimony of what precedes death and of the death’s effects developed in its shadow. As the doctor’s voice informs us, encountering death always entails a passing through stages of anger-denial-bargaining-depression before accepting the inevitable.

The film’s images run as ruins and fragments of a pre-war world that moves in-between a black-and-white and at times colourful reality, while the music reproduces a certain sense of angst about the coming event of war and death. At times images become scratched by psychological traces, blurred by memory, or clear like mirrors that reflect and accept the forthcoming event.

The film can be experienced as one-way street: what the Greek traveller wishes to do “…leaving from the same road by which I entered Iraq” is simply not possible. The road is no longer the same and the traveller himself has changed. The image cannot be forgotten, cannot be exorcised. Maesmak ends with close ups of children’s faces – shots that compel the spectator to remember how it is to smile after giving up hope and compromising with death; how it is to have a face that owns nothing but an innocent smile.

Maesmak? What is your name?

“Let us meet at the end of the day and let’s see if the books of creation have my name and date of birth”(an Iraqi child).

Knowing his coming erasure (his state of no-name, no-body) the only thing the child possesses is his capacity to smile: a living proof of his humanity before he vanishes into a total of all numbers of war victims.

After this screening the spectator cannot but remember ‘Maesmak’ as the name that will have been forgotten, since the film reminds him/her of the ethical ‘duty’ to pay homage to this imposed oblivion of the erasure of singular lives in wartimes. A remembering that takes place not through the lines of a written history, but though the visual forces of Maesmak.

Dr Chrysanthi Nigianni

Visiting Lecturer in Sociology, University of East London