This is not a moral criticism however. Our choices in fashion are but a symptom of our condition as consumers and not producers of images. This is clearly portrayed in the video clip for Zeid Hamdan’s song General Suleiman, a satirical reggae number dealing with the country’s political frustrations. Despite the local theme of the song itself, the video takes most of its inspiration from Rio de Janeiro and little, if anything, from Beirut. The Brazilian visual clichés are prevalent: street football, flip-flops, and happy multi-cultural faces.
The depiction of diversity is particularly interesting; it’s as if our own diversity is deemed un-presentable so we have to resort to borrowing other people’s visual depictions of diversity. This is more Benetton than East-West Beirut, more Copacabana than Masbah Ajram. Thankfully the video avoids the combined image of a Mosque and a Church, but surely this is a bit more depth to us than this?
Some will argue that the choice of imagery in the video is down to the fact that the director is not Lebanese, but we come across the same appropriation of imagery in most Lebanese video clips made by local directors. It is more likely that the director here had to fall back on the Brazilian imagery precisely because of the failure of the local context to provide a convincing repertoire that does not reveal too much behind the scenes. Ultimately this would not sit comfortably with the somewhat simplistic political ‘message’ of the song.
Being a foreigner didn’t prevent Danny Boyle from producing exclusively Indian imagery in Slumdog Millionaire. But a warning to nitpickers here, please spare me any lazy comments about the depiction of the other and orientalism, India was captured superbly in Slumdog without resorting to clichés and traditional imagery. But India is self-possessed and dynamic; Boyle’s cleverness was to engage with the energy and the ambition of the place and let them shape the visual narrative.
What would he have depicted in Beirut?