“In this film I wanted to say the sum of who we become is thanks to the people we meet.”
– Danielle Arbid on Parisienne (Peur de rien)
In the aftermath of the bombings in Beirut and Paris, I found myself searching for something in the world that resembled beauty, kindness, and yes, grace. After the attacks, the world has felt steeped in endless hate: the bigoted backlash against Muslims; borders being closed to Syrian refugees; the devaluation of Arab lives by the media (to say nothing of Facebook’s complicity in this with its “Safety Check” and French tricolour avatars). But, amidst this, I began to see acts of grace manifest in the most unlikely of places—in mourning, solidarity, and in critical self-reflection. In these moments, however small, grace created space for dialogue, compassion and action. I found myself thinking of Danielle Arbid’s Parisienne (Peur de rien). Not just because the film chronicles a young woman’s move from Lebanon to France, but for how the protagonist, Lina (Manal Issa), forges a life in her new home: through her relationships and chance encounters. Lina’s new life doesn’t come about by the grace of God, but by grace of the Other. If that isn’t the message to champion right now, what is?
But my newfound knowledge of grace won’t come as a surprise to our writers, who already had a far more nuanced understanding of this concept. This ninth iteration of cléo opens with two interviews: Samuel La France talked to the film-artist Mary Stark about her work, which refuses the machinery of film with textile-inspired installations made of celluloid strips; I sat down with screen icon Geraldine Chaplin to discuss “aging gracefully” and her role in Sand Dollars. Frequent contributor Sophie Mayer honours our cover girl, Tilda Swinton, with a look at the (gender-bending) body of this actress’s work. (Thanks to Soraya Gilanni for so brilliantly capturing this issue’s theme with her original cover art.)
Colleen Kelsey examines the alluring aura of Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger, and Justine Smith challenges notions of graceful love by looking at Brief Encounter, a revolutionary film about adultery. We’re very pleased to have Sarah Gadon grace (pun intended) our pages with an essay on the role of women in the Italian neo-realism classic Rome, Open City, which she wrote while studying at the University of Toronto. We also have a piece on Gia, wherein Maria Martinez thinks about the consumptive—and ultimately in this case destructive—nature of our issue’s theme. Corinn Columpar (a professor who taught and inspired three of our five editors) writes about the complexities of quests for grace in HBO’s Enlightened.
Our roundtable features three brilliant women—Sarah Nicole Prickett, Zeba Blay and our own Julia Cooper—on the genre of dance movies. In discussing the likes of Josephine Baker, Magic Mike XXL and Save the Last Dance, the trio decode dance films’ preoccupation with capturing this ethereal art form. Lastly, Lydia Ogwang profiles Cecile Emeke for our Women to Watch Series.
To return to the spirit of Arbid’s film, one meaning of the word that I feel particularly attached to—now more than ever—is found in its Latin root: “gratus.” To be thankful. So, I have to thank cléo’s editors: Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Mallory Andrews and Eleni Deacon, and especially Managing Editor Julia Cooper. Their knowledge, critiques and humour keep this publication going, and keep me going when it feels like the world has lost all its grace.
November 24, 2015