Josef Fares’ Zozo as accented cinema
Alexander, Elizabeth Lindsay
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In 2005, the Lebanese-Swedish filmmaker Josef Fares, who had attained recognition in Sweden through the immigrant comedies Jalla! Jalla! (2000) and Kopps (2003), presented his third feature film and first drama, Zozo, inspired by Fares’s own migration to Sweden. Set in 1987 Beirut, Zozo portrays a ten-year boy who loses his parents during the Lebanese Civil War and who journeys to reunite with his grandparents already settled in Sweden. In Sweden, Zozo is forced to learn the host country’s language quickly and to understand the unwritten rules of his new culture. Like his grandparents, he will probably always have an accent and be recognizably the “other.” The film became Sweden’s national submission to the 78th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and its nomination not only raised questions on what Sweden and Swedishness mean in a contemporary global world, but it also reexamined the problems of nationality, location, identity, and historical memory in a borderless Europe. In this essay I argue that Zozo is an illustration of accented film, which means the film is neither Swedish nor Lebanese, but a combination of both. Influenced by his deterritorialization from Lebanon and his current life in Sweden, the cinematographic stylistic choices of Josef Fares exhibit a “double consciousness” - multiple cultural identities at once. To further understand the Lebanese and Swedish elements in the film, I analyze how elements such as chronotopes (time-space), border crossing, epistolarity, and double consciousness are inscribed in the film. In addition, I use Laura U. Marks’ concept of fossils, radioactive recollection-objects. By employing Hamid Naficy’s accented cinema theory, I hope to explain how Josef Fares is neither Swedish nor Lebanese, but an individual with multicultural identities, which reflect in the elements of the narrative and cinematographic style.