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    Still from Basita (Laila Hotait Salas, 2010). Used with permission from Women's Voices Now.


  issue 3.2 |  

Journal Issue 3.2
Fall 2011
Edited by Julie Ann Salthouse, Jillian Hernandez, Agatha Beins, Karen Alexander and Deanna Utroske
Editorial Assistants: A.J. Barks and Anna Zailik


On Absent Spaces and Basita1

Artist's Statement by Laila Hotait Salas


Both my short films Basita and Absent Spaces dwell on the realm where fiction and reality meet. In both I attempt to build a narrative structure that is not just linear or straight, going from point A to point B, but one that is built upon layers of feelings, souvenirs, and news I have heard from different people or media.
         Absent Spaces is an intimate portrait of the resistance in Lebanon, a peek through the window of an apartment somewhere in Lebanon during the continuous Israeli attacks in the summer of 2006. In the film, we see a young Lebanese artist named Nadia, who receives a phone call telling her that her husband is not answering his phone, which makes her fear the worst. At the same time, this phone call also makes her want to protect her personal space and keep her home safe from the outside threats. Nadia tries to go on with her life despite what is going on outside; she is aware and worried about it, but does not want to let it interfere with her work. For me, the story reflects on one's right to normality. My main goal in this short, which was my first short film, was to break the barriers between the character and the viewers and connect them using raw human emotions.
     In the case of Basita I tried to reconstruct and bring back to life a souvenir partially made by stories from my own family and partially made by stories I had heard from other families. I had been asked to make a film about souvenirs and the only souvenir I could recall at that moment was that of which I had no clues, not enough information. I could only really say that I remembered this or that thing, or that I actually knew what had really happened. That is why the image in Basita is basically black and only the light of fire can be seen, as it is the only thing I really knew.
       The most important aspect of both projects for me was that I was able to articulate the pain and the shadows that were inside my own self, and to put them on the table, so they could become something more objective. I believe that it is in the intimate spaces where the deepest and darkest secrets are hidden and, wrongly, families or relationships may be built on the idea that if these stories or issues are not discussed, it is as if they had not occurred. Keeping these issues secret maintains what we believe is more important: the unity of the group. If you, reader, are also dealing with issues, either personal or national, even global issues that dwell in your conscience and you feel should be talked about, I encourage you to deal with them, to let them out, before they become a pain inside and one day you cannot even identify or recall the source of it anymore.
    Therefore, either in an artistic way if you feel it so, or talking to a friend, the important thing is to let it all out, so you--I--we can move forward and talk and deal with the other many issues you--I--we have in our minds and our hearts, and live in a much deeper and more conscious happiness.


Laila Hotait Salas is a Spanish-Lebanese filmmaker, and is also the director of Beirut...Coming Back to You is Not Painful, which was awarded by the Spanish Association of Arabic Studies. In 2010, along with her sister, Nadia Hotait, founded LAAVENTURA ( a global collaboration platform for artists. Hotait is also a PhD candidate at the Audiovisual Communication Department of the Universidad Carlos III in Spain.


1 Absent Spaces can be viewed on the Women's Voices Now Web site at Basita can be viewed at



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