The adventure of the Lebanese Rocket Society began, in the early sixties, at the Armenian Haigazian University of Beirut where a group of students, led by a professor of mathematics, Manoug Manougian, launched with success the first rocket of the region. Between 1960 and 1967, more than ten rockets, bearing the name Cedar, were designed, produced and launched, becoming more and more performing and rising to more than 600 km as time went by. This project, which aimed at “designing and launching rockets for space study and exploration” was greatly popular at the time and made the front pages of the newspapers. In 1964, a series of stamps reproducing the Cedar IV rocket was issued.
The space project was brutally interrupted in 1967, after Israel defeated the Arab armies, and its story was totally forgotten. The documents, photos and especially the films concerning the project practically disappeared from Lebanon, and mainly from our imaginary.
The project of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige includes a documentary feature film: The Lebanese Rocket Society, the strange tale of the Lebanese space race, and a series of art installations shown at In Situ Gallery, which question our perception of past and present as well as the very notions of the imaginary. They also question the great historic events and the mythologies of those years: Pan-Arabism and its decline after the defeat of 1967, as well as the cold war, the space conquest, the great revolutionary ideas and the yearning for modernity and contemporaneousness.
This tribute to dreamers attempts to recall this forgotten space adventure and, to avoid the temptation of nostalgia, tries to reactivate it in present times, by giving a physical and material dimension to absence in order to enlarge the territory of art and cinema, to fight the dominant imaginary and the one we have of ourselves. It is also a manner of narrating stories kept secret, which perforate History and illustrate the faith and the hope of those times, the dream which nowadays seems to spread again in the streets of some Arab cities.
The film “The Lebanese Rocket Society, the strange story of the Lebanese space adventure” will be first shown in French cinemas on March 27th, after a preview, within the “Cinéma du réel” festival, on Saturday March 23rd at the Georges Pompidou Center, Beaubourg, Paris.
A lecture centered on the project will take place on Sunday March 24th, also at the Georges Pompidou Center.
A monograph of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige published by JRP/Ringier, , is available at the end of March.
About the same time a book of interviews with Quentin Mevel: “The cinema of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige” is published by Independencia.