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Radical Closure, Program 1: The Captives

Curated by Lebanese video artist Akram Zaatari, and originally presented by the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Radical Closure features works produced in response to situations of physical or ideological closure resulting from war and territorial conflicts. The program looks at what is known as the Middle East, and how the moving image has functioned throughout its history, charged with division, political tension, and mobilization. This 5-DVD box set has an accompanying monograph with curator’s essay, and features important work by 24 artists including Guy Ben-Ner, Harun Farocki, Mona Hatoum, Walid Raad, and Elia Suleiman. Many of the titles on Radical Closure are being made available to educational audiences for the first time.


This first program deals with stories of captivity. To start, Hostage: The Bachar tapes by Walid Raad presents us with an imagined hostage presumably held in custody along with the American hostages in Lebanon during the 1980’s. Raad’s work reflects on the invention and communication of stories about abduction, insisting on the families’ unity in the face of threats, and reads through the fears and sexual fantasies of the kidnapped Americans who are held in the same cell with a Lebanese man. The next piece is a personal documentary by Namir Abdel Messeeh, in which he talks to his father, trying to understand the complex situation that led to him being a political prisoner in Egypt. In Winter at Last, Nurit Sharett looks at herself as a captive in a state that separates her from her friends, going in extreme directions; a Swiss woman who leaves by choice, and a Palestinian friend who can no longer cross into Israel. Finally a parable about captivity, a prisoner of domestic life: Guy Ben-Ner in House Hold.

# Title Artists Run Time Year Country
1 Hostage: The Bachar Tapes (English Version) Walid Raad, Souheil Bachar 00:16:17 2001 United States
2 Toi Waguih (You, Waguih) Namir Abdel Messeh 00:28:15 2005 Egypt
3 Winter at Last Nurit Sharett 00:21:40 2005 Israel
4 House Hold Guy Ben-Ner 00:22:52 2001 Israel

Hostage: The Bachar Tapes (English Version)

Walid Raad, Souheil Bachar
2001 | 00:16:17 | United States | English | Color | Mono | 4:3 | Video


Hostage: The Bachar Tapes (English Version) is an experimental documentary about "The Western Hostage Crisis." The crisis refers to the abduction and detention of Westerners like Terry Anderson, and Terry Waite in Lebanon in the 80s and early 90s by "Islamic militants." This episode directly and indirectly consumed Lebanese, U.S., French, and British political and public life, and precipitated a number of high-profile political scandals like the Iran-Contra affair in the U.S.

In Hostage: The Bachar Tapes (English version), the "Western Hostage Crisis" is examined through the testimony of Souheil Bachar, who was held hostage in Lebanon between 1983 and 1993. What is remarkable about Souheil's captivity is that he was the only Arab to have been detained with the Western hostages kidnapped in Beirut in the 1980's. In fact, Souheil was held for three months in 1985 in the same cell as five American men: Terry Anderson, Thomas Sutherland, Benjamin Weir, Marting Jenco, and David Jacobsen.

In 1999, Bachar collaborated with The Atlas Group (a non-profit cultural research foundation based in Lebanon) to produce 53 videotapes about his captivity. Tapes #17 and #31 are the only two tapes Bachar makes available outside of Lebanon. In the tapes, Bachar addresses the cultural, textual, and sexual aspects of his detention with the Americans.

This title is also available on Radical Closure.

Toi Waguih (You, Waguih)

Namir Abdel Messeh
2005 | 00:28:15 | Egypt | Arabic | | | 4:3 | 35mm film


This film is the result of an intimate time spent between the filmmaker, who lives today in Belgium, and his father who is a former political prisoner. It looks at the complex political system of Egypt under Nasser.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.

Winter at Last

Nurit Sharett
2005 | 00:21:40 | Israel | None | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | Video


Two video letters made to communicate the artists longing for her friends, and produced with the same images from her daily life in Israel. The first is addressed to Jacqueline, the artist’s Swiss friend in Zurich, and the second to Abla, her Palestinian friend in Nablus.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.

House Hold

Guy Ben-Ner
2001 | 00:22:52 | Israel | None | | | |


This work is almost a parable, where a man is imprisoned under his baby’s bed. He tries all means to survive and to find a mechanical solution that would lead him to freedom.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.