Destroyed buildings. Faces that express clear shock and exhaustion. A soundtrack that’s both ominous and aetherial. This is how Octopus conveys the third-largest explosion in the world: The Beirut Blast.
Octopus won the award for best film at the Envision Competition in the Netherlands. This competition is part of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).
The jury report of the Envision Competition said: “This film develops its own imagistic language: a language of mystery and loss in the aftermath of a tragedy.”
The director of Octopus, Karim Kassem, arrived in Beirut only a day prior to the explosion to shoot a film. However, much like most people in Lebanon, his plans unexpectedly had to change.
Kassem, like many others, was affected by the explosion first-hand. “I was in shock, but I immediately knew that I would make it [the film] silent…,” he told 961.
To Kassem, navigating the noise within was something important that needed to be emphasized. While Octopus is mostly calm when it comes to sounds, it embodies the heavy atmosphere that followed the explosion.
Making this film had its own positive effects on him. “It was first of all my duty to make such a film,” he said, “but also, it was necessary. I think I would have suffered if I didn’t make the film.”
Making Octopus was important for the director’s own emotional well-being. Despite having volunteered to help out the week after the explosion, the film was still calling for him to be made.
“Octopus was made for the world to think about our unexamined assumptions,” he noted. For him, there is much to think about catastrophes that take place in the world.
To him, the film is about the drama that befalls the world, and the predominant idea of the film is thinking about “where we are, where we’re going, and what is the meaning of it all.”
While this may not be apparent at first, if the viewers dig deeper into the film, they might find it. The silence of the film evokes thought in the audience to decipher it.
Kassem emphasized that answering the question of “what does the Octopus stand for” defeats the purpose. He could answer it, but that limits how the watcher interprets the octopus.
Octopus takes a new perspective on the Beirut Blast. While the aftermath of the explosion was filled with dreary noise, the film lets the viewer look deeper into the turbulence within.
Written & Directed Karim Kassem World Premiere IDFA 2021 – Best Film – Envision Competition Supported by Doha Film Institute Supported by Red Sea Film Fund