Young Libyans find escape in Tripoli's 'secret' cinema

Wed May 15, 2013 12:46pm EDT
 
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By Ghaith Shennib

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - In the basement of a villa in central Tripoli, young Libyans seeking an escape from violence and disorder watch an American movie classic screened using a simple projector and laptop.

They may feel they have plenty to relate to in James Dean's teenage character as he battles society's constraints and institutions in "Rebel Without A Cause".

Nearly two years after the revolution that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's progress towards democracy has been stalled by political infighting and the growing boldness of some of the powerful rebel factions that helped end his 42-year rule.

"It's now part of our routine. We wait patiently every week for the next screening, as these movie classics are unavailable on television channels," said Mohammad Nattah, a 23-year-old medical student.

"It's free and our way of escaping our current reality."

Every week, the young crowd files down the villa's stairs to the lower level where rows of white, plastic chairs are lined up facing the wall that serves as a screen. Latecomers miss out on the unglamorous seating and make do with the floor.

The program ranges from Hollywood mainstays like "The Godfather" to "Ahlaam", a film about the Iraq war, told from an Iraqi point of view. The films are shown with Arabic subtitles.

Screenings are open to everyone but the organizers try to keep a low profile. Libya's biggest political party is founded on liberal values, but society is deeply conservative.   Continued...