Johar...Up in the air

Screening & DVD Launching of JOHAR UP IN the AIR

From Lebanon’s notoriously tough Roumieh prison, Daccache’s third carceral theatre production “Johar… Up in the Air” emerges shedding the light on inmates suffering from mental illness and inmates sentenced to life; both with a common fate: staying in prison forever and ever. Indeed, the Lebanese penal code states that “insane” offenders (yes it states “insane” instead of mentally ill) should be incarcerated in a special psychiatry unit until evidence of “cured from insanity” (whereas mental illness can be managed with proper treatment and not “cured”). And there is no psychiatry unit in all Lebanese Prisons except for a small building in Roumieh Prison: the Blue Building that has never been refurbished as a psychiatry unit since the day it was built in 2002.

Filmed inside Roumieh Prison in May 2016, at one of the live performances given to the external audience, “Johar… Up in the Air” features a cast of 38 inmates who over the course of 2 hours of monologues, choreographed dances depicting mental illness’ plight, songs and scenes before an audience, share their stories while overcoming their condition. Since inmates suffering from a severe mental illness could not represent their own stories on stage – Daccache chose instead to involve those facing a life sentence. The latter inmates with very little hope for themselves, took the time and effort to not just care for their fellow inmates with mental disorders on day-to-day in the prison, but to interpret their real-life stories that elicited their sympathy, for example that of a mentally ill inmate who develops a deep devotion to his donkey, Johar – the man’s only friend in a village that shunned him.

Daccache’s projects have had a lot of success in reforming prisons and the judiciary in Lebanon. It was after “12 Angry Lebanese” the play produced in 2009 in Roumieh Prison, that a 2002 law to reduce prison sentences for good behavior was finally implemented. “Scheherazade in Baabda”, performed in the female prison of Baabda in 2012, shed light on the oppression faced by women in Lebanon – while Johar pushes the government to improve Mental Health in Lebanese Prisons and reform the law for mentally ill inmates and inmates sentenced to life (these persons can’t get their sentences reduced although it is possible by the law, but with nearly impossible conditions). Indeed, in August 2016, 2 draft laws have been submitted by Catharsis to the Lebanese Parliament, hopefully changing the lives of many forgotten persons behind bars – some of whom have been in prison for over 35 years – and preventing a similar “life sentence” fate for future inmates.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with the Audience in presence of the Play Director and some of the Actors recently released (who took part in the play that was performed in May 2016 inside Roumieh Prison).

This event is free of charge.

For More Info and Reservation, Please Contact Catharsis on: (03) 162 573 / (09) 914 932 / info@catharsislcdt.org
Reservation before December 13, 2017 is highly recommended.
The screening includes English Subtitles.