"I cannot be astonished by anything in life"

Roxana Vilk is producer of the POETS IN PROTEST series made by SDI Productions for Al Jazeera English. She's also the director of the episode on Mazen Maarouf: Hand Made.


“It is the mission of how to reconstruct the dirt, this is poetry, maybe to make a rose out of dust.” 

That's how Mazen described his role of a poet the first time I interviewed him, back in May 2010 in Lebanon. Those words rang true as we drove through Beirut city, still scarred by so many wars, and he then showed me around the small blown up flat he and his family had lived in as a Palestinian refugees.

However by the time we came to film Mazen in December 2011 for the Poets of Protest Artscape series, things looked very different for him. It was no longer Beirut we were looking at – it was Paris and Reykjavik. Mazen’s journalistic work in Beirut had led to his life being put in grave danger, and he left to Iceland where he was invited to become a guest writer for ICORN as Reykjavik had become a new 'City of Refuge'...

Suddenly I had a very different story on my hands from the one we had planned to shoot in Lebanon. Instead we shot the film partly in Reykjavik, working with a great local producer, Hlín Jóhannesdóttir and her team, and then in France just before Christmas 2011. Mazen was travelling across to Paris to work with his french translator on his new collection of poetry, An Angel Suspended on a Clothesline.

What immediately drew me into this sudden turn of events was that Mazen had written a poem called DNA back in 2002, describing in detail how it feels to be a Palestinian refugee living in Lebanon. In the poem he also talks of dreaming of escaping to Paris:

“...and dream
of faraway things:
a small flat in a suburb of Paris, the Louvre,
loads and loads
of loneliness and books.” 

When Mazen wrote DNA he had never been to Paris or France. It seemed very serendipitous that we had these words, these aspirations in his poem, and Mazen was now travelling to France to work on his poetry. So it was through working closely with his poems that I started to sculpt the film narrative, as many of his works have a strong personal, almost autobiographical voice and are often both dark and beautiful in their observations.


As he said to me back in 2010, “I feel I cannot be astonished by anything in life. I lost this two years ago, because I still remember so many things from the war. But the traces of beauty that I pick up from life are enough, and life is generous still donating me these traces of beauty because I write poetry from them.”

In our film Hand Made we follow Mazen on his new journey, with his notebook in hand, sculpting poetry from the "traces of beauty" he encounters on his path in exile.

This episode of POETS OF PROTEST can be seen on Al Jazeera English from Friday 28 September at the following times GMT: Friday 19:30; Saturday 14:30; Sunday 04:30; Monday: 08:30. British Summer Time is GMT+1h.