Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File

Wael Shawky
Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File

HD video, color, sound, 31:49 min

Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File offers a view on the history of the Crusades, retracing events that unfolded over a period of four years (1096-1099) and played a key role in subsequent historical developments, shaking to the core the Arab world and its relations with the West. The film is a translation of causes and effects of the religiously sanctioned military campaigns in the form of images based on a reconstruction of events seen through the eyes of those who had to confront the invasion. It provides a precise description of the places in the Middle East and Europe that formed the backdrop for the early Crusades. To bring these episodes alive, the production uses highly expressive 200-year-old marionettes from the Lupi collection in Turin. This gem of local Piedmontese tradition is perfectly suited for a contemporary and international reinterpretation of events. The marionettes are moved by clearly visible strings and don the costumes of the characters who were present in the Christian armies of Europe and in the Muslim armies during the conflicts. Though the subject is based on historical documents and facts, what emerges is a surreal and mythical atmosphere that blends drama and cynicism, telling a story of remote events that could hardly be more topical today.

The main source of inspiration for this work is The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf, written in 1986, and thus long before today’s recrudescence of hatred. The book by Maalouf, a Lebanese who lives in France, re-examines the history of the Crusades by going back to Arab historians and their writings, most of which have never been taken into consideration in the West, though he does also turn to some of the most acknowledged Western sources and studies. The historical picture that emerges is at once powerful and level-headed, political and unbiased.

The essay gives some insight into the historical cruelties perpetrated in the name of a vague feeling of religious humiliation, but more objectively one that was carried out for complex socioeconomic reasons, the most important of which was a reaction against the misery and desperation caused by the plague that struck the lands of the Byzantine Empire between 541 and 543 AC. Accustomed as we are to seeing the Crusades as a glorious race to free Jerusalem in the name of God, we may well be astonished by the events that actually took place.

The aim was not the liberation of the Holy Sepulchre, but conquest of the lands that had formerly been part of the Roman Empire, where for centuries the Catholic Church attempted to exert its control. This was to be the conquest of peoples and economic resources for a Europe that was barely managing to survive.

One Trackback

  1. By Wael Shawky, Cabaret Crusades | The MAC March 27, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Leave a Reply