Alexis Guillier

A Dance with Reality

Purgatoire (Cinema that Kills)

Based on his artistic research into accidents on film sets, Alexis Guillier’s project looks at a deadly fire that broke out on the set of the 1969 Lebanese film Koullouna Fidayoun by Gary Garabedian.

Alexis Guillier

The film’s script, characteristic of cinema supporting the Palestinian resistance at the time, deals with a group of Fedayeen and in particular with one of its members who was captured by the Israeli army. He reveals the location of his comrades under torture. A final scene was meant to show their revenge: a bombing at a Tel Aviv nightclub. The Lebanese club Purgatoire was chosen for the shoot, but when the special-effects explosives were detonated, a fatal flash fire broke out. Four people including the director died in the fire, but in the days that followed, sixteen others succumbed to their injuries. 

Guillier’s research delves into the complexity of the film’s context, the precariousness of Lebanese cinema, and the investigation of the accident.

Stills from Guillier's trailer for Purgatoire (Cinema that kills), video, 6:52, 2022. Some archival material is part of the Baalbeck Studios collection and was kindly made available by UMAM D&R and digitized by Arsenal—Institute for Film and Video Art in the framework of the Whole Life Academy program (Haus der Kulturen der Welt) as part of the workshop “The Perverted Archival Image.”

Investigative journalist Alia Ibrahim, Guillier’s mentor at Forecast, said: “Alexis Guillier‘s work delves into the world of cinema and documents eye-opening facts exposing the layered costs of creative independence. My decision to select Guillier’s project was driven by a personal curiosity to enter a fascinating world that looks at issues that are very important to me but from completely different perspectives. I am also intrigued by all the contradictions the work brings together and its fascinating melange of genres and spaces, from global to hyperlocal, from glossy to film noir, and from nostalgic to contemporary.”


Watch a recap of Guillier’s contribution at the Forecast Forum 7: