Director: Anthony Chidiac
Words – Rhiannon Topham
Room for a Man takes biographical filmmaking to the nth degree. Young gay Lebanese director Anthony Chidiac explores how his identity is situated in his long family history of traditionally masculine men and grapples with the complexities of intimacy and personal relationships.
At home with his mother in their apartment in Beirut, Anthony builds a narrative of loneliness and rejection around the solace and symbolism of his bedroom – this finite area is his safe haven from the familial hostility he endures, and his only space for autonomous self-expression.
When Syrian builders are brought in to renovate his room, they don’t just strip away the decadent facade Anthony has plastered to the walls. The refurbishment also marks the dismantlement of Anthony’s isolation, a personal turning point which takes him to Argentina and reunites him with his estranged father.
Room for a Man differs from other documentaries in that there isn’t an obvious point to it. It is many things: a personal essay, a commentary on gender and sexuality outside of the Western scope, a beautiful experimentation of light, tones and textures from the almost velvety roughness of the Argentinian mountains to the fragmented plaster on the barren walls of Anthony’s bedroom. But it is not a film with a standout purpose – it doesn’t set out to achieve anything, and that’s not a criticism.
Any art which is rooted in the personal story of the creator runs the risk of getting a bit Catcher in the Rye, a bit egotistical and vapid. This is a deeply personal film, yes, but Chidiac manages to evade the traps of self-absorption by interweaving his own quest for belonging and acceptance with the accounts of the Syrian builders, for example, who feel as psychologically lost as he does, and the adventures of his own father, who has travelled far and wide in his quest to fill the void of inertia.