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Museum | Lebanese Film Series, May 2010

Films, Directors & Discussions

Discussions: May 14–16

Jeffrey Middents, an expert on film and world literature, and Alicia Sams, a renowned film director and producer, will lead a discussion and answer audience questions after the screening on Thursday, May 13. Middents is a professor at American University and is director of the Cinema Studies minor. He is author of the 2009 book Writing National Cinema: Film Journals and Film Culture in Peru.

Sams has extensive production experience in both documentary and feature films. Her most recent film as director/producer is By the People: The Election of Barack Obama, a behind-the-scenes look at the journey of Barack Obama and his campaign staff from before the announcement of his Presidential campaign in 2007, all the way to the White House in 2009. Also in 2009, Sams was executive producer of Cherien Dabis' award-winning debut feature Amreeka, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and win on to win the Critics Prize at the Director's Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival.

Discussions will also be held Friday, May 14, through Sunday, May 16, for the screenings on those days. Leila Assaf, producer of Not Like My Sister, will discuss her film the day it is screened, Friday, May 14.


The Kite

(2003, 1 hr & 20 min, Arabic with Arabic & French subtitles)
Randa Chahal Sabbag merges bitter reality with comic surrealism in the tale of two star-crossed lovers from opposite ends of the Israeli-Lebanese border. Set against a backdrop of vast skies and desert sand, the story follows Lamia, a Lebanese woman who is separated from the object of her affection by a maze of social and political barriers.

While flying kites with her brother near Lebanon’s border, Lamia first lays eyes on Youssef, the Israeli patrolman. An Arab himself, Youssef is ambivalent about guarding the border against a village occupied by his own family and relatives.

Shorty After, Lamia is married off to her cousin Sammy, who lives on the Israeli side of the border. Though the arranged marriage allows her to admire Youssef from afar, it also forces Lamia into a melancholic state. Eventually, the entire town becomes affected by her mood, as villagers stop eating and sleeping. They soon demand Lamia’s immediate departure.

Even though her family initially welcomes her back, gossip and shame cause Lamia’s depression to resurface. Her heart yearns for Youssef and the only thing that can revive her spirits now is one last glimpse of him.

Director: Randa Chahal Sabbag was born in Tripoli, Lebanon. She studied film at the University of Vincennes and the School of Louis Lumiére in France and has directed numerous documentaries, short films, television programs and feature films. In 2004, she was awarded the Chevalier of the Order of the Cedar, the nation’s highest honor, for her contributions to Lebanon. The Kite is her third feature film.



(2005, 1 hr & 45 min, Arabic with English subtitles)
Zozo grows up in Beirut. In spite of the civil war he leads a normal life with family, friends and classmates. But one day tragedy strikes and Zozo is torn from his family and forced to make his own way through life. His only hope is to get himself to Sweden, for him and unknown country.

Director: Josef Fares was born in 1977 in Lebanon. Ten years later he and his family moved to the Swedish town of Örebro. Fares started making films when he was 15 and entered them in amateur film festivals. About 50 short films and many awards later, Fares entered film school in 1998. His association with Memfis Film began with the pilot Cool Guys and was followed by the box office smash Jalla! Jalla!. After that Fares directed Kops, which proved equally as popular with audiences, with over 775,000 tickets sold in Sweden. Both films were distributed in over 20 countries.


Not Like My Sister

(2008, 58 min, Arabic with English subtitles)
Rim Kerkatli rose to fame at the age of nine after starring in Assaf-Tengroth’s 1994 hit documentary Frihetsligan (Freedom League). The film offered Rim the opportunity to go to school, a privilege for young women from her village. But her freedom was short-lived. At the age of 13, she was forced to marry her father’s cousin. Rim’s younger sister, Dalida, does not want to share the same fate, and her struggle to defy traditional norms becomes the focus of Not Like My Sister. Filmmaker Leyla Assaf-Tengroth presents a stark documentary on forced marriage and honor killings in rural Syria.

Director: Assaf-Tengroth is an award-winning filmmaker who resides in Sweden. Her films have been shown on Swedish television, in several European countries, as well as in the US, Canada and Australia. Although she has been living in Sweden since 1966, she’s of Lebanese origin, and it is perhaps this background that helps explain her interest in developing countries. Her films often deal with sociopolitical problems and environmental issues.

Assaf-Tengroth holds degrees in art, photography, communication, film history and drama. She speaks French, Arabic, Swedish, English and Portuguese, and has her own production company, Cadmos Film, which works closely with The Swedish Film Institute and Swedish television.


After Shave

(2006, 27 min, Arabic & French with English subtitles)
Mr. Raymond has lived alone in an old house in Beirut since his wife died. He is called on by Abou Milad, an old barber in the neighborhood who earns his living working out of cafés.

Director: Hany Tamba studied graphic design in Great Britain between 1977 and 1982 before embarking on a freelance career as an illustrator for 10 years in London. He shot his first film, Beirut, the Barbers in 1998. Then came Mabrouk Again! in 1999, a comedy and winner of several awards at festivals around the world; Du poil de la bêta in 2002; and recently After Shave, which has begun its festival run. Hany Tamba is currently preparing a full-length feature project called Melodrama Habibi.


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Under the Bombs

(2007, 1 hr & 34 min, Arabic with English subtitles)
Zeina lives in Dubai. In the midst of a divorce, she sends her son Karim to stay with her sister in Kherbet Salem, a small village in South Lebanon, to spare him from his parents’ fighting. A few days later, war breaks out in Lebanon. Desperately worried, Zeina immediately heads to Lebanon via Turkey. Because of the blockade she does not reach the port of Beirut until the day of the ceasefire. There she meets Tony, the only taxi driver who agrees to take her to the South. Zerina and Tony set out in search of her lost child in a journey that brings them together as they encounter widespread death and destruction.

Writer/Director/Producer: Franco-Lebanese director Philippe Aractingi was born in Beirut in 1964. He has made over 40 films, ranging from reportages and documentaries to more personal movies, filmed around the world. After 12 years in France he returned to Lebanon to make Bosta, the first post-war musical. With huge success in Lebanon and the Arab world, Bosta, was selected to represent Lebanon at the Oscars. In July 2006, when war broke out again, Philippe Aractingi made his second feature film Under the Bombs, which was also Lebanon’s selection for the 2009 Oscars. Philippe Aractingi now lives between Lebanon and France.

Note: Note: Aractingi’s film Bosta will also be on view during this film program.


The North Road

(2008, 25 min, Arabic & French with English subtitles)
Karim, who is in his mid-forties, has lived in France since his early teenage years. For the first time in many years he returns to Lebanon to transfer the remains of his father, who died during the war, from Beirut to his home village.

Director: Carlos Chahine emigrated from Lebanon to France in 1975. After receiving a diploma in dentistry, he decided to study theater at the TNS school of Strasbourg. Since the 1990s, he has worked exclusively as an actor, especially in theater, in France. The North Road is his first movie as a director.


When Maryam Spoke Out

(2002, 1 hr & 38 min, Arabic with English subtitles)
When Maryam Spoke Out is a 98-minute Lebanese film, based on a true story. It is a social film about a couple, Ziad and Maryam, who have a happy marriage, except that three years in Maryam has still not had a baby. Ziad is compassionate and assures her that he still loves her. Nonetheslles, Maryam cannot escape the growing pressure from the family, especially from her mother-in-law. She reacts by faking a pregnancy. Her family’s initial enthusiasm disappears when it becomes clear that Maryam and Ziad are not really expecting a baby.

Director: Assad Fuladkar was born in Beirut. He completed a Master’s Degree in Film from Boston University. During his time in Boston he wrote and directed several short dramas and documentaries. His short film Kyrie Eleison received an Oscar nomination for best Student Film Festival in 1990. It went on to win five other awards across the United States, and then the Prix du Public at the Montpellier Film Festival in France in 1990.
Currently, Fuladkar is teaching at The Lebanese American University in Beirut. When Maryam Spoke Out is his first feature film, and he has just finished shooting his second film Ordinary Lebanese Hysteria.


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(2003, 26 min, Arabic with English subtitles)
Nabil returns to Beirut with the ashes of his father who died abroad. He tries to overcome his bereavement while his family insists on respecting custom by burying a non-existent corpse.

Directors: Both born in Beirut, Hadjithomas and Joreige are filmmakers, artists and university teachers. Together, they directed several films, such as: Al Bayt el Zaher (The Pink House), A perfect Day and Je veux voir (I Want to See).


Beirut Open City

(Lebanon/Egypt, 2007, 100 min, Arabic with English subtitles)
Khaled is a young Egyptian man living in Beirut during the national reconstruction effort-a project that has fallen short of its promises and left many disillusioned. In solidarity with his fellow citizens, the aspiring filmmaker undertakes a cinematic project that reveals the dualism of modern-day Lebanon: its compassion and also its cruelty.

While wandering through the city, Khaled encounters remarkable people on the streets who motivate characters in his vision. As he proceeds, however, the imaginary and the factual begin to intermingle. Eventually, Khalid finds himself a captive of the scenario he is writing and doomed to endure the fate of its characters.

Director: Samir Habchi was born in Lebanon in 1961. He graduated with a Masters degree in fine arts from the Ukraine’s Institute of Theatre and Cinematography in directing. He returned to Lebanon to write, direct and produce feature films and television programs. Habchi has directed many films including Gebran Khalil Gebran (2008), Sayidat el Kasr (Lady of the Palace, 2003) and Meshwar (2005 – a feature drama showcased at the 2005 Sydney Arab Film Festival). His television credits from 1996 to 2007 include Hakaya, Al Hall Bi Idak, Al Sanina for NTV; Ras Beirut, Bent el Hay, Lamhet Hobb and Bawahir for LBCI and Darb Alfounoun for ART.



(2005, 1 hr & 55 min, Arabic & English with French & English subtitles)
Bosta is the story of a group of dancers who perform the traditional Lebanese Dabkeh in a Techno style. After 15 years of exile in France, Kamal returns to Beirut with his mind set on one goal: to reunite the dance group he had formed with his school friends, whom he hasn’t seen since he left. But he also wants to make the bold move of introducing a Western flavor to the traditional Dabkeh. When the dancers audition before the jury of the National Dabkeh Festival, they are curtly rejected because they are disgracing the “only cultural icon left.” This prompts them to refurbish their old school bus and embark on a road trip across Lebanon to perform and introduce their pioneering dance to the public. As they struggle to win people over with their alternative spirit, each of the dancers realizes that they also embarked on a personal journey to reconnect with their childhood, their lost friendships, and the pains of the war and separation. It is a journey that leads the group of friends to turn the page on a painful past.

Writer/Director/Producer: Franco-Lebanese director Philippe Aractingi was born in Beirut in 1964. He has made over 40 films, ranging from reportages and documentaries to more personal movies, filmed around the world. After 12 years in France he returned to Lebanon to make Bosta, the first post-war musical. With huge success in Lebanon and the Arab world, Bosta, was selected to represent Lebanon at the Oscars. In July 2006, when war broke out again, Philippe Aractingi made his second feature film Under the Bombs, which was also Lebanon’s selection for the 2009 Oscars. Philippe Aractingi now lives between Lebanon and France.

Note: Aractingi’s film Under the Bombs will also be on view during this film program.


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Free and open to the public:

Thursday, May 13
The Kite, 5:00-6:20

Friday, May 14
Zozo, 5:00-6:45
Not Like My Sister, 7:00-8:00
After Shave, 8:15-8:45

Saturday, May 15
Under the Bombs, 3:00-4:35
The North Road, 4:45-5:00
When Maryam Spoke Out, 5:20-7:00

Sunday, May 16
Ashes, 3:00-3:30
Beirut Open City, 3:45-5:25
Bosta, 5:35-7:30

This film series is presented in conjunction with the Embassy of Lebanon and the exhibition at American University Museum:
Convergence: New Art from Lebanon