The ‘bromance’ has long been a popular genre for cinema audiences with the Western capers of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in the late sixties, to the excellent adventures of Bill and Ted in the early nighties, and right up to underage puberty ridden hilarity of “Superbad”.

Beirut-born director, and self confessed lover of the genre, Mazen Khaled explores the male bond of friendship in his latest film A Petty Bourgeois Dream, which will be screened as part of the Cannes Market on May 13. This is Mazen’s first feature length film, although he’s already produced a number of short films that have been to a variety of festivals, but never Cannes.

The lives of lifelong friends Ramzi and Tarek are interrupted by the arrival of Ramzi’s mother, when her presence causes the two to question the nature of their relationship. Homosociality, or the nonsexual relationship between two people of the same sex, in this part of the world is common, and generally more apparent than in Western societies.
Mazen tries understanding why this isn’t considered homosexuality or if desire causes love or does love cause desire. Not aiming to find answers to his questions, the director simply wanted to ask them to a society that frequently shies away from the issue. A Petty Bourgeois Dream shares the theme of a strong fraternal connection between two men, but as Mazen states, “it goes deeper and it’s calmer and more composed.”

Casting the two male leads proved difficult, as if “braving the impossible”; but the production team managed to secure the talents of Wissam Fares and Jamal Jaafar, as well as the legend of the Lebanese screen, Souraya Baghdadi, who plays the mother.

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Mazen first met producer Carole Abboud (C.Cam production) when he wrote a film called Housekeeping, and thought Carole, who is also an actress, would be perfect for one of the roles. Despite the script receiving praise at the Dubai Film Connection, it was never made because it required an extensive amount of money to produce. The two remained in touch, and when Mazen began a smaller and more economical project, which would become A Petty Bourgeois Dream, Carole became his producer. They both shared the same frustration that Lebanese films had to cater to a certain idea about who Lebanese people were. Mazen wanted to create a story about societal issues that are rarely seen on the Lebanese screens.

The film was set and shot in Beirut, a city that Mazen loves, although at times he claims he did find it challenging to work in. “For example I love the Corniche, and we had a few long scenes established there. Every time there would be hundreds or at least a thousand people watching the shoot and chatting, with no intention to leave; controlling the crowd was quite a hassle.”

Funding is the eternal problem for many films, an issue even more present in Lebanon. For A Petty Bourgeois Dream, Mazen and his team were able to secure financing from a number of institutions, including the Robert Matta Foundation and others private sources, which only covered part of the budget.

Running parallel with the designer gowns and Hollywood smiles of the red carpet at Cannes, filmmakers are wooing audiences and the industry’s professionals in an attempt to secure a spot for their film in cinema listings around the world. Having completed the uphill creative struggle of getting an idea onto film, A Petty Bourgeois Dream will be tackling the business side of the film industry. “We’re talking to festivals to see where we are going to premiere. We’re inviting sales agents and distributors to push the film”,explains the director.

by Hugo Goodridge