Elie Kamal has already shown his worth, with the short films that he has produced and now he is heading to Cannes with his latest project, which he has written and directed. Beirut Terminus is his first feature length documentary and will be showing at the Cannes Market.
What’s the topic of your film?Beirut Terminus tells the history of Lebanon and the surrounding region through the railway that once existed and traced the country’s four corners. Following the tracks and the discarded stations, the film investigates the history, geo-politics and anthropology of the path through this territory from station to station while looking for a latent terminus.
What drew you to the subject matter of your documentary?I used to walk along the railway that crossed my neighbourhood when I was a kid, and I often ran into abandoned stations or parts of railways during my road trips in the country.
The main idea popped into my mind in 2010 at Station in Mar Mkhayel. From that moment on, I began researching and got drawn to the subject, which felt really special to me. Lebanon as we know it was created around the same time as the railways, and weirdly enough, the issues that the country faced when the tracks were first laid are similar to the issues of today.
How was the experience of filming your first feature length documentary?It’s a new experience for sure, and not an easy one. I have worked as a cinematographer on many documentary films and learned a great deal from each director and every experience but this one is new to me.
As a director, I already have 3 short fictions in my filmography, but approaching a documentary is a very different matter in terms of writing, shooting and editing.
I tend to be impatient and race with time, but with this film I learned to let the story lead and impose its own rhythm, especially considering that the subject is very delicate and cannot be rushed.
How did you finance it?Like many filmmakers in the region, we depend a lot on the funds we have. Unfortunately, many have either been closed or suspended lately and the ones that are still running have had budget cut-downs.
This film is produced by Jana Wehbe of The Attic Productions, based in Beirut, who were able to secure some money and a small fund from the Ministry of Culture. But this was not enough, so we had to slow down the pace and the film took more time than what we initially planned.
We are lucky to have many people on our side that contributed to the making of this film, and helped a lot throughout the whole process and eventually we were able to pull it off.
How did you get the opportunity to show at Cannes and what are you hoping to gain from it?
We were contacted by Fondation Liban Cinema who were inviting Lebanese filmmakers with feature length films currently in the last phases of production, to showcase their work in Cannes.
We are really looking forward to this and hoping to secure some contacts and deals and hopefully present the film to the widest audience possible.
In this regard, Fondation Liban Cinema and the Lebanese Tourism Office in France are providing support and exposure to Lebanese films and filmmakers who need it. This is a great incentive since not only do we lack in funds but also distribution and sales.
by Hugo Goodridge