Director Ely Dagher becomes the first Lebanese filmmaker to compete in the official competition for a Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival since Maroun Baghdadi won the Jury Prize for Hors La Vie in 1991. The 29-year-old’s beautiful animated film Waves ‘98 is nominated in the short film category and is set to premiere during the upcoming 68th Cannes Film Festival being held on May 13-24.

Waves ‘98 is Dagher’s artistic exploration of his current relationship with his home country, told through the story of a teenager disillusioned with his life in the segregated suburbs of Beirut until an unusual discovery lures him into the depths of the city. Immersed into a world that is so close yet so isolated from his reality, he finds himself struggling to keep his attachments, his sense of home. Have an exclusive first look at the trailer below, followed by a short interview with the artist.

First of all congratulations. How does it feel to be a contender for a Palme d’Or?

Thank you! It is very rewarding.

You realise you’re the first Lebanese filmmaker since Maroun Baghdadi to enter the official selection competition (others having been nominated in the Certain Regard category, and quaizaine etc… many parallel sections). Are you feeling the pressure?

I wasn’t until now!

What inspired you to write Waves ’98 and then to make it into a short?

When I wrote Waves ’98 it had been two years since I was living between Beirut and Brussels and even though I was physically spending more time in Brussels, I was mentally still living in Beirut. The film came to be from my attempts to deal with that and what living in Beirut actually meant for me.

Has living in Brussels given you the required distance, maybe, to reflect on Beirut?

I’ve always had these questions and reflections on our lives in Beirut. I think being away forced me to do something with them.

How long did it take you to make Waves ’98?

It took me about two years.

How did you finance it?

I was lucky enough to get financing from AFAC in the early stages of development, and then a year into the project I got an extra grant from DFI. And of course some personal financing as animation is tedious and expensive and I wanted to make sure I can deliver the film in its best possible form.

Who are your heroes in cinema and outside of cinema?

The People that stuck with me and I’m probably most influenced by are David Lynch, Chris Marker and Jorge Luis Borges. And maybe some Miranda July.

Do you have a feature film project in mind?

I have a few projects in mind but it’s still too early to tell which format they would fit.

Waves ’98 is an absolutely beautiful piece of filmmaking. Very meditative. We were wondering though, is the central message positive or negative about Lebanon?

There is no central message in the film but rather a central reflection which portrays my feelings and those of a lot of Lebanese which are more complicated then fitting in the positive or negative label.

What’s your day job?

Waves ’98 was my full time job for two years but I’ve also been working on a few other projects with BeaverAndBeaver.

What is your current state of mind?

Looking forward to having people watch the film.

What is your greatest fear?

Base jumping.

Parting words?

See you in a few weeks.