So how does Lebanon fit into the equation? Well, back in 2005, the director of the Lebanese Tourism Office in Paris, Serge Akl, realized that it was impossible, especially at the time, to promote Lebanon’s traditional attractive features due to the prevailing security situation. He saw an opportunity to develop a part of the Lebanon brand that had been almost ignored until then, it’s rich and complex movie industry.
Forming a partnership between the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism, a location guide was created in order to promote Lebanon as a place that had an interesting cinematic history, and hopefully and even more promising future. Through meetings and hard work, we also managed to convince people that it is an interesting place to come visit and film in, and that its cinema industry deserves attention.
Lebanon’s film industry may not be the biggest in the world, or even the region, but it has a long and proud history, and has been going through somewhat of a renaissance of late. A lot of people may not realize this, but there have been 21 features released this year. That is a massive number when you consider that just a couple of years ago, annual production was limited to three or four films.
So, what can you expect from 35 mm from Beirut this year? We get to Cannes on May 15th, and we’ll be helping set up the Lebanon stand at the Marche du Film pavilion. Once we’re done doing that, we’ll be hitting the Croisette to meet all the cool Lebanese kids that are in town to promote their work. You can expect live tweeting, blog posts, interviews and some nuggets of information about Lebanese cinema throughout the festival. We want to be a voice for the Lebanese people trying to express a whole nation’s creative aspirations. We want to help them get their message out and introduce them to anyone we can.
We’ve also made it our personal mission to run around harassing celebrities getting them to say Lebanon Rocks (and giving them a quick idea of why it does, actually, rock). So if Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie file a restraining order against us, it was all worth it in pursuit of promoting Lebanese creativity.
But in all seriousness, our goal is to get people talking about cultural production in Lebanon, to get them to see a nuanced and sincere image of who we are. To get them to understand that those nuances are compelling, and ultimately to get them to come visit us, whether they’re movie producers, actors or just tourists looking for something new and exciting. Oh, and we were serious about running after celebrities telling them our country rocks.
By Nasri Atallah