As the lights went down in the auditorium on July 8, at the Metropolis Cinema in Achrafieh, it could have been the blowing out of the birthday candles as it celebrated its tenth anniversary. An audience made up of dignitaries from the world of Lebanese cinema, filmmakers and your good old fashion cinephiles were treated to 16 short films.

As well as a celebration of the astounding work that is being done by what is still Lebanon’s only art house cinema, an international jury of judges was also present to crown two films as winners of the night’s competition. For the winning film, they secured their spot at next year’s Cannes Film Festival, courtesy of the Tourism Office of Lebanon in Paris – long term partner of Metropolis Cinema; while the second place walked away with $1,500 offered by Fondation Liban Cinema.

The competing participants were asked to create short films, between 30 seconds and 3 minutes in length on the theme of an experience lived inside a cinema theatre. “Venturing in a dark room, sitting facing the screen, reminiscing one’s first memory of cinema, or one’s first cinematic astonishment.” On the panel that were picking the night’s winners were Rebecca Zlotowski, a French filmmaker, who has previously shown her work at the Critics Week in Cannes, Michael Andreen, who works as the Senior Vice President of International Productions at Twentieth Century Fox, Tobias Pausinger, an Industry Advisor and Consultant from Germany, and Lebanon’s own Joana Hadjithomas, who has directed such films as The Lebanese Rocket Society and A Perfect Day and is one of the board members for the Metropolis Cinema.

The films shown on the night crossed all genres; documentaries, animations and fiction pieces tackled the chosen theme in a number of different manners and showcased the incredible talents that are currently working in the film industry in Lebanon.
Picking two did in fact turn to be a difficult task for the judges who decided to give a special mention to James Chehab’s film Eyelight; but in the end it was Rasel by Valentina Khawand who walked away with the top prize and François Yazbek’s Mein Herz Brennt that won second place.

On the occasion of Metropolis turning ten years old, Tobias Pausinger said, “I love the idea and I’m super happy they are still going strong, despite the situation not always being supportive. They are constantly growing and they have all sorts of activities when it comes to international cinema and I hope that they can unfold a broader program. It’s just the first 10 years.”

by Hugo Goodridge

Image Courtesy of Michèle Aoun