Mark Abouzeid started his career in high finance in Southeast Asian markets, and after a brief stint in the monetary sector he turned to the video industry. He has as of now spent the past 15 years of his life working in visual journalism and storytelling. In 2016 he screened “Finding My Lebanon” in Cannes, which explored his Lebanese heritage. He is currently developing this short documentary into a feature-length film.
You recently screened “Finding My Lebanon” at Cannes. Could you tell us a bit about the film and your screening experience in Cannes?The film is about the discovery of my heritage through the stories of my grandfather, my father and then my own arrival to Lebanon. “Finding My Lebanon” is a prequel to my feature film, “Growing Cedars in Air”, which is essentially about current Lebanese culture told through the stories of dozens of interesting people I’ve met.
I found a culture that was nothing like I expected, or rather was everything I hoped for, a culture that contradicted what we are led to believe by the media. I decided to share it with the world through this feature film. We pitched the synopsis to Cannes and it got accepted into the Short Film Corner.
We were lucky to be in touch with the Lebanese Pavilion, as well as the Italian Pavilion and recently we got the support of the World Lebanese Cultural Union’s youth group. They sent Miss Lebanon Emigrant as their representative to the premiere. The incredible Moroccan-Lebanese woman attended the premiere in one of her dresses and all the press went wild. This had us thinking that we were important people. (Laughs)
This was your first time shooting in Lebanon. Was it a positive experience? Did you gain anything from it?I’ve always directed documentaries with a grab-the-camera-and-run attitude, and a minimal crew. I believe this genre lends itself to getting spontaneous truth from people while giving them the freedom to be themselves, which was exactly what “Finding My Lebanon” needed.
The only setback was the shooting permits; I wouldn’t say it’s difficult in Lebanon as much as it’s unclear. You’re unsure of what you need and where to get it from, which adds some layers of complication. I don’t mind the bureaucracy. My base is in Italy, where the bureaucracy is also a nightmare. For example when we filmed at the port in Byblos, we had all the permissions from the military, but the police stopped us once we got there because we also should’ve gotten the local sheriff’s approval, which we thankfully did at the last minute.