Nouvelle photo Sabine B&W
Sabine Sidawi is a powerhouse producer responsible for a bevy of acclaimed films, both Lebanese and international.
Some of her credits include Beirut Hotel (2011), Parisienne (2015), 3000 Nights (2015), and Zozo (2005).

You were a line producer on Mahbas, which was recently playing in theaters. Can you tell us a little bit about it and what made you want to be a part of that film?

The film was produced by Nadia Eliewat, and when I read the script I found it to be really funny and touching, so I said I’d give a helping hand. I felt that it’d be important to bring a story like this to the big screen. The film is light without being clownish. It’s essential to use humor correctly in cinema; Lebanese movies tend to rely on slapstick and lowest-common-denominator comedy quite too often. This is different; it makes you laugh without having people acting silly and jumping around. It’s a nice romantic comedy with heart.

A producer’s job is often overlooked and perhaps not as glamorous as a director or a writer, but its importance cannot be overstated. What made you want to become a producer?

I’d say it’s probably because I’m the kind of person who likes to be involved with a project from the very beginning until the very end. That’s the characteristic of a producer, and I really need to believe in the projects that I work on.
A movie can never happen without a producer. It’s like a mom needing a dad to help make a baby, or vice versa. It’s a silly example but you know what I mean. I love movie making and I decided to take the most difficult and unglamorous job of producing them. I started as a first assistant director, and slowly found myself filling other roles; it kind of happened organically.

If you could change one thing in the Lebanese film industry, what would it be? And on the opposite end, what would you absolutely want to keep intact?

I would definitely change the censorship aspect. The concept of having to go through censorship and accept it is pretty ludicrous. I believe Lebanese audiences are intelligent enough not to need anyone to tell them what is right or wrong. I also believe in liberty of expression and will always fight for it, tirelessly.
I’d certainly keep the passion that exists in our industry. Making movies is already very difficult here – almost impossible – but there’s this fire that drives the crew and the director to produce a film, which makes the whole difference. We have so many stories to tell, so many dreams… I would definitely keep this intact.

Your resume is very eclectic and impressive with a lot of international projects as well as Lebanese. What do you generally look for before investing time and effort in a project?

The story is the most important thing, I really need to fall in love with it. Making a film is a long process, and by the end of it, you’ll most likely be too sick of it to even want to watch it anymore. So by that logic, can you imagine working on a movie you’re not that invested in? You’ll never be able to stay on the project until the end.
It’s also imperative that I know – and like – the director. Having a great working relationship with the person steering the ship is something I definitely look for when choosing projects.

We’re currently on set for one of your upcoming films. Can you share a little bit about it and other projects you’re working on?

The film I’m currently working on is called Beirut Hold’em, and it’s directed by Michel Kammoun. The film had been put on hold for a long time, but we’ve been able to make it happen. Making this film has been a big challenge; it has a lot of elaborate scenes, and we don’t have much of a budget to work with. We’re trying to go far with very little means, but that’s what makes it interesting.
I’m also working on a sci-fi film for Darine Hotait; it needs a lot of money, so I’m really hoping it can become a reality. There’s also a project directed by Hiam Abbas that we plan on shooting during the spring of 2018.

by Anthony Sargon