2015 was a roaring success for Lebanese short films.
Ely Dagher’s “Waves ’98″ won the Short Film Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival as well as the Best international short film at the Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur.

Cannes’ Short Film Corner featured a noticeable Lebanese presence: 17 films, most of them made by students. This is an increase in the number of Lebanese entries from 9 films in 2014, and a call to action targeting the Lebanese youth to extend their productions and reach.

Karim Rahbani’s film “With Thy Spirit” was one of the films featured in Cannes’ Short Film Corner. During a short phone interview, he stated that the film was admitted as a consequence of winning Best Screenplay and the Bank of Beirut Public Vote Award at the NDU International Film Festival last year. “With Thy Spirit” also won prizes in other festivals, among others a special mention at the Dubai International Film Festival and the Special Jury Prize at the 14th Beirut International Film Festival. Rahbani is currently working on a new short film entitled “Cargo”, which is at this point in pre-production and in need of financial support.

Moreover, the 15th edition of the Beirut International Film Festival featured many Lebanese short films of great talent and social consciousness. And the winners are:

  • SGBL Award – Best Short Film: “Samir Sheikh El Chabeb” by Kristel Younes.
  • 2nd Best Short Film: “Heaven Sent You” by Pierre Aboujaoude.
  • 3rd Best Short Film: “Labein Ma Yejo” by Carmen Bsaibes.
  • We notice a surge in the number and quality of Lebanese short films in prominent festivals. Elie Yazbek, director of IESAV (Institut d’Etudes Scéniques, AudioVisuelles et cinématographiques), said that this trend is due to the fact that students are receiving superior academic training, better equipment, and are being assigned to tutors when writing their scripts.
    The makers of today’s shorts will surely become the directors of tomorrow’s features. But will they become the voice that will herald Lebanon into a new wave of cinema?

    The film industry needs more incentives and funding. Fondation Liban Cinema signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL). However, it is not yet clear how this initiative will materialize into concrete certified help to Lebanese students and filmmakers. Furthermore, a cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Tourism and Notre Dame University (NDU) has recently been signed, allowing the winner of this year’s NDU International Film Festival to participate in Cannes 2016. Such an incentive will surely encourage the competition among students.

    On the other hand, the censorship applied by the Government limits the choice of subjects. One of the features scheduled to be screened at this year’s BIFF, “Wasp” by Philippe Audi-Dor, was banned due to its homosexual theme. This reminds us that a large and dark curtain looms over Lebanon’s cinematic vision.

    By Saeed el Hassan