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Shooting in Lebanon, Part I
A lack of state funding in Lebanon has stifled diversity in moviemaking, but plucky independent initiatives have borne some fruit. Part I.
October 14, 2009 2:39 by Nathalie Bontems
Of course, a vast private studio system doesn’t yet exist in Lebanon to put up the kind of big money that Spielberg needs to make his next blockbuster. But this free-market approach allows people to explore themes normally frowned upon by stodgy state bureaucrats. Lebanese films, long perceived by moviegoers there as too arty and elitist, are now putting out pictures that large audiences want to see. The private concerns that fund the movie, after all, like seeing a return on their investment.
“People want to be entertained,” says Mario Haddad, the chairman of Circuit Empire, the country’s leading network of movie theaters. “We need good storytellers who are in touch with Lebanon’s daily reality. And if their product is good, exporting Lebanon’s films can work.”
The cold hard truth is that until recently the Lebanese public, let alone the region generally, had never heard of most of Lebanon’s young batch of moviemakers. Most Lebanese films are part of international festivals without ever being shown to their domestic audience, and several Lebanese directors have gained recognition abroad while their names remain unknown to their fellow countrymen.
Thanks to the public success of a couple of acclaimed features, Lebanese cinema is gaining confidence, reviving itself after years of civil war-induced coma. But a long and arduous road lies ahead before it can claim to be a fully fledged industry.