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
Carried by a new generation of directors eager to tell their stories to the world, Lebanese moviemaking is in the throes of transition, struggling to outgrow the niche it has been limited to since the early 1990s. Names such as Nadine Labaky (“Caramel” in 2007) or Philippe Aractingi (“Bosta” in 2005 and “Under the Bombs” in 2007) are starting to become recognized by a public usually more interested in American blockbusters.
In 2003, the Ministry of Culture’s Cinema Commission organized a conference to assess the needs of the sector and give recommendations. “We tried to raise awareness among the public authorities, but in vain,” the commission’s vice-president, Maya de Freige, says. “The only result was a minimal $80,000 public funding per year since 2005, to be split between 10 different projects, and a co-production deal with France’s CNC [National Commission for Cinema].”
That same year a group of private movie aficionados created the Lebanese Cinema Foundation to challenge the absence of public action. “Every year, around 100 young Lebanese graduate from audiovisual schools, many of whom plan to turn to movies but don’t have any work opportunities,” the co-founder, Aimée Boulos, says. “So our aim was to create a private support fund to attract decision-makers. We hoped to harvest up to $5 million because [at that time] we didn’t receive a dime.”