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
A young director scrapes together enough money from friends and family to make a groundbreaking film exploring a gritty underworld of prostitution, homosexuality and drug abuse.
He launches a brilliant guerrilla marketing campaign, too. Young fans put up posters emblazoned with “Help!” all over the country, a stunt using the movie’s name that helps build anticipation for its opening day.
Is this hip director a soon-to-be indie star in Los Angeles or is he giving a shot in the arm to London’s motion picture scene? Guess again. This rising talent is Beruit’s Marc Abi Rached, just one of several film-makers putting the Lebanese movie industry on the map.
There’s no doubt Lebanon’s chronic instability on the political and security fronts doesn’t bode well for a sector widely considered trivial. The thinking goes that a country facing constant security threats hardly has time and cash for moviemaking. Indeed, a measly 0.8 percent of the state budget is allocated to the Ministry of Culture.
Yet this lack of government support has indirectly helped Lebanon’s film industry to flourish. Young directors like Abi Rached are imitating the big guns of Hollywood past and present – Hitchcock, Scorsese, Spielberg – by rolling up their sleeves and raising money through private channels.