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Shooting in Lebanon, Part II
A lack of state funding in Lebanon has stifled diversity in moviemaking, but plucky independent initiatives have borne some fruit. Part II.
October 15, 2009 9:44 by Nathalie Bontems
“Help!” had been authorized in July 2008 and had even been presented the week before to a press that gave it largely positive reviews. The exact reasons behind the decision to ban it remain unclear (religious authorities’ intervention, change of the officer in charge of the censorship department, to name a few possibilities), but sexually explicit content offered the perfect excuse.
“They criticize us for showing a sex scene. But if we’d done a film about dustbin collectors, we could hardly have avoided showing a waste-collection centre,” Abi Rached told the press. He nevertheless agreed to a rating restricting the audience to people over 21 instead of the previous over-18 limitation, but it was too little, too late. The movie never made it to the Lebanese screening rooms and aptly suits its own title.
Such a mishap could further deter potential directors and producers. Better to stick to safer, but less daring, options. Or learn to think out of the box Lebanon’s cinema may seem to be stuck in, as Nadine Labaky’s “Caramel” did in 2007. The French-funded movie subtly tackles the typical love woes of four women in a Beirut beauty parlor. It attracted 130,000 viewers, outshining Aractingi’s “Bosta” (110,000 entries) and Ziad Doueiri’s “West Beirut” (70,000 entries in 1998).
According to Haddad, the movie didn’t become a hit in the Arab world, but it was shown all across the rest of the world. “I saw it in Tokyo,” he says enthusiastically. The popular success of “Caramel” could open many doors. ” ‘Caramel’ can serve as an example to potential investors that a Lebanese film can be profitable,” Sarraf says. “Similarly, ‘Bosta,’ a musical produced through a private investment fund, has shown that new techniques can be used to produce films.”