Sunday, August 22, 2010

Feasting on films

The ninth Lebanese Film Festival is in full swing atEmpire Sofil in Achrafieh, and I was there for opening night on Thursday. The theatre was so full that they opened the adjoining one too to allow the throngs of people to view the two short films and two fiction films on offer that evening.

I met Vatche Boulghourjian, director of Hinkerort Zorasune (The Fifth Column), a 29-minute, 35mm film about an Armenian boy living in Lebanon's Bourj Hammoud (an area in Beirut known for its Armenian community) who runs away from home with his father's gun, and the search that ensues. It's about loss, and the feeling of being lost, the way I saw it. What was cool about viewing it in Beirut, is that the actors were there with us in the movie house, including the main actor boy who happens to be Vatche's nephew, and some other Armenian heavy-weight actors. Vatche pulled this film off by only having one other person on his production team, so it was quite a feat of a flick. At Cannes, it took third prize in the Cinefoundation Awards. He told me that he recently showed the film in Armenia and the audience there hardly understood the Armenian language spoken by the Lebanese Armenians in the film, as the dialect has been so adapted by the diaspora here.

Also on the reel on Thursday, was another 29-minute fiction film by Herve Jakubowicz (French/ Lebanese) called Le Temps de la Balle. I missed the whole meaning of the film because I was so into one of the hot actors, Marc Robert (and now I can't even find a pic of him on Google!). Hiam Abbass, an Arab/ Israeli actress who featured in Paradise Now (2005), also stars in the film.

Ghassan Halwani's six-minute animation clip for 'Takhabot' was superbly complemented by the emotional musical sounds of Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, a Palestinian alternative musician who uses the mystical sounds of the oud (a pear-shaped guitar) and buzuq (a long necked guitar). (I think I'll be chastised to calling them 'guitars'!)

I wish my mother had seen Tarek Chemaly's Masmou7 Lasek al E3lanat because, while showing images of old Beirut, he presented a monologue through the use of old advertising jingles. Even Dad remembers a jingle that I heard in the seven-minute experimental clip, '... biera laziza'.

And that was just one of the five nights of the Lebanese Film Festival. Tonight the folks are joining me to witness Lebanese film talent at its best. The Lebanese Film Festival is only open to entries from directors from Lebanon, or those of Lebanese descent living abroad.

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