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LEBANON EXPOSED

Fri Dec 12,2008

Lebanese Films at DIFF 2008 Offer Unique Perspectives on Life in the Midst of Crisis

Lebanon has always enjoyed a strong artistic community, and this year at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), cinema-lovers can partake in the latest offerings from Lebanese filmmakers, which explore this complicated, richly diverse country through the lens.

Fresh from winning the audience award at the Brussels European Film Festival, Une Chanson Dans La Tete (Melodrama Habibi) is a first feature from award-winning short director Hany Tamba. Described as \“Lost in Translation in Beirut,” this thoughtful, gently comedic melodrama follows Bruno (played by French actor Patrick Chesnais), a has-been pop star who once topped the charts across Europe,  but is now a receptionist at a Paris hotel. For true fan Randa, however, his music has seen her through the past thirty years and the aftermath of the civil war. When her husband decides to throw her a lavish birthday party, Randa knows exactly who she wants to perform.

Two innovative documentaries present views on the 2006 destruction of Lebanon,  providing perspectives left uncovered by the exhaustive media campaigns of that long summer. In Je Veux Voir (I Want to See), the film-making team of Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas invited iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve to view the devastation of the 2006 bombings. Working with Lebanese actor and artist Rabih Mroue, Deneuve witnesses the destruction first-hand in a mix of scripted drama and travel diary. In Apres la Guerre, C’est Toujours la Guerre (After the War…),  director Samir Abdallah documents a group of journalists trying to launch a newspaper despite the siege, providing an image of everday life moving on despite the violence and chaos.

A longer conflict from deeper in the past is the subject of two films that deal with Lebanon’s debilitating civil war. Samaan Bildayaa (The One Man Village) is first-time Lebanese director Simon El Habre’s documentary on the life of his elderly uncle, the only remaining inhabitant of a small village outside Beirut. El Habre highlights the impact of the country’s 15-year civil war on countless similar towns left deserted and ruined. In the Arabic Muhr Shorts programme, acclaimed Lebanese actor Carlos Chahine moves behind the camera with his debut short La Route du Nord (The North Road), which tells the tale of a man who returns to Lebanon to ensure his father finally gets a proper burial, years after his death in the civil war.

An interesting co-production by Lebanese director Sabine el Gamayel, Niloofar is a feature film set in Iran.  The story concerns the 12-year old title character whose dream is to be able to read and write. Although she finds a way to secretly study, she must disguise herself as a boy, defying the onward march of biology until one day it is too late.

The Dubai International Film Festival will run from December 11 to 18, 2008. For further information, including screening times and venues, please consult the festival’s website at

www.dubaifilmfest.com.

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