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Reports from the Lebanese Pavilion in Cannes


The Lebanese Pavilion, organized and financed by the Lebanese Ministries of Tourism and Culture, was present at the Cannes Film Festival for the eighth consecutive year. The pavilion hosted Lebanese film industry professionals, as well as institutions and associations working on the promotion of Lebanese cinema, such as the Lebanese Tourism Office in Paris, the Fondation Liban Cinema and the Metropolis association.

This year, for the first time, the Lebanese Culture Minister, Gaby Layoun, as well as the advisor to the Minister of Tourism, Michel Habis, were present as part of an official visit. Serge Akl, Director of the Lebanese Tourism Office in Paris, organized a number of meetings with international film organizations and professionals, such as Film France, MovieMed, the head of the film project at the French Ministry of Defence, as well as the Swedish and Finnish pavilions. A guided tour of the Marché du film, led by its marketing director Myriam Arab, allowed our officials to better understand the importance of developing our cinema industry. The Film Market of Cannes is the world’s biggest, and is the nerve centre of the entire festival.

Two cocktail receptions, on the 18th and 22nd of May, were jointly organized by the Lebanese Tourism Office in Paris and the Fondation Liban Cinema, and were the backdrop for meetings between our officials and the professionals in Cannes.

The www.35mmfrombeirut.com team, representing the communication arm of the Lebanese Tourism Office set up in 2009 in Cannes to discuss topics related to culture and cinema, was present not only to communicate the Lebanese presence in Cannes live on their website and social media, but also to relay all positive communication about Lebanon.

Furthermore, the Lebanese pavilion had access to the photography services of the Toromoro agency that covered not only the Lebanese cinema presence but also that of international stars on the red carpet dressed by Lebanon’s top designers. It was an essential way to allow Lebanon’s image to shine in the media.

Even though no Lebanese feature films were in the official selection this year, for the first time ever a Lebanese student film (ALBA) was in the Cinéfondation, a section created in 1998 by Gilles Jacob to inspire and support the next generation of international filmmakers. “Behind Me Olive Trees”, the short presented by the young and talented Pascale Abou-Jamra, was selected amongst 1500 films to participate in the film school shorts competition, whose jury was presided by Jean-Pierre Dardenne this year. “Behind Me Olive Trees” was highly praised by the press and professionals. This contemplative short deals with a poignant subject: it is the story of Mariam and her younger brother Georges, children of a former South Lebanon Army soldier, who had fled the country when the South was liberated. Now orphaned, they attempt to return to Lebanon but this proves impossible, as memories are still fresh and forgiveness seems out of reach. A beautiful short, directed in a very controlled manner by Abou Jamra, who also graces the screen as the main character. She will be one to watch over the coming years.

It’s also worth mentioning that many short films made by Lebanese filmmakers were selected by the Short Film Corner, including those made by Yasmine Ghorayeb, Mounia Akl and Cyril Ariss, Hisham Bizri...

The president of the Fondation Liban Cinema, Maya de Freije, presented a 2012 Cinema Guide, published by the FLC: it puts forward the foundation and its work in preserving Tele-Liban’s archives, provides a guide to associations and film festivals, and fact sheets for films already completed or in production from January 2011 onwards. The hundred hours of archive footage, already restored, are featured in a film, directed by Lara Saba, Shattered Memories. Her film intercuts the archives footage itself with the long and arduous process of restoring it, featuring the founder and honorary president of FLC, Aimee Boulos, who had initiated this project. 

The FLC presented two films at the Marche du film: the documentary “Marcedes” by Hady Zaccak and the fiction feature “A Man of Honour” by Jean-Claude Codsi. These projects were aimed at buyers, distributors and festival organizers.

Hania Mroue, the director of Metropolis, presented her new project, a retrospective of Lebanese films organized in partnership with Lebanese Ministry of Tourism and the Lebanese Tourism Office in Paris, to the specialist press. The retrospective will take place in Beirut in June: films, homages, a photo exhibition, film posters and costumes, as well as a catalogue that will eventually lead to a book. The retrospective could eventually travel to other countries. It’s a first three-year cycle that will enable Metropolis to restore a selection of films thus contributing to the preservation of Lebanese national heritage. This retrospective is a laudable initiative that puts forward national cinematographic heritage and provides an opportunity for audiences to watch films that marked the pre-1975 years. During the Cannes Film Festival, the Lebanese Tourism Office in Paris launched an unprecedented travel package for cinema-lovers to Lebanon, in collaboration with Kurban Tours and Metropolis.

The priority now is to preserve film heritage and encourage film production by equipping ourselves with the necessary means for success. Minister Layoun and advisor Habis’ visit to the festival allowed them to take stock of the challenges and possibilities facing Lebanese cinema. The meetings organized by Serge Akl, director of the Tourism Office in Paris, shed light on the means available to the state with a view to promoting the Lebanese film industry.

Bruno Chatelin.

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