Lebanon is in focus at this year’s festival
This year’s main focus offers an insight into the different realities that co-exist in a country marked by significant class division, and a journey through film history to the Beirut of the past.
2020 was a heavy year for Lebanon, and the world directed it’s attention toward a country experiencing mass demonstrations and deep political division, further amplified by the covid-19 pandemic and the devastating explosion at the port of Beirut. This makes Lebanon a natural choice as the main focus of this year’s edition of Arab Film Days. We have dedicated a thematic section to films from and about the country, consisting of two recent documentaries and a modern classic from one of the pioneers of Lebanese cinema, Jocelyn Saab.
The sunny side of Beirut and the shadows of Tripoli
The section’s two documentaries demonstrate how different life can be, depending on where you are positioned within Lebanon’s massive class divide. Beirut, la vie en rose gives us a rare glimpse into the daily life of Beirut’s Christian elite, with all of its cocktail parties, masquerade balls, luxurious skiing vacations and peacocks in enormous ornamental gardens. This might not be what you associate with war-torn Beirut, but it is the reality of a few chosen Lebanese.
In A Long Breath, we are introduced to newlyweds Ibrahim and Mahasen, who live on the other side of the divide, in the poor neighbourhood Bab al-Tabbaneh in Tripoli in north of Lebanon. Here, life is defined by unemployment, substance abuse and poverty, but also tight family bonds that endure despite the difficult circumstances.
A portrait of “The Pearl of the Orient”
The classic film Once Upon a Time in Beirut by Jocelyn Saab tells the story of the capital of Lebanon through hundreds of old clips from the country’s rich cinematic history and takes us on a magical journey, in order to rediscover a past when Beirut was known as “The Pearl of the Orient”.
In addition to these films, we invite you to a digital event where we will shine a light on Lebanon from different angles. We have invited Rania Maktabi from Østfold University College to tell her personal story about the country, followed by a conversation with Rana Issa from the University of Oslo, which will revolve around inequality, class divides and political corruption.
Films in this section:
Beirut, la vie en rose
Lebanon 2019, Èric Motjer, 1h 13m
A Long Breath
Lebanon 2019, Remi Itani, 1h 7m
Once Upon a Time in Beirut
Lebanon, France, Germany, Argentina 1995, Jocelyn Saab, 1h 44m