Film Festival Has Students Looking in a New Direction

The Communication Arts department is hosting a festival of regional films to give students a wider perspective.

By Hanan Nasser

The event will feature 12 internationally acclaimed movies by directors from the Middle East and North Africa, in parallel with the BCD festival.

The Department of Communication Arts is hosting a film festival in collaboration with Beirut Cinema Days (BCD) 10th Edition, on LAU Beirut campus from April 1 to 8.

The event, organized by Lecturer of TV and Film Nasser Chour, will feature 12 internationally acclaimed movies by directors from the Middle East and North Africa, in parallel with the BCD festival. The screenings at LAU are open to the public and free of charge.

Film enthusiasts will also have the opportunity to engage in a discussion with the filmmakers, who will be present during most of the screenings.

The festival will close with the award-winning Egyptian drama Yomeddine in the presence of Director Abu Bakr Shawky. The film was shortlisted for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and won the François Chalais Prize.  

The festival, Chour said, gives the students “the opportunity to hear firsthand from filmmakers who have managed to create films within many parts of the region where they don’t have a film industry.”

Lebanon is a case in point. Students at the screenings will have the chance to ask filmmakers about acquiring funding, overcoming censorship, and the process of submitting their films to regional and international festivals.

“The benefits for our students are endless. They are being introduced to the challenges that they will eventually face and that exist in the industry, and ways to overcome them,” he added.

In addition to Yomeddine, other screenings will be followed by a Q&A with directors, including EXTERIOR/Night by Egyptian director Ahmad Abdalla; Freedom Fields by Libyan actress and director Naziha Arebi; Counting Tiles by Lebanese director Cynthia Choucair; Erased, Ascent of the Invisible by Lebanese director Ghassan Halwani; Amal by Egyptian director Mohamed Siam; Une Urgence Ordinaire by Moroccan writer and director Mohcine Besri; The Swing by Lebanese writer and director Cyril Aris; and An Open Rose by Lebanese director Ghassan Salhab.

As an educator in the field, Chour sees the importance of students in Lebanon being “well-exposed” to the kind of storytelling that comes out of the wider MENA region. Students here, Chour said, are more impacted by and familiar with the Western film industry.

“The fact that the focus of this festival is on films that are from this region, and that these are films of great value in terms of content and form, allows our students to know that there is such a scene in this region, and it is their responsibility to take it to the next level,” he said.

“It is all about local stories,” he added, “told in a universal language that appeals to a large audience. And that is what made these films successful. There is a need to empower students to own and tell our stories through film.”

Additional information on the festival can be accessed here.