Cultural Resistance Film Festival launches in Lebanon

Jocelyne Saab is behind Lebanon's first Cultural Resistance Film Festival, from November 12 to 17

Events and Festivals, Lebanon

Cultural Resistance Film Festival launches in Lebanon

Jocelyne Saab knows a thing or two about resistance: She has needed plenty to make her vision a reality. For over a year, she has been planning the Cultural Resistance Film Festival, a film festival unlike any other in Lebanon to date, taking place simultaneously in five Lebanese cities: Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre and Zahlé.

"We wanted to reach people outside Beirut, which is where the majority of cultural events take place. In some venues, the screenings are free, " explains the organiser, who is also a film director herself.

Organising the festival was not without its difficulties, not least criticism of the festival's name: "In Lebanon, the word resistance scares people because it has political connotations. But words don't belong to anyone, the words 'cultural resistance' are wonderful in all their rich meaning, perhaps even more so at the moment. Two weeks ago, there was terrible violence in Tripoli, but we won't let anything stop the festival from going ahead." 

The programme is primarily made up of films from Asia and the Mediterranean, in order to offer the public something different from the blockbusters usually shown in Lebanon: "I chose feature-length films as if I were writing one. The films are linked, with a kind of dialogue between the figures in the documentaries and the fictions. I tried to balance action and drama, as if I were putting the festival on stage."

jocelyne-saabThe films are linked by three themes: scars of history, the female voice and rebirth at the age of twenty. The organisers have chosen arthouse "blockbusters", such as Ilo Ilo which was seen by several million people in Asia. Arab films also feature, including older Lebanese films on the theme of memory as well as recent films from Algeria (Loubia Hamra, Zanj Revolution), Tunisia (7 Lives) and Syria, with screenings and conferences paying hommage to Chaab Mahmoud. Alongside these screenings, films will be shown in schools and seminars open to the public will take place in partner universities.

To begin with, this extensive programme was even more jam-packed. But a lack of funding took its toll. Jocelyne Saab tried to launch a crowdfunding campagin on the website Aflamnah, but donations only reached 20% of the target amount: "Lebanese people aren't used to paying by credit card over the internet," the director explains. "But even worse, there's a general sense of apathy about the situation in Lebanon. We would welcome any donations."

Without the hoped-for funds, the festival had to forego the rights to show certain films, to invite guests, and to show subtitles. It was a colossal amount of work, but Jocelyne Saab and her team would not be deterred.

With next year's festival they hope to reach new cities in Lebanon, and Jocelyne Saab is already putting out a call for volunteers to help: "It's rare to volunteer in Lebanon, we have to revive the spirit of volunteering in order to get Lebanon out of its cultural apathy."


Anaïs Renevier

Translation: Hayley Wood


Cultural Resistance Film Festival -- trailer:

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