Issues of terrorism, religious extremism, refugees and rights of marginalized groups are highly featured in all categories
The 17th edition of Beirut International Film Festival, which is scheduled to be held from the 4th until the 12th of October 2017, is marked by the presence of a large number of prominent movie stars, including world renowned directors, producers and festival directors, who will be celebrating 20 years since BIFF was first launched, with a rich program that features some of the best movies winners of global awards or screened in international competitions. Like previous editions, the festival opens an opportunity for the Middle Eastern movies that focus on the most important political and social issues in the region. Terrorism, religious extremism, refugees and rights of marginalized groups are highly featured in this year’s edition, within the competition of documentaries and short films and in other categories.
In a press conference held on Wednesday at Le Gray Hotel in downtown Beirut, BIFF Director Colette Naufal recalled that “the festival was born in 1997, when Lebanon as a whole and Beirut in particular, were undergoing a massive reconstruction after the civil war, with an aim to keep Beirut on the worldwide map of filmmaking, pushing the boundaries set by a region in constant turmoil.”
She added that “Lebanon, known for its freedom of expression, allowed us to turn the Beirut International Film Festival into the ideal platform for filmmakers from around the world who have a message to convey.”
This year, the Festival will be held in Metropolis Empire Sofil, Ashrafieh, opening with “La Cordillera” by the Argentinian Director Santiago Mitre, in the presence of the director and his wife and the actress in the movie Dolores Fonzi. The film’s story is about the new Argentinian President Hernán Blanco (Ricardo Darín), for whom the personal is political, and vice versa. The film’s director Santiago Mitre describes his film, that premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, as a necessarily critical look at the world of politics.
BIFF will close the shows with Motion Picture film “Loving Vincent” by British Director Hugh Welchman and Polish Director Dorota Kobiela, about the last days in the life of the painter Vincent Van Gogh prior to his suicide. It took seven years, 125 painters from all over the world and 65,000 hand-painted frames to turn a live action feature into a one-of-kind animated film.
In addition to the opening and closing films, the “International Panorama” category also includes 14 other movies, such as “A Prayer Before Dawn” by the French Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, who will be along with the film’s producer Rita Dagher, among the guests of the festival. The film tells the true story of British troubled young boxer Billy Moore who was sent to one of Thailand’s most notorious jails.
Also among biography films, “Becoming Cary Grant” by the British Director Mark Kidel, which tells the biography of Hollywood star Cary Grant who was troubled for most of his life with self-doubt and insecurity, exploring the star’s journey from childhood poverty to global fame and from darkness to light. Director Kidel will attend the festival in Beirut to follow-up on the screening of his movie.
“Redoutable” by French Director Michel Hazanavicius will also be screened and it goes back in time to Paris 1967, where Jean-Luc Godard, the leading filmmaker of his generation, is shooting La Chinoise with the woman he loves, Anne Wiazemsky, 20 years his junior. But the film’s reception unleashes a profound self-examination in Jean-Luc. The events of May ’68 will amplify this process, and the crisis that shakes the filmmaker will transform him profoundly, from a star cineaste to a Maoist artist entirely outside the system, as misunderstood as he is incomprehensible. Hazanavicius, who had won the Palme D’Or at Cannes Festival and an Oscar for his movie The Artist, is expected to be among the guests at BIFF with his wife, the actress Bérénice Bejo.
Also in the program, “Viceroy’s House” by British-Kenyan-Asian Director Gurinder Chadha. The film is based on a true story of the final days of the British Empire in India, the birth of the new independent Indian state, as well as the conflict that led to the creation of Pakistan.
The movie “Directions” by Bulgarian Director Stephan Komandarev, features the phenomenon of corruption and briberies in Bulgaria.
“120 Battements Par Minutes” by French Director Robin Campillo depicts the struggle of activists to fight general indifference to the suffering of the AIDS patients at the early 1990s, while the film “I Am Not Your Negro” by Haitian Director Raoul Peck, revisits the social and political struggles of African-Americans in these last decades, through the words and writings of the Black American Writer James Baldwin.
The movie “Yom Lel Settat” (A Day for Women) by Egyptian Director Kamla Abou Zekri, enters the social, psychological and emotional life of the women living in one of Egypt’s shabby neighborhoods.
Among the Panorama movies is “The Other Side of Hope” by Finnish Director Aki Kaurismaki, who won Best Director Award at Berlin International Film Festival 2017. The film depicts the story of a Syrian refugee in Finland.
This category also features “Radiance” by Japanese Director Naomi Kawase, which was screened during the official competition at Cannes Festival, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” by Greek Director Yorgos Lanthimos, that won Best Scenario award at Cannes Festival 2017; as well as “Wind River” by American Director Taylor Sheridan, which tells the story of a rookie FBI agent who investigates the murder of a local girl in hopes of solving the mysterious death.
Listed in Panorama category is the movie dubbed “Bewildered Cinema: History of Lebanese Cinema”, by Lebanese Director Diana Moukalled. It is a visual journey through time about the Lebanese cinema from its beginnings, in the thirties, to its golden age in the fifties and sixties through the war until today; through the testimonies of directors and contemporary artists of all the epochs experienced by professionals of this spectrum.
From Algeria, director Merzak Allouache’s film “Investigating Paradise” will compete in this category too. It tells the story of
Nedjma, a young investigative journalist for an Algerian daily, who is spurred to action by the ongoing instrumentalization of the concept of paradise in extremist propaganda and calls to “djihad” by Middle Eastern Salafist preachers ever-present on the Internet.
Documentary Films Competition
The Documentary Films Competition includes five movies, two of which by Lebanese directors.
“Art Not Art” by Lebanese Director Peter Moussa, is a short documentary about contemporary art. It was shot around the art galleries of the United Arab Emirates.
The second movie is “Water on Sand” by Lebanese-Canadian Nathalie Attallah which talks about the Lebanese diaspora.
Participating in the same competition are “No Place for Tears”(Gözyaşina Yer Yok) by Turkish Director Reyan Tuvi, which is about the war in the city of Kobane and its people’s longing for return and revival; as well as “Only My Voice” by French Director Myriam Rey, about four migrant women from the Middle East who share their stories, while in transit through Athens, without disclosing their identities.
Also, “Sheltered in Oak” by Iranian Director Mehdi Noor Mohammadi, is a depiction of Iranian squirrel sheltered in oaks. The documentary studies the way of life of Iranian squirrel.
Short Films’ Competition
18 films will be featured in the Short Films’ Competition, including five by Lebanese directors.
“Andrea” by Lebanese Director Edwin Harb-Kadri, depicts the story of a man who loses his wife in a car accident while he’s on the phone with her. The story is based on the director’s own tragedy when he lost his girlfriend in a car accident in Beirut back in 2008.
“As We Go” by Lebanese Director Ghina Daou, is about a young man planning to marry his girlfriend, but the girl is now having doubts: Is she certain that she wants to invest in this life, in Lebanon?
“Cargo” by Lebanese Director Karim Rahbani, touches upon the suffering of a Syrian young man who fled Syria with his grandfather and found refuge in Lebanon.
“Missed Call” by Lebanese Director Christy Whaibe, tells the story of an 80-year-old widow, whose life changes when her granddaughter offers her a cellphone.
“Till When” by Lebanese Director Majd Fayad raises the issue of the Lebanese educational system, overloaded with useless materials that require excessive amount of time for studying and that kill the hobbies and dreams of the Lebanese students.
The competition is characterized with a prominent presence of Gulf films, including “The Bliss of Being No One” by Saudi Director Bader Alhoumoud that won Best Gulf Short Film at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2016, in addition to other awards. The film tells the story of an unexpected encounter between a young man who lost his family and a one-eyed old man.
From Qatar, “Kashtaa” by Qatari Director Jk Al Thani, a film depicting a careless struggle between two brothers learning how to hunt, leads to disaster.
“The Waiting Room” by Qatari Director Hend Fakhro is about two families from two different cultures sharing a waiting room at a hospital.Through the monotony of hospital routine and a roller coaster of emotion, the two women forge a connection as they wait.
“Rattled” by Bahraini Director Jaafar Al Madhoon is about a young man who spends a year searching for a bride, but his traditional search has resulted in over twelve rejections.
In addition to these films, “The Choice” by Emirati Director Eman Alsayed tells the story of a girl who loses her Emirati father and is asked to fly to the UAE for the first time to meet with her long-lost family, and settle her father's inheritance.
Three Turkish films are also participating in the competition:
“Passenger” (Yolcu) by Turkish Director CemÖzay, which is about a truck driver living with his son in a truck, after his ex-wife is jailed;
“Story of a Job Interview” by Turkish Director Alkim Özmen about an unemployed journalist who desperately needs a job and after being rejected once again, he takes the news editor of a newspaper as a hostage;
“Toprak” by French-Turkish Director Onur Yağiz is about an 8-year-old boy who translates for his parents who can’t speak French.
Iranian films are also present at the competition.
“The Guy Came on Horseback” by Iranian Director Hossein Rabiei, tells the story of a disabled young man who falls in love with the daughter of his neighbor, causing conflict between the two families.
The documentary “A Girl in the Room” by Iranian Director Karim Lakazdeh is also featured in the competition and tells the story of an elderly man working at a guesthouse with his friends whose daughter comes to visit him after 25 years of living in Germany.
The Italian film “The Silence” by Iranian Directors Farnoosh Samadi and Ali Asgari will also be screened. The film is about a Kurdish refugee with her mother in Italy.
Among the competing movies is “Wameed”, by Syrian Director Abd Al-Rahman Dukmak, which tells the story of a young woman who leaves the house after discovering that her lover has cheated on her, leaving him disoriented and trying his best to get her back.
“Five Boys and a Wheel” by Palestinian Director Said Zagha, that won a Silver Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival 2017, touches upon the relationship between a father and son and the confidence they share.
The “Rejection Front” category includes the “public square” films, in addition to the Culinary section (one movie) and the Ecology/Environment section (also one movie). The movies listed in this category are not included in the competition, but they raise important social issues
“The Venerable W.” by Swiss Director Barbet Schroeder, presented in collaboration with the Swiss embassy, raises the issue of racism and Islamophobia in Burma and the hate speech that leads to violence and destruction.
“Five O’clock” by Iraqi Director Ayman al-Shatri depicts the story of a suicidal person intending to carry out a suicide attack, but then he discovers that he desperately needs help.
“The Sweet Seashore” by US based Iranian Director Aziz Tebyanian, tells the story of three college students, a Muslim, a Baha'i and a Christian who are suddenly faced with religious prejudice, threatening to break up their budding friendship.
“Alan” by Iraqi Director Mohammad Salih Jouri is about Kurdish families that fled Syria to Kurdistan in Iraq.
The screening program is featuring another film also dubbed “Alan” by Iranian Director Mostafa Gandomkar. The film won Best Kurdish Film at Duhok International Film Festival. It depicts one day from the life of a married couple with their son Alan before the struggle of displacement.
The issue of displacement and refugees is also featured in the participating Turkish films, such as “Killit” by Turkish Director Zeynep Altay, which is a documentary about four Assyrian families who resisted against the great immigration of 1990. It relates the unity to their land and everyday life.
“The Wall” by Turkish Director Mustafa Koray Polat, tells the story of a Syrian refugee woman who is struggling for life in Turkey.
“Safe Zone” by Australian Directors Jodie Livingstone and Marco Bollinger is about a twelve-year-old Syrian girl, telling her harrowing story of escape from war as she tries to rebuild her life and pursue her dreams of music and school.
A story from Western Sahara and the struggle to break an absolute censorship, comes “3 Stolen Cameras;” while “The Cedar and the Steel” by French Director Valerie Vincent depicts a journey to the country of the Cedar, to its values threatened to decline.
“Food Evolution” by American Director Scott Hamilton Kennedy is also included in the “Rejection Front” category. It raises the controversy surrounding GMOs and food.
“Before the Flood” by American Director Fisher Stevens, follows Leonardo DiCaprio as he travels to five continents and the Arctic speaking to scientists, world leaders, activists and local residents to gain a deeper understanding of climate change and investigate concrete solutions to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time. Stevens, winner of an Oscar for The Cove, will attend the festival.
The Jury and guests
American Director Jonathan Nossiter and Argentinian Director and scenarist Santiago Amigorena will chair the jury of BIFF, which will also include Lebanese Director Ziad Doueiri and French Actress Vahina Giocante.
In addition to the members of the jury and the directors of some films hosted by the festival, several prominent guests will be attending the event, such as founder and director of Telluride Tom Luddy, co-Director of Telluride Julie Hunstinger and Telluride Curator Mara Fortes.
Also among the guests, Italian Director Gianfranco Rosi (winner of Golden Lion at Venice Festival and Golden Bear at Berlin Festival) who will be in Lebanon for nearly one year, as of October, to shoot a film about the crises in the region. He will be accompanied to the festival by Producer Paolo Del Brocco, director of Rai Cinema Italian TV, and Producer Donatella Palermo, as well as Nicolas Marzano, head of the Institute of Contemporary Art in London.
Tribute to Abbas KiarostamiThe festival will also dedicate a tribute to prolific film director, screenwriter, and producer Abbas Kiarostami, “to remember and honor him as a great director and a friend,” according to Naufal. Seven of his acclaimed films, as well as a documentary about his life will be displayed during the event. Iranian actor and Kiarostami’s closest friend Homayoun Ershadi, who was also lead actor in the film “A Taste of Cherry,” will attend the event, as well as the late director’s son Ahmad Kiarostami and a number of friends and members of Group Kiarostami.
From 40 films made by Kiarostami over a period of five decades, the festival selected a few to be screened during the tribute, including: Where Is My Friend’s Home?; A Taste of Cherry; The Wind Will Carry Us; Through the Olive Trees; The Traveler; 24 Frames and Take Me Home.
Beirut Film Festival had hosted Kiarostami several years back and screened a number of his award-winning films.
The documentary “76 Minutes, 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami” by Iranian Director Seifollah Samadian will be screened and it depicts the biography of the great director. The title of the documentary refers to the age of Kiarostami at his death, which was 76 years and 15 days.
Lebanon before the War
Not included in the competitions and categories, BIFF sheds light on six short movies offered by the Ministry of Tourism, about Lebanon before the outbreak of the war in 1975. These movies will be shown before some feature films.
The Festival will be held in Metropolis Empire Sofil, special screenings in Cinema Montaigne & The Sursock Museum.
Tickets and Invitations for opening and closing will be available at BIFF desk in Metropolis Empire Sofil as of September 25, between 04:00 pm and 10:00 pm.
The ticket price for regular screening is 8000 LBP.
For more info about shows and tickets, contact
BIFF : 70 141843
Metropolis Empire Sofil: 01-204080.
During the press conference, Naufal extended special thanks to Société Générale de Banque au Liban (SGBL), “the unwavering official partner of BIFF, for 19 of the 20 years”. “Good times, bad times, they’ve always backed our vision and goal”, she said. Naufal added that the Municipality of Beirut has become the festival’s major sponsor in its endeavor to support culture and cinema”,
She also thanked Touch for becoming the events’ sponsor as well as the Ministries of Tourism and Culture, and media outlets such as Future TV, TV5 Monde, LBCI and Nostalgie Radio Station in addition to Sursock Palace Gardens and Le Gray hotel in Beirut.”
She announced that Serge Majdalani will be the Red Carpet Host and he will be going live from BIFF Facebook page to cover the opening ceremony of the festival. He will conduct short interviews with celebrities and guests, in collaboration with online platforms “Loolia” and “Ounousa” that will also be sharing the live event on their Facebook pages.
Before The Flood
A Prayer Before Dawn
A Day for Women