On the couch with

Ac­tor and di­rec­tor Ge­orges Khabbaz

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS -

YOUR PAR­ENTS WERE BOTH AC­TORS. HOW DID THAT AF­FECT YOUR DE­CI­SION TO PUR­SUE FILM AND THE­ATER?

It came ge­net­i­cally and in the air. Of course I took a lot from my par­ents, and the cul­tural at­mo­sphere where I grew up had a great im­pact on me. My un­cles from both sides were also mu­si­cians, as was my grand­fa­ther. This artis­tic at­mo­sphere sur­rounded me and I con­sider it a bless­ing. More­over, my dad had a huge li­brary so I grew up with mu­sic and books. It helped me dis­cover my ta­lent early and de­velop it.

YOU’VE DONE BOTH COM­EDY AND DRA­MATIC ACT­ING. DO YOU HAVE A PREF­ER­ENCE?

I like both, but frankly speak­ing, in our re­gion and in Le­banon in par­tic­u­lar, we need hap­pi­ness and joy. It has be­come a rare cur­rency, es­pe­cially “clean” joy, far from in­sults, sex­ual or po­lit­i­cal vul­gar­ity. So I de­cided to go more into com­edy, be­cause through com­edy we can also con­vey a pa­tri­otic, hu­man­i­tar­ian, so­cial mes­sage; a high level com­edy built on real con­tent. Any­way, I be­lieve there is a thin line be­tween drama and com­edy.

I draw in­spi­ra­tion from Ba­troun’s in­fifi­nite hori­zon

WHY DO MOST OF YOUR COMEDIES END SADLY?

Ac­tu­ally, if you think of it, end­ings are al­ways sad. The best parts are the be­gin­nings. End­ings are al­ways about death or sep­a­ra­tion. You know, not all the ends of my plays are sad, but you can al­ways find in them fear and pre­oc­cu­pa­tion about what’s com­ing. I’m like this. I am anx­ious. I think life is not al­ways fair.

DO YOU HAVE A FA­VORITE PLAY OR FILM YOU’VE WRIT­TEN OR BEEN PART OF?

As a movie, I love “Ghadi” be­cause it tells lots of sto­ries and as a play, “Mich Mekhtelfin” that talks about a woman and a man from dif­fer­ent re­li­gions who want to get mar­ried in a sec­tar­ian coun­try. As for the se­ries, I like one called “Abdo w Abdo” that I did for TV in 2003.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO WORK WITH PHILLIPE ARACTINGI IN “UN­DER THE BOMBS”?

It was a very nice ex­pe­ri­ence. The shoot­ing took place in South Le­banon dur­ing the war and I learned a lot. First, I met the south­ern peo­ple and I wit­nessed very touch­ing mo­ments. I’ll never for­get this real scene: a bal­cony half-blown by a bomb where a fam­ily was sit­ting for lunch. It made re­al­ize that we, Le­banese, are real sur­vivors. Go­ing to the South for the shoot­ing made me feel closer to other Le­banese that war had sep­a­rated us from. It’s a nice movie; a scream against suf­fer­ing and in­tol­er­ance.

DO THE­ATER AND FILM MAKE YOU UN­DER­STAND LE­BANON DIF­FER­ENTLY?

Of course, it makes me un­der­stand hu­mans dif­fer­ently and when you un­der­stand hu­mans dif­fer­ently, you even un­der­stand your­self bet­ter. The­ater is a daily ed­u­ca­tion, which makes me dive into the depth of the hu­man and more into the spir­i­tual. It made me dis­cover peo­ple are a mix­ture of suf­fer­ings, pains, con­straints. When you live dif­fer­ent roles, you un­der­stand oth­ers bet­ter.

WHAT DID YOU DIS­COVER ABOUT YOUR­SELF YOU DIDN’T KNOW?

Lots of things! I used to think my only source of in­spi­ra­tion was my par­ents, my fam­ily, my re­gion, my re­li­gion, but I dis­cov­ered that it’s far deeper than this. You end up deeper and armed with more faith. I’m a be­liever, and a Chris­tian. I ac­cept oth­ers as they are.

FOR THE LAST 13 YEARS, YOU HAVE PRO­DUCED, DI­RECTED AND STARRED IN 14 PLAYS, EACH AT­TENDED BY AN AU­DI­ENCE OF MORE THAN 100,000. WHERE DO YOU DRAW YOUR IN­SPI­RA­TION FROM?

Even though we’re play­ing “Bil Kawalis” right now, I’m al­ready work­ing on a new play. If the year had more than 12 months, I would have done even more: maybe three plays a year. We are a fer­tile ground for sub­jects and writ­ing plays is not a job, it’s a need. I need to write, in or­der to ex­press my ob­ses­sions, my prob­lems, and my strug­gles. What bet­ter ther­apy?

IS THERE A CO­ME­DIAN OR AN AC­TOR YOU’D LIKE TO WORK WITH?

Du­raid Lah­ham. We would both like to be in a play to­gether. Phys­i­cally, we look alike. Per­haps we can play fa­ther and son roles. I think it will be nice. We’ve been think­ing about it for a long time.

WHAT ARE YOU FA­VORITE LE­BANESE FILMS?

I like Na­dine Labaki’s “Caramel” and Ziad Doueiri’s “West Beirut” and “Ghadi” be­cause these movies have achieved the dif­fi­cult chal­lenge; be­ing at the same time com­mer­cially pop­u­lar and successful in in­ter­na­tional movie fes­ti­vals.

ARE YOU WORK­ING ON ANY­THING NEW?

Yes, in Septem­ber I’ll be­gin the shoot­ing of my new movie with Gabriel Chamoun.

WILL IT BE THE SAME LEVEL AS “GHADI”?

Of course, al­ways bet­ter, never go­ing back. And I’m writ­ing the next play and pre­par­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion of a fes­ti­val.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FA­VORITE SPOTS IN LE­BANON YOU WOULD REC­OM­MEND TO OUR READ­ERS?

All of Le­banon is beau­ti­ful, but my birth­place is my fa­vorite spot. When I go to Ba­troun, my heart beats dif­fer­ently. The sea has a great im­pact on me. I grew up by the sea and our house is one minute away from the beach. The sea, with its in­fi­nite hori­zon, is very im­por­tant to me.

SO IT’S FROM HERE THAT YOUR IN­FI­NITE IN­SPI­RA­TION COMES?

Def­i­nitely! I draw in­spi­ra­tion from Ba­troun’s in­fi­nite hori­zon. It is unique.

DE­SCRIBE LE­BANON IN THREE WORDS

Three words? That’s so lit­tle for Le­banon! It’s like ask­ing me to de­scribe the woman of my life in three words! Well, Le­banon is a holy land, a spirit, a beau­ti­ful lady or a hand­some man arous­ing jeal­ousy.

I need to write in or­der to ex­press my ob­ses­sions, my prob­lems, and my strug­gles

Photo: Dany Dab­bagh

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