The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Scary robots to Palm Beach: The Lebanese film fest awards

Event’s 13th edition, dedicated to women moviemaker­s, saw 35 flicks compete

- By Maghie Ghali

BEIRUT: “I am so thankful for the award,” Nadia Hotait said as she received the Best Experiment­al Film award at the closing ceremony of the Lebanese Film Festival Friday.

“This film that we created between [my sister and I] is about a part of Lebanon’s history, especially because the story is about Ali Chehab, but we made this film because of something our father said.

He said ‘Ali Chehab was able to steal hearts but not a bank.’”

The award was given to Nadia and Laila Hotait’s “The Night Between Ali and I” – a nine-minute short based loosely on the taking of 39 hostages at the Bank of America in Beirut in 1937 – which was chosen from nine competitor­s.

LFF’s 13th edition closed its weeklong run with the award ceremony Friday, followed by a symbolic screening of Heiny Srour’s 1974 documentar­y “The Hour of Liberation Has Arrived.”

The 2018 program, dedicated to women filmmakers, opened with Nadine Labaki’s Cannes Jury Prize winner “Capharnaum,” and used Srour’s doc as a way to come full circle. Srour was the first Arab woman to have a film selected for Cannes Film Festival.

This year saw 35 films competing in four categories: Best Fiction, Best Documentar­y, Best First Film and Best Experiment­al. The winning films were chosen by a jury of director Darine Hotait, Rouge Internatio­nal production house founder Nadia Turincev, documentar­y maker Hady Zaccak and artist Cynthia Zaven.

“The Incident” by Meedo Taha took home Best First Film, beating nine others. The short film deals with harassment of women, their judgment by a conservati­ve society and xenophobia.

Although Taha was absent, cast member Moe Lattouf received the award on his behalf, followed by a recorded video message from Taha.

“I want to thank the jury for this wonderful surprise and ... our production team that really worked from the heart. This award is for you,” Taha said in the video.

“I also want to thank the audience who watched it and I would love to be amongst you but as you can see I’m sat in my Kitchen and haven’t raised my head from the new script I’m writing.”

Tamara Stepanyan’s “Those From The Shore,” a story of Armenian refugees in Marseille was awarded the Best Documentar­y prize from out of 12 documentar­ies.

Stepanyan was also absent from the ceremony, as was Zaccak, who was meant to present the award. Both sent their regards via video.

Chosen from 26 films, Fadi Baki’s “Last Days of the Man of Tomorrow” was given the Best Fiction award and described as “awesome, sensationa­l [and] super” by the jury.

His 30-minuite fantasist investigat­ion looks into the legend of Manivelle, a robot offered to Lebanon by Charles de Gaulle in 1945, which now haunts a Beirut mansion.

“I’m amazed and ... this film was always kind of a documentar­y for me as it’s a real story and it took four years,” Baki gushed.

“At one point I didn’t think it was possible so I want to say thank you to all who helped me get to here, where I can watch it with you all.”

As a result of LFF’s partnershi­p with Films Femmes Francophon­es Mediterran­ee – a new scriptwrit­ing residency for French-speaking women, which took place in Deir elQamar two weeks ago – the awards given to the residency’s First Place winner and Special Mention were also presented.

“L’Enfant du Village,” by French-Brazilian scriptwrit­er Daniella Saba won first prize from out of the five projects accepted into the residency.

“It’s a dramatic comedy about Florence, who is 42 and kind of lost in life,” Saba explained to The Daily Star.

“She’s just moved in with her boyfriend but still married to her sick ex-husband, who needs a blood transfusio­n. He was adopted and asks Florence to come with him to Brazil, his home, to look for his family who could be the right blood donors,” she added.

“It’s got a lot of comedic moments. I’m now looking for a producers and it may take a while so I’m focusing on the script first.”

A Special Mention award was also presented to Pauline Racine and Hella Tounessi for their “Palm Beach” script.

“It’s a drama that takes place in Algers, Algeria in a place called Palm Beach,” Tounessi told The Daily Star. “It talks about youth and it’s a love story between two young adults – Karima and Amin – and about how hard it is to live a love story in Algeria.

“[In the residency] they gave us screenwrit­ing tips ... and to help us do the first version of our screenplay,” she added. “It was very precious to us and we had an amazing consultant, Isabel Fauvel and I got a six-month consultanc­y with her which will help put me in touch with producers etc.”

 ??  ?? A scene from Baki’s “Last Days of the Man of Tomorrow,” which won Best Fiction Film at LFF Friday.
A scene from Baki’s “Last Days of the Man of Tomorrow,” which won Best Fiction Film at LFF Friday.

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