AyamBeirut Al Cinema'iya, the first festivalto take place in Lebanon since the war, wrapped Sept 23 after a nine-dayfestival that opened with the world premiere of Michel Kammoun's Falafel, and screened 40 features,shorts and documentaries, mainly from or about the Arab world.
Now in its fourth year, thefestival has gained a following among Arab cinephiles, thanks in part to itsgrassroots approach and support for regional cinema. This year, even though
"Most of the guests broughtcameras with them, and some are considering making films about the situation,"said artistic director Eliane Raheb. Palestinian-UK film-maker Saeed TajiFarouky (I See the Stars at Noon),for example, is using the festival as a starting point for a documentary on the"cultural reconstruction of
One of the most popularfestival events was the screening of a collection of short films and videosmade during the recent war. "It was a very sensitive issue, and we debatedwhether to do it," said Raheb. "But on the day, we had almost 500 people crowdinto a 275-seat theatre." A debate about "the role of the filmmaker in a timeof crisis" followed the films. Festivals in the Arab world and
"The festival itself was extremely well-organized and surprisinglywell-attended," said Longley, who directed IraqIn Fragments. "As you might expect, the audienceswere very engaged and there was a huge spectrum of political and aestheticideas represented -- that makes it an exciting place to show a film."
Many of the screenings tookplace in the Metropolis, one of a handful of arthouse cinemas in the
Festival director and Metropolisfounder Hania Mroue entertained the homeless families from southern
Run by film-makers'cooperative Beirut DC, Ayam Beirut Al Cinema'iya (Beirut Cinema Days) startedas a forum for regional cinema, but expanded into more international fareduring 2004 and 2005 when the more established Beirut International FilmFestival (BIFF) suffered consecutive cancellations. This yearthe BIFF returns as the MidEast Film Festival, Oct 4-10, with a programme of 20international festival favourites, including Pedro Almodovar's Volver, Jafar Panahi's Offside, and Stephen Frears' The Queen. The festival closeswith Marwan Hamed's The YacoubianBuilding.
Festival director ColetteNaufal said that prints are coming in but organising the event is "very tough"given local circumstances. "Industry representatives from