Proud to be Lebanese?
Ok, I think this place can use a break from politics. So, how about... cinema? A friend of mine sent this e-mail that I thought warranted further airing; I'll just let it speak for itself:
During the Toronto Film Festival, I was very excited to learn that there were two Lebanese movies being screened, and I called my friends telling them that they had no choice; they were going to accompany me to sample Lebanese Cinema... Or so I thought!
Ziad Doueiri ("West Beirut") was introducing his "Lila dit ca". I was so happy to learn that, since I kind of liked "West Beirut". But when we were reading the info, under country we read: France. try explaining that to foreigners. "No he is really Lebanese, but must have studied in France and got his degree from there, and therefore he has the French nationality, but he is really Lebanese we7yet Allah (I swear to God), he has another movie about Beirut during the civil war, it is called 'West Beirut', I have it, do you want to see it? I swear he is Lebanese, wlak ma esmo Ziad! (His name is ziad)"
Tayyeb (OK), we couldn't find tickets for "Lila dit ca" anyway, but I was proud. "You see, he is that good, it is sold out". So we had to go for the next Lebanese director.
Wajdi Mouawad was introducing his movie "Le littoral". But once again, under country, we read: Canada. I did not know Wajdi beforehand so I had to research him and then explain to my "foreign" friends, again, "We7yet Allah he is Lebanese but his family emigrated when he was 8 years old, and therefore he has the Canadian nationality, but he really is Lebanese. Wlak ma esmo Wajdi!"
"Le littoral" portrays a Lebanese family that emigrated to Montréal, at the beginning of the war. When the father died, his only wish was to be buried in his village of origin in Lebanon. The son, who now can't speak Arabic, vows to fly the body and inter it in Lebanon, and there he has his "adventures" with Syrian blockades and cadaver snatchers and thieves.
During the movie, I felt very nostalgic watching our beautiful landscape, the blue Mediterranean, the mountains, the pine trees, the cedars, and especially the villages with the old vernacular architecture. But there was something weird about them, they did not feel quite... Lebanese; they were kind of artificial, but I enjoyed them. First of all, only one or two actors did not have accents. Everybody spoke Lebanese with a twitch. However, when the Syrians spoke, I could not understand a single word. I thought I wasn't concentrating, but then again, I was!
Secondly, when the movie was over, you could ask the cast questions (the director was not present), and indeed I asked. It turns out that the movie was filmed in Albania of all places (they could not get any insurance company to cover them in Lebanon). All the actors were Québécois, and the Syrian soldiers were Albanian. It is when they could not imitate phonetically the Arabic Language, that the director finally, and out of frustration, told them to speak Albanian, hoping that it would pass as Lebanese, and not a lot of people will know the difference anyway! I personally thought this was offensive to all Lebanese, as well as to most non-Arabic speaking audiences (those who care anyway). And I let them know my opinion. and interestingly enough, they agreed.
I wonder, couldn't they find good Lebanese actors that can speak French? Most of us are francophone; Lebanese actors won't need insurance! Actually they don't even need to speak French, because they would just speak Arabic and communicate with the staff in French or English; I think it is pretty manageable. They would just act, and they would be great at what they do... I can name 20 great Lebanese actors right now, young and old, that could have done an excellent job. I was frustrated!!!
But then again I started asking myself, why was I so upset, both these director didn't even claim they were Lebanese. So it is not a Lebanese movie after all. But really why do we hang on to the Lebanese abroad that have made it a point, not to be Lebanese? Why do we make it a point for everybody to know that they actually are of Lebanese origins? It was a comedy when Rony Seikaly left the NBA to play with the Lebanese national team.
They chose to use their western nationalities; they stand a better chance at being recognized and published this way. They have a better chance at being successful if they are NOT Lebanese. And who can blame them; it is sadly true! If they chose not to be Lebanese, then why do we hold on to them so bad? Why do we want to bring them back to their roots and to the "day3a" (the village)? We rejoice! Shakira is Lebanese, and so is Salma Hayek. You know what, I don't think so. Is Gibran Khalil Gibran Lebanese? Really? Is he? Well I think that much to our dismay, he chose to be American! Wlak ma esmo Gibran... Eh toz! Gibran bass amerkeneh! (His name is Gibran... So what? He is American!) [Interesting related article: Kahlil Gibran of America ]
100% Lebanese! - For now at least.
Ziad provided a long laundry list of celebrities "min 3inna (Lebanese)" that I am keeping out for space. He refers, however, anyone interested in finding more "unknown" Lebanese ("just in case we would like to adopt them") to ShooFiMaFi.com and http://www.todaysoutlook.com/lebanese/archive/index.htm