In the ruins of baalbeck studios still

Through four feature length and two mid-length films this year’s country focus offers an insight into engaging new images of contemporary Lebanese documentary cinema.

The featured works represent a further wave in the female led scene of creative non-fiction emerging from Lebanon in recent years, following the conceptually playful political critiques and magical realist films of Rawane Nassif, Joana Hadjithomas, Eliane Raheb, Mary Jirmanus Saba and breakout film of 2017 Ziad Kalthoum’s ‘Taste of Cement’. Each selected work shows evidence of a wider regional tendency of addressing conflicted identity and histories through a personal, abstract and yet pointed essayistic lens.

Locally documentary and non-fiction works offer counter narratives and subversive forms to state controlled news services, with organisations like Screen Institute Beirut placing documentary cinema at the core of its storytelling mission. The nation is not only an incubator of home-grown filmmakers and stories, it has become a site of emergence for international artists, and a place of narrative refuge and digestion for exiled regional creatives from Palestine and more recently Syria.

Features screening in the programme:

Counting Tiles

Thu 7 June //14:00 // PBS America Showroom Cinema 3 //£10 (£8 concessions)
Fri 8 June //09:15 // Showroom Cinema 1 //£5

Clowns without Borders have arrived in Greece, hoping their antics will brighten the lives of refugees - only to find that bureaucracy prevents them from getting close to any refugees. As the troupe whiles the days away, Lebanese director Cynthia Choucair, whose sister Sabine is one of the clowns, muses about their own days of displacement as children of war.



Thu 7 June //14:15 // Yorkshire Building Society Showroom Cinema 2 //£10 (£8 concessions)
Mon 11 June //09:00 // The Light Cinema 6 //£10 (£8 concessions)

An evocative personal essay reflecting Beirut’s difficult recent past and uneasy present. Lebanese sound designer Rana Eid’s feature debut pens a filmic letter to her deceased army father. Delving into her childhood memories, merging them with the audio and underground landscapes of modern Beirut, Eid notes “the wars have multiplied, and we have lost sight of the enemy.”


Room for a Man

Thu 7 June //14:30 // Showroom Cinema 1 //£10 (£8 concessions)
Sat 9 June //09:00 // Curzon Cinema 1 //£10 (£8 concessions)

Young gay Lebanese filmmaker Anthony Chidiac explores identity and family history, first through discussions with the Syrian builders refurbishing the Beirut apartment he shares with his mother; then by travelling to Argentina with his formerly estranged father. Favouring artful, static camerawork and a yearning voiceover, this hypnotic personal essay meditates on masculinity, sexuality and a lifelong quest for acceptance. 



Wild Relatives

Sun 10 June //09:00 // The Light Cinema 3 //£10 (£8 concessions)
Mon 11 June //09:30 // Curzon Cinema 1 //£10 (£8 concessions)

Deep beneath Arctic permafrost, seeds from all over the world are stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault should disaster strike. Wild Relatives starts from an event that has sparked media interest worldwide: 2012, an international agricultural research centre relocated from Aleppo to Lebanon due to the Syrian Revolution turned war and began duplicating their seed collection from the Svalbard back-ups. This transaction of seeds between the Arctic and Lebanon, unfolds a matrix of human and non-human lives; teasing out tensions between state and individual, industrial and organic approaches, climate change and biodiversity, witnessed through the journey of these seeds.


Mid-Length works screening in the programme:


The Drift

Tue 12 June //18:30 // The Light Cinema 3 //£10 (£8 concessions)

Following three main characters - the gatekeeper of the Roman temples of Niha in the Beqaa Valley; a young mechanic from Britel, a village known for trading automobile parts; and an archaeological conservator working at the American University of Beirut – The Drift focuses on the desire to reassemble and rebuild, in a landscape laden with the traces of past conflict.


In the Ruins of Baalbeck Studios

Tue 12 June //18:30 // The Light Cinema 3 //£10 (£8 concessions)

Once the biggest production company in the Arab world, Baalbeck Studios did not survive Lebanon’s civil war. Interweaving audio with damaged archive, Director Siska creatively revisits its heyday.

All of these films are part of our New/Lebanon strand.
Click here to view all the films in this strand.

All screenings are accessible in a variety of ways through individual tickets, Doc/Lover Wristbands or a full Festival Pass - you can click here to purchase. You can also click here to check out trailers in advance via our YouTube channel.