Young Lebanese filmmakers have been using the medium to convey emotions, provide new cultural perspectives, and catalyze change, one film at a time.

This year, a number of local student shorts have made it to the Cannes Short Film Corner, including three entries from LAU students. In addition to screening their films to a massive audience as part of the prestigious annual festival, these young directors will have the chance to network with some of the biggest industry players.

Beirut.com reached out to the LAU Communication Arts graduates who have made the cut for a comprehensive overview of their creative vision and expectations as they prepare to head to Cannes this May.



ZIKRA | Fatma Rasha Shehadeh



Directed by Fatma Rasha Shehadeh and starring the gorgeous Joy Karam, “Zikra” traces the strikes led by Lebanese teachers in 1973 to plead for their rights.

Shehadeh’s aunt, who participated actively in the teachers’ movement, served as the primary inspiration for her film. “My aunt Amira, who also happens to be the main character of my film, is an idol to me and many others, she is a strong woman who managed to overcome a number of challenges in the most efficient way because of her strong leadership skills,” she explained. “This is why I have decided to shed light on her life as an activist while adding my own reflection to the story.”

The film conveys several messages, inspiring viewers to persevere and never give up on their rights. “Even if you might lose someone very important to you along the way, setting a goal and being determined to achieve it can change your current setting and even make a historical impact,” Shehadeh told Beirut.com.

“Moreover, the film proves that a woman can be a true leader. In the Middle East, women face many challenges that prohibit them from achieving their goals. This film is proof that women can and have broken this middle-eastern rule,” she added.

Shehadeh is honored to have her first ever film screened at one of the most prestigious annual film festivals. “It makes me very proud to be a part of this festival, and it surely boosts my confidence that this is the beginning of a long path of interesting, eventful filming. It is also a great opportunity for me to be able to step into the professional industry,” she noted.



A TIME IN A LIFE | George Barbari



After earning two awards at the NDU International Film Festival back in November, “A Time in A Life” will be playing in Cannes this May.

Directed by LAU graduate George Barbari and starring Lebanese actors Wissam Fares and Cynthia Khalifeh, the film depicts a love story between a young fisherman and his town as portrayed through his love for a girl he meets. “I met a friend who was the son of a fisherman, we became close. And I always wanted to make a love story about my town, Batroun, so I based the character on my friend and wrote the story around that,” Barbari told Beirut.com.

When asked about the message behind his movie, Barbari explained that what he is trying to convey is more of a feeling than a message. “I hope that by the end of the film, the viewer feels some attachment to the place that means so much to me,” he said.

Barbari found relief in telling the story of his town. “Making this film was my way of telling myself: “Alright, you showed people how special your town is, and now that you’ve got that out of the way, start making films that portray how special life is.” It was kind of a release for me,” he noted.
What he looks forward to the most in Cannes is to get to watch a lot of movies.




STREET NO. 5 | Maya Mansour & Sandra Sayej



LAU student Maya Mansour’s film production “Street No. 5” is based on a short story titled “An Almost Perfect Circle” that had won her first place in the Haas Mrouwe Annual Creative Writing Competition.

The story depicts the never ending loophole of Beirut and Lebanon, where the future and the past merge to create an almost perfect circle and the main character is played by Lebanese actress Zeina Makki. “My friend Sandra Sayej (director) read the story and adapted it into a screenplay. From then onwards, Sandra and I have given full love and commitment to the screenplay, which has gracefully paved the way to our current end product,” Mansour explained.

Mansour and Sayej aim to convey “the detailed discrete pleasures Beirut offers her beloved” through emphasizing the femininity of the city. “Beirut is a woman, Beirut is a mother and she is stuck in the same cycle life after life. The message behind Street No 5, is the mere realization that the loophole is infinite, and it is only when society realizes this that it can break this cycle and move forward to appreciate the beauty of Beirut,” Mansour told Beirut.com.

The duo is pleased to have their first ever film screened in Cannes. “Reaching the Cannes Short Film Corner makes me so proud of the team; Jeremy Budjok (DOP), Hasan Saleme (Editor), Bassem Sayej and Tarek Hanna (Music composers), Aya (Vocalist), of course Zeina Makki (Actress), and the amazing Sandra Sayej for knowing how to blend the abstract with the tangible and the felt,” Mansour noted.

“The experience itself is the most important, I believe. It is always pleasurable to have a whole crew work around one idea and one thought with respect and good rhythm. We hope this experience opens doors for more experiences as such,” she concluded.

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