By: Amira Sherif
Lebanon has always been a land of beauty, of struggle and of people fighting for their land. The Lebanese cinema plays a dominant role nowadays and is taking Lebanon to a whole new level internally and externally. The Lebanese cinema was for a long time the only other cinema in the Arab World, after the Egyptian cinema that could be counted as a national cinema. It has been in existence since the 1920’s and has an archive of over 500 films. Through a close critical reading of the films, Lina Khatib argues in her book about the history of Lebanese cinema, that while some may regard cinema as a projection of national identity, whether real or imagined, Lebanese films are perhaps exceptional in that they reject the notion of there being any such thing as national identity to start with. "Though it still has a long way to go, Lebanese cinema is heading towards maturity," says Khatib. "It is starting to gain momentum and this is something to be proud of. Lebanese cinema is starting to have a real presence on the international film scene. And credit is due to the filmmakers themselves. They are planting the seeds of what will become a cinema industry in the future." Much of modern Lebanese cinema is composed of films depicting war and religious turmoil. The contributions of filmmaker and actress Nadine Labaki as a flashing example nowadays, have thus proven to be a unique addition to the Lebanese cinematic canon. In this paper I will examine the first roots of the history of Lebanese cinema till the arrival of the new modern era, highlighting the achievements of the famous filmmakers of each era dwelling specifically on Nadine Labaki’s work. History of Lebanese Cinema
The first silent Lebanese movie saw the light between 1929 and 1930. It was directed by Jordano Pidutti, a 24-year-old Italian cinematographer who had moved to Beirut. The movie, Moughamarat Elias Mabrouk (The Adventures of Elias Mabrouk*) — filmed in one of the Sursock palaces, a Raouche coffee shop and some alleys of Beirut — was such a success when screened at the Empire movie theater that a sequel produced by Rachid Ali Chaabane, Moughamarat Abu Abed (The Adventures of Abu Abed), was later made. However, the glory was short lived. Pidutti, whose work had so far revolved around the theme of immigration, was forced to stop filmmaking due to a lack of financing. He ended up filming weddings and current events with the help of a photographer, Georges Costi. This was the first birth of the Lebanese cinema, being also the taste of the successes and failures, turmoil and long silences to come in. In 1933, Lummar Film, founded by Herta Gargour, produced the first talking Lebanese movie, subtitled in French and directed by Julio de Luca and Karam Boustany, Bayn Hayakel Baalbek (In the Ruins of Baalbek). After the independence Lebanon gained from France, all the filmmakers started implementing local themes, especially rural life and folklore. During the post-independence period, Lebanon had faced an economic increase that made its capital, Beirut, the financial center of the Eastern Mediterranean. Lebanon’s economic success, along with the presence of 38 banks and its open multicultural and liberal society, made the country an alternative production choice to Egypt, which was at the time the main location for shooting any production in the Arab World. Additionally, Lebanon had the region's best technical facilities for film production. For the first half of the twentieth century, Lebanese cinema was very closely associated with Egyptian cinema, exporting numerous Lebanese actors and actresses. Once again condemned, Lebanese cinema was eclipsed during the sixties by its giant Egyptian counterpart. However, things would change as Egypt was drained of its movie directors and its intellectuals during President Abdel Nasser’s regime, which prohibited all forms of freedom on its soil and...