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French Version

Festival showcases local film making talent (Daily Star)

Lebanese, international students participate at second annual event
TV, the country's only audiovisual industry, is dominated by low - or no - quality programs

"Here, there is no fear, everything is audacious ...

We must try, even if we fall. This is an essential characteristic of the student film." This was how Paul Mattar, the chairman of Saint Joseph University's Institute for Theatrical, Audiovisual and Cinematographic Studies (IESAV) described the second International Festival for Short Movies that was held at the institute's campus between Jan. 26 and 28.

Gathering students from over 15 countries including Lebanon, Germany, France, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Russia, Portugal, Poland, Argentina, Switzerland and Taiwan, the festival was the second of its kind to be held in Lebanon.

"In 2002, IESAV came up with the initiative to hold an international festival for short student movies every two years at its premises," said Nadine Boulos, IESAV's international relations officer. "Such an endeavor allows students from all over the world to meet and exchange knowledge and skills, competing to an international jury over the best short movie title."

Lebanon won the best fiction movie award, with "Liberte Toujours," directed by Nadim Saoma, representing ALBA University. Encompassing six internationally renowned film producers and critics representing audiovisual and cinematographic schools from various parts of the world, the jury to the festival was presided over by famed Gabriel Boustani, a Lebanese writer and producer who collaborated in a number of national and international eminent films. "The local short movies' professionalism astonished me," Boustani said, "given the limited technical resources that the students have. The Spanish short movies were quite remarkable as well." With that sweet-and-sour look that only comes after long years of experience, Boustani said, "in order for the Lebanese cinematography to go international, it has to become an industry by itself just like everywhere else in the world." "Lebanese talents, actors and technicians are world class," Boustani said, "only there is no industry for them to invest their talent in."

Television, he continued, is the only audiovisual industry we have in this country, "and I wish it was up to the standards, as it currently is infected with low - or no - quality programs and shows." According to Boustani, television cooperation is needed for Lebanese cinematography to become an independent industry. "In France for instance, when we want to produce a movie, we rely a lot on television who actually coproduces the film and shares 50 percent of the expenses," Boustani said, "alas this kind of cooperation does not even exist in Lebanon."

The participants in the festival, mainly cinematography students, found themselves challenged by the mixture of cultures, a strong characteristic and asset of the festival.

Ragna Lindboe, a fresh graduate of The Norwegian Film School, directing the 27-minute movie "Super Salma," noticed how "Lebanese movies tell the story in very a different way than we are used to." "It's different you see," Lindboe said, "in Lebanese short films for instance there is a lot of voiceover while in our movies we let the viewers do the narration in their head." Jean Philippe Vives Carral, a French student coming from IESAV in Toulouse, France, said "Lebanese movies have a lot of freshness in them."

He added that Lebanese movies were up to international standards. "Norwegian cinematography for instance is very technical and artistic, yet it lacks the spontaneity that we find in Lebanese movies." According to Paul Mattar, student films were often limited by the conditions in which they were made and were assimilated to simple exercises of professional formation, or to "visas" used to obtain a diploma.

Beirut 31-01-2005
Jessy Chahine
The Daily Star

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