One of the most prestigious festivals in the film industry was held for the 68th time between the 11th and 22nd of this past May. The Cannes Film Festival is an invitation-only and extremely publicized event that attracts celebrities like no other festival. Every year, the festival showcases new work of filmmakers from all around the world and although it is selective about the applicants, the festival is open to all film genres.
As most festivals, the aim is to showcase new film creations to critics and celebrity circles alike. In the 12 days of the festival, there are star-studded red carpet premiers of movies, press release conferences, and numerous parties attended by many celebrities and the lucky few non-celebrities that get a pass. A panel of experts deliberates and selects outstanding entries for awards such as best director, best screenplay, best actor/actress, and so on. With all the categories taken into account, the Palmee D’Or, an award first given in 1955, is also presented to a truly outstanding film every year.
Before going into the Lebanese achievements in this prestigious festival, let us quickly recap this year’s exceptional winners. The prestigious Palme D’Or was awarded to “I, Daniel Blake” directed by Ken Loach. The Grand Prix, second place to the Palme D’Or was awarded to “Juste la fin du monde” directed by Xavier Dolan. The Best screenplay award was presented to “Le Client” directed by Asghar Farhadi. For the first time maybe, a draw occurred with regards to who would be crowned as Best Director: Cristian Mungiu for “Baccalaureat” and Olivier Assayas for “Personal Shopper”.
Since the founding of this festival, the Lebanese film industry has not only continuously made appearances along the years but has also been in the running for many awards and taken home a few. The first Lebanese film to ever be featured at the Cannes Film Festival was “Ila Ayn?” by Georges Nasser in 1958. This director represented our country again in 1961 with “The Little Stranger”. In 1974, the first female Arab filmmaker saw her work selected for this festival: Lebanese director Heiny Srour for “Saat El Tahrir Dakkat”. Over the next 40 years, the torch has been passed along different practitioners such as: Jocelyn Saab, Ghassan Salhab, Maroun Baghdadi, Nadine Labaki, Danielle Arbid, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. The awards won were the Jury Prize in 1991 by Maround Baghdadi for “Out of Life” and the Prix Francois Chalais in 2011 by Nadine Labaki for “Where do we go now?”(Halla2 la wen?)
A new upcoming star of the Lebanese film industry is Ely Dagher. He graduated in Art Direction, Illustration and Animation from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts in 2007. Then, Dagher focused on New Media and Contemporary Art Studies at Goldsmiths College in London. He mainly explores the correlation between possibilities created through the play among cultures, histories and fictions.
In 2015, he was rewarded for his work by winning the Palme D’Or for the Best short film with “Waves ‘98”. This achievement qualified his work to be included in the Academy Awards held this year. His film focuses on the story of a young boy named Omar, troubled by his life in the tumultuous Lebanese capital. In the midst of this chaos, he finds a mysterious portal leading to another dimension. It is in this alternate dimension that he is able to find peace and serenity. Torn between two contrasting worlds, and despite all the knows hardships, he cannot resist but returning to life in Beirut.