BEIRUT: “Cinema is a powerful economic force, a creator of jobs and revenues. It is also a cultural media which, similarly to all artistic creations, is of tremendous help during tumultuous periods and particularly the one we are going through right now. It prevents us from falling into violence, intolerance and despair.” The organizers of Beirut Cinema delivered this salute to film’s multifaceted nature late Wednesday, after announcing that the event’s debut edition, scheduled for Jan. 18-22, had been canceled due to security concerns.
“Confronted with an [unstable] security situation,” La Fondation Liban Cinéma, Bande-à-Part and Né à Beyrouth declared a joint release, “Beirut Cinema ... must adapt.”
In this case adaptation means cancellation, or rather postponement with no alternative dates on the horizon.
Beirut Cinema had planned to have heavy international participation for its debut, organizers explained. This being the case, “we are unable to ensure the proper course of the initial program and [guarantee] our responsibility toward our foreign guests, with respect to the Lebanese Film Festival, with its master classes with our Argentinean guests and the meetings between filmmakers and the public; and with respect to La Fondation Liban Cinéma, the professional meetings between Lebanese filmmakers and international experts at the Beirut Cinema Project, as well as La Nuit des Mabrouk, the festive evening paying tribute to Lebanese Cinema which was scheduled to close Beirut Cinema as a fundraising event for the activities of the Foundation.”
Beirut Cinema would have been the latest iteration of what may be Lebanon’s most mutable film event.
The city’s first festival of Lebanese cinema (not to be confused with the Beirut International Film Festival, which screens international films in the Lebanese capital) was launched in 2001 by the film production company Né a Beyrouth, under the name “Né a Beyrouth.”
Né a Beyrouth ran for nine seasons, during which time it rebranded as the Lebanese Film Festival.
Though a handful of Lebanese features have premiered at LFF, in practice the festival has devoted itself to short works – most of them by aspiring young cineastes – punctuated by short video works by Lebanese artists.
In 2011 organizers stepped back to rethink the concept.
The event was then relaunched in August 2012 as a successful four-day event run collaboratively by Né a Beyrouth and event organizer Bande-à-Part.
Organizers canceled the August 2013 edition of LFF, noting security concerns.
In counterpoint to the cancelation notice, Né a Beyrouth also announced plans to retool and reschedule its event for January 2014.
Beirut Cinema, as the new festival was tagged, is meant to combine three previously distinct events – the 11th edition of LFF, the third edition of Nuit des Mabrouk (a Lebanese Cinema Foundation event that pays tribute to Lebanese filmmakers) and the first Beirut Cinema Project (a development platform for local filmmakers).
“We will continue to work closely together,” the organizers promised, “because we are deeply convinced that the union of ... our organizations, committed to the promotion of Lebanese Cinema, will help accompany and carry Lebanese cinema on the domestic and international scenes ... We are determined to launch Beirut Cinema in the near future.”