Ziad Doueiri is a Lebanese director, best known for his 1998 drama “West Beyrouth” and 2005’s “Lila Says.” West Beyrouth won several awards, including Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival.
Born in Beirut, he left Lebanon during the war aged 18 and moved to the U.S., where he later worked as a camera assistant for Quentin Tarantino. Now living in France, his latest film, “The Attack” was shown at some of the world’s top film festivals and won the Golden Star at Marrakesh and the Jury’s Special Mention at San Sebastian in Spain. The Attack is set for release in Lebanon in May.
Q: Describe a typical day.
A: Wasting lots of time.
Q: What was the last thing you bought?
A: A lemon squeezer and a Roland piano.
Q: Who was the last person you spoke to?
A: My producer. I told him to move his ass.
Q: Describe Lebanon in five words.
A: I belong, but I don’t fit.
Q: If you could change one thing about Lebanon, what would it be?
A: Bring back the old cinema theaters: Hamra, Colisée, Marignan, Etoile, Saroulla, Edison, Pavillon, Eldorado, Picadilly etc.
Q: What would make you move back to Lebanon?
A: If I could relive 1974.
Q: What’s your earliest memory?
A: Drinking petrol in the Congo then being carried by my father across the river on a raft to go to the hospital. I was three.
Q: What did you want to be as a child?
A: Mowgli (from the Jungle Book)
Q: Were you a good student?
A: Total failure. I was in Lycee Francais.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
A: I wish I were you.
Q: What is the most valuable thing your parents or grandparents taught you?
A: I inherited extremism from my mother, and resilience from my father.
Q: How do you think people describe you?
A: I never asked. I’d like to know.
Q: If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
A: On a film set.
Q: What’s the best item of clothing you’ve ever owned?
A: An Eddie Bauer Gore-Tex down jacket I bought in Canada 23 years ago, it still keeps me warm!
Q: Do you read your star sign?
A: Never. And I avoid women who do.
Q: What’s your favorite word?
A: Sa3eb wade3na! (we got a problem!)
Q: What’s the scariest thing that you’ve ever done?
A: Never done anything scary. But was in very scary situations: Running out of money. Running out of options.
Q: If you could do any other job for a day, what would it be?
A: Write children’s stories.
Q: Which historical figure would you choose to go for coffee with?
A: Fouad Chehab. I believe there was a time when Lebanon had a real government.
Q: How do you sleep?
A: With a mouthguard.
Q: How often do you laugh?
A: Every time I am with my friend [director] Fouad Alaywan. Wittiest man I know.
Q: What’s your party trick?
A: Avoid them.
Q: Skiing or swimming?
A: Having an espresso.
Q: What do you look forward to?
A: Making my next film in Beirut.
Q: Happiness is ...
A: Being on a film set.