Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Irish Film Week in Beirut, Lebanon: Notes from its Co-Director

Don Duncan, Co-Director of Worlds Alike: Irish Film Week in Beirut talks about running the first ever festival of Irish film in Lebanon and its local impact. This festival was set up with the support of IFI International and Culture Ireland. For more about IFI International's activities and programmes for cultural exhibitors around the world, see 

“I’m so sorry this happened to you,” said one spectator as she emerged from the screening of Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey, a documentary by Lelia Doolan, when it was screened as part of the Irish Film Festival in Beirut in March 2012.

The goal of the festival was to show Irish films that would resonate with a Lebanese audience. To this end, the themes of national identity, foreign interference, conflict and post-conflict resolution that permeated the programme of nine feature films and 12 shorts from Ireland. (See the trailer.)

This was the first ever festival of Irish film in Lebanon. The place Ireland holds in the Lebanese public imagination, as well as the concrete links between the countries (Irish U.N. peacekeepers have been posted in Lebanon for decades), came through in the audience figures and general buzz that generated around the event.

With funding from Culture Ireland and fantastic administrative support from the IFI, we managed to bring over actor Stephen Rea (who spoke to the audience after the screening of The Butcher Boy) and director Lelia Doolan, who fielded a lengthy and enthusiastic Q&A discussion after her film was shown.

People were struck by the similarities between the countries' recent histories and were inspired by the grass roots activism that was apparent in both films about the Northern Irish civil rights movement as well as a more modern popular struggle in Ireland – that of the people of Rossport, Co. Mayo against the business interests of Shell oil, as depicted in Risteard O'Domhnaill’s film The Pipe.

Don Duncan, Co-Director

The project was organised by Irish journalist Don Duncan with the Lebanese civic society NGO Nahwa al-Muwataniyya (NAAM) and in conjunction with the Metropolis art house cinema in Beirut. It was the first in an annual series of festivals run by NAAM that seek to showcase the films of countries that share common political, social and cultural characteristics with Lebanon.

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