Twice Upon a Time – 35 Hours To Go

To all my followers on this blog:

We have 35 Hours left to complete our crowd funding campaign for Twice Upon a Time, my feature documentary.

Your help to support the post production process of this film is needed. You may help us by contributing and by sharing and spreading the word about our campaign during these last hours to people who would want to see this film get made.

Thank you!

Twice Upon a Time – The Documentary

Our IndieGogo Crowdfunding Campaign

To all readers and followers of this blog:

Yesterday, I launched a crowdfunding campaign for a documentary film I have been working on for the past three years.

I urge you to check the campaign out, donate if you can, but please please please SHARE it with as many people as you can, write about it, and help us put the word out!

Here is the link to the campaign:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/twice-upon-a-time-a-documentary

Thank you!

Faith & Hope in Lebanon

I was taking a look at older posts I had written when I was still a recent returnee to the country.

It is unsettling for me to admit to myself that I had not returned to Beirut with a neutral self. In fact, I had returned to Beirut with extra enthusiasm and energy to try and make it somehow part of who I am. I wanted it to be more than “a city I was born in but feel nothing special towards”.

Three years later today, I still don’t feel anything special towards it nor towards any other city in the world.

My “complicated relationship” with Beirut has given me a lot of awareness. First of all, it encouraged me to take up any (and every) opportunity to travel out of it. These experiences are always good to get to know cities in various countries around the world. The more cities you get to know, the more you discover that, “Guess what? They’re all the same.” They all have good parts and bad parts, they all have thieves and filthy rich people and those who are neither this nor that, they all have good people and they all have hypocrites walking their streets day and night, they all have rather safe districts and rather scary neighborhoods.

“And guess what? It’s okay.” This is humanity. Nobody said life was going to be a nice and fair ride. It will never be. Get over it.

When you want to give a certain city the evil eye and walk around pointing fingers, you will be able to do that wherever you are. Pick Paris, New York, Beirut, Reykjavik, Toronto, or any city you name. The cities that won’t belong to this list are the exceptions (if there are any!)

The truth is that we have to give it to the people of Beirut. They have been to hell and they may still be trying to recover from that journey. Journeys take time. People need love, they need patience and they need a lot of FAITH to make it through such journeys. Faith in that patience pays, in that a better future is possible, in that good deeds pay most of the time, and in that one day things will be better for real. And just like in a film script, they need to be ready to do whatever it takes them in order to get to their goal.

The failure of generation after generation in rebuilding Beirut is no excuse for any of the generations.

“But guess what?”

We have not failed. The future for us (today) is better than our present (yesterday). And the future for the young generations (tomorrow) can also be better than their present (today).

My friends and classmates were all born during the civil war. Our country and our cities -Beirut specifically- handed us blow after blow. We might not be the best children for Beirut & Lebanon, we might not be able to tolerate it as much as our parents and grandparents do/did, we might not be very enthusiastic to give back to a place that hurt us so much. Yet, here we are. Giving back. We give back with broken hearts, with faded hope, with less faith in the country perhaps, but we still try.

To recover from war is not something people should do on an individual basis only. Recovering from war is a generational process. DENIAL has not been serving us well for the past two decades. The wounds have to be exposed. The past has to be unveiled. We need to know in order to move forward. We need to know how ugly was the road behind, so that we can see how good the road is now. And we also need to look around and see how green the grass is on the other side, so that we don’t ever stop and think, “We’re in a much better place than before.”

We need to keep the wheels of faith and hope in this country moving. Today quickly becomes yesterday in our age and tomorrow is already here.

حارس الحكايات

.هيدي قصة حصلت معي يوم الجمعة وكنت قد وعدت بالكتابة عنها بهد انتهاء التصوير، ولكني كنت منهكة فتركتها حتى اليوم

في بلادنا هناك مشكلة عنف (شراسة تقريباً) مدفون في النفوس لأننا ربما تربينا في ظروف غير مثالية. الحديث هنا عن لبنان بشكل خاص وبيئة عدم الأمان المستشرية فيه بحيث يتكلم كل شخص مع الآخر وكأنه يريد أن يأكله في كثير من الأحيان. حقيقة.

يوم الجمعة صباحاً، توجهت بسيارتي من بلدتنا غزة إلى بلدة قب الياس حيث تمر الباصات التي تنقل الركاب من بيروت إلى البقاع لكي أقلّ ابن خالي ابراهيم الذي يعمل معي على تصوير فيلم وثائقي في القرية

بما أن المشوار كان مقتصراً على أن يصعد ابراهيم في السيارة ونعود إلى البيت فإني لم أكلف نفسي عناء ارتداء ثياب مرتبة وذهبت بـ “شحاطة” البيت. هذه تفاصيل صغيرة لكنها ستصبح مهمة بعد قليل فتحمّلوا معي

ولكي لا أذهب بمفردي سألت خليل، صديقي الصغير، إذا كان سيأتي معي. فرح خليل وقال أنه سيجلب معه بطاقة الهاتف (سيم كارد) كي يصلح فيها شيئاً

وجدنا ابراهيم في قب الياس، حيث أخبرنا أن علينا أن نتوجه إلى شركة الـ “ام تي سي” في شتورا لكي يصلح خليل ما أفسده “الوزير” بجعل كل هاتف مربوطاً بالبطاقة التي فيه -وهو أمر لا زلت لا أدرك جدواه سوى إما التجسس على الناس أو قبض الفلوس. ولكن، ما علينا

وصلنا إلى الشركة وقررت أنه كي لا ينزل خليل منفرداً وهو ابن الأحد عشر عاماً سأنزل معه -خاصة أن ابراهيم قد فك جبيرة رجله حديثاً ولا يزال يستعمل العكاز للمشي. المهم أني نزلت مع خليل وتوجهنا إلى مدخل الشركة حيث لم يكن مظهرنا بالشحاطة يوحي بأننا نملك قليلاً من القيمة في لبنان على ما يبدو

موظف يعمل حارساً (!) في الشركة استقبلنا بمجرد أن فتحنا الباب والتهمنا بسؤاله

“شو عندكم؟”

نعم: يا ستار (في قلبي طبعاً

“نريد أن ننقل شريحة من هذا التليفون إلى هذا التليفون الذي تم شراؤه في سوريا،” قال خليل
“متى أتيت من سوريا؟”
“من زمان”

كان خليل حتى اللحظة يتحاور مع الرجل ولكني أحسست بأن الرجل يحدثه بطريقة فوقية جداً، وهو مع عدم المؤاخذة، حارس وليس موظفاً ونحن لم نجئ لسؤال الحارس عن كرت الهاتف. تضايقت وقلت للرجل

“ما دخل هذا بذاك؟ ألا يستطيع الموظف أن يجعل الجهاز يعمل؟”

فنظر إليّ الحارس بوجه مكفهرّ ورفع صوته قائلاً
“انت متى أتيت من سوريا؟”
“أنا لم أجئ من سوريا”
“من أين جئت؟”
“أنا من بيروت”

الموظف المحترم، تلبّك قليلاً، وتناول هاتفه وتظاهر بأنه يتكتك فيه بعض الأزرار. وفي هذه اللحظة قلت في نفسي أني لن أغادر هذا المكتب دون أن يعمل الهاتف. وقد كان

فلنعد إلى لحظة الـ: “أنا لم أجئ من سوريا”. لقد شعرت بعد أقل من جزء من الثانية على هذا التصريح الذي أدليت به أن المجيء من سوريا تهمة. وأنا إنسان يحبّ سوريا كثيراً ويعزّ عليّ أن تتم الإشارة لها كـ “هذا المكان الموبوء الذي يأتي منه اللاجئون.” لقد احتقرت نفسي في هذه اللحظة أكثر مما احتقرت الجالس أمامي. أدرك الآن أن كل هذا الحديث كان يدور والرجل جالس ونحن واقفون. ما علينا

المهم أنني لوهلة قصيرة جداً شعرت بمدى الذلّ الذي يتم التعامل به مع السوري في هذا البلد، حتى من قبل الناس العاديين

هل جاء السوريون ليتفسحوا عندك يا حارس مبنى شركة توتش في شتورا؟ هل تركوا بيوتهم وأراضيهم رغبة منهم وأتوا ليتعلّموا الفساد والطغيان وأكل الهواء الذي عندنا؟ كلا! لقد هربوا بأطفالهم ونسائهم من الموت، وهم ولم يطلبوا منك أصلاً أن تخدمهم بالمجّان
وأقل ما يمكن أن تفعله يا حارس مبنى شركة توتش في شتورا هو أن تحترم إنسانيتهم وتعاملهم كبشر. أنا وخليل لم نطلب منك أن تبتسم لنا أو أن تكون لطيفاً. ولكن أن تحترم نفسك وتتعامل مع غيرك بتهذيب، ولو أتاك بشحاطة، فهذا أضعف الإيمان

The Other Lebanese Citizen

Today, I came across the only other Lebanese citizen, besides myself, who waits at pedestrian traffic lights.

Suddenly, there was hope for this country again. Suddenly, the human race wasn’t so bad anymore and the future looked much brighter.

Amazing how small things like that can change the whole day for you. This stranger just made my day and possibly my week.

If you are another Lebanese citizen who respects pedestrian traffic lights, please announce yourself. And please encourage others to do the same.

I love you!

The Syrian Woman with the Glass Eyes

Yesterday, I drove down from the Bekaa Valley to Beirut. This is the default international road between Beirut and Damascus. As usual every Sunday, there was traffic on the road and most of the time when the cars stop, I steal glances into people in nearby cars. Sometimes we smile to each other, sometimes we exchange helpless gestures about the traffic and sometimes we don’t exchange eye contact.

In one of the brief stops on the roads of Arayya, I noticed a Syrian cab with lots of people in it. This has become a regular scene on the international road. And so I announced the regular, “More refugees.”

While my fellow passengers were saying that we were like these refugees not so long ago, and that it was THEM “the sooriyyeen” who caused a lot of our troubles, I noticed a woman sitting on the back seat behind the passenger seat of that car (the passenger seat had TWO passengers not one). The woman’s eyes were fixed on the front right side of the road, on nothing, I was certain. Her eyes were green. But they looked like glass eyes. They didn’t move right or left. “This woman is very sad,” I murmured as if to myself. I had tears in my heart for the sight of her and couldn’t help wondering how we looked when we used to run away from Beirut in the middle of the night to seek refuge somewhere else.

When did we start accusing the woman with the glass eyes of our Lebanese problems? Is it because she carries a Syrian ID? Why can’t people get over these limitations they created and view each other for what they are: human beings with hearts and past lives and future dreams and basic needs?

The woman with the glass eyes haunted me all day yesterday, and then all night, and then all day while I was working today I had her profile face in front of me. Looking at the nothing in front of the white car driving towards Beirut.

Where was she going? Did she know somebody in Beirut? Were the two men in the front seat her sons? Was she alone? Is she blind or did she just see too much?

Life, Stories and Films

Life around me here in Beirut is full of stories that make good film material.

When I traveled to America for a couple of months, I thought I will be away from stories and able to transform them to written treatments, synopses, and proposals. And although that was the case most of the time, there is still one pressing story that happened there and haunts me here.

I am already involved in many film projects from producing to directing to co-producing, etc…

The question is; when does the filmmaker decide to stop seeing the stories around and finish the tales they started to tell? Or do they? I wonder.