Beirut-based photographer discusses his viral image of Lebanon’s ongoing protests

This photo was taken on a bridge in Jal El Dib in Beirut. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 December 2019

Beirut-based photographer discusses his viral image of Lebanon’s ongoing protests

  • The photo is a resemblance to René Magritte’s image of a couple — covered in a cloth — kissing
  • A good image strikes a balance between geometry or form and content

The Beirut-based photographer Roï Saade discusses his viral image of Lebanon’s ongoing protests

This photo was taken on a bridge in Jal El Dib — which is on the north side of Beirut — on October 23. This particular day was very interesting, because there was some sort of momentum due to a lot of soldiers and citizens joining the roadblocks. It’s an image of two people under the flag, and I think there was interest in this photo because it has a sort of resemblance to René Magritte’s image of a couple — covered in a cloth — kissing.

A good image strikes a balance between geometry or form and content. I think my image is visually interesting and not something you see every day; it’s a bit mysterious — you don’t know who is under the flag. There is a symbolic element of unity with no reference to sectarianism, and people relate to that. My images are not quite photojournalism — they do not describe a certain event — they’re more about ideas that I relate to or have experienced.




Roï Saade is a Beirut-based photographer. (Suppllied)

I felt that there might be hope in change and I felt the need to document or archive the revolution, as I wanted to be part of it regardless of the end result. I also wanted to connect with people who I don’t feel have the same hopes and way of thinking as I do. I thought, like many, that I’m living in my own bubble. What was on my mind most of the time was the idea of what it means to be Lebanese — which is an ongoing question, because things are divided.

When I was pasting this image on walls in Downtown Beirut, a few questioned the motive behind the photo. Knowing how everything is politicized and labeled in Lebanon, it was interesting to see that people want to know the meaning behind something. In general, I’m a photographer who believes in images that you can relate to. I don’t like to caption my images in a descriptive way. I prefer for people to interpret the images the way they want, based on their experiences.  


UK-based Arab film festival to go digital due to COVID-19 pandemic

Updated 13 August 2020

UK-based Arab film festival to go digital due to COVID-19 pandemic

  • ‘SAFAR From Home’ to feature films from Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia

LONDON: The SAFAR Film Festival, the only dedicated biennial pan-Arab film festival in the UK, is to take place digitally in September, the Arab British Centre has announced.

The changes come in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which has forced multiple cultural events in the UK and elsewhere to be cancelled or postponed.

Scheduled to take place from Sept. 13-20, this year’s edition, titled “SAFAR From Home,” will be the fifth edition of the festival and will offer five free screenings, available to UK viewers, and five live events, available worldwide, featuring leading figures from the filmmaking industry across the Arab world.

The move to take the festival digital was funded in part by the Council of Arab Ambassadors and the British Film Institute’s COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Curated by Rabih El-Khoury, the festival will explore Arab cinema through the theme of journeys (‘Safar’ is the word for journey in Arabic).

It will feature films from Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia, with additional panel discussions on topics such as migration and life in the Arab diaspora.

On Sept. 20, the Arab British Centre will also host a panel of festival guests to discuss the growth of SAFAR since 2012 and the evolution of Arab cinema over the past eight years. 

El-Khoury said: “In a year when travel became impossible, we wanted to offer viewers the chance to travel to the Arab world and beyond through their screens at home. And while this program is an invitation to imaginary journeys, the truth around the protagonists of these films is far from being a fictitious one.

“They defy their harsh realities. They question bewildering surroundings. They face unconceivable challenges. They lead quite impossible journeys. Yet through courage, resilience, but also a lot of inspiration, they give a sense of meaning to their journeys,” he added.

Amani Hassan, the program director and also the acting executive director of the Arab British Centre, said: “We are very happy to announce the ‘SAFAR From Home’ initiative today. Following the difficult decision to postpone the in-person festival until 2021, we’re marking what would have been the landmark fifth edition with this alternative, virtual edition as a way to bring our audiences together and support the industry during this unprecedented time. 

“Since quickly pivoting our programs online in March, we’ve seen the thirst of people to connect with their culture, and with culture in general, and we hope that despite the physical distance, this program will offer SAFAR’s usual, unique space to appreciate, reflect upon, and celebrate the cinema and filmmakers of the Arab world.” 

The film and events program will be announced shortly alongside the festival’s new website. Information about the program can be found by emailing the organizers at www.safarfilmfestival.co.uk.