Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’
Daizy Gedeon was making a film called “The Dream is Everything.” (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 23 September 2021

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’
  • The Lebanese filmmaker discusses her powerful and damning documentary, ‘ENOUGH! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour’

DUBAI: Before the catastrophic explosion at Beirut Port on August 4, 2020, Daizy Gedeon was making a film called “The Dream is Everything.” The Lebanese filmmaker had been working on it for years, interviewing the top political figures in Lebanon, centering it around a message of hope, of building a better Lebanon in the long recovery from the country’s civil war. 

“When I started digging in, it became a very hard story. People were suffering. But when I was asking politicians about their solutions — between 2017 and 2019 — I still believed that there may have been some truth in what they were saying; that they were trying to fix the country and make things better for people. But when August 4 hit, the shock turned to sadness, and the sadness to anger,” Gedeon tells Arab News.

“I said forget the dream. There’s no more dreams, baby.”




While Gedeon, 56, was born in Lebanon, she grew up in Australia, spending years as a journalist. (Supplied)

After that epiphany, Gedeon began radically reworking her old footage while manically adding new aspects, ultimately creating a very different film: “ENOUGH! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour.” Her new vision, centered around the perceived negligence that led to the tragic event and the suffering that it left in its wake, and serving as a call to action for substantive change, has already resonated in the international film community, winning the Movies That Matter Award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, supported by the Better World Fund and Filmfestivals.com. 

“When we went back to the footage we had, we realized that I didn’t need to try to indict them, they indicted themselves with their own words. I didn’t need to take anything out of context. I just had to decide that I’m not going to make them look good anymore,” says Gedeon. “Before, I thought that they were part of the solution, so I didn't want to destroy them. I thought we needed them. That explosion was the worst thing that could have happened to Lebanon, but it was the best thing that could have happened to the film.” 

While Gedeon, 56, was born in Lebanon, she grew up in Australia, spending years as a journalist. In 1988, she covered the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, as a soccer writer, jetting off to Europe for a holiday afterwards. While there, her mother implored her to go back to Beirut to visit her family, and after initial hesitation due to the ongoing conflict, she decided to go for two weeks.

“That was the beginning of my love affair with Lebanon. I called my editor in Australia and said, ‘Hey, the airport's closed, I can't come back’. Really, I wanted to learn more about it. It was fascinating because there was a war going on. Like, how close do you ever get to war? There was the green line and there were snipers right nearby. One of my cousins was in one of the militias and so he took me through the buildings,” says Gedeon.




Her new vision has already resonated in the international film community. (Supplied)

She had long been a fan of the Jason Bourne spy novels of Robert Ludlum, which used real-life convicted Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal as their main antagonist. 

“I loved those books, so Beirut in that era really did fit my interests. In Beirut, it was real life. Carlos the Jackal had a base in Beirut. This was James Bond stuff, and it fit into my imagination and my intrigue. But at the same time, there was something serious because I came from this place,” she says. “I started to feel a real affection and connection to people, and that brought me deeper into all of it in a way I wasn’t expecting.”

After that trip, Gedeon never lost her connection to Lebanon and the broader region, relocating to London and covering regional conflicts in the Middle East throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties, before returning to Lebanon to make her first documentary in 1993 — the critically acclaimed “Lebanon… Imprisoned Splendour,” released in 1996. It was a reflection of all she had learned from peeling back Lebanon’s layers and finding a warm and generous people that welcomed her even amidst the bloodshed. 

“With that film, I was trying to show the world that there is more to this place than what people had heard for the previous 20 years. The conflict was real, but that was only one piece of the puzzle. I wanted to fill in the gaps, delving into the history and the actual people there, the reality on the ground,” says Gedeon. 

While her journalism continued as she pursued other myriad projects, Gedeon stepped away from documentary filmmaking for the next two decades. She reveals with visible emotion to Arab News that this was due in part to a “stifling, oppressive” marriage — which ended officially in 2015 — to a person who had once been her closest friend and champion, a devolution that she found shocking and dispiriting. 




Gedeon stepped away from documentary filmmaking for the next two decades. (Supplied)

“You can’t be creative if you’re in a desperate situation. When it was officially over, my mind started to clear and the little voice in my head returned, louder, louder, and by 2016 it was screaming, screaming, in my head. I don't know how else to explain it. I said to myself, ‘Alright, I’ll do it. I’ll return to Lebanon.’”

Throughout the process of making “ENOUGH!,” Gedeon starkly changed as a filmmaker. While raising awareness broadly is still an important part of her work, she is no longer the person that she was when she arrived in 1988. The beautiful words written about her last film in the late Nineties in the West were no longer sufficient. 

Her gaze with her latest film, which is currently on the festival circuit and scheduled for a wide release in cinemas and on digital platforms in early 2022, is firmly set on the place that bore her, and the people like her in the Lebanese diaspora across the world, whom she hopes to bring back to the country to help fix it once and for all. 

“This is not just for film critics,” Gedeon says. “It’s got to inspire Lebanese people, everywhere. If the film does not agitate, provoke, or motivate people to take action, then it's failed. I want to channel their energy and their anger and their frustration to join the movement, change things to a free and fair Lebanon, which starts with the elections in 2022. I'm trying to create a movement. We've got to build this groundswell of people in Lebanon, as well as the diaspora everywhere. 

“There are 16 million outside Lebanon. My goal is to educate and inform those people, people who believe in justice and social change,” she continues. “We need more than just the Lebanese on the ground. We need more people to stand up for social justice everywhere, and for Lebanon to be one of the countries that they say ‘Yes, it's time.’”


Kingdom’s pavilion at Expo 2020 brings together industry experts for first Saudi Salon

Saudi Arabia’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai . (Farah Heiba/ Arab News)
Saudi Arabia’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai . (Farah Heiba/ Arab News)
Updated 24 October 2021

Kingdom’s pavilion at Expo 2020 brings together industry experts for first Saudi Salon

Saudi Arabia’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai . (Farah Heiba/ Arab News)

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai brought together creative experts for the first session of the “Saudi Salon” late last week.

Organizers brought together a panel of experts on Thursday to discuss the role of creative industries in facilitating cultural transformation.

The discussion was held in the Palm Garden inside the Kingdom’s pavilion and moderated by Yasser Al-Saqqaf. Participants included Robert Frith from the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), Francesca Hegyi from the Edinburgh International Festival, Sarah Al-Omran, deputy director of Art Jameel, Nora Al-Dabal from the Royal Commission for AlUla Governorate and Robert Bock, a representative of the MDLBEAST festival in the Kingdom.

At the beginning of the session, Frith discussed the role that creative industries play in changing societies. He said that Ithra has managed to have a positive impact on Saudi society since its inauguration in 2016 and has also succeeded in adapting to changes around it

For her part, Hegyi emphasized that culture and creativity are the mirror of society and therefore they play an important role in facilitating change in societies in general. She added: “I think this indicates the type of change that can be brought out within societies. For this change to happen, they need to ratify a set of special policies and laws that can speed up the process.”

As for Al-Dabal, she reviewed the experience of AlUla Governorate, saying: “We are all aware of the deep history that AlUla holds and the different civilizations and cultures it has witnessed throughout history. I believe that the qualitative leap that this historical site is currently witnessing shows the impact of the creative industries and their ability to change a society. She also noted the importance of partnerships in creative industries, saying: “Such partnerships are important, as they work to stimulate cooperation on one hand and on the other, contribute to deepening the effects that creative industries have on society”.

Bock, meanwhile, stressed “the power of creative industries and their ability to sharpen the human mind,” saying: “We cannot deny that the Kingdom has witnessed, in recent years, a qualitative leap in the cultural sector, which allowed the creative industries to develop faster and stronger. This created new platforms and partnerships allowing creative talents to reach out to the community and introduce themselves to it.”


‘Feathers’: Award-winning Egyptian film is dark and brilliant

The film won the Best Arab Narrative Film trophy at the El Gouna Film Festival. (Supplied)
The film won the Best Arab Narrative Film trophy at the El Gouna Film Festival. (Supplied)
Updated 24 October 2021

‘Feathers’: Award-winning Egyptian film is dark and brilliant

The film won the Best Arab Narrative Film trophy at the El Gouna Film Festival. (Supplied)

CHENNAI: Omar El-Zohairy’s debut Egyptian work, “Feathers,” was both lauded and lambasted. Despite its big win at Cannes Critics Week with a Grand Prize and the Best Arab Narrative Film trophy at the recent El Gouna Film Festival, it was viewed as offensive to the country by some. Some Egyptian directors and actors, including Sherif Mounir, Ahmed Rizk and Ashraf Abdel Baqi, walked out of the screening last week, claiming it portrayed Egypt in a negative light.  

Be that as it may, “Feathers” is an absurdist drama that presents a disturbing cocktail of magic, mystery and madness, weaving its plot through acutely sparse frames. A story of a meek wife (Demyana Nassar) and a horridly domineering husband (Samy Bassiouny) with three very young children, she is portrayed as subdued and slavish.

Listless to the point of looking terribly unhappy, she faintly sparkles when he decides to organize a magic show to celebrate his son’s fourth birthday. It ends in a disaster when the magician turns the husband into a chicken, but fails to transform him back to his original self. The wife is left with a bird that she feeds and nurses. It is only after her back-breaking search to find the magician, all the while struggling to earn a pittance to buy food for her family, that the director lets us into a horrible truth and its repercussions. 

Similar to somber, straight-faced Finnish helmer Aki Kaurismaki’s work, “Feathers” is shot in greys and dull lighting. The tonal mix establishes the stark reality of a woman who eventually graduates from utter passivity to surprising dominance. The drab looking buildings, the exposed pipelines and the family’s bare and dingy home, filmed with incisive camerawork by Kamal Samy, add to the sheer helplessness of the wife. But the script is engrossing, with a narrative that is dark, hiding an unbelievable piece of information, which when it comes will throw you off guard. 

The movie works as a brutal look at patriarchy, though this is handled with admirable restraint in the screenplay, co-written by El-Zohairy and Ahmed Amer. With the woman’s attitude changing so subtly, the drama underplays the climax. It is not really about revenge but about discovering one’s self-respect.


Megan Fox can’t get enough of Lebanese label Andrea Wazen

Megan Fox can’t get enough of Lebanese label Andrea Wazen
Megan Fox rose to prominence for her role in ‘Transformers.’ Instagram
Updated 23 October 2021

Megan Fox can’t get enough of Lebanese label Andrea Wazen

Megan Fox can’t get enough of Lebanese label Andrea Wazen

DUBAI: It seems that Megan Fox cannot get enough of Lebanese footwear label Andrea Wazen. The 35-year-old actress is often photographed wearing the Beirut-based designer’s creations, including this week when she stepped out for an off-duty stroll in Los Angeles championing the brand’s Denver pumps in black.

The “Transformers” star elevated her mesh sandals with a faux leather cropped blazer and boyfriend jeans from her recently-launched collection with fast-fashion retailer Boohoo, paired with a bright blue JW Pei handbag.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Maeve Reilly (@stylememaeve)

Last month, the star wore Wazen’s heels to the REVOLVE Gallery Private Event in New York City.

Fox opted for a pair of clear pointed-toe heels with gold-strap detailing, called the Dassy Sunset PVC Pumps.

She matched her heels with a sporty pale yellow jacket and matching flared pants.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Megan Fox (@meganfox)

Also in recent weeks, Fox shared photos on Instagram wearing a pair of transparent shoes designed by Wazen that featured green criss-cross detailing.

Meanwhile in July, the star championed the designer’s lace-up Mandaloun heels in blue.

Fox isn’t the only celebrity fan of the Lebanese label, however.

In fact, Andrea Wazen is shaping up to be the next big footwear brand to watch.

Since launching in 2013, the label’s strappy sandals and stilettos have made their way onto the pedicured toes of A-listers and It-girls across the globe, including Beyonce, Hailey Bieber, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Addison Rae, who have all championed Wazen’s creations.

The London-born designer, who is the younger sister of Lebanese fashion blogger Karen Wazen, launched her eponymous, celebrity-approved label in Beirut following stints with some of the most renowned footwear designers in the world, including Christian Louboutin and Rupert Sanderson.

After picking up leading shoe magazine Footwear News’s prestigious Emerging Talents Award and being named Accessories Designer of the Year by Fashion Trust Arabia last year, Wazen joins a lineup of inimitable Arab female footwear designers who have seen both critical and commercial success with their brands, including Jordanian-Romanian Amina Muaddi, Kuwaiti designer Najeeba Hayat of Liudmila and Lebanese-Australian Katrine Hanna.


El Gouna Film Festival ends with ‘Feathers’ nabbing top prize

El Gouna Film Festival ends with ‘Feathers’ nabbing top prize
‘Feathers’ also won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week. Supplied
Updated 23 October 2021

El Gouna Film Festival ends with ‘Feathers’ nabbing top prize

El Gouna Film Festival ends with ‘Feathers’ nabbing top prize

DUBAI: Egyptian director Omar El-Zohairy’s “Feathers” took home the Best Arab Narrative Film at the closing ceremony of El Gouna Film Festival on Friday.

“Feathers” tells the story of a mother who dedicates her life to her husband and children. When a magic trick goes wrong at her four-year-old son’s birthday party, an avalanche of coincidental absurdities befalls the family. The magician turns her husband, the authoritarian father, into a chicken. 

Despite its big win, the film — which won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week — sparked controversy at the event and on social media. 

Some Egyptian filmmakers and actors, including Sherif Mounir, Ahmed Rizk and Ashraf Abdel Baqi, left the screening of the film last week because they thought the movie was offensive to Egypt.

Meanwhile, the top prize in the three main categories of Feature Narrative, Documentary and Short Film went to Finnish director Teemu Nikki’s “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic,” “Life of Ivanna” by Renato Borrayo Serrano, and “Katia” from Russian director Andrey Natotcinskiy.

Egyptian director Ali El Arabi’s “Captains of Za’atari” won Best Arab Documentary film, while director Mounia Akl’s “Costa Brava, Lebanon” won the inaugural El Gouna Green Star Award for raising awareness on environmental issues and the Fipresci award for Best Debut Film.


Thousands flock to Saudi capital for inaugural gaming extravaganza RUSH Festival

Thousands of video game lovers descended upon the Riyadh Front on Friday for the RUSH Festival. (Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)
Thousands of video game lovers descended upon the Riyadh Front on Friday for the RUSH Festival. (Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)
Updated 23 October 2021

Thousands flock to Saudi capital for inaugural gaming extravaganza RUSH Festival

Thousands of video game lovers descended upon the Riyadh Front on Friday for the RUSH Festival. (Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)

RIYADH: Thousands of video game lovers descended upon the Riyadh Front on Friday to kick off five days of gaming, shopping, cosplay, local food and entertainment at Saudi Arabia’s inaugural RUSH Festival. The e-sports games event is taking place until Oct. 26 in the Kingdom’s capital as part of Riyadh Season 2021.

“I’m honored to be here, it’s very entertaining,” said Othman Kisha, 23 year old software engineer from Riyadh.

Thirteen thousand tickets sold out on the first day, said Salah Chukri, one of the organizers behind the event. The first day of the gaming convention brought visitors ­— some dressed as their favorite video game characters — together to participate in a host of interactive games, compete against each other for prize money and pose with some of their favorite influencers and figures in the world of e-sports during meet and greet sessions. 

(Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)

“I love how with Riyadh Season, it’s sticking with the culture and giving everyone entertainment, such as the games and yesterday’s WWE (Crown Jewel) — it’s amazing how all these things are integrated with the culture of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

With a focus on the whole of the gaming industry, from console and PC gaming to mobile and esports, RUSH Festival aims to give video game aficionados the opportunity to access and experience the latest tech in e-games and the chance to interact with each other in real life, and online.

(Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)

“I’m in love with FIFA, I also love playing Call of Duty and will see other games here (at RUSH). I’m planning to play against Mosaad Aldossary. I want to be the first one to beat him,” said Kisha, referring to an award-winning gamer.

Additionally, the region is playing host to the PUBG Mobile e-sport tournament for the first time ever, after decamping from Los Angeles to Riyadh, with 16 teams hailing from all parts of the globe participating, including Saudi Arabian-based e-sports teams, “Power” and “25.”

“Our being here at the festival tonight let us know that we have the ambition to be innovators and to do a lot of great things,” said the 29-year-old founder of “25 E-Sports” Khalid Al-Shammari, better known by his gamer tag “KLOoODE25” — pronounced Khalloodi.

(Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)

“The e-sports gaming scene in Saudi Arabia is developing at a fast rate. In the next few years, we’re going to witness e-gaming compete at the level of sports like professional football and basketball. 

“It’ll become something foundational in sports,” he said.

25 E-Sports plays competitively in many games including FIFA, RocketLeague and Call of Duty. In over 600 championships this year alone, the gaming group came out top three in all of them, according to Al-Shammari, who personally loves to play Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. 

“We hope to see more visitors from all over the world here in Saudi Arabia, participating and enjoying festivals like RUSH and the Riyadh Season,” he concluded.