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.’”


‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ breathes new life into deadly franchise

Credit is due to lead actress Madison Iseman for elevating her character to more than just a simple scream queen. (Supplied)
Updated 37 sec ago

‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ breathes new life into deadly franchise

Credit is due to lead actress Madison Iseman for elevating her character to more than just a simple scream queen. (Supplied)

LONDON: Amazon Prime’s latest reimagining of a tried-and-tested franchise sees Lois Duncan’s 1973 Young Adult novel turned into a 10-part horror series (a change in format from the 1997 movie adaptation starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jennifer Love Hewitt) that, much like its new platform, feels tailored for a 21st century audience. This time around, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” features a fresh roster of teenagers with questionable morals — only now they have cellphones, Instagram followers and frequently reference memes.  

One year after the group of unfeasibly attractive teenagers agree to cover up a tragic car accident, they begin to be picked off, one at a time, by a mysterious killer. Frightened to go to the police and admit what they’ve done, the group begin to suspect everyone around them (and, increasingly, each other) of taking revenge for the sins of last summer.

So far, so familiar. Show creator Sara Goodman has a narrative ace up her sleeve, however, though it’s difficult to say much without erring into spoiler territory. Credit is due to lead actress Madison Iseman for elevating her character to more than just a simple scream queen.

Plaudits should also go to whoever choreographed some of the more grizzly set pieces — there is a certain macabre enjoyment in watching the characters meet their untimely end with such flamboyance. Plus, many of the main characters are written to be so unlikable that it is hard to have much sympathy for them as they are stalked by the killer.

After a flurry of initial episodes, Amazon Prime is releasing new instalments weekly, so there is a little wait before the murderer is finally unmasked — and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” plays with that, offering up multiple dead ends and bait-and-switches to ratchet up the tension. Thankfully, there are plenty of overly entitled and unpleasant teenagers left to be put through the wringer.


Drake serenaded by Palestinian-Canadian dabke group for his birthday

Drake serenaded by Palestinian-Canadian dabke group for his birthday
Drake poses with the Al-Asala Dabke Group. Instagram
Updated 10 min 7 sec ago

Drake serenaded by Palestinian-Canadian dabke group for his birthday

Drake serenaded by Palestinian-Canadian dabke group for his birthday

RIYADH: Drake turned 35 on Sunday and celebrated the special occasion with a star-studded costume party in Los Angeles — for which he dressed up as a cowboy — that was attended by his famous friends such as French Montana, Future, Jack Harlow and Kawhi Leonard, among others. However, ahead of the birthday bash, the Grammy award-winning artist was surprised with a more intimate celebration.

A video of the “God’s Plan” rapper being serenaded with an Arabic “zeffe” by the Al-Asala Dabke Group, a group of Palestinian-Canadian dabke performers, went viral online yesterday, resulting in a series of memes on social media.

One user on Twitter even coined a new nickname for the rapper, calling him “Abu Adonis,” which translates to “the father of Adonis” in Arabic.

“Will only be referring to Drake as ‘Abu Adonis’ from now on,” said one user on Twitter.

“Who sent Drake a dabke group for his birthday lol,” probed another.

While it’s uncertain who decided to hire the Al-Asala Dabke Group, who are usually booked to perform at Arab weddings, engagements and graduations, it’s no secret that some of the closest people in the rapper’s circle are of Arab descent.

In fact, the OVO record label is co-owned by Drake, his manager Oliver El-Khatib and his producer Noah “40” Shebib, who are both Lebanese-Canadian.

Recently, rapper Lil Uzi Vert also went viral online after footage of him doing the dabke at a Palestinian wedding surfaced on social media. 


Designer Giorgio Armani receives UAE golden visa

 Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani received a UAE golden visa on Sunday. (File/ AFP)
Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani received a UAE golden visa on Sunday. (File/ AFP)
Updated 25 October 2021

Designer Giorgio Armani receives UAE golden visa

 Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani received a UAE golden visa on Sunday. (File/ AFP)

DUBAI: Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani received a UAE golden visa on Sunday, giving him 10-year residency in recognition of his contribution to the international fashion scene.

Armani was given the UAE golden visa by Major General Mohamed Ahmed Al-Marri, Director General of General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.

The golden visa scheme began in 2019 and grants a 10-year residency in recognition of special contributions to the country.

Dubai is home to the Armani hotel, which is housed in the Burj Khalifa.

In another show of his close relationship with the city, the designer is staging an exclusive fashion show at the hotel on Oct. 26, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the hotel and the 40th anniversary of the Armani brand.


Dolce & Gabbana unveil tribute to Italian artistry at Expo 2020 Dubai

Each tile is made from a mixture of clay and Sicilian lava stone powder. (Supplied)
Each tile is made from a mixture of clay and Sicilian lava stone powder. (Supplied)
Updated 25 October 2021

Dolce & Gabbana unveil tribute to Italian artistry at Expo 2020 Dubai

Each tile is made from a mixture of clay and Sicilian lava stone powder. (Supplied)

DUBAI: Italian luxury fashion label Dolce & Gabbana has designed an installation that celebrates Italian artistic heritage at the country’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The undulating baroque-style structure is typical of the architecture of the 18th century gardens of southern Italy and it stands near the pavilion’s botanical garden.

The elegant octagonal columns and the seats are made from brickwork covered with 1200 finely crafted and hand-painted majolica tiles by Sicilian master potters with images of floral interweaving, bougainvillea fronds, citrus fruits and bucolic landscapes.

Each tile is made from a mixture of clay and Sicilian lava stone powder and decorated with natural colors obtained from mineral oxides.

The installation aims to be a symbol of the skills of Italian artistic masters — something the founders consider to be a priceless intangible heritage that is under threat of being lost with the advance of new technologies.


Four Arab films submitted for the 2022 Oscars so far

Four Arab films submitted for the 2022 Oscars so far
“Heliopolis” has been selected for the second time to represent Algeria at the prestigious awards. Supplied
Updated 24 October 2021

Four Arab films submitted for the 2022 Oscars so far

Four Arab films submitted for the 2022 Oscars so far

DUBAI: One of the toughest contests at the Oscars is for the honor of Best International Feature Film. Competing with the best movies from all over the world, it is a tremendous accomplishment to be named one of the five films that make it into the final round — and the process starts by a country submitting its official choice, before the organization behind the Academy Awards whittles down the official selection at a later date.  

Four Arab countries have so far submitted their candidates for the Oscars before the 94th Academy Awards take place on March 27, 2022.

They are “Casablanca Beats” by Moroccan filmmaker Nabil Ayouch, Palestinian director Ameer Fakher Eldin’s “The Stranger,” Abdelhamid Bouchnak-directed “Golden Butterfly,” which is Tunisia’s entry, and Algerian director Djafar Gacem’s “Heliopolis.”

“Casablanca Beats” by Moroccan filmmaker Nabil Ayouch. Supplied

A shortlist of 15 finalists will be announced on December 21, with five nominees announced on February 8, 2022.

Meanwhile, "The Gravedigger’s Wife” by Somali-Finnish writer-director Khadar Ayderus has been submitted as Somalia's entry, marking one of many to come from the African continent.

“The Gravedigger’s Wife,” which tells the story of a gravedigger trying to find ways to pay for his sick wife’s treatment, is the first Somali film to be submitted for the Oscars.

“The Gravedigger’s Wife” by Somali-Finnish writer-director Khadar Ayderus. Supplied

As for the Arab submissions so far, Ayouch’s “Casablanca Beats,” which had its world premiere in July, is based on the director’s own childhood experience and was the first fully Moroccan film to compete for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Meanwhile, Eldin’s debut feature is about an unlicensed doctor who encounters a wounded man in the war in Syria. The film won the Edipo Re Award for Inclusion at the Venice Film Festival this year.

“Golden Butterfly” is the Tunisian filmmaker’s third feature.

As for Gacem’s “Heliopolis,” it has been selected for the second time to represent Algeria at the prestigious awards, after its nomination was withdrawn last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. the Algerian drama is based on the real-life events of May 8, 1945, where French colonial forces attacked thousands of Algerians in the city of Guelma (called Heliopolis in ancient times). If “Heliopolis” is selected, it would be Algeria’s first entry since Costa-Gavras’s 1970 film “Z,” which was also the first Arab film to win an Academy Award.