Film festival highlights Middle Eastern culture

Amanda Hanley

Three films that have won major international awards were featured at the first annual Lebanese Film Festival on campus last week.

Students, faculty and community members attended, with over 300 people at the first two nights.

The festival was the first of its kind here on campus.

Dr. Nasser Chour, who organized the event, is a professor in the communication department specializing in film and media and a faculty member of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies.

“I wanted to add an international flavor to film on campus and expose students to foreign films, especially those from the Middle East,” Chour said.

“I know Lebanon as a country in the Middle East that doesn’t fit what many students know about the Middle East,” he said.

This film festival allowed the community to open their eyes and ears to films that encourage a more critical view of what they hear from media, he added.

The films Chour chose to include in the festival all deal in some way with war in Lebanon through the eyes of young people.

They are a new generation, much like our own in America, challenging tradition and experiencing the joys and tragedies that come with life, he said.

The films aim to break stereotypes of Middle Eastern culture through the cameras of native filmmakers.

Chour said he wanted to create a welcoming environment in which students could ask questions freely.

The festival took place on April 1, 2 and 9, featuring an opening speaker before each premiere and a Lebanese reception of traditional food and drink following the opening night.

All of the films were from Lebanese directors.

“Showing the Middle East through their eyes makes a difference,” said Chour, a native of Lebanon.

All of the films featured opening speakers who detailed the importance of the film before introducing the work to the audience.

A large number of students and faculty members attended the showings.

Opening night on April 1 featured Rev. Kail C. Ellis, O.S.A., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as the opening speaker before the film “West Beyrouth.”

April 2 featured political science professor Marwan Kreidie and the film “A Perfect Day.”

On April 9 global interdisciplinary studies professor Alexa Firat spoke with the audience before the film “Bosta.”

The final night, the most anticipated, was expected to draw at least 200 people.

All three of the films have won major international awards for their artistic depictions of cultural issues and traditions.

Many of the films are now gaining notoriety.

However, the last two films are not available for sale within the United States.

The event was co-sponsored by the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies and the communication department.

“The communication department has been very supportive in bringing these kinds of events to students,” Chour said.

“There is definitely a need for the CAIS, and there is no better time than now for it,” he said. “It is a great thing, and it has a lot more to accomplish.”