Movies & TV

Two life vests for Beirut’s becalmed film sector

A still from Ely Dagher’s ‘Harvest,’ one of a score of crises-becalmed Lebanese films that might benefit from one of these funding initiatives. (Photo courtesy of Abbout Productions)

BEIRUT: As this wretched year staggers on, Lebanon’s film sector has been given a shot in the arm from two distinct sources. Naturally both originate from overseas.

Working in collaboration with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Netflix has announced a COVID-19 emergency relief fund to support Lebanon’s film and television sector. Not quite simultaneously, France’s Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée (CNC) unveiled an emergency fund for Lebanese film projects affected by the Aug. 4 blast.

While complementary, these two initiatives are quite independent and have distinct goals.

Valued at $500,000, the Netfilx/AFAC fund will disburse grants of up to $2,000 to individual members of Lebanon's film and television sector who have suffered hardship from the country’s financial and economic crises, which have conspired with the global pandemic to halt productions. The fund primarily targets below-the-line (aka production) crew, craftspeople and freelancers – facets of the industry that have been staggered worldwide.

The AFAC-Netflix fund will accept applications Oct. 26-Nov. 9.

This intervention is very much in line with others AFAC has been organizing since early 2020 with Al-Mawred al-Thaqafy (Cultural Resource). They co-organized the Solidarity Fund for Arts and Culture Structures in Lebanon. Shortly after those grants were distributed in late July, they extended the Solidarity Fund to offer support to artists and organizations afflicted by the Aug. 4 port blast.

“There is a real fear of loss of livelihood for freelance artists, professionals and practitioners which may eventually lead to migration and creativity drain,” AFAC executive director Rima Mismar said in a statement announcing the new grant. “We hope that this support will offer the community of practitioners a sense of solidarity and something to hold onto while fighting its way out of this emergency situation.”

For its part, the US streaming service-cum-production company has grown massively in 2020, benefiting from pandemic lockdowns that have knocked conventional film distribution on its heels. Netflix’s AFAC collaboration echoes the $100 million hardship fund it launched in March (which has since swelled to $150 million) to support creative communities impacted by the pandemic.

While the AFAC-Netflix intervention is a relief fund, the CNC’s 300,000 euro initiative is an emergency production fund. It’s cast as a response to the “significant commitment desired by the President of the [French] Republic” after Macron twice visited Beirut in the wake of the Aug. 4 explosion.

By the end of 2020, a committee, “composed of an equal number French and Lebanese professionals,” will be constituted to advise on how to allocate the grants. The committee will be chaired by French producer Anne-Dominique Toussaint – best-known locally for her work on Nadine Labaki’s films.

A project can be in development, production or postproduction to be eligible, as long as it has at least one Lebanese producer and the director is a citizen or resident. CNC will disburse up to 50,000 euros per project -- all of which “must be spent on Lebanese territory or for the benefit of Lebanese nationals or residents, to cover costs strictly linked to the development or production of the supported film.”

The call for applications to the CNC fund is open Oct. 15-Nov. 5.

Production houses can apply for emergency funding for up to two projects. This is ideal for smaller operations, like Jana Wehbe’s The Attic Productions, whose production of Bassem Breish’s debut feature “The Maiden’s Pond” is currently in the doldrums. For Georges’ Schoucair’s Abbout Productions, which nowadays has five projects becalmed in various stages of production – including debuts by Mounia Akl (“Costa Brava”) and Ely Dagher (“Harvest”) – the CNC offer demands delicate choices.

For more information on the CNC fund, see https://www.cnc.fr/professionnels/fonds-durgence-pour-le-liban_1340252. Further details on the Neflix-AFAC emergency relief fund will be available on AFAC’s website from 26 October. See https://www.arabculturefund.org/

 

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