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LAU alumni shine at film festivals

Talent, persistence, a solid foundation and an abiding bond with their university spell success for two LAU film graduates.

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Be it for the solid education LAU afforded them or its ongoing support long after their graduation, filmmakers Niam Itany and Georges Barbari credit their alma mater for their success. 

“LAU taught me to work hard to make my artistic vision a reality, no matter what stands in my way,” says Itany who received the Best Documentary Award at the Lebanese Film Festival in Beirut in June. The documentary ‘Twice upon a Time’ was also chosen, together with two  other films, as a “Screening not to be missed” at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

When Itany joined LAU in 1997, she chose the institution for its leading role in offering Communication Arts as a major. Today, 16 years after her graduation, she retains fond memories of the professors in her Film and Theatre classes. “Assad Fouladkar, Dima Dabbous, Lina Abyad and Mona Knio―I still have beautiful friendships with them.” When her documentary premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Professor Fouladkar, who happened to be there, attended the screening. “I knew he would be very busy but during the Q&A session, I saw my professor in the audience and I was the happiest person in the world.”

For Georges Barbari, who graduated in 2014 in Communications and Art with an emphasis in Media and TV, recognition of his talent came quickly. He directed the short fiction film ‘A Time in a Life’ which won the Golden Apple Award 2016 for Best Cinematography at the Cinemaiyat Festival together with Hasan Salame, also an LAU alumnus. Originally from Batroun, Barbari, who wrote the script, wanted to show his town through the eyes of a fisherman at the end of the civil war.

LAU, he maintains, provided him with the basic skills he needed to become a successful filmmaker. His experience at the university was enhanced by the fact that the department was small at the time which allowed for one-on-one attention from the faculty. Describing his impressions when he registered to compete at the film festival he says, “I felt that regardless of the result, my work was solid.”

Not only that, but Barbari has an old professor to thank for the Award which was made possible through the collaboration of cinematographer Salame. “It was Professor Tony Farjallah who introduced me to Hasan, and it was the best decision I ever made to work with him. Half the scenes were shot by the sea which was quite difficult and Hasan captured them beautifully,” explains Barbari.

In Itany’s case, while it took persistence and determination to overcome the obstacles faced by independent filmmakers in Lebanon today, the bonds she forged at LAU continue to play a significant role in her career. “I can still count on my university network and resources when I need help. LAU students, faculty and staff have always come through for me.” 


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