Down the red carpet
Alumni Film Festival celebrates the works of 17 alumni filmmakers.
Super.Full, Niam Etani’s first independent short narrative, has screened at prominent film festivals around the globe. It has received several international awards. Etani holds an M.F.A. in screenwriting from Hollins University in Virginia and teaches screenwriting at LAU.
Abu Hamdan at work with Bahiya &… Mahmoud actors Leyla Hakim and Faek Homaissi. Hamdan holds an M.F.A. from the New York Film Academy in Hollywood, and initially a B.A. in communication arts from LAU.
Sabine El Chamaa graduated from LAU where she earned a B.A. in communication arts before pursuing her M.F.A in film at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Her film Un Mardi won first prizes in the Muhr Arab Shorts competition at DIFF 2010, and at the Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur.
Click on any photo above to view all six images.
The Alumni Relations Office, in collaboration with the Department of Communication Arts at the School of Arts and Sciences, organized the first ever Alumni Film Festival (AFF) on April 2-5, at Irwin Theatre on the Beirut campus.
LAU’s Communication Arts program — which prepares students for careers in journalism, publishing, filmmaking and other media — is one of the region’s oldest and most renowned. Films by recent graduates have shown on Al Jazeera, featured at Doha Tribeca Film Festival and won prizes at Cannes.
“The goal here is to promote our graduates through LAU and to promote LAU through our graduates,” says Abdallah Al Khal, executive director of alumni relations. “These are artists of global reputation, moreover, whose success sets an example for our current students.”
The Alumni Relations Office has indeed been bustling with activity in recent years. The 2011 Alumni Book Exhibition, a kind of precursor to the AFF, showcased the works of 40 alumni writers, and drew in prominent university alumni like the Lebanese-Armenian talk show host Zaven Kouyoumdjian.
“The arts are key to keeping a society civilized,” said LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra at the festival’s opening ceremony. “If you want to understand the challenges a society is facing, you have to go to the theater, watch films, and read literature.”
The festival screened a total of 17 films, including full-length features as well as shorts, all produced and/or directed by LAU alumni. These included prominent and rising figures in regional and world cinema such as Dima El-Horr, Zaid Abu Hamdan, Walid Fakhreddine, Khalil Dreifus Zaarour and Mahmoud Kaabour.
Super. Full, a short film by Niam Etani, who teaches screenwriting at LAU Beirut, tells the story of a poor worker who promises to take his newlywed to dinner in a lavish hotel on her birthday, all the while chronicling the cordial routines of their married life.
The film has screened at several international film festivals, including the Seattle International Film Festival and the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, and won the MAISHA & DFI Screenwriting Lab Zanzibar award.
“We are thrilled to see our graduates excel and compete for key positions in the media industry,” said Dr. Mona A. Knio, associate professor of theater and chairperson of the Department of Communication Arts, at the festival’s opening ceremony.
While some films were light and witty, others centered on serious issues such as sexual harassment.
The Adventures of Salwa, a three-minute animated short produced by Liliane Hanbali, a part-time instructor of film editing at LAU, follows its titular character in various situations. Salwa was originally written and directed by Amanda Abou Abdallah as a PSA for sexual harassment, and gained popularity through an online campaign meant to raise awareness about domestic violence, pedophilia and sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Alumni film festivals such as this one can really motivate current students to work to have their own films screened in the future,” said Hanbali, who graduated from LAU in 1996.
The Alumni Film Festival also screened films produced and/or directed by Sabine El Chamaa, Sawsan Darwaza, Merva Faddoul, Elie Habib,Wafa’a Halawi, Farh Al Hashim, Remi Itani, Lina Matta, Rakan Mayasi and Noura Sakkaf.