Docudays in Beirut is arranged in December for its 10th time. As the first festival for documentaries in the region, it has created an enthusiasm for independent documentaries in its Lebanese audience. Interestingly enough, the festival is financed privately by Mohamed Hashem, who calls this his “very expensive hobby”. As he and his sister Abir who directs the festival tell me, being Lebanese he has to work in Qatar, because what he would get in Beirut would just cover a little more than the rent. In Qatar he gets 10-20 times as much. On my question about governmental support, he smiles and says the Cultural Department once gave them 1000 Euros … They had to survive on a low budget.
The winner of the feature-length docs in the festival is Tahrir 2011, The Good, the Bad and the Politician. The internationally acclaimed film was the first serious film on the revolution in Egypt. I am impressed to witness how Ayten Amin – one of the film’s three directors – got two police officers to disclose how prisoners were tortured. They cared little about citizens’ lives – they could easily get rid of someone. Ayten tells me that they worked hard to find anyone willing to talk …
The price for the medium-length doc went to Laith Al-Juneidi for The Invisible Policeman, quite another type of police officer, a Palestinian working in the Israeli-controlled Hebron. The conflict between stubborn Palestinians who want to stay and Jewish settlers is tense. His children get arrested: the lieutenant is the father of nine children, and we see the tenth coming. Another remarkable doc is Damascus Roof and Tales of Paradise on Syrian storytelling, and also Gaza Shields on computer gaming, playing on screen to prevent Israeli bombs killing children. The Middle East region is well represented here at the festival in the Hamra district of Beirut.
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