Dear Lebanon – A Teenage Perspective of Bombings, Religion and Politics.

“Whilst politicians engage in an exuberant battle of words on television and political party flags are flown in the streets, youths demand answers that go beyond symbolism and rhetoric. This 30 minute documentary features youths’ ambivalent love for their home country. Which role do teenagers see for themselves in Lebanon? How can they succeed in making their voices heard?”

This is what the charming short movie “Dear Lebanon: A Teenage Perspective of Bombings, Religion and Politics” (Trailer) is about. Directed by Raphael Schanz in cooperation with Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Middle East Office, ‘Dear Lebanon’ stands out by solely featuring the voices of teenagers, voices that are more often than not ignored in modern socio-political discourse.

The text goes on to say:

“A new generation grows up wishing for nothing more than to live in peace — a generation that more often than not has one thing on its mind: to leave its home country. What does this constant insecurity mean for them? What are their thoughts on religion and politics? To what extent do they feel personally affected by the bombings?

Together with a team of eight youths between the ages of 15 and 18, film producer Raphael Schanz set off on a journey in search of answers. During the course of seven weeks he accompanied them through the streets of Beirut and discussed the points in which they felt their wishes clashed with the crude reality.”

Q&A with Director Raphael Shantz

What motivated you to shoot “Dear Lebanon”? How did it start?

It all started when I applied for an internship at the German NGO Heinrich Boell Foundation in Beirut. They asked me to suggest a project that I wanted to do during my stay in their office. I did some movie projects in the past and I just like the medium. To present a complex issue in a way it reaches people’s interest. To show people as they are – their voice, their appearance, their gestures. I came up with the general topic “politics and youth” because I was a member of a youth parliament and a political activist myself when I was young. Also at the university level I have dealt with the topic of political participation of young people. I personally believe in the very huge potential of young people when they transform their unhappiness into concrete claims and a social movement.

That’s how the idea was born to make a movie about youths who talk about their perspective on politics in Lebanon. And of course, if you talk about that you also talk about bombings and religion.

And because I am German I knew that if I come to Lebanon for only 2 months I won’t be able to deeply understand the way of thinking of Lebanese teenagers. That is why I didn’t just portray them, but I made them part of the movie process, the working title was “youth movie project”. We had workshops and group discussions, the teens set the topics to talk about in the movie, we developed the concept together, they chose Mr. Ziad Baroud and Mr. Nemr Abou Nassar to interview, they asked the questions, they presented their opinion, not mine.

Who are the 8 teenagers?

Most of them I got to know via some Facebook groups that are also dealing with a critical political debate in Lebanon (e.g. Stop cultural terrorism). They shared my tender and the teens sent me an email that they wanted to participate. They are boys and girls, between 15 and 18 years old. They are Sunni, Shia, Orthodox, Catholic, Druze, Atheist, very religious and non-religious. They all have a critical view on Lebanese politics, they are all unhappy with the situation, they all want a change, but still they are different individuals. They cannot be considered as representatives of the Lebanese society, but still they are part of a big group of well-educated youngsters in the middle class with a political potential.

What did you hope to achieve with it?

One aim was to provide just another piece in the puzzle of the democratic transformation process in Lebanon. Actually, I didn’t expect that the movie would spread like this. Several blogs wrote about the movie, especially in the first days there was a huge activity on Facebook and Twitter about it. The British ambassador recommended it, even the Guardian mentioned it in an article. I am really happy to see that the movie can contribute just a little bit to a critical debate in Lebanon about the country’s future. People watch it, think about it, talk about it. There are about 60 comments on YouTube where you can see people agreeing and disagreeing. We received many messages from all over the world. Some people even think we are an organization and ask us to organize a street protest or something. Another aim was to show people outside of Lebanon that Lebanese people here are not happy with the situation either, that they are not all terrorists and that there are youths that really want to change the country. A third aim was to provide a platform for teenagers to discuss these issues with others and think about the country’s problems. I am very sure they learned a lot, also about team work, making movies and communication.

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