Mark Abouzeid’s “Finding My Lebanon” is a personal story at the Festival de Cannes 2016 in the Short Film Corner. It is a short film that’s a directo offshot of his feature length film “Growing Cedar in Air” currently in production.
MBN/TTS: Can you tell me about your project?

MA: “Growing Cedars in Air” began as a discovery of my own heritage, my Lebanese heritage.  It began with an interview of my Father, George Aziz Abouzeid: renowned businessman, financier, political influencer; ex-director of AIG, successful, Lebanese emigrant.  4 months before he died of pancreatic cancer, he spoke to me for the first time about my roots, about my family and about the role it has played in Lebanese modern history.  He gave me a history to understand and a culture to discover.

Three weeks after his funeral, I found myself in downtown Beirut for the first time, sitting at a bohemian bar, debating and laughing with new found friends…people like me, who live life like me, who are each unique like me…and suddenly I wondered how much of who I was and how I lived was less my own experience and more  my Lebanese culture.

My Father had never spoken of Lebanon so how could he have raised us to embrace life the same way, to honour the same values and to know unquestioningly that family was the most important thing in this world…the central wheel around which Lebanon revolves/evolves.

 

MBN/TTS: What inspired you to create a short film about Lebanon?

MA: As the project developed, each person I spoke with opened a new door and, more surprisingly, related some part of my life story through theirs.  Growing Cedars in Air is just that…my discovery of Lebanon and myself through the lives of other Lebanese, at home and abroad.

The shortfilm, “Finding My Lebanon”, is my grandfather’s, my father’s and my story…the “why” I went looking…”Growing Cedars in Air” is what I found.

 

MBN/TTS: Have you been to Cannes before?
MA: We are very excited that the response to the film has been so great to date.  The trailer has been online for only 2 weeks and already 20,000 people have loaded the page and 4,000 have watched it in its entirety.
 
MBN/TTS: If you’ve been to Cannes before, do you have any tips for first timers?
MA: This is my first film as a Director and I, truly, am exhilarated at this opportunity to premiere at Cannes this year.  Despite this is the first time, I can say that we are taking it very seriously as a channel for guidance and feedback as well as a chance to present other projects that Cedars Productions has in the pipeline.
MBN/TTS: Tell me something about yourself.
MA: I have spent the last 15 years of my life capturing the living culture and intangible heritage of peoples around the world. I have followed expeditions to the North Pole, lived with the Bedouin in the desert, learned from traditional fishermen and explored most of the Middle East and Africa. My photographic work is included in the permanent archives of several museums and some collections/initiative works are currently being used as teaching materials in several universities in the United States.
MBN/TTS: Tell us something about the movie or something about yourself that no one knows but you.
MA: When I was 13 years old, I came across the book, The Prophet by Gibran, and read it through in one night.  To me, it formulated the common sense guide to human culture.  Despite groing up all over the world, I still had no real experience of Lebanese people and so, when I learned that Gibran was Lebanese…to me, it became the guide to Lebanese Culture.
The feature length film takes its metaphor from that book…speak to me about love, about marriage, about beauty, about identity, etc…but the response cover the gambit of Lebanese culture, TODAY.
MBN/TTS: Where can people find out more info?
MA: We have a website; http://www.cedarsproductions.com/, but our Facebook page – Cedars Productions is the most active and up to date.
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 Mark & Robert Fisk