Director's 'Kite' won Silver Lion prize at Venice

LONDON — Lebanese filmmaker Randa Chahal Sabag died Aug. 25 in Paris following a long battle with cancer.

Chahal, 55, was one of a leading group of critically feted femme filmmakers to emerge out of the Middle East during the 1980s, when she began primarily as a documentary helmer before making the jump into features.

Her most recent feature, “The Kite,” won the Silver Lion prize at the 2003 Venice Film Festival. Produced by Franco-Tunisian maven Tarak Ben Ammar, the film was a poetic look at life on the Lebanese-Israeli border. A Druze community is separated by conflict as a South Lebanese 15-year-old girl, played by Lebanese thesp Flavia Bechara, rebels against an arranged marriage to her Israeli Druze cousin. Pic also won the Cinema for Peace Award and the Laterna Magica Prize.

Her other features include 1997 pic “Les Infideles,” about the tentative relationship between a French diplomat and former Islamist; and 1999 feature “Civilisees,” set during civil war-plagued Beirut in the 1980s and laced with a profanity-spewing eccentric cast of characters.

Accusing Chahal of unfavorably representing her fellow countrymen, the Lebanese censor wanted cuts in the film. She refused, and “Civilisees” wasn’t released commercially.

Chahal had spent much of the past three years battling against breast cancer and prepping what promised to be her most ambitious feature to date: “Too Bad for Them,” a comedy set in South Lebanon about a U.N.-sponsored football match. Pic was set to star Lebanese pop siren Haifa Wehbe.

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