Lebanon makes prod’n push

Pic foundation hoping to attract int'l fare

Marking the first time an Arab cinema foundation has a presence in Cannes’ International Village, the Lebanese Cinema Fondation officially launched with a plan to produce a half-dozen local films per year.

Beyond six or seven Lebanese productions a year, the foundation hopes to attract three or four international productions to film in Lebanon.

The country is facing uncertain times with the recent withdrawal of Syrian troops after nearly 30 years and crucial elections looming later this month.

“This is the one thing that the foundation can do nothing about,” foundation VP Gabriel Chamoun said at the Plage Royal. “Stability is a pre-requisite to attract foreign investment, but if we keep waiting for things to become 100% stable, we’ll be waiting for a long time. Which country is 100% stable anyway.”

The Middle East has quickly become a significant film center. Countries such as Morocco and Tunisia have also become increasingly attractive production locations for Western film studios, an area that Chamoun is keen to tap into.

“We have great technicians, crews, locations and climates,” Chamoun commented. “I think we can offer an effective alternative without being a competitor. We’re also looking to offer an alternative to East European locations such as Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic.”

Lebanon’s progressively liberal society also offers a major incentive for producers seeking to make their films. Sex and violence largely escape the wrath of censors now, with only religion remaining a sensitive issue.