Netflix, as it ramps up Middle East operations, has announced two initiatives to reach out to Lebanon’s film and TV community: an emergency fund providing grants to below-the-line crew facing economic hardship, and a “Made in Lebanon” package of films playing on the giant streamer.
The $500,000 relief fund set up by Netflix in collaboration with the Arab Fund for Arts & Culture (AFAC) will be open for applications starting next week. It will provide financial support in the form of individual grants worth $2,000 per grant, a sum that, especially given Lebanon’s current economic constraints, is worth plenty more locally than it would be in the U.S.
From Oct. 26 until Nov. 9, below-the-line crew, craftspeople, and freelancers in the Lebanese film and television industry can apply for the fund by filling out an online application form. They must provide supporting documentation including a list of the five most recent projects they worked on, two references, an overview of any other emergency support that they might have received this year and a brief description of the applicants’ challenges, such as cancelled or delayed projects, a Netflix statement said.
The Netflix fund comes as Lebanon has been battered by a turbulent political and economic crisis coupled with the pandemic and the recent blast on Aug. 4 when 2,750 tons of neglected ammonium nitrate detonated in the city’s port, leaving 190 dead, more than 6,500 injured and roughly 300,000 homeless.
A Netflix spokesperson in the statement noted that the country’s previously flourishing film and TV community forms “the backbone of entertainment across the Arab world.”
This is reflected in Lebanon’s cinematic output, which Netflix on Oct. 19 started spotlighting by offering a curated “Made in Lebanon” collection of 34 Lebanese films spanning various genres and comprising fresh standout titles alongside restored gems.
The collection includes the works of auteurs such as the late great Maroun Baghdadi, known for depicting Lebanon’s civil war in works such as “Out of Life,” which took the 1991 Cannes Special Jury Prize, and Philippe Aractingi, whose “Under the Bombs” looked at the conflict as it was coming to a close in 2006. It also features Randa Chahal Sabag’s tender love story “The Kite,” and Ziad Doueiri’s coming-of-age amid civil war drama “West Beirut,” his 1998 debut, among other titles.
As noted in the Netflix statement, the collection includes stories tackling female empowerment and subverting cultural stereotypes, such as Nadine Labaki’s “Caramel,” and “Where Do We Go Now” and Sophie Boutros’ dark comedy “Solitaire.”
Most titles in the collection, which is a great Lebanese cinema primer, will be available on Netflix globally. Labaki’s films and some others will be only available for Middle East subscribers due to rights’ issues.
In another clear signal of Netflix’s growing engagement with the Arab film and TV world, Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival, which runs in hybrid form Oct. 23-31, will feature Netflix’s director of creative talent investment and development Christopher Mack hosting an online “Pitch Realization Master Class.”