Michale Boganim (“Odessa, Odessa,” “Land of Oblivion”) is directing “Tel-Aviv/Beirut,” a historical drama set against the backdrop of the Israeli–Lebanese conflict in 1982 and 2006.
Set in Northern Israel, the film tells the journey of two families on each side of the border whose fate intertwined because of the war raging in Lebanon. “Tel-Aviv/Beirut” sheds light on the little-known story of Lebanese people who collaborated with the Israeli army to fight Hezbollah.
Spanning over 20 years, the film follows two women, a Lebanese and an Israeli, who bond amid the war and embark on a road trip together to rescue a loved one.
“Tel-Aviv/Beirut” is headlined by an international cast of Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese actors including Zalfa Seurat, Sarah Adler (“Foxtrot”), Shlomi Elkabetz (“Our Boys”), Younès Bouab (“The Unknown Saint”), Sofia Essaïdi (“La promesse) and Maayane Boganim.
The movie completed shooting during the pandemic in Cyprus and was particularly eventful as it brought together cast and crew members from Cyprus, Lebanon, Morocco and Israel, where airports were shut down up to a week before the start of filming. Everyone had to quarantine for a week before the shooting kicked off. The movie shot entirely in Cyprus for political reasons and did not receive any funding from Israel.
WTF Films is handling international sales on the movie. It will be released in France by Sophie Dulac.
An Israeli-French director, Boganim previously directed “Land of Oblivion” which played at Venice and Toronto. The helmer previously explored the lives of Jews in Brooklyn in her directorial debut with “Odessa… Odessa!” which world premiered at Sundance and later played at Berlin.
“Tel-Aviv/Beirut” is produced in France by Frédéric Niedermayer at Moby Dick Films (“Love Affair(s)”) and Emmanuel Giraud at Les Films de la Croisade (“Sauvage”), in association with Thanassis Karathanos and Martin Hampel at Germany’s Twenty Twenty Vision Filmproduktion, Marios Piperides and Janine Teerling at AMP Filmworks in Cyprus, and Marie Sonne Jensen at France’s La Voie Lactée. The film boasts an original score by popular jazz musician Avishai Cohen.
The film aims at “exploring uncharted territories as the first feature film dealing with tensions within the Lebanese border, the 2006 war and the fate of the Tsadal, similar to that of the Harkis in France,” said Boganim.
Boganim said she “had the idea of making this film after directing a short documentary called ‘The Harkis of Lebanon’ about Lebanese people who had helped the Israeli army in 1982 and were betrayed by Israelis when they withdrew from Lebanon. These Lebanese people fled and emigrated to Israel seeking refuge but they never felt at home and continued receiving threats from the Hezbollah.”
“Tel-Aviv/Beirut” is also looking at how these conflicts are impacting the personal lives of men, women and children for generations, explained Boganim, who added that the movie includes radio archive of the war coverage in the 1980s and the 2000s.
Giraud said he was drawn to the project because of the central and universal theme of border which “divides people in a conflict.”
“We see each side fighting to maintain the border but ultimately it becomes porous and characters keep going across it; in a way people on each side of the border share so many similarities and a similar pain that ties them together,” said Giraud. The relationship between those two women is at the heart of the film and gives it an optimistic and humanistic dimension, said the producer.