“Meshkal”: An Interview with Director Dania Bdeir
“Meshkal” (Kaleidoscope), a short film by Dania Bdeir, an aspiring Lebanese director, born in Montreal in 1989 and growing up in Beirut. Dania graduated from the American University of Beirut, holding an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design, but her passion for film-making lead her to spend her free time as a production assistant for TV commercials. “Graphic design was great but film was my passion” Dania says, so as soon as she graduated from AUB, Dania left to New York where she is now a second year graduate film student at Tisch School of the Arts in New York University “NYU”, concentrating on writing and directing.
“Meshkal” is Dania’s second year film, which will be shot in January 2013 in Beirut. The film is the story of Amer, a 7-year-old boy with a wild and magical imagination. Inspired by true events, it is the story of Amer’s journey as he sneaks into his dad’s car in the middle of the night and goes tire burning with him.
The Tech Ticker had a quick interview with Dania Bdeir; this is what Dania had to say about “Meshkal” and the Lebanese film scene in general:
What was the main inspiration behind “Meshkal”?
“Meshkal” was entirely inspired from the events of summer 2012. I had come back from New York for the summer only to find daily tire burning protests from the EDL’s part time employees. I read an article stating that the Lebanese parliament passed a ruling granting the workers their demands of full time contracts but later, the minister refused to accept the ruling, claiming it would mean that Christians would be underrepresented in the company.
I found it appalling that these people would be denied something they’ve worked so hard for (after they got it approved), for such a silly reason. It was a first time that I began to understand a violent reaction such as tire burning. “Meshkal” tries to go into the lives of one of these men, and more specifically through the point of view of his 7-year-old son thus highlighting the vicious cycle we’re stuck in. The government ignores the people who then react this way and teach their kids that this is the only way to have your voice heard and to protect your dignity.
Films about war and violence dominate the Lebanese cinema; don’t you fear that “Meshkal” will be classified under the “war film cliché?
I honestly don’t think there is such a thing as a Lebanese “war film cliché”, film is a reflection of life and whether we like to believe it or not, Lebanon has had nothing but wars in its past. The wars we’ve lived through encompass hundreds of thousands of stories that deserve to be told. These wars explain a lot about the way we are as people, our escapism, our denial, our love for life, our hate, and our violence. Thus, the only way to tackle any kind of trauma in life is to deal with it, instead of just sweeping it under the rug.
With that being said, “Meshkal” is not another war film. Tire burning is a reality we’ve been living for a few years now and “Meshkal” is a personal story about a little boy’s coming of age as he is forced to become a man. It is not about war. It’s about trying hard to believe in something magical (such as Lebanon) against all odds.Anyone who’s ever really tried believing in this country, and believing in its colors and spirit, will relate to Amer.
Why did you choose crowd-source funding (indiegogo.com) to finance “Meshkal”, instead of conventional funding channels used to fund Lebanese films?
I wouldn’t exactly call it an unconventional source. Almost all of my classmates and fellow Tisch students in New York use crowd-source funding websites to cover their films’ budgets. Crowd-source funding is pretty much the future of fundraising. The Internet is a beautiful thing; we are no longer limited to the few people we know and talk to on a daily basis. With crowd-source funding, we can now reach hundreds and thousands if not more, with any project that we have in mind. Once your audience is that wide, all it takes is to touch a few people who relate, respond and decide to be involved with just a simple click. If every person gives just a little bit, an idea turns into an actual project and everybody wins.
Do you follow the emerging Lebanese film industry? What is your opinion regarding the Lebanese film scene in the last few years?
For the past few years, there has definitely been an increase in Lebanese feature films hitting the market. I find it refreshing and very promising especially for us younger filmmakers. In Lebanon right now, there is a new generation of very talented and very passionate young filmmakers very eager to make quality films. They generally work in the more lucrative, yet less interesting, advertising world just to make money and then feed their souls by working on narrative films for free. The new emergence of Lebanese films gives hope to the dream that one day, we’d have a viable and rewarding film industry so that all that passion can go into a valid outlet.
Do you have any thoughts for future projects? Who do you dream to collaborate with in the future (Actors, Directors, Writers)?
I have many ideas and scripts for future projects I’d like to work on. There are so many stories worth telling in this country, it is really very exciting. When it comes to actors and writers in Lebanon, I am still now getting to know the people in the field, but I would love to one-day work with cinematographer Muriel Aboulrouss who is a constant inspiration. I’d also love to work with or just learn from director Ziad Doueiry who directed one of my all-time favorite films “West Beirut”.
Would you like to add anything in the end? Any last word for Tech-Ticker readers?
I would really like to add a big huge thank you to the entire passionate team and crew working on bringing “Meshkal” to life. Karim Ghorayeb, Issa Kandil, Melissa Karam, Rawad Hobeika, Farah Naboulsi, Kasem Hatoum, Petra Serhal as well as The Diet Center and Sannine for providing free catering and water, Platform Studios for a beautiful considerable discount on equipment, Cleartag and Bank Audi for helping us get online donations from Lebanese contributors and Wonderful Production for their support.
Finally a big “Thank you” to everyone who’s contributed and shared the “Meshkal” Indiegogo campaign. For a film about the difficulty in believing in something positive, I am truly humbled by the amount of people who have believed in “Meshkal”.