HiddenLight boards Beirut feature doc

HiddenLight Productions joined us as co-producer of a feature documentary In the shadow of Beirutmade by the team behind Gaza (2019).

The documentary is a cinematic portrait of present-day Lebanon seen through the eyes of four families living in the city’s poor Sabra and Shatila neighborhoods, the scene of an infamous massacre in 1982.

The film will be produced by Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Siobhan Sinnerton for HiddenLight.

Filmed over four years with unique family access to these largely off-limits areas and co-directed by Stephen Gerard Kelly as his first directorial credit, alongside Garry Keane (Gaza2019), In the shadow of Beirut is marked by a deep intimacy with its subjects and a bold cinematic style, with much of its visual and character-driven storytelling sharing creative DNA with the team’s previous film, Gaza.

Co-director Stephen Gerard Kelly built his relationship with the families at the center of the film over a period of six years. The film follows its protagonists through the pandemic and the worsening economic crisis that engulfs the country daily. However, given the difficult history and harsh living conditions of the neighborhood, the struggles of the film’s central protagonists began long before the murderous 2020. the port explosion rocked the town in which they were born.

The lead producer is Belfast-based Cyprus Avenue Films (Gaza, Bobby Sands: 66 days, my name is Bulger, Maze, to face the rising sun). Production partners include Abbout Productions of Beirut (Costa Brava, Lebanon), Real Films based in the Republic of Ireland (Gaza) and Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion (The cleaners, Gaza, a perfect crime). Co-producers include Myriam Sassine, Christian Beetz and Alison Toomey.

Commenting on securing the project for production, Brendan J Byrne, Founder of Cyprus Avenue Films explains: “Irish director Stephen Gerard Kelly watched our film Gaza in a cinema in Beirut at the end of 2019. At the time, he had been following his characters for two years. As soon as I saw the material, I knew I had to get involved and decided to partner Stephen and his remarkable material with a strong team, including co-director Garry Keane (Gaza). Together they shot additional material and helped direct the film in the editing room alongside senior editor Iseult Howlett. I couldn’t be happier with the end result.

Co-director Stephen Gerard Kelly adds: “Spending six years with the people of Sabra and Shatila has been enriching and humbling. More than 30,000 people live in the one-square-kilometre urban slum, and – despite its reputation for paramilitary groups, criminal activity and drugs – most people are hard-working, honest and genuine. In these narrow, dark alleys, people are constantly forced to make incredibly difficult decisions created by decades of political corruption and manipulative bigotry. But, against all odds, there is still hope, and this film aims to elevate that hope.

In the shadow of Beirut is nearing completion and will premiere at a major international film festival before the end of 2022.

News of HiddenLight’s involvement in the film follows the recent announcement by In his hands, directed by Tamana Ayazi and Oscar nominee Marcel Mettelsiefen, which receives its world premiere at TIFF later this month. The film focuses on Afghan politician Zarifa Ghafari, who at the age of 26 became the youngest woman to serve as mayor of an Afghan city. The film follows Ghafari in the months leading up to the Taliban takeover in 2021, when she must deal with danger, uncertainty and personal turmoil. Netflix will release the film worldwide on the streamer on November 16.

Pippa Considine

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