Founded in 2011 in Bankstown by three young Lebanese people, the Lebanese Film Festival (LFF) in Australia has been challenging the local perceptions of Lebanon, its people, traditions, and culture, and providing an insight into contemporary Lebanese culture to the large Lebanese-Australian community. A platform for Lebanese cinema in Australia, the Lebanese Film Festival has screened so far, since 2012, over 100 films that are either filmed or based in Lebanon or made by Lebanese filmmakers from all over the world.
Australia's Lebanese Film Festival was born out of the eagerness of three young Lebanese people to change the negative impressions as well as challenge the stereotypes associated with the Lebanese community in Australia and their depiction in the media worldwide.
Camille Lattouf, his wife Julia and his sister-in-law Jessica Khoury made the commitment to start their own Lebanese film festival and crack down on local and societal barriers standing in the way of Lebanese movies being screened in Australia.
"We would hear about these wonderful movies that were released in Lebanon, but never got to see them for ourselves. Releasing films in Australia was just too difficult for foreign filmmakers," Camille said.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Co-Founder Lattouf said, "Whenever you would look at the news, especially in the 90s, you would see Lebanon as war-torn, even Bankstown had this negative image, and with the [Lebanese Film] festival, it created a dialogue and an understanding between people that few other things could."
Indeed, the Lebanese Film Festival has been acting as a platform for all to connect with Lebanon via films from and about Lebanon, as well as films by Lebanese people from all over the world.
So, who are these three young Lebanese who love so much Lebanon that they achieved the impossible and continue to strive in their aim? Let us introduce them to you, these brave minds behind the LFF, known as the world's largest of its kind!
Camille Lattouf: Born in Karm Saddé in North Lebanon, Camille Lattouf migrated with his parents to Australia where he is currently a Senior Urban Planner with Architectus Group in Sydney, Australia. His experience spans local government and private consultancy.
Camille holds a Bachelor in Environmental Planning with Honours from the University of Western Sydney (2005 – 2010). He obtained a Master Degree from Macquarie University (2011 – 2015) in Development Studies and Culture Change, International Development and Affairs, and Social and Economic Planning. He currently serves as the Director of the Lebanese Film Festival.
Jessica Khoury: The Co-Director of the LFF since 2011, Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Film and Theatre, and a strong skill set background both on-set and off-set. She also leads the Lebanese Film Festival Judging Panel and has a passion for the arts in all forms.
Jessica has also worked on set in both major feature films in Australia as well as in local short films and television series. She is focused on building her career on production sets both in front of and behind the camera.
Julia Lattouf: LFF's Manager covering Public Affairs and Marketing, Julia holds a Bachelor of Communication degree. She has over five years of industry experience, working as everything from a freelance publicist, specializing in media relations.
Julia co-founded the Lebanese Film Festival Association in 2011 with her husband Camille, and currently works in Corporate Affairs.
These three Lebanese professionals form a great team that is generating great achievements. Their mission with the LFF Australia is on a roll and seems unstoppable in contributing "to the understanding of Lebanon, its people, culture, and diaspora," and in creating "a connection for the Lebanese diaspora in Australia to engage with contemporary Lebanese society through film.”
In addition to showcasing Lebanese cinema in Australia, the LFF is contributing to "the accessibility of arts and culture to Western Sydney."
According to its official website: “The Association has identified a need for greater accessibility to arts and culture in Western Sydney, particularly in Bankstown and its surrounds. In identifying this need, the Association continues to provide events of the highest quality in the local area, ensuring that the community has direct access to international cinema, and also attracting audiences from across Sydney to Bankstown.”
All three of the Co-Founders, as well as the LFF Team, share a passion and commitment to socio-economic and culture development and see the Festival as a great project for driving local community growth and development.
"Lebanese filmmakers have a real presence at film festivals, even with the chaos of the region, they’re still very committed to the arts," Lattouf said, and rightly so.
As per the LFF director Jessica Khoury, "This year’s content includes two of Lebanon’s highest achieving films, including Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult, which was Lebanon’s first Oscar-nominated film for the 2018 foreign film category, and Nadine Labaki’s Capharnaüm, which was awarded the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year."
The 2019 Edition of the Lebanese Film Festival in Australia has actually been ongoing since Aug 23 and will conclude on Nov 15th.
To our Australian friends and Lebanese community in Australia: The LFF is scheduled to present in 7 cities, starting in Sydney and ending in Bowral. Here is the agenda of locations and dates: