Far from home, a young German filmmaker set his sharp blue eyes through the viewfinder of his DSLR. And the result? He captured a story he calls “Welcome to Lebanon,” a story of Lebanon through the Lebanese acapella Fayha Choir.
Taken in 2018, his mini-documentary got nominated for one of the largest independent film awards in Germany, the Camgaroo Award.
The talented Jan Jessen wanted to portray Lebanon as a whole, and he was able to do so by meeting up with Fayha Choir through The961.
The collective is as diverse as the country itself. It consists of members from various Lebanese regions, social classes, religious beliefs, etc.
If that doesn’t serve as a sample of the Lebanese population, what does? Fayha Choir represents a miniature Lebanon.
In his video, he explains how he came across the choir back in 2018 and managed to make a documentary about it. “Sadly, it did not win this award,” says Jessen, “still, getting nominated is pretty cool.”
The Camgaroo Award is considered the largest independent film award in German-speaking countries. It receives about 600 film applications per year and only about 70 films are nominated!
“I am just eager to get feedback, especially from Lebanese people,” he tells us. “It is very hard to do a documentary on another country or other people without seeming ignorant or patronizing.”
“I am also sure that I made some heavy editing mistakes that are really obvious if you understand the lyrics of the songs.” For example, you may notice that Jessen did not realize that the choir was singing Armenian when he stitched it with an interview about the beauty of Arabic music.
Nevertheless, Jessen enjoyed his time in Lebanon, adding, “This was an interesting journey, I learned so much and I would love to get some feedback on it so I can adjust and develop a better sense [of] things.”
Check out his mini-documentary below and let him know what you think!