The 2017 Lebanese movie, Heaven Without People, recently took Netflix by storm when it reached the 2nd place among the most-watched movies on the platform in Lebanon.
With more people seeing the movie, more questions are surfacing about it and the people behind it.
With that said, here’s everything you need to know about the creators of Heaven Without People, as well as some behind-the-scenes photos and exclusive comments.
Writer and Director: Lucien Bourjeily
Heaven Without People was created by Lebanese writer, producer, and director Lucien Bourjeily. In addition to cinema, Bourjeily has had an extensive career in the world of theater.
His unique progressive and interactive approach to theatrical work has traveled the world and earned him recognition by regional and international media, including HuffPost and CNN.
From the start of his artistic career, Lucien Bourjeily has been a strong opponent of censorship and an award-winning advocate of free speech.
Over the years, Bourjeily has repeatedly challenged censorship in Lebanon with defiant plays such as “Will it pass or not?” which, unsurprisingly, was banned in the country and later provoked General Security to temporarily confiscate his passport.
His work in movies and theater, including his recent debut feature film Heaven Without People, have earned him a total of 19 award nominations and 8 wins at various international film festivals.
Is Heaven Without People a true story?
The recent arrival of Heaven Without People to Netflix has brought Bourjeily’s movie a new wave of acclaim, especially among the Lebanese, who find much value to take from its close-to-home social themes.
The film’s realistic aura has raised the question of whether the events of the story were based on actual events; a question that we carried to the director himself.
Lucien Bourjeily told The961 that the plot of the movie is “based on many real events that happened with friends, extended family, and, of course, some personal experiences.”
“I originally thought about the idea when I was trying to better understand why Lebanon has been in this vicious circle of state failure and corruption for decades,” he explained.
To get there, Bourjeily knew he had to start with “the nucleus of any society; the family.”
He added, “My aim was for the audience to feel like it is peeking inside the privacy of a Lebanese family home, like an invisible intruder.”
The viewer of Heaven Without People is intended to hear and experience – first hand – the things that only the family members know about, in a manner that is made to be “as thought-provoking as possible,” the director said.
When life slowly strangles our quintessence, cinema comes to reconnect us with our own hidden true selves: with the dazzled child within us, with the writer, with the dreamer, and take a moment to reflect upon and challenge our perception of the world.
Will there be a sequel to Heaven Without People?
“Indeed, there is an idea that I’m exploring presently that is a kind of a spinoff from the movie and might include some characters that were in it,” the director finally revealed.
Producer: Farah Shaer
Farah Shaer, the Lebanese actress who plays Rita in Heaven Without People, is also the producer of the movie.
In addition to being an actress and producer, Farah Shaer is a writer, director, and socio-political activist, who is a co-founder of the popular 2015 “You Stink” Lebanese civil movement.
Shaer is known for writing and directing three short movies – I Offered You Pleasure (2011), Obedience (2017), and Faces In the Sun (2019) – which boldly tackle controversial topics and taboos in the Lebanese society.
Over the years, her work has earned her a total of 12 award nominations and 10 wins at international film festivals, some of which she shared with Lucien Bourjeily for his contributions to the three aforementioned shorts.
How was it like to work on Heaven Without People?
Speaking with The961, Farah Shaer described the experience of working with the Lebanese ensemble cast of the movie as “such an immersive journey overall.”
Herself and the actors, which she explained were all first-timers in a feature film, “met several times, sat together, and rehearsed with Lucien until we became very close to each other, as a ‘family.’ “
While these “camp-like” rehearsals were very intense, as she recalled, they “got us to delve deep into our characters and be able to fully grasp their backgrounds, intentions, and motivations.”
“It looks seamless now when I watch the movie but you wouldn’t imagine how hard it was to coordinate lines of dialogue in-between twelve actors sitting together at the lunch table,” Shaer stressed, adding that some scenes took over 27 takes to perfect.
Needless to say, the hard and diligent work that went into Heaven Without People manifests in the numerous awards that the movie and its cast have won over the years.
It also shows through the overwhelming praise the movie has garnered among Lebanese movie lovers since it took over Netflix last Friday.