It’s always inspiring to see people working hard to bring awareness on other’s miseries. We have always heard about underprivileged people through numbers and statistics, but most of us have never seen their true miseries and their lifestyles. Lebanese director Reem Saleh did so to convey to us and the world their daily challenges.
After graduating from the Lebanese American University in Beirut with a BA in Radio, TV, and Film, Reem Saleh began her career as a stage and film actress, winning a local acting competition on MTV television channel.
She has acted as assistant director on numerous productions, including Assad Fouladkar’s award-winning film When Maryam Spoke Out (2001). She directed the short film The Naked Eye, the stage play Wings written by Arthur Kopit, and numerous television documentaries for MTV Lebanon and Rotana Enterprise.
Reem then moved to Qatar in 2006 to work for Al Jazeera Children’s Channel as a producer and voice-over artist, and then went on to join the Doha Film Institute where she worked as the Deputy Director of the Ajyal Film Festival. She’s currently the External Relations Officer at UNHCR Abu Dhabi. Her current projects include co-writing a fiction film with Assad Fouladkar.
Saleh’s latest work is What Comes Around, her first feature independent documentary. After six years of capturing moments of unprivileged people’s lives in the neighborhood of Rod El Farag in Egypt, she was able to create What Comes Around that was released in 2018.
What Comes Around was nominated at Glasshütte Original Documentary Award in Berlin and Golden Star awards in El Gouna. It was also screened in 40 film festivals around the world.
Born to a Lebanese father and an Egyptian mother, and raised in Lebanon, Saleh has been climbing fame beyond our borders. Her main inspiration behind her documentary was her mother who always mentioned Rod el Farag in beautiful, inspiring stories. After her death in 2009, and upon her request, Saleh began to visit Rod el Farag frequently.
The idea of the documentary was born when Saleh saw how the people are so helpful and compassionate despite their miseries. Saleh was visiting her mother’s ill friend when she witnessed how the neighbors helped either in food, modest sums of money, or even moral support. This was when she realized that she had to present this section of society that we often do injustice.
Saleh documented their daily fight for survival and gave them a chance to present their perspective on deep-rooted traditions, illness, and death. She believes that it’s important to have a clear image of a community of people living under the poverty line, emphasizing the need to understand poverty with no prejudices.
The documentary shows a lot of Rod Al Farag’s thoughts, beliefs, and traditions. One of their traditions is to celebrate life in the same way they celebrate death. Adel, a character in the movie, says that visiting the graveyard is a reminder for those doing good to keep doing it and those doing bad to stop doing it. It brings humility to people’s hearts.
What Comes Around‘s screening in international film festivals was so rewarding for Saleh. However, despite international recognition, the documentary wasn’t highly recognized in Lebanon.
What Comes Around was screened in Tripoli Film Festival, and also a second time in 15e Ecrans du Reel, Metropolis Sofil. And, people loved it.
“You can be recognized all over the world, but home always has a different taste,” Saleh said in her interview with Annahar.