Lebanese filmmaker Ahmad Ghossein left the 34th edition of Venice Film Festival holding 3 prizes for his debut feature All This Victory. Beholding a story set in the South of Lebanon during the 2006 war with Israel, All This Victory premiered in the International Film Critics’ Week (SIC), an independent, parallel section of the festival, co-organized by the National Union of Italian Film Critics.
All This Victory won the SIC Grand Prize along with the program’s Audience Award and the Mario Serandrei Award for Best Technical Contribution - recognizing the work of sound designer Rana Eid, DP Shady Shaaban, art director Hussein Baydoun and the rest of the crew.
The film is not a war film, but an in-a-war film. The main character, Marwan, goes in search of his father who refused to leave his southern village during a ceasefire. While his wife Rana is in Beirut preparing the immigration papers to Canada, he wonders if he is going to stay or leave the country.
The storyline develops in intensity with Marwan not finding any trace of his father, the ceasefire breaking and the situation spiraling out. Marwan is forced to take shelter in the house of his father's friend Najib, along with some of Najib's friends. As bombs hail down and tension rises, a group of Israeli soldiers enters the house, and intense 3 torturous days await the men.
As exciting as it sounds and looks, this is a real-life story. “I’m from the south, and I lived this war,” Ghossein explains to The National. “My house got destroyed there, also. And, this story happened in my mother’s village, where I spent all the summers when I was a kid. I know those people, and this story stayed with me for many years. Then, I said ‘OK, I want to do a feature about that.’”
Ghossein further explains the obstacles he faced during the making of the movie. He had to spend time with the real people who lived the experience and get the story out of them. "You meet with them, they tell you the story, but they don’t tell you exactly the story. Whoever lives through a war, loses something inside him," he says.
Moreover, having one location to shoot the whole film was a little wrecking for Ghossein. Although it's easier logistically to be in one location, it's a bit challenging for the director, according to Ghossein.
For shooting the film, Ghossein used non-professional and seasoned actors, including Karam Ghossein and Issam Bou Khaled. The actors needed to be in one situation during the whole film. They had to finish shooting, come back the next day, and be in the same mindset where they finished the day before.
Back in 2018, Ghossein's film won the Works in Progress' prize in Karlovy Vary Film Festival, becoming the first Middle Eastern film to win this prize. Screening rushes from All This Victory, the prize was a very valuable €100,000 to help with post-production.
Born in 1981, Ghossein is an artist and filmmaker, holding an MFA in Visual Art from the National Academy of Arts (KHIO) in Oslo and a BFA in Theater from the Lebanese University in Beirut. He is already a prize-winning director of shorts, documentaries, and videos, including 2013’s My Father is Still a Communist, a memoir about his parents structured around letters recorded on audio cassettes.
Ghossein was awarded the Production Programme Award by the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2014, the Ibsen scholarship award in 2013, and Best Short Film in the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in 2011. In addition to that, he co-directed White Noise, a 17-minute comedy about a security guard on his first shift that played at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017.