Drama Filmed During Lebanon’s Worst Crisis Is Premiering At Cannes This Month

MAD Distribution

Written 6 years ago, “The Sea Ahead” depicts a Lebanon very much as it is today: restless. Loosely based on Lebanese director Ely Dagher’s own experiences, the movie revolves around immigration and identity, packed with the struggle of coming back to Lebanon after living abroad.

What better time to explore those themes than during the thawra? The uprising that was born on October 17, 2019, was followed by further economic collapse, political unrest, and overall instability, and pushed many people to leave.

At the same time, with no more access to funds that got stuck in the Lebanese banking system, some people -especially students- had no choice but to return and abandon the lives they made abroad.

“The Sea Ahead” is a drama film that centers around Jana (played by Manal Issa) as she returns to Beirut after living abroad for several years. It explores the perspective of the returnee and her re-introduction to her home country and the restless city of Beirut.

The film’s synopsis reads: “A young woman makes her way back home to her parents’ house in the middle of the night, leaving a bad experience behind. Haunting pressures to fit back into the family dynamics as well as revealing details of her life abroad weigh heavy on her. Feeling cornered, her anxieties resurface, leading her to find solace in another part of her Beirut life that she had forsaken. A life that is for her as familiar and foreign now as it ever was.”

Filming During A Time Of Crisis

Kicking-off filming during the Lebanese Revolution, the cast and crew had to maneuver around protests, roadblocks, and deal with the ever-worsening financial crisis.

They often found themselves participating in protests and getting caught in the action, according to the Palm d’Or award-winning director.

Dagher also recalls, according to Arab News, that the crew had to be paid with money brought in suitcases because bank transfers were not possible.

Additionally, because of the pandemic, Dagher had to work with the film’s French editor remotely until the Beirut Blast of August 4th forced Dagher to take a 2-month break.

After the difficult journey, Dagher’s film will finally premiere at the 74th Cannes Film Festival during the Directors’ Fortnight. Four screenings of “The Sea Ahead” will take place this month.

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