Nov 17, 2013

What Happened at the Tripoli Film Festival

The Tripoli Film Festival Committee representatives welcomed us at the entrance of the city complex venue, where [Journey of stars into the dark night] by Arnel Mardoquio was scheduled to play as part of the film festival that day, Friday November 15th 2013. The place was packed, friends have come over together in groups, families as well, couples and enthusiasts from all around Tripoli only for the sake of watching that renowned 117-minute movie. It was the free entrance that I found most serviceable, for it was convenient and an added value to the residents of this poor town.

How lovely would it be to read this kind of review about the film festival in Tripoli? First paragraph is a lie, oh no wait, I’d better say It was my personal vision of what I had wanted to see, my own aspiration, my expectations toward the event the moment I knew about it, regardless of my frustration at the organizers and the absolute lack of coverage and exposure for the festival. In fact, what happened that night was the total opposite, went as follows.

It was during that same day that I had heard of the Film Festival in Tripoli for the first time, at first I thought it was a joke, a tentative by some cinema students probably to push things into really happening maybe? But apparently, there was indeed a film festival that set the different venues in Tripoli ready to be showing a collection of movies that were announced on the festival schedule earlier apparently. Went through the whole thing to find out that, in Tripoli only, there would have been 30 movies playing in the city, spread over three major venues, offering over nationalities and the whole spectrum of genres as well. Failing to have seen any prior marketing or advertisements about the event, and knowing how the organizers have messed up in that direction, I did my own share of exposure and decided, at the same time, to take part as soon as I reach Tripoli that night.

All it took us, me and Naji, was a 5 minute bike trip. The place was practically empty, in fact, at 22:00 the movie center would be usually getting ready for wrapping up and calling it a day, but then that night, a movie was about to start, of a two-hour duration. Besides the crew who were easily identified by their uniforms, and who were all a bunch 6 to 8 employees, there was this young guy in casual standing up against the ticket booth, having this little and fast argument with one of the customers.
-          I’m sorry buddy, I don’t want the ticket no more. Is that of a hassle to you?
-          No problem, I’ll just cancel it, 3adi, it happens.
In the process of figuring out what was happening, I told myself the customer was obviously an unsatisfied customer, who got annoyed and decided to not watch the festival movie, all while that guy, whom I thought was one of the organizers (at least) was dealing with it. In fact, the guy decided to leave once he knew there was a 4$ charge, and the guy in casual was the theatre manager. There was nobody from the festival committee, not even a teenage desperately looking for some cash in and totally willing to wear a costume with a badge and stand there for a 30 minutes. But no, there was nobody.

Still wanting to encourage the initiative, I paid the 8$ and went in, all with my photography gear on my back, thought of covering the event and writing something about it. To my utmost surprise, the place was empty, literally. Add to it, and I apologize beforehand for not being the best critic there is, the movie sucked. Filming was awful, camera shaking and little to no dialogue was there. In short, I spent the next 30 minutes between the camera tripod testing and playing with my camera, trying out different seats at the theatre (WHAT? It was my first time being there with no other people, gosh..) and of course a good time watching both women’s flimsy acting throughout the movie. Thirty minutes later we were out. The staff were surprisingly happy, it seemed the group of 10 employees was working overtime only for the two of us, and decided to wrap things up once we left.

Fast forward 20h afterwards, I found myself with my two Beiruti friends rushing to watch the [The President's Last Bang] which was playing at Safadi Cultural Center, free of charge. A text message from my friend who was already there, saying the movie was in Korean with French subtitles, made it definitive that we’re going somewhere else instead of running around to catch the movie.

Tripoli International Film Festival Logo -
A couple words could summarize what needs to be said: the festival could’ve been the hit the citizens of Tripoli have been waiting for, not to mention the growing number of cinema and movie enthusiasts, film makers, producers, actors and energetic audience, waiting the littlest spark of ingenuity and novelty around town. Media coverage could’ve been drastically larger than what was done, broader, better. I mean, Tripoli’s got a huge collection of bloggers, activists, journalists, interested individuals. I’m more than certain a couple more shares on facebook and a handful retweets here and there at some point last week could’ve filled these theatres at least with 20 more people each play. Too bad for what happened, yet cheers go to the organizers for their efforts.

That was my own experience, with only one film. Care to share what you witnessed? Throw in a comment and let us know what happened as well.


  1. i saw one movie on friday .. dvd to arrive 38 minutes late! but it was worth the waiting .. great movie by philipe Grandieux about Masao adashi the red japanese army member that live din lebanon for long time filming and being a revolutionary

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