Lebanese cinema is booming. Less than twenty years ago, there were less than two films produced per year. Today, the story is quite different: Twenty-three films produced in 2013, of which nine have been released commercially in the Lebanese territories. Seven universities that specialize in cinema studies across the country. Cinema related initiatives are also flourishing: An abundance of festivals throughout the year, from the acclaimed Beirut International Film Festival to the European Film Festival, Beirut DC for documentaries, Outbox Festival for short films, to name a few. An impressive number of cinemas theaters for such a tiny country: Forty seven theaters to date, with the most recent addition being the complex opened at Beirut Souks, which is one of the largest and most luxurious cinemas of the entire region.
“Ghadi” is a relatively big production. Two years of hard work and more than 1.5 millions dollars spent on the film, which is at the higher end of the spectrum of budgets for Lebanese films. “Ghadi” is first of all the fruit of the collaboration of a successful trio: The production company, “The Talkies”, is one of the eldest and most reputable production companies of the country. The director, Amin Dora, has won a Digital Emmy Award for directing the first web series ever to be shot in the Arab world, Shankaboot. The writer and lead actor, Georges Khabbaz, is a loved and nationally acclaimed comedian.
“Ghadi” is first of all a tale that speaks to the imagination. It is also a story that transmits a universal message of tolerance and acceptance of the other. The plot unfolds as follows: Leba is a music teacher in a traditional small village that feels rather detached from space and time. Leba meets Lara; they fall in love, get married and start a family. Trouble starts when they discover that their newborn baby boy, Ghadi, has Down syndrome. The inhabitants of the village quickly reject Ghadi and exert pressure on Leba, asking him to place him in a special institution. Determined to fight to keep his beloved son by his side, Leba comes up with an original solution: he makes the village believe that Ghadi is…an angel! A secret team then starts making peoples’ wishes come true, on behalf of The Angel. The whole ethos of the village is transformed and Ghadi becomes an inspiration for all. Despite the serious nature of the topic it is addressing, the film is full of enjoyable and humorous moments, as characters and situations are depicted in a colorful and gentle, yet insightful fashion.
The inspiration behind “Ghadi” came from the author’s, Georges Khabbaz, theater work with handicapped children. “I always felt they were somehow angels, and blessed, which is why I felt so compelled to write a story about them”, he shares. The idea became reality when he spoke about his project to “The Talkies” CEO, Gabriel Chamoun. Gabriel liked the idea and decided to take the risk, even though it meant the production company would have to bear more than 70 percent of the production costs: “I believed that this was a worthwhile project and decided to give it its chance”. He also decided to give a chance to the successful advertising director Amin Dora, of which this would be the first feature film.
“Ghadi” was released in the Lebanese cinemas at the end of October 2013. It has been warmly received by both the media and the general public. “Ghadi” has also received a grant from the prestigious Doha Film Institute and is about to get distributed Internationally. Did the ticket sales reimburse the production costs? Not the slightest, as the Lebanese market is a very small one and it is nearly impossible for a good production to break even, if counting on Lebanon only. That said, the story of the Lebanese Angel is not over yet as he will soon be spreading his wings to other parts of the world. Inchallah, If God Wishes, as Lebanese say every day, with their legendary faith and resilience!