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Beirut Solo

Sabah Haider, Pierre Sarraf

Lebanon

synopsis

On a Sunday morning in the Spring of 2009, men and children yell at each other as they try to move in a traffic jam of taxis, cars and bicycles in a quite Beirut street. A young soldier lies on a tank smoking. Two others eat and hiss at girls. YASSA, a Catholic Sri Lankan housekeeper, appears with two friends, silencing the soldiers. At 19, a widowed Yassa left her baby son with her mother and came to work in Lebanon. Since then, she has been employed by a Muslim family whose children she raised and she now cares for MADAM, their old dependent mother.

Yassa’s son is now 16 and she works to pay for his education. One day she meets RAJ, an educated Muslim Bangladeshi janitor. He is a socialist who is living illegally in Beirut. The only language they share is Arabic. After some chance encounters they fall in love against the Madam’s wishes. Yassa battles with her obligations to Madam and her son with the chance of love; and chooses love. Feeling betrayed Madam fires Yassa, who finds a job as a concierge in a shabby building. She and Raj marry and live in her windowless room. Soon, Raj is arrested at a protest and is deported for having no papers, leaving Yassa grieving. She rises from her pain, and reassumes her life of living for others in a city where the absurd is the norm.

intention

Having come of age in Canada as the daughter of immigrants, I was always aware of socially marginalized communities and how it feels to be part of the periphery. Living around the world as an adult fanned this feeling of otherness.

When I moved to Beirut in 2009, for the first time I felt at home, but I immediately became aware of marginalized communities there, who despite having resided in Lebanon for decades in many cases, are isolated from mainstream Lebanese society due to their racial and cultural differences. In Beirut, as in much of the world, this is a reality for migrant labour communities. Beirut has a thriving and long- established migrant labour community of Sri Lankans, Ethiopians, Filipinos and Bangladeshis, who lead rather invisible personal lives to most Lebanese.

I was drawn to the stories of these people and learned a great deal about their lives and relationships. I became inspired by their challenges to achieve happiness. What also fascinated me is how Lebanese many of them had become. For most of them, their second language is Lebanese Arabic, used to communicate with their employers and with each other since they come from diverse backgrounds.

Most Arab films made in the Arab world tend to tell Arab stories about Arabs. But Beirut Solo tells a socially and linguistically Arab story of non-Arabs. As the Middle East becomes increasingly multicultural, I feel it is so fitting and beautiful to tell the story of two non-Lebanese longtime Beirut residents falling in love with each other. It is a story that transcends all cultures and people, and resonates with Arab and non-Arab societies. In the increasingly globalized world we live in, I believe social, cultural and national communities are part of our individual or collective imaginations. As a film that explores the lives of two socially marginalized “others” in Lebanese society, Beirut Solo addresses that.

Beirut Solo explores Beirut society, through the perspective of a Sri Lankan housekeeper who falls in love with a Bangladeshi janitor. They communicate with each other in Arabic, the only language they have in common, and exist in a city where the ordinary is the absurd.

Audiences will be able to identify with the ideas of sacrifice and otherness in Beirut Solo, enabling them to rethink their beliefs in an increasingly mixed world. These are ideas that will resonate with audiences and stay with them long after the film ends.

budget & financing

..né.à Beyrouth was established in 2003 to develop, produce and co-produce fiction films. Our aim is to produce unique films that move audiences and tell stories that are timely and relevant. The company plays an active role in supporting emerging regional talent and the projects we support have a strong potential for international co-productions and distribution. In addition, the company also produces TV shows, music videos, corporate films, commercials and curates a DVD of Lebanese short films. Beirut Solo is currently in the script development phase and is the first feature film by Sabah Haider. The film will be shot in Lebanon and ..né.à Beyrouth will be able to get preferential rates on the crew and equipment. As we are still working on the story, we estimate the production budget to be approximately USD 800,000. Our current need is to secure USD 30,000 so that we can complete the development of the script. Due to the nature of the story, we will be looking for co-producers in Lebanon-Canada-Europe and the Middle East. We feel that the project has the potential to travel internationally especially if we are able to secure popular actors. If we are not able to find the right actors for the roles in Lebanon we will aim to get international talent. This would help later on for our marketing and distribution strategy. Both the producer and director are Canadian citizens, so we hope to find partners there that could assist with securing public funding and casting in Canada. We also plan on approaching film funds in Europe as well as the Middle East.

distribution & sales

Although set in an Arab country, what makes Beirut Solo unique is that the story revolves around two migrant workers in Lebanon and the lives they lead on the periphery of mainstream Beirut society. It is a drama that will give international audiences an insight into the lives of migrant workers in Arab countries. In addition, the overarching themes of the film are universal ones which a global audience will be able to relate to. Regionally, most of the countries in the Arab world have large numbers of domestic workers who are originally from Asia and the sub-continent and so the story of Yassa and Raj is one that regional audiences will also be able to connect with. We believe that the film has the potential to do well at international festivals and theatrically. Its storyline is distinctive and the protagonists are novel. Our aim will be to partner with co-producers that can help with the distribution in their territories to ensure that the film gets to the widest audience possible.

Sometimes we are destined to live for others.
936-sabah-haider
Sabah Haider

Film Director

844-pierre-sarraf
Pierre Sarraf

Production

production notes

directed by
Sabah Haider

produced by..Né à Beyrouth Productions
CEC Building, Bloc B 5th Floor
Mkalles
Lebanon

total production budget
€ 800.000

current financial need
€ 30.000