HiddenLight Productions has come on board as co-producer on feature documentary In the Shadow of Beirut, made by the team behind Gaza (2019).
The documentary is a cinematic portrait of modern-day Lebanon as seen through the eyes of four families living in the impoverished Sabra and Shatila neighbourhoods of the city, scene of an infamous massacre in 1982.
The film will be executive produced by Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Siobhan Sinnerton for HiddenLight.
Filmed over four years with unique access to the families within these largely no-go areas and co-directed by Stephen Gerard Kelly as his debut directing credit, alongside Garry Keane (Gaza, 2019), In the Shadow of Beirut is marked by a deep intimacy with its subjects and a bold cinematic style, with much of its visual and character-led storytelling sharing creative DNA with the team’s earlier film, Gaza.
Co-Director Stephen Gerard Kelly built up his relationship with the families at the centre of the film over a six-year period. The film follows its protagonists through the pandemic and the deteriorating economic crisis engulfing the country daily. However, given the storied neighbourhood’s tough history and challenging living conditions, the struggles of the film’s central protagonists began long before the deadly 2020 port explosion rocked the city in which they were born.
Lead producer is Belfast-based Cyprus Avenue Films (Gaza, Bobby Sands: 66 Days, My Name is Bulger, Maze, That They May Face The Rising Sun). Production partners include Beirut’s Abbout Productions (Costa Brava, Lebanon), Republic of Ireland based Real Films (Gaza) and Berlin-based Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion (The Cleaners, Gaza, A Perfect Crime). Co-producers include Myriam Sassine, Christian Beetz and Alison Toomey.
Commenting on securing the project for production, Cyprus Avenue Films’ founder Brendan J Byrne explains: “Irish director Stephen Gerard Kelly watched our film Gaza in a cinema in Beirut at the end of 2019. At the time he had been following his characters for two years. As soon as I saw the material, I knew I had to get involved and decided to partner Stephen and his remarkable material with a strong team, including co-director Garry Keane (Gaza). Together, they shot additional material and helped steer the film in the editing room alongside experienced editor, Iseult Howlett. I couldn’t be happier with the end result.”
Co-director Stephen Gerard Kelly adds: “Spending six years with people in Sabra and Shatila has been enriching and humbling. Over 30,000 people live in an urban slum of one square kilometre and – despite its reputation for paramilitary groups, criminal activity and drugs - most people are hardworking, honest and genuine. Among these narrow, dark alleys, people are constantly forced to make incredibly tough decisions created by decades of political corruption and manipulative sectarianism. But, against all these odds, there is still hope, and this film aims to elevate that hope.”
In the Shadow of Beirut is nearing completion and will premiere at a major international film festival before the end of 2022.
The news of HiddenLight’s involvement in the film follows the recent announcement of In Her Hands, directed by Tamana Ayazi and Oscar nominee Marcel Mettelsiefen, which receives its world premiere at TIFF later this month. The film focuses on Afghan politician Zarifa Ghafari, who became, at the age of 26, the youngest woman to serve as a mayor of an Afghan city. The film follows Ghafari in the months leading up to the Taliban takeover in 2021, when she has to deal with danger, uncertainty, and personal turmoil. Netflix will release the film globally on the streamer on November 16.
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