Mark Abou zeid.
Director of Photography, Filmmaker, Photographer (Still), Screenwriter and Videographe.Freelance Director of Photography, award winning photographer & documentary videographer.
Over a 30 year career, Mark Abouzeid has worked in International Finance, Technology & Innovation, Photojournalism and Living Heritage Conservation. Today, he concentrates his efforts in the Middle East, Africa and Europe helping conserve the artisan, cultural and living heritage of the communities with whom he lives and works. As a freelance photography director, Abouzeid’s clients include Indie documentary film makers, ICH Foundations, NGOs, Museums, Heritage Villages and Cultural Travel media.
The Lebanese Heritage interviewed Mark Abou Zeid:
Q1: How was the idea of “Finding My Lebanon” born?
I have always been interested in my Lebanese past but it was something never made accessible to me. My father never poke about his childhood and we rarely frequented Lebanese friends. When I attended NYU, I studied Politics of the Middle East to know more about where we came from.
I tried to go to Beirut several times. When I was 17, American University of Beirut was my first choice but a missile destroyed the administration buildings and plans were changed. At 32, I made contact with relatives to visit my grandmother only to learn she had died weeks prior. At 48, I received an assignment to write a feature article on the return of Beirut as a VIP playground, only to have an Israeli action cancel all interest.
In the last days of my father’s life, after all the goodbyes had been said, I realised that with his death I would lose the only bridge to my ancestors, my roots, my dream. I called him and demanded my heritage…and he agreed…it was time to pass the torch. The resulting interview was not a story of pain, suffering and abandonment as I had always assumed. It was a heartfelt memory of happy times when he was proud of his father and cherished his mother…of a place that was paradise.
Right then, I knew I had to go for myself and discovery, first hand, My Lebanon.
In my work, I experience people’s cultures and then share them with others. That is the overriding principal in all I day: to help us feel empathy for ‘the other’. That was my initial goal and the basis behind “Growing Cedars in Air”, the upcoming feature documentary on Lebanon’s culture, today.
During development of Growing cedars, Elias Moubarak, my assistant director, posed the question, “Why not tell your story? That’s what people want to hear!” With this, “Finding My Lebanon” was born:
– as a means for transmitting one part of our family history to my daughters;
– to introduce the background for the film Cedars; and
– offer a personal perspective, live, of personal discovery and finding identity.
Q2: You have spent the last 15 years capturing the heritage of civilizations around the world; why do you think people need to hear the story of Lebanon?
We all need to hear our own and each other’s stories. Our culture and heritage provide us with guidelines to choose our future and guide the present. All my work revolves around this theme. Lebanon is no different than the Bedouin in Jordan, traditional fisherman in the Mediterranean, Arctic explorers and Florentine artisans…it represents a society sorely misunderstood by its own people and the world, itself. In a time of global crisis, there are many aspects of the Lebanese way of life that we can all learn from.
It is said that life happens in between wars and nowhere is this more true than in Lebanon. Slow Food considers Lebanon a glowing example of a modern yet sustainable, healthy food culture. With over 13 sects and religions, this land has fertilized and maintained a culture of inclusion in a world that is quickly becoming xenophobic.
Q3: Who do you want the movie to speak to? What about the people who aren’t Lebanese, who have no Lebanese past?
1) This film is made, first and foremost, for my daughters and all the other “cedars growing in air”: children of emigrants who don’t know their Lebanon nor how they fit in it.
2) Both films seek to help the in-country Lebanese see their own country from an outsiders point of view. We all get caught in daily life and problems, often forgetting to take a step back to look from a different perspective. Many of the subjects involved in the film and preview audiences have been grateful for ‘a fresh pair of eyes’.
3) Many of the overseas Lebanese remember a place and time that no longer exists. They fear sectarian violence and many of the extremities of the 50’s – 70’s. Today’s Beirut has little in common with those times.
4) Finally, it is for everyone who has formed an opinion or political agenda based upon media portrayals of Lebanon without ever having visited.
Q4: What stage is the project at now?
We are in the final stages of production/postproduction. We expect to be introducing the film at festivals around the globe this spring.
Q5: You have set up a crowdfunding page for “Finding My Lebanon”. What is your target and how will the raised funds help the movie?
We did do one crowdfunding campaign to limited success. It is a hard time to push a film on Lebanon, most people just don’t see it and the Lebanese have always been notoriously difficult when it comes to funding NGO projects. Between the two films, we will need around $250,000 to complete them. We have raised or invested around $75,000 and received fiscal sponsorship from the International Documentary Association qualifying the film as a charity. Through further crowd funding, collaborative events and equity investors; we are confident we can launch both films on the global screen.
Q6: “Finding My Lebanon” is the introduction of the feature length documentary “Growing Cedars in Air”. Can you tell us about that?
If “Finding My Lebanon” is the story of how I came to discover the Lebanese culture, then “Growing Cedars in Air” is what I found.
In an era when globalisation threatens cultural identity everywhere, Growing Cedars in Air is the story of one people who have emigration in their veins and, yet, have never lost their own cultural identity.
“Growing Cedars in Air” is a indie documentary video project about personal discovery of what it means to be Lebanese…about the living heritage and unique culture that has allowed Lebanese to flourish wherever they settle.
The potential loss of culture and heritage are, currently, at the top of political, social and humanitarian agendas around the world. As our land boundaries fall and people become more ‘global’, we fear the loss of Identity and Belonging.
Without culture or history, how is it that children of Lebanese immigrants (which number 4 times the local population) still identify themselves as such, still have been acculturated to be Lebanese?
“We teach our children through the stories we tell. Through them, they learn who they are, where they came from and what is expected of them…as an Abouzeid, as a Lebanese and, foremost, as a human being. “Cedars” is a collection of those stories: a past that in the telling is renewed and applied to the present…a Living Heritage.” Mark Abouzeid
This documentary gathers Lebanese people of all walks, local and abroad, to tell their own stories of Lebanon and their lives across recent history.
Film Director | Cedars Productions | email@example.com
2015 Release: “FINDING MY LEBANON” Shortfilm
A personal discovery to find his own roots,
leads one man to make a feature film on Lebanon, today.
2016 Release: “Growing Cedars in Air” feature documentary
Ever since I was a boy, I have wanted to go home…