Originally posted July 2010
The word “creativity” has many connotations. A creative person is always expected to produce something new and even revolutionary, which makes creativity an unpredictable process. I sometimes feel creativity pouring into my efforts as a filmmaker. Yet, other times I feel that I can no longer come up with fresh ideas, leading me to doubt my talent and even to reconsider my career in the film industry. Nevertheless, filmmaking remains fascinating work and continues to be my passion.
The only obstacle to producing a genuinely creative piece of work is one’s own thinking. Sometimes we place restrictions on our thinking, and we therefore see the world through very narrow lenses. Unfortunately, our educational systems can limit our creativity, though they are supposed to foster and develop it.
I attended one of the most prestigious film schools in Lebanon in the hope of broadening my perspective on the arts and on life. My family has regarded me as “crazy” and as a “rebel” because I chose to study film in spite of being such a good math and science student in high school. But the truth is that I spent my time at the theater doing school plays. I turned most of my school projects into small film projects. Every time I could use a camera and my classmates as actors, I would find a new story to tell. I could also turn what was expected to be a simple PowerPoint presentation into a mini-film. I always wanted to tell people stories that could move them.
My life changed in December 2007, when at the age of 23, my graduation short film won Best Short at the European Film Festival in Beirut. The date is etched into my memory not because of the award I received but rather for the tears which my father shed. In fact, that was the only time I saw him cry. That same day, my father’s criticism of my career choice ceased. Since then, he has celebrated my work and accomplishments.
The Lebanese film school I attended taught me a lot about Brecht, Tati, Melies, Antonioni, and Fellini, among others. I learned a great deal about film techniques such as continuity in shots, when to use track and dolly, and when to have locked shots, or the difference between video and film, sound designing and mixing, linear and non-linear editing, and so on.
I thought I had learned all the rules of good filmmaking. I later realized, however, how little I knew and how much more there is to learn. This happened when I joined a documentary filmmaking workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark in the summer of 2006. There I met the most wonderful and most influential film scholar, Mr. Arne Bro. He taught me, among other things, that there are no “rules” in filmmaking. He gave me the courage to break every rule I ever learned in the Lebanese film school, or rather, to break free of rigid conventions and thus to experiment.
I have been working with TV commercials for the past two years. I have been keen to apply the critical tools that I learned in the Danish National Film School in Copenhagen. I now realize that creativity is about thinking outside the box. I hope that the new generation of filmmakers pursues their craft in this spirit.
In the field of cinema, in which I work, creativity interacts with commercial and ideological interests. A filmmaker plays a range of roles: she expresses her opinion about the world around her, uses her imagination to package this opinion as a creative product, and leads a team of co-workers to turn this product into a sellable commodity.
I’m grateful for all the experiences I’ve had in this field, both good and bad. They have been part of a learning process, through which I have learned about myself and the world around me. Cinema is also a profession that has taught me to forgive and to accept differences and diversity.
I studied Mass Media at Cairo University and worked for Nile TV and the local Channel 3. I quickly realized that journalistic work is about reporting immediate events. Yet, I wanted to express my opinions about these events. So, I chose to return to university to study cinema and filmmaking. Although my family did not object, I remember my mother’s warning that I’d chosen one of the hardest paths in life: facing people’s criticism on a daily basis while seeking their approval of my professionalism.
I earned a BA in filmmaking, spent an additional two years at the Higher Institute of Cinema to complete a diploma, and then travelled to France and Switzerland for further professional courses. In Geneva, I made my first short documentary about the Egyptian novelist Bahaa Taher, a left-wing activist who lost his job in the broadcasting sector during the Sadat era, recently returned to Egypt, and won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2008. Next, I turned my gaze to society, particularly to injustice in its different forms. In 2000, I released The Thorns, a documentary about violence against women, whether at the hand of husbands or fathers and brothers.