(LOS ANGELES, CA) — “Arab Films provide a sense of empowerment to the Arab community, especially to our youth…They help generate a sense of pride of who we are and invite us to embrace our cultural identity.” Serge Bakalian, Arab Film Festival Executive Director.
The Arab American Film Festival is sponsoring House of Lebanon “Beyond Borders” Film Screenings, to be featured during our 2014 “Beyond Borders” Art Exhibition Opening Reception weekend (Saturday, October 18, 5:00pm – 9:00pm and Sunday, October 19, 9:30am – 5:00pm).
“Screening Lebanese and Arab films is one of “Beyond Borders” Art Exhibition highlights,” said Karen Srour, House of Lebanon Executive Director. “House of Lebanon realizes the power of films in depicting Lebanon’s culture and telling its unique story.” From here stems the partnership with the Arab Film Festival who will present a selection of Lebanese shorts during “Beyond Borders” Art Exhibition Opening Reception weekend. “We thank the Arab Film Festival for their sponsorship.”
“It is a great opportunity to be able to partner with the House of Lebanon,” said Serge Bakalian, Executive Director of Arab Film Festival. “Lebanese modern films are part of a larger emerging talents of the Arab film industry and are a powerful tool in promoting Lebanon’s culture. House of Lebanon is the first Lebanese American Cultural center of its kind in the USA. We are happy to support its mission of preserving the Lebanese culture. Featuring Lebanese films will enhance the guests’ cultural experience.”
With an international standing, the Arab Film Festival is considered one of the most important showcases of Arab cinema outside the Arab world.”Our mission is to present an alternative perspective of Arabs and to show the beauty and diversity of the Arab world. Arab films give Arabs a strong voice to tell their own story and present their reality as they see it through their own lenses,” said Bakalian. “In their different genres,” he added, “Arab films are a powerful and accessible egalitarian medium that can reach a broader audience and make an impact.”
In addition, featuring Arab films “serves dual purpose,” said Bakalian. On one hand, “they introduce and educate the non-Arab audience about the diversity of the Arab world cultures, which are lumped together and presented as one in the American mainstream media. Exposing non-Arab audience to messages and stories featured in Arab films helps influence and reshapes mainstream American culture’s misconceptions of Arabs and deconstructs negative stereotypes.” On the other hand, “Arab films introduce the diverse Arab audience to each other. Arab people have different cultures, religions, customs, food, and dialect depending on their country of origin. Through Arab films, they get introduced to each other’s cultures and customs.”
Moreover, “Arab films provide a sense of empowerment to the Arab American community, especially to our youth.” Bakalian used his own personal story to elaborate his point. “I was born and raised in Lebanon. I came to the USA at the age of ten. Growing up, I was shocked at how the American media represents and portrays Lebanon and the Arab world through the issues it focuses on. It was all about violence, war, and conflict. I didn’t see the beauty of our culture being represented, which made me, as a youth, disassociate myself from my Lebanese origin and upbringing. It wasn’t until my college years, after I saw the Lebanese film “West Beirut”, that I was re-connected with my roots. The film empowered me and helped me embrace my Lebanese identity. I related to the story, the neighborhood, and the characters. That’s the power of films. They help generate a sense of pride of who we are and invite us to embrace our cultural identity.”
Ultimately, films may open up a dialogue and pave a path to intercultural communications and understanding. “They connect viewers on a different level by helping them transcend cultural barriers and encourage us to overcome our differences and see our commonalties as human beings,” concluded Bakalian.