Philippe Aractingi, renowned Franco-Lebanese director, was born and raised in a war-ridden Beirut, a time that’s made a big impact on his art. For an impressionable soul, who got his first camera at 8 years old, it was the place to be, a place where both happy and hurtful memories were created. Growing up he created his own specific approach to photography and directing, as no film schools existed in Lebanon at the time. Beirut became his own movie set.
After releasing hist first war documentary at 20 years old, he moved to Paris in ’89 and managed to create 40 documentaries in the following years, filming in places throughout France and Morocco, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Mongolia and Egypt.
He released musical comedy Bosta in 2005, a brilliant and fresh perspective of the post-war life in Lebanon, showing the resilient spirit of its people. The movie really made a buzz, shifting public perception and shining a light on the promising Lebanese movie industry.
His second feature film, Under the Bombs, was filmed with only two actors in the midst of the turmoil in 2006, when the war erupted again. mixing both improvised and scripted scenes. The movie included a lot of improvised scenes and took international festivals by storm, including Venice, Sundance and Dubai, winning a total of 23 awards.
Both Bosta and Under the Bombs were the only Lebanese entries in the 2006 & 2008 Oscar ceremonies.
Later, Philippe continued with other artistic experiments like Heritages (2014) an autobiographical movie, a collage that came to life through his home video and photo archive, showcasing a combination of heartfelt emotion on subjects like family & exile, a movie is currently being taught in schools and universities as a case study.
This was followed by Ismaii/Listen in 2017, a beautiful story that shows that love is a form of survival for Lebanese people.
We are proud to have him today for our Love&LOBBY Lebanese Edition!
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR SOUL SING? WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
A world with no conflict. Music, harmony and love. It is unfortunate to say that I have been in surroundings that are not always adequate for such simple things.
A CHILDHOOD STORY THAT ANNOUNCED THE CREATIVE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY
When my father gave me my first photo camera, I was around 8 years old. I used to play close to the Roman ruins in Beit Mery in the mountain of Lebanon and I took my first ever pictures over there. I even took some selfies, while at that time they weren’t called “selfies”.
Another fond creative moment was when I started playing the piano. Although I didn’t carry on with it, I think it’s the combination of image and music that announced for me the creative path that I should take.
BEST CONTEXT EVER FOR INSPIRATION WAS
Definitely Brazil, Terry Gilliam’s film was a great inspiration. Also Fellini’s film. Entering his world was a great inspiration.
THE PROJECT YOU LOVED MOST
Hard question to answer, as I love them all. I do love the films that I’ve done when I was younger. Back then, I also went to all sorts of places, like Mongolia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Egypt. I had the chance of doing films on giraffes, on archeology, on acrobats in Morocco. I also love my feature films which brought me into another world.
The movie I maybe cherish the most is Heritage because it is an autobiographical story and it includes everyone dear to me, my family and children. All my films are like my kids, dear to me, you can’t compare one to another.
THE PROJECT OTHERS LOVED MOST
Well, it’s very interesting because you can see the sensitivity, how the personality of the people you are with when they tell you about your own films. I have friends who like Under the bombs very much. This film I feel has really succeeded over in the west. A lot of Lebanese prefer Bosta. Most of my close environment, whether it is friends or people that I know, like Heritage. This film was recently broadcasted in Lebanon and a huge amount of people founded themselves in it.
A lot of people dislike my latest film, Listen, yet I have a few dear people that I know that consider it my best film, so truly I have no idea which project is the most loved one. I can tell you by numbers in the box office, yet it doesn’t mean anything. In the box office, Bosta was most loved in Lebanon, Under the bombs was most loved in the world, since it was distributed in 30 countries, and Heritage is film that is thought in 30 schools and 3 different university including Boston College. Listen, was banned everywhere else because of its sensual scenes.
THE BEST THING ABOUT LEBANESE CREATIVITY IS
Its sense of humor.
BEST STATEMENT OF LEBANESE HUMOR
Every culture has its particular humor.
BEST PLACE IN BEIRUT
Quite difficult to answer this one since the explosion. If I say any place, it would be before this event, this wound, where all the healing needs to take place.
BEST PLACE IN LEBANON
The cedars of Barouk, probably my place in Beit Mery where I used to play when I was a child.
MOST DISTURBING CLICHÉ ABOUT LEBANON, IN THE MEDIA OUTLETS OF THE WORLD IS
The Swiss of the Middle East.
LEBANON SHOULD BE KNOWN FOR
YOUR VIEWS ON MONEY
It’s a tool.
AN INSPIRATION SOURCE YOU RECOMMEND FOR A YOUNG CREATIVE
I would recommend The first films of Borhan Alaoui, to read Gebran Khalil Gebran in Arabic, to see the first films of Georges Nasser, to read a lot about the history of Lebanon.
We encourage you to further explore Philippe Aractingi’s work on the site of his own production company, Fantascope, by clicking here.