A powerful new feature documentary IN THE SHADOW OF BEIRUT, from the same team that produced Sundance 2019 selection GAZA, received its World Premiere at the prestigious Doc Edge Festival in New Zealand on June 1st 2023 where it picked up three awards. The film will continue to be presented at festivals worldwide. In the Shadow of Beirut is a searing, 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. Executive Producers include Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Siobhan Sinnerton for Global Studio HiddenLight.
Filmed over four years with unique access to the families within these largely no-go areas for outsiders and co-directed by Stephen Gerard Kelly (debut film) and 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.
The film is produced by Brendan J Byrne of Cyprus Avenue Films (UK), Myriam Sassine of Abbout Productions (Lebanon), Christian Beetz of Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion (Germany) and Alison Toomey of Real Films (Ireland).
Commenting on her becoming involved with the film Myriam Sassine of Abbout Productions, Lebanon explains: “I was approached by a team of Irish filmmakers who had a throve of poverful footage from the neighbourhoods of Sabra and Shatila, some of the toughest parts of Beirut, and invited to become a producer on this film. I remain deeply impressed and genuinely moved by how the filmmakers approached and filmed people with both sensitivity and respect. The film captures the stark realities of poverty faced by families every day, highlighting the humanity and kindness and how people continue to live, love and hope in the face of overwhelming adversity. The filmmakers’ dedication to immersing themselves in the community is evident throughout the film, and the deep connection to the families shines through in every frame. This film is a must watch for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the human cost of the ongoing multifaceted crisis, and a powerful window in a rarely seen world, even by Lebanese people living in Lebanon.”
Siobhan Sinnerton, SVP Unscripted, HiddenLight Productions, says: “In the Shadow of Beirutis a powerful story of resilience and hope in the face of hardship and uncertainty. It has been many years in the making and we are incredibly proud to be helping to bring this important film to the screen.
Co-Director Stephen Gerard Kelly adds: “Spending 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 hope and immense pride, which this film aims to elevate at the same time showing the quiet heroism of people who allowed me into their lives.”
In the Shadow of Beirut receives its World Premiere on Thursday June 1st at The Capitol Cinema, Auckland, New Zealand. Further confirmed festivals include Docs Ireland (Belfast) in June and the Galway Film Fleadh (July).