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Beirut Fest Mission Impossible: Make Films not War

After a two-year hiatus caused by war and political unrest, the Beirut International Film Festival had made an unexpected return October 4-11 thanks to the efforts of the Lee & Gund Foundation, which is sponsoring it in conjuction with the launch of the foundation’s new initiative:

During the darkest days of the summer, it seemed unlikely that the festival would take place at all. With the Beirut airport closed, the country blockaded, and infrastructure destroyed, it seemed likely to be postponed until better days were at hand. But, as foundation president George Gund explained, that made it all the more important that the festival go on this year, as an affirmation of the resilience of the people of Lebanon, as well as an act of resistance to war.

“Cultural resistance is as important as any resistance,” said Iara Lee. “We decided to come forward when we saw all these rich Lebanese supporting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art and thought, why not the Beirut International Film Festival? Rather than point fingers we decided to help out. It's not just about funding though. Film can be a great catalyst.”

In tandem with the Beirut festival, the foundation has launched Make Films Not War. Grounded in the universal principles of human rights, the campaign works in cooperation with filmmakers, human rights advocates, diplomats, academics, and others to devise bold and creative strategies to foster dialogue and to create nonviolent alternatives to armed conflict. It has also established a Conflict Zone Film Fund that will provide support for film projects that engage talented and politically aware filmmakers from opposing sides of the world's diverse conflict situations. A statement issued by MFNW calling for diplomacy and political engagement has been endorsed by prominent directors, actors, and other film professionals.

The Beirut International Film Festival opened on October 4 with Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's eagerly anticipated new film “Volver,” starring Penelope Cruz. This year’s line up includes such critically acclaimed new films as Stephen Frears’ “The Queen,” starring Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen; Bent Hamer's “Factotum,” starring Matt Dillon, Lily Taylor and Marisa Tomei; and “Paris, je t’aime,” a collective homage to the City of Light directed by Gus Van Sant, Alfonso Cuaron, Gerard Depardieu, and others. More than two dozen other films from the Middle East and around the world round out the program, which closes on October 11 with Egyptian director Marwan Hamed's popular and controversial “The Yacoubian Building.”

After Beirut, the Make Films Not War campaign will be taken to other cities around the world, including Jerusalem, Teheran, and Lahore, to encourage dialogue and creative alternatives to war.

For more about Make Films Not War, please see For more about the Beirut International Film Festival, please see

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