MENA-based leading independent film distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment has inked a deal with Australian production company Dream Creations International for the distribution rights of the explosive documentary Enough! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour.
Enough! is a much needed expose into the corruption and criminal negligence which have lead to the unraveling of Lebanon, one of the most beautiful countries on earth and the birthplace of some of the most resilient people in the world. Personally, Beirut has always been a dream destination for me, and I found it both glamorous and incredibly welcoming. But since 2019, Lebanon seems to be under siege. Bad politics, corrupt financial deals and what Lebanese-born Australian filmmaker Daizy Gedeon calls a kind of "Ponzi scheme" -- enabled by the large diaspora living outside the country to keep their relatives living in Lebanon afloat -- have created a perfect storm of chaos, disaster and tragedy. First, a catastrophic garbage crisis in 2018, then there was the revolution and the global justice movement that was triggered in 2019 among the locals and the diaspora, followed (or rather always accompanied by) the financial crisis, and finally, the explosion of August 4th, 2020 -- right in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic. It seems the Lebanese people cannot catch a break.
But there is a small glimmer of hope in the somewhat near future, a parliamentary election scheduled in May 2022 and that is what Gedeon aims to address with her haunting film. This election could potentially be make-or-break for the future of the tiny Mediterranean country. Key in this will be the Lebanese expat vote –- with an estimated 16 million people, Lebanon has one of the largest diasporas in the world. The majority are divided between Latin America, the US, Canada and Australia and in fact, living in Lebanon today are only 4 million Lebanese, a quarter of their diaspora.
Enough! Lebanon's Darkest Hour tackles many of Lebanon’s challenging issues including deep state corruption, mismanagement of government institutions and infrastructure, embezzlement of funds, and the political actors and parties behind the country’s collapse over the post-war decades, culminating in the tragic August 4 port explosion that left over 200 civilians and civil servants dead and countless others injured and destitute. The documentary recently won the Better World Fund and Filmfestivals.com "Movie That Matters Award 2021" in Cannes. Provided it passes censorship in Lebanon, the feature is set for a Lebanese theatrical premiere date this October followed by the rest of the Middle-East and a string of international territories throughout the fall and a streaming release in February 2022. Dream Creations and Front Row will be submitting the documentary to the Lebanese censorship board in the coming week. It is also scheduled to take part in a few upcoming film festivals, including the Beirut Karama Human Rights Festival from 23-26 September, the Chelsea Film Festival in New York on 14 October and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on 5th November.
An Arabic dubbed version of the documentary will also be available to watch. Dubbing will be provided by the Operation Unicorn team of Nathalie Masri and Wissam Matar. Masri is a popular Lebanese vlogger and runs Coffee Break, one of the region’s top-rated podcasts, and Matar is Managing Director at Unicorn.
Filmmaker Gedeon stated: “The diaspora are the sleeping giant. If we play our cards right we could be a powerful force for change and influence a decisive shift in the balance of power away from the political elite who have abused the people, the country and the diaspora for more than 40 years.
“The problem is they know it and they are doing everything in their power to silence the millions of expats. They want us to just keep sending money to our relatives to prop up their Ponzi scheme and just keep our mouths shut. Well, we won’t because we have had Enough!" added Gedeon.
Throughout the film, Gedeon offers damning evidence of state-level criminal corruption through incisive interviews with whistle-blower, former Director General of the Ministry of Finance, Alain Bifani and through unique first-hand accounts as she interviews several of the country’s leading powerbrokers including MP Gebran Bassil (Minister of Telecommunications, Minister of Energy and Water 2009-2014, Minister of Foreign Affairs 2015 - 2020), Ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Samir Geagea (Executive Chairman of the Lebanese Forces Party), Mohammed Fneich (Hezbollah party member, Minister of Sports and Youth) and much maligned central bank governor Riad Salameh.
Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra said: “For us, Enough! is not only a fascinating expose on the deeply entrenched corruption that has crippled Lebanon, but also a key message to encourage viewers who can vote to go out there and do their part. The Lebanese diaspora counts over 14.5-16 mil Lebanese, 1.5 mil of which are only in the US and the majority (circa 8 mil) throughout Latin America.
“Australia alone counts 400,000 but around 1 mil identify as Lebanese. The people now have a chance to save themselves and the nation in the upcoming elections and we sincerely hope that this documentary will help achieve that.” Chakra concluded.
Explaining the choice of distributors in the Region, Gedeon added: "We found Front Row to be a socially conscious company that encouraged us further to get our message out through this film beyond the commercial scope. That was the most important thing to us."
The filmmaker also explained the leading purpose of the film, which aims to unite and organize the Lebanese people for the upcoming vote: “We need everyone to get out and vote, the Lebanese in Lebanon but especially the expats. But the expats MUST register to vote first and there in only a small window between now and the 20th of November 2021 for them to do that or they will lose the chance to assert real change,” Ms Gedeon stated. “I also encourage all expats and any person Lebanese or non-Lebanese who believes in democracy, justice and human rights to sign the petition for free and fair elections in Lebanon in 2022.”
The deal was negotiated by Non-Theatrical sales director Carine Chaiban and CEO Gianluca Chakra for Front Row and Daizy Gedeon and producer Ronny Mouawad for Dreams Creations International. Front Row Filmed Entertainment is a leading independent film distribution company that acquires all rights for distribution in the Middle East and North Africa based in Dubai (UAE) and with offices in Kuwait and Lebanon. Front Row was launched in 2003 by Gianluca & Michel Chakra and currently boasts a film library of close to 1,000 titles. The company is also partnered with Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC) and KSA’s leading cinema chain, MUVI CINEMAS under the banner of Front Row Arabia. Recently, they have released The Father, starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, this year's Cannes opener Annette and The Green Knight starring Dev Patel. Their upcoming slate includes Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter, premiering this week at the Venice Film Festival and Sean Penn’s Flag Day.