Yasmina Hatem

Film committee says no to "The Attack"

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Picture from Ziad Doueiri Facebook Page
Photo via facebook

After working six years on the script, securing the funding and finally being able to make “The Attack,” Lebanese Director Ziad Doueiri has found his controversial film under attack.


After having been selected at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, and having won the Special Jury Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain and the Golden Star at the Marrakesh Film Festival, the film had a high chance of being nominated for the Foreign Film category at the Oscars this year, said Doueiri. There is just one catch: In order to submit a movie to the Oscars, it must be sent in as an official selection from its country of origin – in this case, Lebanon.


And so in October 2012, Doueiri presented his film to Culture Minister Gaby Layoun, who handed it over to the Cinema Committee. But “The Attack” was rejected. “First, they said it was because wasn’t Lebanese enough,” said Doueiri. “And then it was because it wasn’t shot in Lebanon and has Israeli actors in it.”


The film, which is based on Yasmina Khadra’s French-language novel by the same name (L’Attentat), is the story of an Arab surgeon living and working in Tel Aviv. After a bomb attack in a Jewish restaurant, the surgeon finds out his wife is the prime suspect. “I was told  by Focus Features, a division of Universal Studio, that the film It’s too pro-Palestinian for Americans and too pro-Israeli for Europeans,” explains Doueiri. But as a filmmaker, he believes he should be judged for his film’s quality, not politics. In the end, the US company pulled out of the project a few months prior to the start of filming, and Jean Brehat and Rachid Bouchareb, the French producers of Doueiri’s previous film, "West Beirut," took the project.


Emile Chahine, a Lebanese film critic and professor, is on the committee that refused to submit the film to the Oscars. “Whenever we are sending a movie to represent Lebanon, it has to be shot in Lebanon, and dealing with a Lebanese subject,” he told NOW. “The committee saw that the movie didn’t tackle a Lebanese subject, and we don’t know about the Oscars rules and how to classify a movie as Lebanese.” The committee agreed it was “unnecessary to send a movie representing Lebanon that has a Lebanese director but has nothing Lebanese in it.”


However, the Academy Awards’ rules, which are easily accessible on their website, do not specify that a movie submitted to the Foreign Film category has to be about the country of origin or to be shot there. In fact, two of the three movies nominated in the category this year (Austrian film “Amour” and Canadia film “Rebelle”) do not take place in the countries that submitted them. In the case of “The Attack,” it would suffice that Doueiri and his co-screenwriter Joelle Touma are both Lebanese.


Doueiri says his choice of location was a logical one, as 60 percent of the film takes place in Israel, and it would be very difficult to recreate that kind of exterior, though he did first scout for locations in Cyprus, Turkey and Tunisia. As for his choice of actors, he said, “I couldn’t very well hire Egyptians to play Israelis. That would be ridiculous and not believable. Today, audience demands a minimum amount of authenticity. And Palestinian and Israelis work side-by-side every day. Why do we have to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians?”


The director insists that while his film might be politically controversial, it still deserves artistic recognition. “If they had told me they don’t want to submit the film because it’s lousy, I would’ve understood,” he said.


Chahine, however, insists the decision to not submit the film wasn’t politicized, adding, “On the artistic level, the movie is excellent and Doueiri doesn’t need our recommendation.”


“As filmmakers, we don’t get any help at all from the Lebanese government,” said Doueiri. “And not only do they not help, but also put obstacles in our way.”


If a Lebanese film had been nominated at the Oscars, he said, “It would’ve been a huge boost, not just for me but for everyone in the Lebanese movie industry.”


Read this article in Arabic 

Additional reporting by Yara Chehayed

Marrakesh International Film Festival, The Attack wins Golden Star

As filmmakers, we don’t get any help at all from the Lebanese government,” said Doueiri. “And not only do they not help, but also put obstacles in our way.”

  • Peace maker

    I have not watched this movie, however I have a good hunch that it is a good movie and I wish it qualified and WON. Anyway, this is our Beloved Lebanon, Art cannot compete with politics. On the other hand , as I salute the movie maker , I question the reason why did He not try to tell the world through his camera about all the important issues that are in Lebanon's best interest and highest priorities. God Bless Lebanon and All the Lebanese. As the Christ said LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY . Blessings to All

    March 2, 2013

  • george.chahine.509

    I have a story that fits in the same shameful category ..do you know that if you are an athlete presenting your country " Lebanon or the Arab world " in the Olympic games, and if for some reason you have to face an Israeli "individual or a team " you have to withdraw to leave the place for them to win. Imagine how hard an athlete have to work and get ready to compete at the world stadium,... just to makes it there, is a huge honor and devotion and skills ..so here you are, the hero at all levels trying to represent your country to win the golden medal, but than if you are faced by an Israeli opponent you can only leave him the place to win ..and this is a law , not only a mistake or misjudgement of a person. It is a heart breaking news not to give a chance for Ziad one of the best Lebanese film maker to reach the Oscar and if the reason was that the movie is not Lebanese , hey guess what " at least the Palestinians and the Israelis have a cause , what is the Lebanese cause ?

    February 26, 2013

  • LSahab

    When its a Lebanese film...In this case its not..

    February 25, 2013

  • Rolfen

    Lebanese talent put on life support by France to save it. Thank you "Lebanon" for nothing.

    February 24, 2013

  • zalfa.rustom.chehab

    what is this committee? who is part of it? what are their qualifications? is there a serious gap between the scholars and the people coming from the movie industry inside the committee? were there any recent unjustified evictions? the committee plays the role of a consultant. Only the minister can legally refuse to send the movie to the Oscars. Who is this minister? what are his achievements in culture? he is starting to have a serious list of failures, the last one being the ATTACK. what are the relations/ contradictions/ plans he has with the censorship bureau? which party do they both follow in politics? what does this Heckel and Jeckel policy mean? According to Ziad Doueiri not one single word has been censored and the movie hopefully will be aired in Lebanon in March....so why not an oscar again? more news on the Attack under attack please....

    February 24, 2013

  • nadm abouzeid

    such a shame that our gov is tearing down such creative individuals instead of providing all the support they need, specially for reasons like that. Ziad you are a creator, i hope this will not put you down, we support you.

    February 24, 2013

  • ellytwoweeks

    Good job girls :) it is interesting to remind the readers that according to Ziad Doueiri the censorship bureau didn’t even censor one word of the film. The director hopes The Attack will be released in March. Lebanese will enjoy watching a full version of The Attack. The media will be free to praise it or hate it but Ziad Doueri will not win an Oscar as a Lebanese director What about who's who and what did this committee achieve and who are its members ? were there any recent changes , unjustified evictions without warnings? and what are the culture minister 's achievements... in culture? whose party is he in? and about the censorship bureau? what does it stand for and who is behind it?...and how come they took contradictory moral decisions on The Attack? is it a coincidence or not? Cheers

    February 24, 2013

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    I have the answer: Doueiri did not bribe (enough?) the corrupt political cronies and appointees on the Lebanese garbage cinema committee. Also, I find it highly strange that the reason cited by the committee is that the film was not very Lebanese. Did anyone notice that no one seemed to care that Mr. Doueiri was not arrested and convicted of treason for "dealing with the enemy"? For Mr. Doueiri to hire Israelis and shoot in Israel alone constitutes treason (according to the shashma =toilet laws of Hezbollah's Lebanon), but in my opinion is an accomplishment for which Mr. Doueiri should be given a Nobel Prize for tearing down barriers between Lebanon and Israel.

    February 24, 2013

  • eddy.nahas

    Ziad, if you hold a secondary nationality, please go ahead and submit it as film from the country of the other that you have. "Nul prophète n'est reconnu dans son pays"

    February 23, 2013

  • Phil؟

    No official authority in Lebanon has the slightest degree of competence. It'a rotten system from within, posing as a state, while in fact it is as failed as hell. Ziad, you continue to make us proud. Keep up the great work.

    February 23, 2013

  • Metnman

    What can I say? They are utter Morons. If the committee didn't "know about the Oscars rules and how to classify a movie as Lebanese", it should not be a committee.

    February 23, 2013