September 19, 2014

More good news: Transit Game will have its Middle East premiere at the Beirut International Film Festival on October 2nd @ 7:15pm and October 4th @ 5:00pm. The festival boasts an amazing line-up of short films, documentaries and features from the Middle East and beyond. Very exciting to take part in BIFF 2014 and premiere Transit Game to Beirut audiences next month!

To view the complete festival program, CLICK HERE.



September 10, 2014

It's official: my recently completed narrative short Transit Game will premiere in SWEDEN at the Malmo Arab Film Festival on September 29 @ 7:15pm! The film will screen as part of the short film competition and I am excited to be travelling to Malmo to attend the festival. Please check back for updates from the festival!

To view the complete Malmo Film Fest program, CLICK HERE.



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May 17, 2014

I'm happy to announce that we've released the official trailer for my upcoming short film, Transit Game on YouTube! Please check it out and if you like it, SHARE IT!!! Here's a sneak peak...



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March 25, 2014

This year, in honor of the Iranian New Year (or Norooz), I decided to attempt putting together a sofreh-ye Haft Sin -- the traditional table spread that includes various items starting with the letter "S". While some of the items were not so easy to find here in Lebanon, I managed to come up with a somewhat modified version of Haft Sin that I hope does justice to this time-honored tradition. To all those who celebrate, Sal-e No Mobarak! سال نو مبارک



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February 24, 2014

I'm happy to announce that we've launched the Official Facebook Page for my yet-to-be released short film Transit Game. Feel free to like the page and check out behind-the-scenes pics, production stills, and our official movie poster (you'll find a sneak peek below!)

I will also be posting updates on upcoming screenings so stay tuned to find out when Transit Game will be coming to a theater near you!



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February 9, 2014

While Lebanon is a small country, it has tremendous geographical diversity ranging from mountains to valleys and rivers to waterfalls, with the Mediterranean Sea lining the Western coastline from the southern tip of the country to the north. This wide range of topography is all within a relatively short drive from Beirut, thus making weekend trips always an adventure.

I recently discovered a hiking trail in the northern mountain region of Ehden, where pine and olive trees cover vast expanses of untouched land and remote villages can be seen sprinkled over the hilltops, creating picture perfect snapshots like the ones below. On some of these hikes you'll even find remnants of Lebanon's ancient past, like the Phoenician tomb I came across while hiking in Ehden.

Remarkably, the climate can jump 20 degrees when you drive from the top of the mountain to the sea only within a matter of hours. While I love exploring remote areas far from Beirut, the city's coastline has a lot to offer as well and taking long walks along the corniche will prove to be just as refreshing as hiking through hidden mountain trails. You'll find people from all walks of life strolling along the city's largest boardwalk not to mention cyclists, joggers, rollerbladers, and even people skipping.

With the recent spate of car bombings that have been dominating media coverage of Lebanon over the last few weeks, I thought I would share a different side of the country--one that often gets overlooked but is an equally important part of every day life.

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January 2, 2014

To start off the new year, I invite you to check out my recently published article on Representations of Women and Veiling with the Advent of Cinema in the Middle East, which was included in the latest issue of Offscreen.

Hope you enjoy the read~ Happy New Year!

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December 14, 2013

Winter has arrived in Lebanon and while the weather here is warmer than the subfreezing winter climate I grew up in, there is no doubt that it feels cold. Last week, heavy rain showers and near freezing temperatures replaced an otherwise mild and dry climate, and for those of us who are fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads and heating in our homes (when there aren't electricity cuts), the winter storm has been an inconvenience at most. But for thousands of refugee familes who came to Lebanon hoping to find peace and security, escaping the brutality of war was unfortunately not the last of the challenges they would face.

The reality is that many of these families currently reside in makeshift accommodations, some in refugee camps like Ein El Helwe in South Lebanon, and others in tent settlements in the Bekaa Valley and along the Syrian border. It is hard to imagine what life must be like in these camps and settlements under ordinary circumstances, but when near-freezing temperatures hit, there is no doubt that a makeshift tent is hardly enough protection against heavy rain, bitter-cold winds, and even snow. For the refugees though, there is little choice other than to brave the cold weather in hopes of surviving through the night, as one woman simply put it in this interview: "Either I will live or die."

As the holidays approach and we set out in search of the perfect gift for our parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and loved ones, it's important to realize that we are among the privileged few with more than enough of our basic needs met and that all of these added luxuries are no comparison to what a refugee living outside in a tent would give to be back in the comfort and warmth of their own homes, with the hardships of refugee life a distant memory and not a daily reality.



Image by Habib Battah originally published in The Beirut Report

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October 5, 2013

I'm back in Beirut after spending the summer on the East coast with stints in New York, Toronto, and Ottawa. Post-production on Transit Game has been coming along smoothly -- We've locked picture and are now working on sound design. I've always enjoyed this aspect of filmmaking since there are any number of directions one can take a film during post and sometimes the film you had in mind before production magically transforms into a different film altogether, while other times your idea takes shape just as you had envisioned it would. It's all part of the creative process!

I'm happy to return to Beirut just in time for the Beirut International Film Festival, which had its opening night on Thursday. I've gone to see two films so far, the Sundance award-winning drama Fruitville Station, and a compilation of short documentaries by filmmakers based in the region. I'm eager to check out Iranian Director Jafar Panahi's latest film, Parde, and perhaps another short film program over the next few days. The programming for the festival encompasses a wide range of films, including regional and international documentaries, feature narratives, and shorts, which gives audiences a good sense of developing trends in world cinema from the selection of films that were produced this past year.

As for Transit Game, I am hoping to premiere the film in early 2014 and will be posting updates here regarding upcoming screening dates and locations. Until then, feel free to check back for my usual observations, meanderings and reflections on life in Beirut. And of course, for snapshots -- like the one below -- of the city I now call home. I took this picture the other day while walking down Hamra street. Hamra is a hodgepodge of street traffic and foot traffic, being one of the only pedestrian friendly parts of the city. But what I love about it most is that it's a creative hub for filmmakers, artists, actors, and musicians, as shown in this picture of a guy playing his guitar next to a busy sidewalk. Aside from being a melting pot, the creative energy of Hamra is what makes it feel most like home.



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August 5, 2013

That's a wrap!

I'm happy to report that production of Transit Game is over and I am now getting ready to begin post-production. Overall, the shoot went extremely well and I am incredibly thankful for the dedication, energy, and enthusiasm of our cast and crew, who worked tirelessly to ensure that no shots were overlooked during a very tight production schedule. As a result of our team’s collective efforts, we managed to capture some beautiful moments that will hopefully help make the film something special. That said, I'm eager to embark on post-production and look forward to seeing the story take shape in the weeks ahead.

As is the case on most film sets, adrenaline ran high from the start of the shoot till the finish, especially since we were chasing daylight and therefore could not afford to waste a minute of time. Knowing that every second counted, the actors’ performances had to be on, even under the sweltering heat of the sun, which in Lebanon makes shooting films in July a rare undertaking. I am still in awe of the level of professionalism I witnessed among all of our actors, who did their best to make sure every take counted, even when circumstances (and the scorching hot weather) were against them.

Behind the scenes, as one of our Producers aptly noted, production functioned like a well-oiled machine. Shooting on location presents an entire set of challenges that studio shoots might not ordinarily face—from dealing with the ongoing sounds of trucks passing by (which our Sound Recorder adapted to remarkably well) to blocking traffic on both sides of the road in order to capture a complicated scene involving our child actors and several cars coming and going—all in a single take. We were fortunate to have permission from the local municipality of Kfar Hazir as well as the cooperation of a family living on the road we were filming on, who not only tolerated our crew’s presence over several days of shooting, but also graciously allowed us to use their bathroom facilities when needed. I do not know what we would have done without such cooperation and support but am indeed grateful for it, as the shoot would not have gone as smoothly as it did otherwise.

The work of our Line Producer, Abla Khoury, and the entire team at Ginger Beirut Productions was essential in the execution of this challenging production, not to mention Co-Producers Idil Ibrahim and Habib Battah, who navigated the difficulties of bringing the vision of the film to life with good humor and professionalism. This being the first narrative film I've directed in Lebanon, I am indebted to those who helped make the idea go from development to production and cannot wait to share the fruits of our labor to a wide audience once the film is completed. Until then, feel free to check out these behind-the-scenes pics and enjoy the journey that went into the making of Transit Game.

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Images by Idil Ibrahim and Habib Battah

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July 18, 2013

The countdown to production begins!

I've been spending the last couple of weeks in pre-production on my short narrative film, Transit Game, and am excited to begin filming tomorrow! This project has been over one year in the making and I'm looking forward to seeing the story come to life over the next few days.

I'm working with a host of talented cast and crew, including Abla Khoury of Ginger Beirut Productions and Idil Ibrahim of Zeila Films. Having worked mainly on documentaries over the last few years, this project serves as a return to narrative filmmaking, delving into themes of home, displacement, and exile while focusing on individuals affected by war and the struggles of refugee life.

Here's a snapshot from our rehearsal yesterday... Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes pics in the coming weeks!



Image by Idil Ibrahim

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June 30, 2013

I’ve started pre-production on my short narrative film, Transit Game, which I’m getting set to shoot here in Lebanon in July. The film tells the story of two Palestinian children who cross paths with a Syrian refugee while peddling newspapers along the side of a road. With over a million Syrian refugees now in Lebanon (almost one third of the country’s population) and the ongoing plight of Palestinians living in refugee camps with no country to return to and no path to citizenship in their host country, I hope the film will offer a humanist look at the realities of refugee life and the uncertainties it brings to those who experience it.

As part of my research, I visited Shatila refugee camp in South Beirut, home to over 12,000 Palestinians, many of whom were born and raised in the camp. Besides being overly crowded and lacking adequate services such as water and electricity, the one-square kilometer camp has a scarcity of playgrounds; thus, organizations like the Palestinian Youth Center offer space for children to play and learn in a safe environment. I visited the Youth Center and met with several children who were eager to audition for the film. I was humbled to see the level of enthusiasm the kids displayed and thankful that the staff at the Youth Center were kind enough to allow us to spend time with them.

My visit to the camp gave me a small glimpse of what life is like for thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and the hardships many Syrians now residing within the countries borders will likely encounter in the months and possibly years ahead. At a time when many countries in the region are undergoing significant political transformation, it is important to consider the human cost of war and the impact displacement will have on families and on future generations.

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June 13, 2013

I recently returned from a family trip to Turkey where I spent a week and a half with my grandfather, who we affectionately refer to as Baba Joon -- a man who, at the age of ninety-one, is as insightful and articulate as he was ten years ago, when I was filming interviews with him for my feature documentary, Khaneh Ma: These Places We Call Home. It was a beautiful time spent together, and while protests erupted in cities across the country, my family and I enjoyed a brief moment in each other's company before heading our separate ways back to Canada, Lebanon, and Iran.

Listening to Baba Joon share stories about his life, I am always impressed by his unwavering dedication to his family, community, and country. He has invested his entire life in the development of his hometown, Bojnord, now the capital of Iran's Khorasan province. For many years, he served as the head of Bojnord's city council, during which time he helped develop the city's first water pipe system and contributed to the construction of hospitals and schools, while also founding one of the city's first movie theatres, Cinema-ye Sa'adi.

He told us stories about the types of films they used to show at the cinema, some Hollywood blockbusters, others Bollywood B-movies, and a few Iranian films thrown in for good measure. At the time, Iran's film industry was still in bloom and had not yet seen the production of internationally acclaimed films that have become the hallmark of Iranian cinema today. Like the country at that time, cinema was still in development and Baba Joon was invested in the possibility of what this up-and-coming art form could bring to his city, which, as a filmmaker, I am personally grateful for.

Several decades later, Iran's film industry is recognized as being one of the world's preeminent national cinemas, Bojnord has grown from a small town into a capital city with a population of over 300 000, and my grandfather, Baba Joon, has done his best to contribute despite all the ups and downs his country has faced over the past century. As a gift, we gave him an iPad, so that he can keep up to speed on all of the latest developments, technological and otherwise. After all, my grandfather is and always will be a man who stands in support of progress, ingenuity, and possibility.

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Last photograph by Yvan Chabot

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May 14, 2013

I recently returned from a five-day trip to Jordan during which time I visited the Dead Sea, Petra, and Wadi Rum – three spectacular places that I hope to return to one day. The experience of floating effortlessly in the Dead Sea brings with it a sense of peace and serenity – its tranquil waters and unique health benefits make it easy to spend several days there (although I was only there for two).

Petra offers an incredible journey through an ancient city built entirely out of immense rose-colored stone cliffs. The scale of the city, covering several kilometers, makes it one of the most remarkable historical sites I’ve seen and definitely worth the nine-hour walking tour and leg cramps that came with it!

Finally, the magical beauty of Wadi Rum is hard to describe—arriving just in time to take in the sunset (one that gives the sunsets of Lebanon a run for its money), I was able to soak in the vast expanse of the desert with its majestic landscapes and quiet splendor.

These photographs barely do justice to the beauty and wonder of these places, but provide a glimpse into what I saw during my five days in Jordan. Feel free to check out more photographs in the Art section of my site – Hope you enjoy!

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March 24, 2013

I spent Sunday afternoon at a celebration honoring Norooz, an annual holiday marking the beginning of the New Year (and first day of spring) for Iranians, Afghanis, and many other cultures who celebrate the tradition worldwide. Norooz has its roots in Ancient Iran when Zoroastrianism was widely practiced, prior to the advent of Islam.

There are many time-honored traditions practiced even today, including an elaborate spring cleaning (Khaane Tekaani), the preparation of a beautiful table spread (Haft Sin) that displays seven items starting with the letter "S", and a day of picnicking among family and friends (Sizdah Bedar) to end off the holiday.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there would be a Norooz celebration here in Lebanon and decided to find out what it was all about. As it turns out, the holiday is also celebrated by the country's Kurdish population, which numbers over 100 000, many of whom gathered Sunday on a small strip of land near Raoche to partake in the festivities. They included traditional Kurdish music (somewhat resembling Kordi Bojnordi, the music of my mother's hometown of Bojnord), traditional Dabke-style Kurdish dancing, and of course a wide array of grilled meats and other picnic foods shared among families.

Here are some photos, capturing the day's celebration, which proved to be wonderful to take part in, even for this Iranian :) To my fellow Iranians and to all others who observe the holiday, here's wishing you a Happy New Year!

!سال نو مبارک

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January 6, 2013

One thing that captivated me upon my first visit to Lebanon was its spectacular sunsets. Everyday when the sun was about to go down, I would take a minute to watch the sky turn to various shades of crimson, yellow, red, and blue, as the sun would gradually descend over the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve started the New Year by keeping up with this tradition, welcoming the magic that each day brings by taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of how it ends. May 2013 be filled with many more beautiful sunsets…



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December 24, 2012

I’ll be spending the holidays in Beirut again this year. It is always interesting to see how the city preps for the season—Christmas lights dangle above the streets, elaborate displays decorate shop windows, and dazzling ornaments hang from oversized Christmas trees in malls packed with shoppers scrambling to purchase last-minute presents; an experience I am all too familiar with.

And despite the lack of snow on the ground, Christmas in Beirut in many ways feels reminiscent of my own memories of spending the holidays back home in Canada. Age-old Christmas carols play on repeat over the radio, in coffee shops, and shopping centers and the sense of anticipation that builds as the holiday fast approaches is as present here as I’ve experienced anywhere else.

Here is a sample of the city’s take on the tradition, with no shortage of Santas and Christmas trees to go around!

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November 22, 2012

I’ve been reading this book: a memoir chronicling New York-based journalist Salma Abdelnour’s eye-opening and bittersweet year in Beirut. As it turns out, the landlady of my building is Salma’s aunt and offered her book to me as suggested reading. It’s been fascinating to rediscover Beirut through the eyes of a fellow New York expat who lived in the very same building that I now call home.

Salma Abdelnour was born in Beirut and fled during the early years of the civil war, spending her formative years and early adult life in America, eventually establishing herself as a writer in New York City. The book begins with Salma’s decision to return to Beirut, wanting to reconnect with a place that had once been so familiar, yet had grown completely foreign during her time abroad. The story unfolds as Salma rediscovers the city and life she was forced to abandon as a child and rekindles a sense of belonging to her country of cultural origin.

I can identify with many of the themes addressed in the book, despite having no cultural or familial ties to Lebanon. The notion of creating one’s life in an unfamiliar place and trying to reestablish one’s identity and sense of self are feelings I have become well acquainted with here. In New York, the Iranian-American Diaspora community which I had become part of enabled me to establish a sense of home in a city shaped by immigrants from around the world. Somehow, connecting with my own immigrant community made a city of eight million or so inhabitants not feel so big.

But in Beirut, the presence of an Iranian Diaspora community is somewhat limited—In fact, there isn’t exactly much Iranian culture to speak of here in Lebanon beyond a handful of Persian carpet stores and billboards donning the faces of well-known Iranian political figures. That being said, it’s been a bit of a challenge to establish a sense of cultural grounding when my own culture, despite being geographically close, feels so far away.

In an effort to gain some footing here, I’ve started taking snapshots of random places around the city that I occasionally frequent—from local shops and cafés to the university campus and its surrounding streets— noticing, as time goes by, how their growing familiarity gives rise to a certain feeling of home.

Here’s a glimpse of Beirut as I’ve been seeing and experiencing it. I hope you enjoy these pics and invite you to check back for more snapshots of the city in the weeks to come!

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October 18, 2012

I’ve been living in Beirut for about a month now and am adjusting to a pace of life that would keep even the most energetic of New Yorkers on their toes. The vibrancy of the city, despite its relatively small size, is palpable--in the evenings, people of all ages fill the streets and a cacophony of sights and sounds fills the air: cars honking, motorcycles zipping through traffic, music from neighborhood bars blaring, a mixture of Arabic, French, and English spoken sometimes together in one sentence... Beirut is, indeed, a city for the senses.

I attended Share Beirut--a weekend-long conference and music festival that brought together speakers from all over the world to discuss Internet activism and creative expression in the age of digital technology and social media. The panel discussions varied from migrant workers’ rights in Lebanon to online resistance campaigns in Jordan, among other topics. The evening line-ups consisted of such local musical acts as Wanton Bishops and Beirut Groove Collective and international DJs including the London-based Fari Bradley (a fellow Iranian), all of whom brought the days activities to a celebratory end with musical styles as diverse as the panel discussions and participants.

For me, it was wonderful to see people from all across the region and from abroad converge under one roof to share ideas on the issues that most concern them, while examining the role that digital technology plays in creating new avenues of expression that transgress socio-political divides.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the weekend’s activities, which also featured an exhibition of works by local artists.



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September 10, 2012

Welcome to my official website!

Feel free to poke around and check out my latest work, including film/video, photography, and visual art. I'm happy to be building a creative community that fosters multi-disciplinary artistic practices and am eager to use this site as a platform to present new work and keep people up-to-date on my latest creative projects.

To begin, I'm excited to be returning to Lebanon this fall as a Visiting Instructor at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. Alongside teaching courses in film theory and production, I will be developing my short narrative film, Transit Game, and collaborating with journalist/filmmaker Habib Battah on the feature-length documentary, Return to the Valley of Jews, based on Battah's award-winning article. I spent four months in Lebanon last year, which gave me a taste of the country's fascinating culture and rich history and additionally sparked ideas for new work. As an Iranian-Canadian-American, I'm compelled to promote dialogue and cultural understanding between the Middle East and the West and am currently focusing on creative projects that will fuel this effort.

Stay tuned for future updates on these projects and on my adventures in Lebanon this fall!

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All images © Anna Fahr unless otherwise noted{image 143}