Some argue that the level of academic experience, techniques and skills that the Syrian artists brought with them was much higher than what had previously existed in Lebanon. For example, the Syrians introduced the concept of the ‘dramaturge’ – a literary editor who liaises with playwrights and researches, edits and interprets scripts.
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Jaber concluded, “I think the most important achievement of the Metro was that it gave hope that something good can be done and that real art can be presented, which has brought life back to art in Lebanon and allowed theatres to compete with cinemas. We dreamed of creating an oasis in a city full of problems, exploiting the margins of freedom that the city has. This is in addition to restoring to the art makers their confidence in the audience and allowing them to take chances and produce art based on revenues. This audience will find its way to true art in a scene that is full of many other colours.”
Organizers of the Byblos International Festival yielded to pressure from church officials, politicians and online groups who accused the locally grown and internationally acclaimed band Mashrou’ Leila of dishonouring Christian symbols and promoting homosexuality. Following several threats of violence, the organizers announced on 30 July that the show scheduled for 9 August would be cancelled to ‘prevent bloodshed and maintain security and stability’.
The campaign against Mashrou’ Leila, has expectedly received much attention due to the band’s popularity in Lebanon, the region, and the world. It has also served the purpose of covering what little solidarity there was among the Lebanese population with the rightful protests by Palestinians in the country or diverting attention from the mistreatment and forceful return of Syrian refugees.
Social media has been full of videos depicting the abuse of Syrian children, including a video showing a Lebanese man encouraging his son to beat a Syrian child, another video of a man insulting and torturing a Syrian child, as well as reports of human trafficking, prostitution and drug networks that exploit the circumstances of displaced persons. However, the hate speech against Syrians has escalated in recent months as politicians and other officials have blamed Syrians for the unemployment and economic crises facing Lebanon.
The negotiations come at a highly sensitive time in the region, with Iran and the US facing off in the Gulf and escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed armed group and political party Hezbollah. On 19 June, Israel organized its largest military drill in years, with thousands of army, navy and air force troops simulating a potential conflict with Hezbollah.
Yet, politics is only one of the various aspects framing Lebanon’s museum culture. A quick overview of the existing landscape highlights the importance of private initiatives and a significant reliance of cultural heritage preservation on the goodwill of a few wealthy families and individuals. This contrasts with the alleged absence of the state in the field of culture, although the national museum of Beirut has attained international recognition, with, for instance, its participation in April 2018 in the fourth edition of the Global Museum Leaders Colloquium, hosted by the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
With Lebanon hosting well over a million refugees, Labaki said that the sights of begging street children compelled her to produce a film about their daily reality. Motivated to expose their ordeal, Labaki spent four years building relationships with Beirut’s most marginalized families. On her journey, she saw the dark confines where refugees and undocumented persons languish.