The documentary short film Homeland Gone, available on Guidedoc since August 2020, tells us about the reality of Lebanon, a country in the midst of a volatile moment that had an unfortunate climax with the Behirut explosion at the beginning of the month. In the following exclusive interview, director Laura Lavinia tells us about her experience making “Homeland Gone”.
Guidedoc: How did you conceive the making of this short film and what was your relationship with the reality of Lebanon before making it?
Laura Lavinia: Years ago my partner Alberto Rodriguez and I went to Syria. We wanted to return to the country to make a documentary. In (the production company) 14 Millimetros we talk a lot about the Middle East, and one of the reasons we founded it was to tell about the Syrian conflict and regional issues.
Not only talking about war, but also creating a socio-cultural link between Spain and Latin America with the Sham (the Levantine region of the Middle East). So when the situation broke out, we were aware of what was happening in Lebanon. My colleague Alberto, as well as a camera operator and scriptwriter, is an journalist focused in the Middle East, so he kept an eye on the situation. Of course, something that people do not know is that Lebanon was a second option sample.
The first was Syria, but when we saw that the protests worsened and the currency collapsed, we realized that we had to tell what was happening ... but not us, as can be expected from journalists with a specialized media in the area, but we wanted it to be explained by the population itself.
We wanted to look for different looks and find what they all had in common. When we arrived to the country and took advantage of, we had several contacts, friends and colleagues -among them Jaime Rufino-, we all began together to build what is today Homeland Gone.
If I'm honest, doing the documentary was absolutely crazy. We had to improvise and adjust to the day to day constantly. Sometimes we would leave at 3 in the morning to record because there were riots, then we would come back, we would sleep a few hours and we would go to interview or cover the daytime protests, but that's how we got interviews.
Sometimes, due to external events, we missed an interview or the whole plan and we had to find solutions in the shortest possible time because we had limited shooting days. Even so, we wanted all the interviews to have their own soul, to convey what words cannot.
We were aware that we were indies but convinced that this would not prevent us from doing a good job.
Guidedoc: What were the challenges of making this short film considering the tense situation in Lebanon?
Laura Lavinia: For us it has been a great challenge to making the documentary itself; Starting from the fact that we did it with very few people, we arrived in Lebanon to learn more about the conflict that was brewing, but when we arrived we saw that there were many points of views to be told and that it was not a problem but an accumulation of them and a loss of identity that we later develop in the documentary.
At the time of the shooting we found ourselves in the expected compromised situation. However, much of the time we had the support of the Lebanese people who delightedly told us the different points of view of why the protests and what the country's problems really were, not just the fuse that was lit. A challenge was the time limitation. We had a month to organize everything and record.
Working without time limit, looking for testimonies, accompanying protesters and activists, being present almost daily at protests, with meetings regardless of how far or near they were... but that is something we are already used to, because we do it whenever we go out with the gear on our shoulders.
When it comes to a young project like ours, we don't understand the concept of settling for just any basic nor random interview. We were looking for the ones that transmitted us the most. We got that strength so we didn't need to rest thanks to our 14Milimetros followers, who supported us and were aware of our every move.
The truth is that there are always going to be challenges, and even more when the person you address to is someone young without resources to spare, because everything will be impediments; But when creativity, daily work, attention to detail and a great team that cannot be replaced come together, documentaries like Homeland Gone come out.
Guidedoc: The Beirut explosion has unfortunately been an event that has draw international attention to Lebanon, what consequences this event can have on the Lebanon´s near future. Does this mean something? What should we expect?
Laura Lavinia: The explosion spells the end of all hope for Lebanon if changes are not made quickly. Yes, the government has been dissolved and now there is one in office, but there is still no date for the elections, and as long as the confessional law is not eliminated, the population will continue to vote based on their religion, reproducing the same problems that have led to today's division. Elections under the same conditions as those of today will only yield the usual results.
For months we can expect a status quo that will accumulate tension in the country. How much more pressure can they take? That is already very difficult to predict, and while war is a highly unlikely scenario, it is not impossible either.
Guidedoc: How has the reaction to the film been inside and outside Lebanon. What do you expect of the resonance that the film could have elsewhere?
Laura Lavinia: Reactions to the documentary have been very positive. The audience really liked it. Our fans have loved it. We have received great reviews and we have debuted in festival season with two wins and two selections.
I hope this is only the beginning, because we are still awaiting the results of the majority in which we have presented. In Lebanon, people who have watched it have liked it because we show different points of view.
I consider our documentary a good introduction to Lebanon for those who want to delve into the society, economy and system. It is a wonderful country that cannot be understood without listening to it. Without listening to the truth of those who live in it.
There are many people interested in Lebanon either from the West or the Arab world. I would love that can especially learn from it. I understand that we cannot always have good reviews, but I am left with one that we received from one of our followers: He told us that the documentary managed to bring back great memories of her Lebanese mother, who moved to Spain after the war. That brought back great memories to her. That is what we are looking for.
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