Film Initiative Anchored in the Middle East

INTERNATIONAL. The Danish-Lebanese film initiative Cinema on the Road is bringing great movie experiences to Syrian and Lebanese children and teens. For many of them, it is the first time they have ever seen a film, says Khadije Nasser, who is connected to the project via the Danish Embassy in Beirut.

Can Danish films for children and teens make a difference in the Middle East? Can Danish experiences using film and media in the classroom be put to use in conflict and crisis-ridden regions?

Film creates a free space for children who know the seriousness of real life all too well – Khadije Nasser, Danish Embassy in Beirut

For refugee children, getting a first taste of the magical world of cinema through films like the Danish shorts "Helium" and "The Fantastic 3," and a chance to reflect on the plot and the filmic language afterwards, can have a big impact.

Cinema on the Road

Today, more than a million Syrian refugees are living in Lebanon. In addition are the many Palestinian refugees.

As part of the Cinema on the Road initiative, film screenings will be held at refugee camps and informal tented settlements, as well as at public schools across Lebanon. In connection with the screenings, children and teens, together with adult volunteers, will discuss and analyse the films' themes and reflect on the films' form and content.

The project is developed in partnership by the Danish Embassy in Beirut, Metropolis Art Cinema and the Danish Film Institute. The Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces is supporting the project financially.

The Danish Film Institute is a member of the Danish government's International Culture Panel, which has among its target areas the Middle East and young audiences.

The DFI has experience from other international film projects, including in Palestine, Syria, Brazil, Tanzania and Uganda.

"Film creates a free space for children who know the seriousness of real life all too well. They allow themselves to be carried away by the film's stories. Even if the stories are set far from their own reality, they have no problem identifying with the characters," says Khadije Nasser on behalf of the Danish Embassy in Beirut, who is presenting the Cinema on the Road initiative in partnership with the Danish Film Institute and the Beirut-based cinema and distributor Metropolis Art Cinema. The project also has the participation of several local NGOs.

Films showing in refugee camps

Starting in January 2017, Cinema on the Road, for the second year running, will be showing films for children and teens at Syrian and Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon. The film festival My Film Fest is returning, too. For the fourth year running, films will also be screened to public school students in other areas of the country.

"Films have a huge untapped potential as a teaching tool in the Middle East. Plus, they stimulate children's imaginations and play. The films' universal stories can be analysed and interpreted across borders. All the children I have met through the project have received the films extraordinarily well," Nasser says.

"We can show all kinds of films. The only things we steer clear of are war, violence and irony. Refugee children can't deal with that. Violence hits home too hard and irony is above them."

International films in Arabic

Hania Mroué, founder and head of the Metropolis Art Cinema in Beirut, is pleased at the prospect of offering unique film experiences to younger audiences throughout the year:

"Due to the diversity of Lebanon's society, it is essential that our events are accessible to as many as possible. Cinema on the Road does just that! It's a great opportunity to introduce international films in a comfortable and safe environment, plus in Arabic, which is not always an easy task. By bringing these films to young Syrian and Palestinian spectators or bringing public schools groups to our cinema, we hope to make them all travel beyond the boundaries of their everyday life," says Mroué.

Enjoy this short film about Cinema on the Road and its various components.

The project is mainly driven by professional participants in Lebanon and is anchored with Metropolis Art Cinema, while the Danish Film Institute is contributing strategic input, film expertise and educational guidance. Charlotte Giese, special consultant at the DFI, says:

"The seeds we planted five years ago, when we and the Danish Embassy started the original initiative, appear to be growing. With the Cinema on the Road initiative we wish to promote cooperation with the Middle East, cultural initiatives in local areas and film and media literacy for children and teens, in general.

"That the project also serves refugee children from the civil war in Syria is an important dimension. Artistic experiences and the chance to reflect and learn through film and media are not everyday events in a refugee camp. Moreover, we will be drawing on the experiences from this project and similar efforts elsewhere, including in Uganda, Tanzania and Palestine, in connection with a planned effort for children and young people in a Danish asylum and refugee context."