Tales from our recent adventures at the Tripoli Film Festival.
So there we were, walking down a red carpet, heads turning towards us, cameras pointing, microphones thrust under our noses. All very much in the public eye. It was great, it was terrifying, it was utterly alien.
But mostly great.
Tripoli Was a Trip
And so we spent 8 days in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. We ate gigantic portions of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were welcomed and treated like gold by a fun, professional little team. We had drivers, a security detail, a translator, a cosy room in an old monastery. We were taken on cultural trips. We met Lebanese icons of film, old and new. And did I mention that we ate? My God…
Oh yes, and we watched some films.
Film Festivals Live Up to their Name
Although the Tripoli Film Festival (TFF) was a small, humble affair, we still had plenty of movies to watch. By the end of the eighth and final day, we’d pretty much reached saturation point. Carl had to watch Horrible Bosses 2 on the flight back to South Africa, just to flush his mind out with nonsense after a week-long period of intense international dramas, comedies, documentaries.
You Schmooze You (don’t) Lose
Being Film Festival neophytes, we weren’t used to the schmooze aspect. If you’re ever invited to one of these things, take note. You need to network like there’s no (after) tomorrow.
One of our party was rather adept at this practice, and through observing him in action we picked up the ground rules:
- Talk to everyone, especially the judges
- Tell everyone that you want to make a documentary about them
- Attend every event set-up by the organisers
- Talk up your film at EVERY opportunity
Hey, it worked for him: he won a prize.
So, no, After Tomorrow didn’t walk away with the Best Documentary prize, but we had our share of fans. One journalist interviewed us for an hour and a half, and wrote three full-page pieces for Arabic newspapers. Another critic bumped into Carl in Beirut and told him that we were robbed by not winning.
But as much as we had our fans, we also had some criticisms.
Everyone’s a Critic
After some time living in so-called Western culture, it felt good for us to be back amongst Arabs. As a rule, they’re are not shy, and we heard every opinion under the sun about how our film could’ve been better. “I loved the film, but I wouldn’t have done this, next time you should do that” was a common refrain. All quite unlike the rather restrained individuals you’d encounter in London or Jo’burg.
At the end though, all this bluntness did serve to strengthen our resolve. We believed more in our creative decisions. Because if you have to take everyone’s opinion into consideration, you’d never finish a thing. And then you wouldn’t be jetting off to cool places like Tripoli to attend a film festival.
So no regrets.