Even the most die-hard fans of Lebanese film may not have heard of Georges Hachem, but that is about to change.
Hachem’s first feature-length production, Stray Bullet, is hardly a novice’s tepid step. Instead, the Beirut native’s years of experience in directing, film production and acting have not only helped him persuade Lebanese starlet Nadine Labaki to take on its leading role, but it has also propelled it to one of the most coveted film festivals abroad, the Washington, DC International Film Festival. Following the movie’s American debut, Hachem sat down with NOW Extra to discuss his experiences with and passion for film.
How old were you when you decided that you wanted to go into film?
[This pursuit] is as old as I am. From the beginning, it was obvious to me to have this job… From childhood, it was an exercise to understand the world, to replace it, to represent it, to analyze it, to tell it... little by little, mostly by images [but also] through writing.
Why film and not some other type of art?
It was linked somehow with my interest in psychology and human behavior. All artists might analyze human behavior, but the actor analyses it with his body, his soul, his memories, his capacity to be – to be [both] sincere and a liar. This paradox always fascinated me.
Tell me a little about Stray Bullet.
Stray Bullet is conceived as a triptych, the ancient art which places two shorter [segments] on either side of a longer film. The movies are not related through the story, but share similarities in structure. This triptych [consists of] three portraits of three women, who are not linked, but there are many corresponding features between their stories.
Is there a reason the triptych focuses on women? Or is it accidental?
It is never an accident. Generally, women are more impressive and more expressive, so it is more of a show to observe a woman, and it is more significant. In general, a man has a mission to not be impressed and to not express. […] So, what is fascinating lies in women – their sadness, their joy, etc.
I’m not the first to notice this… Certainly, filmmakers interested in memory always use women figures because they are natural storytellers.
How did you come to know Nadine Labaki?
Our first meeting was during a workshop eight years ago. I was directing a workshop in Lebanon, and she was a candidate. We shot a 45-minute film with actors selected for the workshop, among whom was Nadine.
What was your early impression of her?
During this work, I really was struck by her because she is gifted as an actress. We made a type of pact. I told her, “Okay, if I make a movie, you will be in it.” Meanwhile, she started to shoot movies, and Caramel was a big success.
What was it like working with an actress who also has directing experience?
Because I worked with her in the beginning as an actress, we kept this relationship. She really wanted to be in this movie and loved the story. She guessed that it had a beautiful character. It was [also] a challenge and, in fact, that is what I believe made Nadine a complete cinematographic artist.
The fact that she was a director never came up. She was as an actress, very concentrated and reached the goal very easily and with high sensitivity… It was a question of trust, I believe. I cannot guarantee that she would have the same attitude – to be only an actress – with others.
Were there any surprises in making your first feature?
I believe that you have to prepare for your work very well. You have to have a very precise vision of what you want. But, at the same time, when you start shooting, you have to pretend as if you have forgotten all this planning. That is the only way to be fresh enough. Shooting a film is an adventure – you may plan your travels, but you can never know [what awaits you]…. Many [mishaps] are helpful and healthy [provided that] you are open to and prepared for them.
Farrah Zughni // www.nowlebanon.com