Popular amateur film 'Beirut, I Love You' moves to television

A popular Lebanese film that first appeared on YouTube "Beirut, I Love You" is now a television series. [File/Al-Shorfa]

A popular Lebanese film that first appeared on YouTube "Beirut, I Love You" is now a television series. [File/Al-Shorfa]

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Cyril Aris and Mounia Akl, a young Lebanese duo, intended on careers in engineering but took a different path and are becoming successful filmmakers.

The pair's love of cinema, acting and directing brought them together in 2009 when they produced a short film, "Beirut, I Love You" that earned them numerous international awards and more work.

"Beirut, I Love You" tells the story of Tarek and Yasmin, who meet on the Corniche promenade in Beirut. The narrative follows their relationship as they share what they love about the city. The two directors also play the lead roles in the film.

The film attracted 150,000 viewers on YouTube. Aris and Akl travelled to Geneva where they received the Coup de Coeur award at the International Oriental Film Festival and the Best International Film award at the 2010 Swansea Bay Film Festival in Britain.

The success of the first film propelled them in 2010 to write, act in, and direct a second film in 2010, "Kas Yalli Dallu". The film consists of three parts and salutes members of the younger generation who stayed in Lebanon and also addresses younger Lebanese who migrated.

The second film was aired on YouTube and competed in several international festivals, including the Manhattan Film Festival. "Kas Yalli Dallu" won honourable mention at the Los Angeles Movie Awards 2010 and a merit award at the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood 2010.

The popularity of "Beirut, I Love You" prompted the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) to commission the pair to produce a 35-episode series inspired by the film.

"Beirut, I Love You" appears on television Saturday and Sunday evening each week. Each episode averages seven minutes in length.

Aris, 23, told Al-Shorfa, "Cinema has been a dream of mine since childhood, but I pursued electrical engineering as a major at a Canadian university. Then I went back to what I love, acting and directing, and took private lessons."

"I got my start with two short films on YouTube, followed by 'Beirut, I Love You' in 2009 with Mounia whom I met in acting and directing courses," Aris said.

Akl, 22, said, "I share the same interests with Cyril. When we wrote, acted in, and directed 'Beirut, I Love You' we did not expect it to attract 150,000 viewers, nor receive the awards we did."

Aris and Akl pointed out that many successful directors, such as Steven Spielberg, did not attend film school. The pair will enrol in a New York institute to study film directing, emphasising that winning international awards as amateurs validates the credibility of their work.

The series began screening in March 2011, and the pair started a second season in production which will include new characters that appear during the last three episodes of the first series.

There are slight differences between the film and television version of the story.

Akl says, "We took Tarek and Yasmin's characters from the film and added Tarek's mother and sister Farah, his friend Carlo, Yasmin's mother, and Tarek's neighbor, Hadi to the television version."

Aris said, "The common factor in all the episodes is the portrayal of the characters' daily lives and their problems. We try as much as possible to address our problems as a post-war generation."

He added, "We also address issues in dispute in Lebanon such as the status of heritage buildings and the subject of homosexuality and the religious community's position on it."

Asked about their ambition, Akl said, "Lebanese cinema is currently experiencing a prosperous start, and we want to share in it. But until we reach that stage, we will continue working on the series, and we’ll soon be filming music videos for a French artist and a band."

"We want to make a 90-minute feature film. We have something to say to the public," Aris said.

Hollywood to them is an achievable dream, but they want the film to carry a Lebanese identity. Aris said, "The idea for it is ready."

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  • READER COMMENTS

    soso

    2011-9-5

    I believe that the film “Beirut, I love You” has depicted everything that took place and that is taking place in Lebanon regarding many aspects. It has attracted the attention of many major TV channels and it attracted the attention of many citizens on YouTube. This film presented all that is going on in Lebanon in a new way, and it has been worked on in a way that attracted many people’s attention. It has been met with great success because it achieved a high viewing rate by those interested in the issues, story and events of Lebanon.

  • مطر الصيف

    2011-9-1

    The movie “Beirut… I love you” impressed the viewers on YouTube. This movie is not ordinary and it is based on advanced human nature, from the technical advancement iof Lebanon. We all know that Lebanon is one of the countries which are specialized in being famous for art and artists. This movie is an expression of the ability of Lebanon to improve and develop. In my opinion, this movie was the reason for the great popularity of the movies in Lebanon. The youth who acted in this movie should be honored with big financial and moral rewards, because they raised the movie to a level at which it participated in the festivals. One of the most important festivals was the International Festival of Arab Movies, and it participated in the universal festivals in America, “Manhattan and Los Angeles” and Hollywood. I am impressed with every actor in this movie; they are real stars who deserve a big vote of confidence, because they made their voice and the voice of their country heard in every corner of the Arab and international worlds. I pray to God to bless them and to let them be the best all the time, and I pray that their coming work will be more enthusiastic and more interested in the art of acting. We hope that the government and officials support them, because they really deserve our trust. Most of the TV channels aired this movie and it impressed all the audiences in a big way, and I am one of the biggest fans. I pray to God to bless them, and I ask them to develop themselves, and those who watch YouTube had a big role. I am one of the viewers and fans, and I hope to see better and more beautiful works in the near future.

  • مجد صهيب

    2011-8-31

    “Beirut, I love you” is one of the short Lebanese movies that met with great, unparalleled success in the world through its viewing on YouTube and on the screens of televisions. The Lebanese duo of Siril Aris and Menia Aql manifested their adoration for cinema, acting and direction by producing this movie. It opened horizons before them to achieve a great cinematic accomplishment that led them to win several international awards, including the international festival of Arab films’ award. It also opened the horizons before them to get more artistic work, as they were able to shed light on the suffering of the Lebanese people through this film. This film tells the story of two young people meeting on the sea coast of Beirut and the story of their relationship and how they come to an agreement on what they love about it and what they are going through in a way that reflects the deteriorated reality people suffer from, as they feel that they are living in exile even though they live in their own country. The film also treated many of problems on the Lebanese scene, such as the social and constructional situation in the country and the negligence that the monumental buildings were vulnerable to, even though they represent the thriving past of this country that has shined for thousands of years. This country today needs to be inspired by the lessons of the past in order to utilize them in serving the present and in developing the country to reach the highest levels of advancement and civilization in a way that suits this generous country. Because of the great success achieved by the viewing of the film, the two Lebanese young men were asked to present a series of 35 episodes inspired by the story of this film. As such, the film greatly succeeded in Lebanon and in many countries of the world. This unique and distinguished work is the greatest proof of the creative and artistic capability that distinguishes Arab people who have open minds through which they can cast their cultural radiation on people to become one of the greatly influential factors on people’s spirits, because of the love of those who work in this field and their great ambitions, which have caused the Lebanese cinema to enter a state of revival and advancement, after it had been deteriorating for several years.

  • محمود

    2011-8-22

    “Beirut, I love you,” a film that depicts life in Lebanon, has attracted more than one hundred and fifty thousand viewers on YouTube who have been impressed by the film and its idea. It is a modern and beneficial experience for Lebanese art that is added to the wonderful Lebanese artistic experiences. In fact, the work of Cyril Aris and Mania Aql is a wonderful artistic work that reflects the feelings of all the Lebanese youth. Indeed, the ambition and the passion for artistic production of these two youth have urged them to engage in this fine artistic experience that came out with the film “Beirut, I love you” to the artistic realm. This film depicts the intimate relationship between these two actors and will be their starting point towards stardom so as to open new horizons for them. In fact, the idea of this film appealed to us and we would like to salute this film and the distinguished and extremely nice acting of both Cyril and Mania Aql. In addition, we should be proud of the film’s direction, which was a leading experience that appealed to many people. After being broadcast on YouTube, the film attracted the interest of many Arab TV satellite channels which showed much interest in this film. The latter has won many awards. In fact, “Beirut, I love you” is a nice film in everything and it carries in it a lot of meanings and messages that every film viewer must stop at.

  • الاسكندر

    2011-8-12

    This is a very beautiful film, especially since it depicts the life of Lebanese citizens and the problems of the country. I have wished that a film of this type would enjoy real interest since the beginning on all TV channels and stations, because it is really a successful film, especially since it has achieved great success on the famous website, YouTube. In addition, the number of viewers has increased considerably, and TV channels have become interested in this film.