Director Wissam Charaf's new documentary has no actors, but all Lebanese are familiar with the principal figures in the film.
The film, "Kul Hatha we Akthar", revolves around three widely-known Lebanese personalities: former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and singer Haifa Wehbe. It uses their images as a narrative device to follow the country's contemporary history.
Charaf spoke with Al-Shorfa about the film, which raises fundamental questions regarding how Lebanese view their country and was shown at Lebanon's cinema month festival in May.
Al-Shorfa: Why [did you make] this documentary now?
Wissam Charaf: "Kul Hatha we Akthar" is the Ministry of Tourism's official slogan for its promotion of Lebanon, which sheds light on integration, the juxtaposition of churches and mosques and everything that is positive and bright about Lebanon. [But] it leaves out other aspects, such as the existence of two contradictory currents [of thought] in Lebanon.
This is why I wanted to address this issue and explore it from a personal perspective in order to answer questions like: Why is it that, up to this day, we still feel such animosity toward each other? I wrote and directed the film, and production was handled by Né à Beyrouth.
Al-Shorfa: How did you answer this question?
Charaf: The documentary does not have any actors. Its heroes are the video clips we see on TV screens. The documentary begins with the Taif Accords, continues through the resistance and the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri [and ends] today. It tells the story of this era through targeted songs and video clips that were and still serve as propaganda promoting reconstruction in Lebanon.
The themes have their own clips and promotional songs, splitting the country into two currents. One current supports the reconstruction of Lebanon so it can resume its status as the Switzerland of the Middle East and the other current [supports] resistance, or war.
Along the way [in these years], the phenomenon of [video] clips emerged, transforming some people into icons. I chose three icons, Rafiq al-Hariri, Hassan Nasrallah and Haifa Wehbe because I believe they exist in people's minds after the war and I wanted to ask a question: How do the three co-exist in Lebanon while what we have become today is because of them?
Al-Shorfa: Who is the intended audience?
Charaf: The target audience is the Lebanese people, who are split among the three icons. In a time when some admired Hizbullah, many considered al-Hariri their saviour and saw in Haifa oblivion, or a way to forget the war. For this reason, we can see two currents [of thought]: one that wants us to remember and one that wants us to forget.
Al-Shorfa: How long did it take you to make the documentary?
Charaf: I worked on it for two years. In the beginning I was working with Pierre Sarraf at the company Né à Beyrouth. We obtained a grant from the Screen Institute and received additional funding from Umam Documentation [and Research], the Dubai Festival, the Francophone Festival and the Île-de-France region. The challenge was finding an archive [of video clips] from the last 20 years, and I was able to get my hands on them from the clips' directors and from my time as a photo journalist covering Lebanon's most significant events, from reconstruction to Hariri's assassination and the July  war.
Al-Shorfa: After [its showing in] Beirut, what comes next for the documentary?
Charaf: The documentary will be shown in Dubai, Doha, New York and at the London Film Festival.
Al-Shorfa: You are known as a photographer and a journalist who works for foreign stations and covers sensitive topics throughout the world. Will what you cover turn into a documentary?
Charaf: After my first project, "Kul Hatha wa Akthar", I am preparing three works in one go, and all are inspired by events I covered. The first film is about the return of a Lebanese fighter from Brazil after 20 years. He discovers that most young men either work as bodyguards or in parking lots, and in it I address the impact of war on Lebanon.
The second film is about the Egyptian revolution and tells the story of five people who were held inside a tank, and I am one of them. I talk about what happened inside the tank and about the revolution.
The third film is a love story between a Syrian refugee and an Ethiopian woman who wants to escape. All of these films are inspired by true stories I covered during my journalism career. These will be my first long feature films after making three short feature films, including "Hizz ya Wiz", "Al-Batal ma Biyemoot" and "Jaysh min al-Nahal".