This is it! It’s been almost a year and a half since the Cannes Film Festival has been waiting to return to the Croisette. And this Tuesday, July 6th, the 74th edition of the festival finally opened and will close on July 17th. The Lebanese director Ely Dagher opened the ball by presenting his first feature film in preview. Let’s take a look at this success of the seventh art…
In the midst of a revolution: filming and facing your own desire to protest
Filming for “The Sea Ahead”, which stars Lebanese-French actress Manal Issa, began at the end of 2019 and ended a week before Lebanon’s first lockdown. This meant the crews had to shoot between roadblocks, political instability or the financial collapse of the country.
“We had to bring money in suitcases to pay the crew” the director reports, laughing at the absurdity of this context. “The main producer was French, so the money was there, but we couldn’t transfer money to Lebanon.”
For a few minutes, the director could not resist the urge to assert his discontent and it was in the middle of shooting that he and the film’s assistant director, Amanda Kik, chose to abandon a scene to join a street demonstration.
For him, it is impossible to make a film without taking into account its environment. He says: “We came to the set a little late, but we wanted to be part of the project. We couldn’t just say OK, we don’t care what happens, let’s just make a film. It was important to stay in touch with what was going on.
World premiere of the film today
Today, the film has its world premiere in Cannes as part of the much anticipated festival, with four screenings in July.
And this is not the Lebanese director’s first time! Already in 2015, his animated short film, Waves 98, won the Palme d’or for short films. It was the first Lebanese film to be presented on the red carpet since Hors La Vie de Maroun Baghdadi in 1991.
His new masterpiece, exploring the director’s relationship with Beirut, is the result of two years of hard work and a surreal mix of several animation styles.
A synopsis with multiple messages
The sea ahead addresses multiple themes at the heart of today’s societal debates such as immigration and identity.
The story tells of a young woman’s return to Beirut after several years abroad. Issa, who has already appeared in films such as “Ulysses & Mona” and “Parisienne”, plays the role of a young woman whose sudden return home, her parents’ curiosity and her eventual reconnection with the life she led in Beirut are at the heart of the film.
The film, in some respects, represents some aspects of the life of its creator who spent many years abroad, living in Belgium, Berlin or London. Reconnecting with Beirut and trying to understand it was therefore something the director had to experience for a large part of his life.
A shattering film not to be missed on its release.