Daizy Gedeon: Fighting For Lebanon

December 1, 2021
Powerful and provocative, Enough! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour is, as the title suggests, a bold piece of activism.

Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker and veteran journalist Daizy Gedeon this feature length documentary takes a hard look at Lebanon’s recent history. The film does not hesitate to point a finger of blame at the nation’s top power brokers in business and politics as the culprits responsible for the wide-spread anguish currently engulfing the country.

A tiny nation home to just six million people today, Lebanon was once known as the Paris of the Middle East. Civil War ravaged the country from the mid-‘70s and lasted fifteen years. Lebanon endured a complicated history of political and social unrest in the decades since. Gedeon’s first film Lebanon… Imprisoned Splendour (1996) was an attempt to correct the Western media’s image of Lebanon as a ‘land of terror’.

Beginning with footage of the terrible Beirut Port explosion in August 2020, the new film ends with a plea for fair elections, due in 2022, in the hope that this might begin to rid Lebanon of corruption at the ‘top’ of its State and social leadership.

Gedeon, whose family first came to Australia in 1970 told FilmInk, “First and foremost, I’m as much an Aussie, as I am Lebanese.

“I’m fighting for Lebanon now, but if Australia were suffering, I would be fighting as hard. Right now, my Lebanese roots are calling me.”

Enough! is an investigative piece, with wall-to-wall narration that explores the impact of decision-makers on the day-to-day lives of ordinary folk.

Archival material, much of it gut-wrenching, is judicially diced with an impressive cast of talking heads drawn from the Lebanese community at home; and abroad, in the USA, France, Brazil, Mexico and Australia.

We spoke to Gedeon via phone from her home in Sydney.

The film took five years to complete. A lot has changed for Lebanon in that time. Did you come out of the experience with the film you set out to make?

“The film I went into, the film I thought I was making was about the resurgence of Lebanon. It was about the revival, after fifteen years of civil war. I started researching in 2016, the first shoot was 2017. Then it seemed that Lebanon would be back on track to become ‘the Paris of the Middle East’ again. I went back in 2018 and 2019 and last year was on Zoom.

“I came out with a story about a broken land. A country fragmented on so many levels. Something is really rotten in the State of Lebanon. It’s a Shakespearian tragedy.

“And to think we were this sophisticated multi-lingual land of peace-makers! To see it today is shocking.”

You were actually in Lebanon this year, tell us about that?

“Yes. I was in Cannes, we won the Movie That Matters Prize in May. I went to Lebanon after that. Cannes was like a fairy land. I found that since my last trip back, Lebanon had really deteriorated. [Because of Covid] I ended up staying for two and a half months. If I wasn’t there living it, I would not have believed how people manage and deal with it.

“You have to buy water every day. There is a black market in petrol. We had to pay an additional two hundred dollars a month for a generator because the power goes off at a certain time at night. It still did not leave us with 24/7 power.

“The situation on the ground is dire economically. Prices have skyrocketed. A bag of bread went from a dollar to three dollars. The salaries went from 1500 a month to 150 dollars a month.

“People are leaving in droves. The anger and frustration and hopelessness went to a level that is unconscionable. People are lining up in their hundreds every day from 4am at the passport office. There are only a certain number of spots given out.

“The tragedy is that hundreds of thousands have fled the country. They just can’t take it. Their nerves have gone. Of course, there are so many more that can’t leave!”

The film is really about the corruption at the top strata of society and how it ‘trickles down’.

“An example of that is at the height of the economic crisis [which began in 2010 and has grown worse over ten years], six million dollars was siphoned out of the country through the banking system.

“Now, the judges have the power to prevent that. A higher judge [who was corrupt] over-turned an earlier ruling. In twenty-four hours [corrupt politicians and others] transferred the money. Then the banking system collapsed. Thousands of [ordinary] people lost their money.”

This is very scary stuff. Your access was extraordinary. You sat with and interviewed very powerful people, very distinguished figures; including Human Rights Activist Rabab Al Sadr; Whistle-blower Alain Bifani, Director-General Lebanese Ministry of Finance 2000-2020; Mohammad Fneich – Hezbollah Party Member, Minister of Sports and Youth… many others. Then there are those who have been subject to accusations…

“I said to myself ‘I’m just going to go in there and ask an honest question’. I did not go into any of those interviews really convinced blindly that they were all corrupt bastards.

“I actually thought. ‘I don’t know which one is telling the truth; I don’t know which one is the bad guy’.

“I wasn’t convinced of anything until after I sat with them and listened to them and revised the information I had.”

In terms of film craft, the film sets itself an enormous task. Just the job of reviewing the archive… there were two hundred interviews…

“Yes. There must have been one hundred hours of archive or more.”

The film is dense and has a very strong point of view and yet we are led through the complexity with ease.

“My first cut slowly revealed the story. But it was too hard to follow [for people who were unfamiliar with the politics of the situation.] Marcus D’Arcy, the editor did an amazing job. We ended up making something more direct. It became about unpacking the story for the audience. I made it three times really. I finished a cut before the revolution in 2019. I re-edited. That version was done just before the explosion in 2020. After that I had to re-write and re-edit it to arrive at the final version.”

The film describes how the Lebanese Diaspora is crucial to this story.

“The Lebanese Diaspora is the ‘sleeping giant’ in this story; there are sixteen million globally. [The Australian-Lebanese community] comes second after Canada in engagement with [the Homeland]. The USA is third. Australia has a strong commitment to Lebanon. If it weren’t for Australia’s sending money back to their families, Lebanon would have been bankrupted twenty-five years ago.

“The Lebanese need more than just money. The money that goes back sustains and enables the corruption.

“The whole problem with Lebanon is external interference. The more outsiders get involved in the machinations of Lebanon, [the worse it gets] since they can only side with a particular party. That’s where the division comes from.

“All Lebanon hopes for, demands, is that we have free and fair elections in 2022.”

Enough! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour opens in selected theatres nationally after its gala premiere at Hoyts EQ Sydney, 1 December. Anyone wanting to host their own screening anywhere in the world can book at: Fan-Force.com/Create-Screening

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