I recently went to the Outbox Film Festival which took place in Downtown Beirut at the Roman Baths from June 14th till June 17th. The festival was showing three categories of movies: foreign, animated and Lebanese short films, all participating in a competition where the winners would go on to Los Angeles and be advised by cinephilia productions there on writing scripts and making movies.
Among the Lebanese short movies that were screened there, the most interesting one, in my opinion, was Christy Whaibe’s His Name is a Long Story (Esmo Essa Tawile). The movie tells the story of a little boy whose name is so long that when the other students finish their homework and leave class, he’d still be writing his name. We all know someone like him. My brother was one. Christy tells the story of how his name came to be: how his mother wanted to name him something because of her own reasons, how his father had other intentions and ultimately how all the different options merged to give the boy a name that’s proving trouble in his every day life.
His Name is a Long Story merges comedy with subtle references about Lebanese society, paralleling the style of Nadine Labaki. Be it by taking jabs at nuns, teachers, schools, etc., the movie is about those in our society who hide behind a crust believing others wouldn’t approve of, not knowing that there are some people who are very similar, sharing the woes they believe are unique to them.
The script took Christy over a year and a half to write. The ideas of the movie are inspired from everyday life. When you watch it, you’ll be surprised as to how exactly this movie parallels certain aspects of Lebanese society and does so in only 13 minutes without preaching or coming off as patronizing. The movie took 7 days to be shot and over 2 months in post production. The fact that preparation took such a long time shows in the results delivered.
The main actor, a young boy named Karim el Chemali, was “awesome” according to Christy. And even though it may be difficult to work with little kids, his attitude and acting skills made things much easier and smoother, she said.
His Name is a Long Story won the competition at Outbox by winning the popular vote and deservedly so. With guidance from Hollywood professionals, I’m actually very excited to see what Christy can come up with in the long run. Lebanese cinematic talent is much more promising than we give it credit and His Name is a Long Story is proof for that.