Beirut Madinati: Giving Meaning To The Municipal Elections & Hope For A Better Future

Beirut Madinati

Over the past several weeks, a true grassroots movement has been overtaking the streets of Beirut as a new movement trying to reclaim the city it calls home began its rise; Beirut Madinati was doing something that Beirutis hadn’t seen in a very long time, if ever: they were holding gatherings in different neighborhoods across the city to talk to the city’s own people about their woes, to tell them that we are not a Hariri-appointed list of people who believe they are entitled to your vote, we will work for it and this is us doing so.

Of course, the work of Beirut Madinati did not start when our Municipal Elections became an inevitability. Over the past years, the same supporters and people behind this robust youthful movement were orchestrating many of the protests we’ve all been supporting and advocating for. They called to have Horsh Beirut re-opened and succeeded in it being as such on Saturdays. They fought against the demolition of many of Beirut’s culturally important landmarks. They are fighting against the Fouad Boutros Highway that will destroy any remnant of Achrafieh as we know it.

Today, they are giving their fights a name and it is aptly called: Beirut, my city.

Giving Meaning To The Elections:

Over the past several years, the municipal elections of the city of Beirut were everything but “democratic.” The city’s key parties, mostly the Future Movement, appoints a list of the city’s candidates, without any inkling of equality, and that list ends up winning by near acclamation. No one stands a chance. Correction, no one stood a chance. Until now.

Beirut Madinati is a group of men and women, of all ages and backgrounds, fighting to reclaim the city they call home and let it become the place they know it can be. Their composition is breaking the boundaries of Lebanese politics itself. Instead of having only 3 women on the Municipal board, Beirut Madinati is reportedly submitting the candidature of 12 women – exactly half. One of those women is brilliant Lebanese director Nadine Labaki. One of the men nominated is Yorgui Teyrouz, the founder of Donner Sang Compter, the NGO that has saved thousands of lives since its inception.

The names of Beirut Madinati’s candidates have not been fully announced yet. However, the list was obtained not because someone is something up the echelons of a given party, without any consideration to that person’s qualifications, but through a rigorous process that involved more than 80 members of the movement. All opinions were heard. Even the head of municipality promised by that list will be an engineer because their plan needs someone with that background to implement it.

This is not the politics of Lebanon which has almost always emanated from the dark ages, but rather citizens of this city trying to do things the way they should be done: with a modern inclusive approach, and a futuristic look at how things need to be. Today, Beirut Madinati is giving meaning to Beirut’s municipal elections. They are giving us a choice.

Giving Hope To The City:

Beirut Madinati giving the people of Beirut the possibility of having a voice come May 8th does not come without them being aware of the responsibility that entails. As such, for the first time in years as well, the people of Beirut have a set of candidates who are running to work for a platform that is conceived through careful and scientific assessment of Beirut of 2016, with what they hope for Beirut to become by 2022 when their term ends.

The platform is divided into 10 main entities, which I will summarize below, but you can read the full 30 pages program at this link (click):

  1. Better public transportation to encourage people to rely less on private cars (today’s rates are 70%), and enable more use of bikes and walking, thereby reducing traffic substantially as well as pollution.
  2. Increase Beirut’s green spaces from 1 squared meter from person to at least 5 squared meters by 2022 with at least one public garden per local community.
  3. Work on decreasing the price of apartments in Beirut so they can become more affordable to its people. The average today is $570,000 per apartment.
  4. Start recycling programs in the city where garbage goes at rates of 90% to landfills, to a goal of 40% recycling by 2022.
  5. Protect Beirut’s heritage. No more random demolitions for buildings that hold value to the city’s past and history.
  6. Increasing the number of public libraries and community spaces available. The city currently has only THREE public libraries.
  7. Adjust taxation rates in the city to enable better equality and better job opportunities. 1 in 4 of Beirut’s youth are currently unemployed.
  8. Make governmental buildings in Beirut more eco-friendly.
  9. Improve health in the city by addressing the water pollution, monitoring its quality, and improving air quality by, for instance, removing the open air waste bins (those giant green Sukleen ones).
  10. Better training for municipality staff to better address concerns of citizens.

Not only will this program, if implemented, bring Beirut head on into the 21st century city it should be, but it would also boost the quality of life of millions of Lebanese who call the city their home, whether they actually vote there or not.

By bettering public transportation, access to the city becomes easier. You’d no longer need to spend ninety minutes in your car stuck at Nahr el Kaleb every morning. With less traffic, more people would find it easier to live in the suburbs or areas around Beirut, bringing real estate prices down. With better governance, citizens of the city would have better accountability. They’d know who messed up and how. It would no longer be the time for murky politics. The examples and ramifications are endless.

They are also running without politicians backing them. They rely on regular people like us for support and donations to keep their campaign going. So donate at the link (here) if you can.

Your Choice On May 8th:

I may not be a Beirut voter, but I’ll be damned if I weren’t going to use this platform to advocate for such a group. Winning is, obviously, Beirut Madinati’s goal but the showing they will have on May 8th, regardless of numbers, will be substantial enough to tell the entrenched Beiruti establishment that the city’s people are no longer subdued to the demented politics bringing about the same municipality over and over again, different people perhaps, but same useless agenda every time.

Your vote for Beirut Madinati on May 8th is telling those politicians that have taken you for granted over and over again that you are not just another number they can move and calculate however they please, but a citizen who knows he or she is entitled to a municipality that cares for their future and not to have its members gain a title, a source of income for their bottom line, and have this political party or that say they control the city and consequently you.

On May 8th, your vote as a Beiruti matters. Rise above the meaningless politics. Challenge the establishment. Set your city on the path that befits it. On May 8th, vote against the status quo and for a better future.

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Caramel, The Attack, 12 Angry Lebanese on International Best Movies Lists

 

The Guardian has  published a list of the top 10 Arab movies and they featured Zeina Daccache’s Twelve Angry Lebanese on the list, with nine other Egyptian movies of which I haven’t heard.

The list’s author justified their choice for choosing the movie in it being deeply moving and full of humanity. I have to wonder why that movie hasn’t made a splash in Lebanon:

I was on the jury when this won the top documentary award at Dubai in 2009. The director is a young Lebanese drama-therapist who put on a production of 12 Angry Men inside Lebanon’s most notorious prison and filmed the long protracted process. The film was partly an attempt to reform the country’s criminal and penal laws and improve prison living conditions. It also enabled Daccache to extend her drama-therapy work to prisons across Lebanon, and she had started working in Syria shortly before the current conflict began. It is deeply moving and full of humanity, particularly in the way it describes the process of lifting men from a profound states of despair into a renewed desire to live and build a different future for themselves.

As a follow-up to that list, The Huffington Post wouldn’t take it. As such, they published their own list of 6 movies they believe The Guardian missed and included Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack and Nadine Labaki’s Caramel.

On the latter, the author wrote:

Labaki’s film was my in. I’m a relative newcomer to the magical world of cinema from MENA, having been brought up on a mixture of Woody Allen, the works of Fellini and Visconti, all sprinkled with a bit of Lina Wertmüller, and Caramel got me hooked from the first frame. It’s sensual, full of life and each time I watch it, it makes me proud to be a woman. It’s also the reason I yearned to travel to Beirut, and once I got there, I could see Labaki’s lushly constructed characters at every turn. I may be a romantic, but it’s a must watch for anyone who has yet to discover the beauty of Lebanese cinema. And its people. Labaki’s follow up, Where Do We Go Now? is also a greatly entertaining lesson in peace.

On The Attack:

Showcased at the Dubai Film Festival last December, Doueiri’s film is currently screening across the U.S.. The tragic story, of a Palestinian surgeon who discovers his marriage may not have been what it seemed, was what engulfed emotionally, at first. But then the absurd politics that enveloped the project really drove its profound meaning home for me. Lebanon banned the film because Doueiri had “snuck” into Israel to film his project, which of course was indispensable to the truthfulness of the story. A Gulf film organization distanced itself from The Attack though it had partly financed it in development. Of course, Doueiri is now having the last laugh, because his film has been winning prizes and hearts around the world, but The Attack remains a great example of why watching a film is almost always better than watching the news.

Lebanese filmmakers seem to be doing a rather fine job at having their works make a dent abroad.  It’s great to see Lebanese cinema getting such recognition abroad, especially with movies that are not what we’ve come to believe our filmmakers only know how to make.

It is sad that a movie such as The Attack will not be screened here for the most absurd reasons. I had the chance to watch the movie while on a trip to Paris and while I wasn’t as engrossed by it as the French with whom I shared the theatre or other Lebanese who found it highly engaging, I could appreciate the need for such a movie especially given the intense discussion it spurred with the Lebanese who watched the movie with me.

I believe that’s what cinema should do: spring up debate and discussion, especially in this country and specifically when it comes to topics that are still considered so taboo that discussing them can have “treason” plastered all over you. It seems those foreigners appreciate our movies more than we do.

 

Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now Shortlisted for Original Song & Score Oscars

Where Do We Go Now - Nadine Labaki new movie - poster w halla2 lawein - et mainteant on va ou

Who knew that more than a year after its release Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now, which lately garnered Paulo Coelho’s love, would be in the running for an Oscar?

While going through recent articles regarding the upcoming movie award seasons, I stumbled on two press releases published by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for the shortlists of original song & original score, which are quite extensive. However, keep in mind that they have been narrowed down from a much wider selection.

The original song list can be accessed here. The original score list can be accessed here.

As you can see, Hashishet Albe has been shortlisted for best song and Khaled Mouzanar’s musical work has been shortlisted for best score. I don’t think they stand a chance at a nomination, especially not when you have people like Adele and Hans Zimmer in the running. But it’s still interesting to see that the great musical work done on the movie hasn’t been lost.

It’s slightly ironic that the movie is doing better at the Oscars with its music than with its film aspect. Where Do We Go Now failed to be shortlisted for best foreign movie last year.

This is hashishet albe:

Paulo Coelho Loves Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now

I’m not sure if I like the king of cliche making his love for Nadine Labaki’s hit movie, Where Do We Go Now, known but Paulo Coelho took it to twitter just now to let everyone know that he is a fan of Nadine Labaki’s 2011 movie which was a resounding success among audiences, even non-Lebanese ones, – less so among critics.

Coelho even liked the soundtrack, which isn’t hard to imagine as the music is definitely well done.

Paulo Coelho + Where Do We Go Now + Nadine Labaki

Ironically, the situation that sparked Where Do We Go Now happened way too many times in 2012. Hopefully Nadine Labaki won’t bother writing another movie where she invites Lebanese people from different religions (and more generally political) factions to love each other. The now-cliche aspect of Where Do We Go Now notwithstanding, I’m glad for the praise the movie just got even if it doesn’t mean much. I guess this is the first time someone as known as Coelho makes his liking for Lebanese cinema known.

Hopefully some good Lebanese movies see the light of day this year. You can buy Where Do We Go Now on DVD and Blu-Ray if you want to watch it.

Where Do We Go Now is Banned in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia may not have cinemas but it allows some DVDs to be sold in its shops. Where Do We Go Now won’t be one of those DVDs because the Saudi government has deemed the movie offensive and unsuitable for a Home Video release. Therefore, the movie was banned entirely.

In retrospect, this is very much expected. A movie whose ultimate message is about religious tolerance will be allowed in Saudi Arabia how?

In simple terms, Saudi Arabia is here and the concept of religious tolerance has escaped them so much that it’s flown all the way to Pluto and settled there.

The way I see it, in this day and age, banning any movie, book or TV show is irrelevant. The only entity that will get hurt here is some wallets.

There’s simply  a little bay for pirates where everything can be found. If Nadine Labaki’s aim is to deliver a message first and foremost instead of filling up her treasury, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind audiences in Saudi Arabia making a slight detour to that bay.

Or the Saudis, whose government still allows them to come over to Lebanon for the summer, can purchase the super-overpriced DVD here. You know they can afford it.

Where Do We Go Now (W Halla2 La Wein) Released on DVD & Blu-Ray

For those searching for torrents or a way to download Where Do We Go Now, you might want to stop searching and go buy the DVD for the movie, which will be released today.

Check out my review of the movie here.

Johnnie Walker’s Keep Walking Project – Get Involved, Lebanon!

Soon after its ad featuring Nadine Labaki as the main face of the Keep Walking Lebanon campaign, Johnnie Walker has now launched a full fledged campaign called “The Keep Walking Campaign,” which is excellently explained by Nadine Labaki in the following video:

As you can see, there are three projects which you can support. Regardless of your preference, each of these projects is aiming to improve a part of our life in Lebanon which needs support. On the tourism side, I had blogged previously about how tourists need to see a side of Lebanon that goes beyond Beirut. On the business side, companies such as Seeqnce are helping startups get a foothold in the markets they are trying to get into and on the environmental aspect, Greenpeace Lebanon has recently launched a mission to increase awareness for our waters.

So as you can see, the three main projects supported by the Keep Walking project are all an essential part to improving Lebanon as a society: gain awareness for our nature, protect our nature and help our youth market themselves.

The project has five stages. The participants will be rewarded at the end of every stage with the top walkers earning a brand new 16GB iPad 2 and the two runners-up will receiving a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. I know some of you are vying for the runner up slot now. Voting will end on March 3rd, with the results being announced a few days later.

As Nadine said, you can support your favorite project by “walking the steps” for them. The more steps you walk, the higher the chance it gets to be selected as the winner. The steps include sharing videos, talking about the project, supporting it, etc… You can download the project’s iPhone app here or the Facebook app here.

Nadine Labaki asked a very poignant question in her movie. Where do we go now? Well, this is the direction you should take. Help Lebanon one step at a time. It’s not even that difficult. All it takes is the clicks of a few buttons.