THE BEARS OF BEIRUT is a new documentary about two Lebanese gay men doing their best to help other gay people streaming in from Syria’s brutal war.
Beirut-based Bertho and Hixam have recently established Proud Lebanon, a non-religious, non-political, non-partisan civil rights society, offering a community centre for those who need it. This organisation is struggling to provide help to the many gay, lesbian and trans people in need of medical care, psychological assistance, and transit to a gay-friendly country. With over 1 million Syrians arriving in Lebanon in the last two years, Bertho and Hicham are working against the odds to assist many new arrivals to Beirut in dire need. This film is their story – about community, about tolerance, and about what is next for Lebanon and the entire Middle East.
We can only make this film with your help. Here’s how you can get involved with our campaign.
Why are we making this film? The answer is far from simple, so here are some details below.
Firstly, the title. BEIRUT is the easy part, but are there BEARS that exist in that city? Perhaps at the local zoo. The kind of bears we are focussing on are of the gay subculture variety. A "bear", as mentioned in our film above, is a type of gay man with a hairy body, facial hair, and are either stocky, muscular or both. This subculture within the gay community exists all over the world.
In Beirut, a liberal city in a very conservative region, there is a community of gay bears that live somewhat openly. Bertho, one of the subjects of our film, and a leading light in the local bear community, ran the only travel agency for LGBT people in the entire Arab world. As part of his tours, he organized a "Mr. Bear Arabia" beauty pageant, where the idea of what is considered beautiful was turned completely on its head.
Bertho's business was deeply affected by the decline in tourism thanks to the ongoing war in Syria. The war has affected Lebanon in many ways, with the UN claiming that over 1 million Syrians have come over the border looking for a safe haven.
He and his friend Hixam (also part of the bear community in Beirut) have instead turned their talents to setting up Proud Lebanon, which has been working to assist both Beirut locals and LGBT Syrian refugees with resources that the groaning public services in Lebanon cannot. They are doing so with very little financial support, and a lot of good will. And, with things possibly getting more complicated for gay people in Beirut, will they be able to continue without added pressure? Like many small countries, Lebanon struggles with conflicting religious interests and ever-changing politics which affect the daily lives of its residents.
The time to film this story is now, as ever-shifting current events are having an effect on all involved. We want to make the world aware of the plight of these brave people, and your contribution to our campaign will allow us to focus on this specific group who to date are virtually ignored by the world's media.
We aim to focus THE BEARS OF BEIRUT on the following:
- What Bertho, Hixam, and their colleagues are doing, selflessly, for many others who arrive to Proud Lebanon. Those they are helping are in need of psychological and medical help, the need to socialize, and for some, assistance to relocate to countries such as Sweden and Canada.
- Those they have helped (or are helping) get transit to a more gay-friendly country: how have their lives changed by leaving Syria and arriving somewhere else far from home?
- The small and friendly gay bear community in Beirut - how they are coping with the changes in Lebanon?
This fundraising event will go towards the first phase of our film - to make a short version of the full movie to demonstrate to others the huge potential of this project.
We have come to Indiegogo in search of capital for the first phase of our documentary for several reasons.
- Our biggest challenge: we are based in Sweden, where it is very difficult for filmmakers to receive funding for documentary films, even those that went on to win an Oscar.
- Unlike other crowdsourcing sites, Indiegogo guarantees your participation with your contribution. Every gift you make will go towards the film, even if we don't reach our goal of $40,000.
- We are in need of footage in order to secure more funding. We intend to start filming in Beirut in November 2014 and will produce a short film that we can then pitch to more international documentary funders.
- You will feel absolutely amazing after contributing to a project that intends to change the way people view the lives of LGBT people in the Middle east.
Take a look at the column on the right for the perks we are offering for every contribution, no matter the size. We want to ensure that every contributor not only receives something, but will be part of the film's ongoing grassroots community. Be part of our regular newsletter, get a credit in the film, receive a souvenir from Beirut, premiere the film at home or to a group, have us speak to your class or group about our film, or even come to dinner with us.
Your pledge towards our $40,000 goal will allow us to cover a number of costs for this phase of the film.
Remember, every pledge, no matter how big, will go directly to these costs:
1. Flights from Sweden to Lebanon for two people.
2. A rental van for travel within Beirut.
Required to film in Lebanon.
1. From Sweden
Producer/Director: Rick Jacobs
Cinematographer: Gabriel Mkrttchian
2. From Lebanon
We are working with Beirut-based Olive Tree Productions to source a:
Apartment rental in Beirut, provided at a discount as a favour to us.
THE BEARS OF BEIRUT is also fortunate to have the support of GROWLr, one of the biggest apps for bears available online. GROWLr have offered us sponsorship-in-kind for this campaign to get the word out. A great start from the biggest supporter of the bear community worldwide.
The team behind this crowdsourcing campaign are Rick Jacobs and Gabriel Mkrttchian. Here is who we are.
RICK JACOBS - Producer/Director
Rick comes from the USA but has called Europe his hope for over 20 years. He currently resides in Malmö, Sweden.
Rick’s background is as a producer and director for theatre, television and film. He has spent the last three years writing and producing TAREQ TAYLOR’S NORDIC COOKERY, now broadcast in 117 countries on such networks as BBC Worldwide, RTL, Fox International Channels and UKTV.
He has directed stage musicals and opera in London and New York, including a London revival of the epic musical GOLDEN BOY, originally starring Sammy Davis, Jr., HIGH SOCIETY (UK tour), and THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE. Rick also directed the new musical CONNECT/DISCONNECT in NYC in 2009.
THE BEARS OF BEIRUT marks his debut as a documentary director. “As a gay man, stories about other LGBT people who struggle with life decisions they can’t control is something very close to my heart,” says Rick.
A trailer from NORDIC COOKERY:
GABRIEL MKRTTCHIAN - Cinematographer
Gabriel Mkrttchian was born in Armenia and was brought up in northern Sweden. He is a cinematographer who bases his work on a unique style of framing used to amplify stories in an innovative way.
Gabriel studied cinematography at the Stockholm Royal Dramatic College and sites his inspiration for his work from four cinematographers: Christopher Doyle (In The Mood For Love), Sven Kykvist (Scenes from a Marriage, Crimes and Misdemeanors), and Hoyte van Hoytema (Let the Right One In).
Gabriel was Director of photography for the short film PLEASURE, which took the 2013 Canal Plus award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Having worked with everything from long documentaries to short films and commercials, he is more than ready to take on one of Lebanon's most intriguing stories.
Here is Gabriel's showreel:
Are we able to pull this off?
If the answer was no, we wouldn't be here! Both Gabriel and Rick have worked within the film and TV industry for a number of years, and we both have rich networks of highly experienced filmmakers helping us launch this project. The subjects of the documentary are committed to this project, and we have made sure to have consultants in Lebanon help us navigate filmmaking in their country.
Is the $40,000 only going towards the film?
Yes. We estimate that $40,000 is around one-fifth of the budget for what will be the total finished film. The money towards this campaign will not go towards any of Proud Lebanon's activities.
What if the total fundraising goal is not met?
We are committed to work as hard as we can to raise all the funds we require through Indiegogo at this stage. But if, in the end, we are unable to raise the total amount to begin this phase of the filming, we will continue to search for funding. Indiegogo will still release the amount that has been raised to us.
I've never done this kind of thing before. How do I contribute?
It's easier than you think. At the top right corner of the page, click on "Contribute Now" and Indiegogo will guide you through. You can pay directly with a credit/debit card, or via PayPal, whichever you feel is best.
And the great perks you have? When can I get mine?
Each perk going to our contributors has a date for delivery included with each description. Please see the column to the right to get an indication of when you can expect yours.
We are happy to talk more about the film with you. Any other questions, tips or comments can be sent directly to email@example.com.