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In a few words
In 1989, my parents left Beirut for a small village in the Bekaa Valley called Ghazzeh. I was eight years old.
In 2012, Khalil's mother left Syria and took refuge at our house in Ghazzeh. Khalil was ten years old.
This film tells the story of my friendship with Khalil, and our efforts to find hope and joy in the midst of madness and despair. It is also a personal reflection on childhood, nostalgia, home, belonging, memory and war.
Khalil & Niam assemble kites together, Spring 2013
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- Why Make this Film?
- The Story Behind the Story
- What We Need from You
- What We Offer in Return
- The Team (Who we are)
Why Make this Film?
The Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) left behind an estimated 120,000 fatalities. A study conducted in 1992 under the title "Assessing War Trauma in Children: A Case Study of Lebanese Children" showed that "on average a Lebanese child has experienced five to six different types of traumatic events during his or her lifetime; some events were experienced several times." (Journal of Refugee Studies, 1992, Macksoud)
Twenty-three years later, in what I'd like to think of as a civilized and sophisticated world that we live in, another armed conflict took the same trajectory as the Lebanese one, with more horrifying outcomes. By September 2013, less than three years after its beginning, the Syrian Crisis had left more than 120,000 fatalities and 2 million refugees. The numbers grow on a daily basis.
Seeing these two conflicts happen in such a short period of time in history and in two neighboring countries is heart wrenching for me. The most devastating part is that I am forced to watch more children grow in the same damaging conditions that my generation grew up with.
This is not another film about children who are orphaned, hungry or homeless seeking food and shelter during war. This is a film about children with caring and loving parents, coming from middle class families like most of us, but finding themselves in the cruelest human condition of all -war.
Khalil & his siblings pose for a photo before school, Spring 2013By telling this story, I hope to bring more understanding and awareness about this issue and to mobilize additional psychological and material support for children refugees around the globe.
The Story Behind the Story
On July 31st, 2012, Khalil's family crossed the Syrian Border into Lebanon to flee the armed conflict in their country. My mother gave them refuge at our summer property in Ghazzeh, in the Lebanese countryside. That is where I met Khalil (12 years) who would later change the course of this project, and therefore, my life.
But the journey of this film started much before the arrival of Khalil's family to Lebanon, and before the Syrian Crisis altogether.
It began in 2010 as an attempt to fill memory blanks pertaining to my childhood during the civil war in Beirut. I was searching for "nice memories" during the period between 1980 and 1989, which seem to have vanished from my memory.
This photo of me was taken on May 4, 1984, one month before my sister Heba (mentioned in the video) passed away at the age of 9
During our regular visits to Ghazzeh every weekend in 2012, I started to help my mother in providing food and shelter to refugee families. It didn't take long to notice that the plight of refugees in the village was too identical to our own strife in the exact same place, two decades earlier.
Since Khalil's family technically lives with us, an unorthodox but very special friendship grew between me and him. My witnessing of his daily struggle in the beautiful locale of my childhood served as a wake up call for me. I felt that Khalil was re-living my past right in front of my eyes. And this time I could document it, not only for myself but for the whole world.
Something was urging me to bring my camera and film the bond that was developing between me and Khalil. A bond built on sharing the war related traumas and many common personality traits. As in many other documentary projects, when I first started to film I didn't know what I was specifically after, but the pieces quickly started to fall in place.
Aya (3.5 years old) is a one of the Syrian refugees in Ghazzeh
What We Need from You
All principal filming on this project is now complete and we have captured some precious moments.
To arrive to this point, I've used up my own resources, my family, friends and friends of friends. The urgency, intuitiveness and unfolding of the story on a day-to-day basis obliged me to focus on shooting the film rather than file applications for production support and/or wait for financial backing from film funds or institutions (the classic route).
We now need your support to raise a minimum of 35,000 USD for this project. These funds will cover part of our late production / early post production process and help us edit some scenes or create a work in progress. Once we have that work in progress, we can then use it to apply for more funding from regional and international film bodies.
You can support us in many ways. One of them is donating to our campaign and choosing one of our specially designed and customized rewards. Another important way to help us is to share this campaign with other people and spread the word about it to your friends and networks or write about it on your blog.
What We Offer in Return
We've been preparing for this campaign since August 2013 and have thought carefully of the perks we wish to send out to thank you for your support.
Here is a glimpse into some of them:
A handwritten "Thank you" on your choice of postcard will come your way, when you pledge $25.
Pamper yourself or your guests with two of these beautiful, hand-embroidered towels when you pledge $100.
Add to your ethnic collection; a handmade copper coffee pot and two cups for your pledge of $250
Producer/Director Niam Itani
I am a Lebanese filmmaker born and raised in Beirut and Ghazzeh -a village in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley. I completed a BA in Communication Arts, an MA in Education from the Lebanese American University in Beirut and an MFA in Screenwriting from Hollins University in Virginia, USA.
I made my first professional documentary in 2001 for a conference at my undergrad school. It was a short film entitled "Ghareeb" (Stranger). In 2005 I completed a second short documentary, "Zakira Mubsira" (A Foretold Memory). Between 2005 and 2010, I got the chance to expand my documentary skills while working at Aljazeera Channel in Qatar as a Programs Producer. At Aljazeera I worked as assistant producer on the critically acclaimed series of "Al Nakba" with veteran producer Rawan Al Damen and went on to make my first feature documentary, "Rokam Al-Bared" (Ruins of Al-Bared).
In January 2013, I co-founded placeless films llc., a film production company in Beirut, Lebanon. As part of placeless films, we also recently launched ScriptExperts, a specialized story & script service catering primarily to writers and filmmakers in the Middle east.
"Twice Upon a Time" is the first documentary I am making since I re-launched my independent career in 2010. The previous film I made, "Super.Full." (2010), played several film festivals including two Academy Award Qualifying festivals and the Biennale Di Venezia (Venice Film Festival) in Italy.
My feature narrative project entitled "Shadow of a Man", is currently in pre-production and has been selected at multiple regional and international film venues such as Med Film Factory, Doha Projects Market, AFAC Production Grant, Produire au Sud, Carthage Producers Network, among others.
Other members in the production team on "Twice Upon a Time" include my cousin Ibrahim Shehab, a filmmaker, and my sister Bayan Itani, a journalist and researcher. Ibrahim and Bayan often left their busy lives in Beirut and joined me in Ghazzeh to operate camera and sound equipment, assist with food and transportation logistics, and occasionally conduct interviews or deal with complicated situations - like the villagers suspecting us of being spies.
Khalil was a valuable member of our team throughout the shoot. He filmed over three hours of material that only he could have access to and showed impressive skills behind the camera.
Lots of other people helped us complete filming this project and presenting it to you here on Indiegogo in its current shape.
This list includes my mother Basyma Shehab and Khalil's mother & family, Music Composer Suad Saher Bushnaq, Graphic Designer Layan Aziz, and my friends and partners in crime Lara Abou Saifan, Manal Farhat, Hanaa Houri, Megan Kappel, Vidya Santhanam, Asia Shamseddine, Sound Engineer Victor Bresse, and my cousin Mahmoud Itani.
Thank you to the people who gave us feedback along the way to make this presentation look the way it does: Erica Ginsberg, Sarah George, Ellen Brodsky, Fatma Naib, Elie Chalhoub, Anna Fahr, Nadia Tabbara, Juana Khandjian, Suryam Champati and always my sisters.
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