Twice Upon a Time - A Documentary

Khalil (12) and Niam (32) share a rare friendship. Their joyful bond is built on one of the toughest human struggles: war. This is their story.
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Niam Itani
Email Verified
Film
Beirut
Lebanon
1 Team Member

Thank You!


This Campaign is over. You can still support us via PayPal. Email us for more details:

twiceuponatime@placelessfilms.com


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

Scroll below to view:

- 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 2013

By 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

The Team

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.

Send us an email at:  twiceuponatime@placelessfilms.com

Find This Campaign On
$15,105USD
raised by 224 people in 1 month
43% funded
No time left
$35,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on December 1, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $5USD
    We Shout Love

    We will shout your praises on the Twitter and Facebook pages of the film.

    4 claimed
    Estimated delivery: November 2013
  • $10USD
    Poster Love

    "Special Thanks" and a Shout-out on the Twitter and Facebook pages of the film. PLUS a digital Hi-Res copy of our poster and postcard delivered right into your inbox.

    3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: November 2013
  • $15USD
    Love Comes Softly

    "Special Thanks" and a Shout-out on the Twitter and Facebook pages of the film. PLUS a private link to download the soundtrack of the film after its release.

    5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $20USD
    Love Streams

    A private link to stream the film online after its release. PLUS "Special Thanks" and Shout-out on the Twitter and Facebook pages of the film.

    20 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $25USD
    A Love Letter

    Receive a handwritten thank you note on a vivid color postcard of the film. In addition to a private link to stream the film online after its release.

    15 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $25USD
    Peace, Love & Understanding

    Spread some love; wear your heart on your sleeve with a bracelet that mixes red, white, green, or black - the colors of the Lebanese and Syrian flags. PLUS a private link to stream the film online after its release.

    8 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $35USD
    Feast of Love

    A collection of original family recipes for Syrian and Lebanese dishes, the way they make it at home. These recipes include vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian appetizers, entrees, and desserts prepared by Niam’s and Khalil’s mothers delivered to your inbox. PLUS a private link to stream the film online after its release.

    26 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $50USD
    To Wear with Love

    Receive a custom-made t-shirt with specially designed film art. In addition to the Home Recipes AND a private link to stream the film online after its release.

    19 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $50USD
    Love Credited

    We will enlist your name on the film website PLUS a private link to DOWNLOAD the film and the soundtrack after its release.

    18 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $75USD
    The Love Mug

    Tell people about us over a hot mug of coffee or tea! Receive a mug with favorite film quotes from Niam and Khalil, in English and Arabic. PLUS a recipe collection from Niam's and Khalil's mothers delivered to you inbox. PLUS a private link to DOWNLOAD the film and the soundtrack after its release.

    14 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $100USD
    Hand Me Love

    Receive a set of TWO guest towels hand embroidered with the film title, one in Arabic and one in English. We will enlist your name on the film website AND send you a private link to DOWNLOAD the film and the soundtrack after its release.

    15 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $150USD
    A Time to Love

    Receive a 2015 calendar that features specially designed film art on linen. PLUS We will enlist your name on the film website AND send you a private link to DOWNLOAD the film and the soundtrack after its release.

    4 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $250USD
    Love is Brewing

    A set of one handmade coffee pot from one of the last surviving Souks in Lebanon, with the Arabic title of the film engraved on it, and two traditional coffee cups. Your name will be listed on the website, and you will receive private links to download the soundtrack and the film after its release.

    6 out of 24 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $250USD
    For Love of Film

    Become part of our creative team! We will share with you a private link to view the film as a work in progress and ask for your feedback on what you think is working and what can be improved. We will also send you a private link to DOWNLOAD the film and the soundtrack after its completion AND we will enlist your name on the film website.

    2 out of 25 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $500USD
    A Year of Love

    Selected images from Niam and Khalil's photo collection of Ghazzeh, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as snapshots from the film, to create a 28-page autographed calendar for the year 2015. We will also enlist your name on the film website AND send you a private link to download the film and the soundtrack after its release AND send you a set of ten film postcards; with one handwritten "Thank You" for your generous contribution.

    3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $1,000USD
    Ground Love Day

    You and one guest spend a day with Khalil and Niam at the house in Ghazzeh, enjoy a homemade Lebanese-Syrian lunch, and go on a tour of locations featured in the film. Transportation provided from anywhere inside Lebanon to Ghazzeh and back. DOWNLOAD the film and the soundtrack after its release.

    0 out of 10 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $1,000USD
    Love & Honor

    Your name will be listed under “Special Thanks” on the film credits and on the film’s International Movie Database (IMDB) page. When the film comes to a location near you, you will receive two tickets of priority seating to the screening, during which you will receive a personal thank you from the filmmakers. In addition, you will receive an HD Download link, the soundtrack, and any gift of your choosing from the $25 - $50 pledge levels AND the Home Recipes from the Feast of Love level.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $5,000USD
    Falling in Love

    Be recognized as Associate Producer on the film during the closing credits and on the film’s IMDB webpage. In addition, you will receive VIP screening tickets to a screening near you, private links to download the film and the soundtrack after its release, and any three gifts of your choosing from the $25 - $75 pledge levels. We will send you 5 of each - share these special gifts of love!

    0 out of 6 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
  • $10,000USD
    Endless Love

    Receive an opening credit as Associate Producer in the film and on the film's IMDB webpage. We will invite you to the festival screening nearest to you as a special guest! As part of our team, we will keep you updated via email on the progress of the film. AND you will receive private links to download the film and the soundtrack after its release, and any gifts you wish from the $25 - $100 pledge levels. We will send you 5 of each - share these special gifts of love!

    0 out of 2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2015
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