My interest in international film stemmed from the lack of diversity I was seeing in mainstream cinema. Growing up Lebanese Australian in a predominately white society I never felt like I saw anyone who looked like me on screen. I’d go to the cinema with school friends and feel like I was watching representations of their lives, not mine. I started to look outside this realm to find stories that could resonate with a wider audience. Not only was I looking to see myself, my experience, but that of others across the globe. I was desperate to engage with a variety of storytelling, a shift in tones and a cataclysm of soundtracks and cinematography that could take me on a journey outside of the bubble of middle class Australia I lived in.
Back home in Queensland, the Gallery of Modern Art Cinémathèque would regularly screen international and arthouse films, often free of charge. This became a second home for me while I was studying my environmental science undergrad. It was the perfect escape from the prescriptive and clinical learning I was used to. It provided a space to laugh, cry and expand my view of the world, all while fitting my student budget.
It wasn’t until my good friend, and housemate, Jake Richardson invited me to write for his online magazine, Film Focus Australia, that I ever considered myself a critic. We bonded over a mutual love of watching films and being judgemental. I was lucky enough that he saw something in my writing that I never did. Since then I have been able to practise this creative craft and expand my own experience with cinema. This publication then led me to join the Australian Film Critics Association which keeps me connected to the critic community across the country, especially important while I’m residing in this small town called Hobart.
One of the many things I admire about international film festivals is the way they bring community together and encompass a sense of comradery, not only through film but in celebration and food. In 2019 I travelled down to Sydney for the Lebanese Film Festival. I browsed the marques outside the cinema trying to decide which of my favourite dishes, that so remind me of home, I would enjoy while watching five short films as part of Bankstown Bites. Each of these shorts depicting starkly different stories. From the day to day life and love of ‘Bahiya & Mahmoud’ to the surprisingly humorous take on a Monsignor trying to close a convent and inadvertently getting stuck on a landmine in ‘Sous les Soutanes’, I wish I could watch them all again right now.
I can’t wait to see the great work the Czech and Slovak film community have to offer.
I am so honoured to have been selected as a juror for CaSFFA 2022 and am excited to continue to expand my understanding of the Czech and Slovak experience through this year’s sensational programme.