2022 Toronto Arab Film Festival

Navigating Production in Times of Crisis: Filmmaking amid Lebanon’s Collapse

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Arab filmmakers have always faced a multitude of challenges in producing their films. These challenges have only intensified with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and the escalation of conflict and crisis in the Arab region. Despite these challenges, the Arab film scene continues to grow and diversify with more and more filmmakers emerging with innovative works and even gaining international recognition.

This apparent contradiction is especially glaring in Lebanon — a country that is currently enduring one of the worst socioeconomic crises the world has seen since the mid-nineteenth century. Despite

that, Lebanon is still among the top nations in the region to produce acclaimed feature and short films. How do we account for this seeming inconsistency and what can we learn from it?

During this panel, three Lebanese filmmakers will share their experiences of making feature films while enduring and witnessing the complete collapse of their country. How are the struggles that face these filmmakers reflected in the films themselves? More generally, how can a recognition of the realities that film production is grounded in nuance and reshape the understanding of the films we consume?


  • Zeina Tarraf, Assistant Professor, Media Studies, American University of Beirut


  • Mounia Akl, Filmmaker
  • Roy Arida, Filmmaker
  • Elie Khalifé, Filmmaker

Zeina Tarraf is an assistant professor of media studies at the American University of Beirut where she teaches courses on Arab media and society, war and media, and visual culture. Her current book project examines how public feelings are produced and circulated in Lebanon during moments of protracted national crisis. She is also working on a new book project that considers how film industries in the Arab world are positioned within transnational circuits of financing, production, and circulation.

Mounia Akl is a director and writer from Lebanon living between Beirut and New York. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from ALBA and an MFA in Directing from Columbia University and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences®. Her first feature film, Costa Brava Lebanon (Sundance Labs, Cannes Residency), premiered in 2021 at the Venice Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival (Netpac Award) and BFI London Film Festival (Audience Award) amongst others. It was inspired by her short film Submarine (Official selection at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, TIFF 2016). Apart from directing, Mounia has also taught a lab in Directing at Columbia University, New York, and directing at the NHSI film summer institute at Northwestern University, Chicago. Mounia is currently developing new projects (TV and Film) between Paris, Beirut and LA where she also was recently a Ted Talk Women speaker.

Roy Arida is a director and producer. Born in Beirut, Roy studied cinema at la Fémis, Paris, in the directing department. Since he graduated, he has been pursuing his work as a director still in between France and Lebanon, with an equal interest for fiction and documentary. In 2012, Roy founded STANK, a production house based in Paris. Roy has two films in this year's Festival - Under the Concrete, which he directed; and Khamsin, which he produced.

Elie Khalife is a Lebanese director, screenwriter and producer whose career spans over two decades and multiple award-winning projects. Elie studied film at the Geneva University of Art and Design (ESAV-HEAD). Lebanon is both the backdrop and inspiration to his work. Elie’s body of work is primarily based on his own material and showcases his comedic streak with award-winning shorts like “Taxi Service” (1996), “Merci Natex” (1998) and his first feature “Yanoosak” (2010). Elie also directed “Single Married Divorced” (2015), a highly popular comedy. “State of Agitation” (2020) is his third feature film and the first in which he acts. Elie's film State of Agitation is screening at this year's Festival.