WASP is a movie by Lebanese-Swiss director Philippe Audi-Dor that tells the story of a gay man in a relationship, who finds himself unexpectedly attracted to a woman. The film won Best International Feature and Best Actress in a Feature at the Film Out San Diego Film Festival, and recently had a sold-out UK premiere at the renowned Raindance Film Festival in London. WASP was scheduled to play at the Beirut International Film Festival but failed to secure a screening license due to the film’s topic. The Lebanese-Swiss director was surprised by the decision as LGBT films (Lilting (UK) and Tom à la Ferme in 2014) were previously screened at the festival.
We all know censorship is random in Lebanon but there are several Lebanese films that tackled homosexuality in the past and I’m sure there are tons of Hollywood movies in the theaters that included gay scenes so why did they ban WASP? It’s not even playing in theaters so what’s the big deal?
Actually, I will never understand why the censorship bureau would ban any movie or anything. I don’t even know why this bureau exists in the first place. If some people don’t like a movie or a play or a book, they can simply not watch it. Banning it is useless as it will not stop us from downloading it online or getting a pirated copy. More importantly, it’s about time that the Lebanese authorities acknowledge the fact that homosexuality is not a trend nor an illness and people don’t choose to become gay. There are plenty of homosexuals in Lebanon and it’s their right to be so.
If you are interested in the BIFF screening schedule, check it out [here].
Note: I wish to make one thing clear in regards to this post and the protests in general, as I got several replies telling me that I put too much focus on rock throwing and ignored police violence and that violence is “justified” in certain circumstances. To begin with, and even though I already said it in the post and documented it (and mocked it) in previous posts, police violence has ALWAYS been excessive against protesters since Day1 and I strongly condemn it. The argument that police officers are “given orders” is a very weak one when compared to what happened and every security officer who beat up an unarmed and innocent protester should be held responsible. Nevertheless, this excessive use of force does not imply that we need to react in the same manner and get violent. I know this may sound ideal, but we never got violent in the early protests and there’s no reason to start now. I believe the amount of frustration was much higher at first yet we were helping out fallen officers and showing them we are here to protest for their rights as well, not against them. I wasn’t there yesterday but I know a lot of people who went there and told me that the use of water cannons and tear gas was excessive and that people were fed up, but I believe the organizers should have dissolved the protest the second it got violent just like every time. We all know the police won’t let them through and even if they did, there’s nowhere to go. Going back to the protests, people have been losing interest whether we like to admit it or not because they no longer understand who’s doing what and what we’re protesting against. I said it since day1 that we should keep our focus on the garbage issue and stay away from fighting class wars and toppling regimes because you need years to achieve that and people will lose interest quickly. In all cases, I just felt I needed to clarify one again that this is not about throwing rocks but using violence as a means to achieve change. I blame the state for everything that’s happening and I’ll always support protests, but I never believed in violence and never will as long as there are other alternatives.
This is just wrong. Even if the police is using excessive force, throwing rocks at them and damaging public properties won’t get us anywhere. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone here and I’m definitely not siding with the police, but organizers should make sure that the protests stay peaceful. Police violence has to be documented, not countered with more violence.
A year go, I wrote a post against allowing 3 foreign players instead of two in the Lebanese Basketball teams and I applauded the FLB President Walid Nassar for standing against this decision, hoping that he won’t change his mind.
I don’t know what made him change his mind but I would have fired this guy and anyone in favor of this decision if that was their plan to save the game in Lebanon. All those who are thinking that way are arguing that Lebanese basketball players are overpriced and that they’d rather overpay one additional foreign player than invest in Lebanese. I’ve already said it and I say it again: This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard and it will destroy the game if implemented. If anything, the teams should allow only one foreign player and the federation can always bring down the salaries for Lebanese players if they find them outrageous and high (which they are not). Moreover, if the teams are suffering financially, it’s because they’ve been spending massively on foreign players (instead of spending on young talents) in the past years in order to clinch the title, and I am sure they will do the same as soon as their financial situation improves and spend even more on foreign players since they will be allowed three. Every year, some politician or business man spends a couple of millions on a team hoping to win the title, then he dumps it the year later. This is totally unacceptable and will definitely kill the game on the long run.
On another note, no one is apparently willing to take the blame for the unpreparedness of our National Team for the Asian Cup, the absence of Fadi el Khatib, the lack of a center in the team and other issues. If the president, the director or the minister can’t take responsibility for anything, then maybe they are in the wrong place. Moreover, if they are unable to do their job because of other members, then let them expose them.
Every year, those in charge manage to screw things up and ruin our chances of achieving better results with the national team. The players and the fans are the victims as always, and to be honest, there’s nothing that can be done as long as politics are involved and incompetent people are running the game.
During her radio interview with Rima Njeim, Lebanese Singer Najwa Karam stated that she was a victim of domestic violence but she “deserved it” and thought it “helped her”. I guess that explains her tweet last year on that same topic.
Maybe we shouldn’t expect much from a Hilter fan after all, but I’m just surprised that a statement like that from a popular singer like her doesn’t cause a public outrage.
Back in August, I got an SMS asking me to donate money in support of the longest Lebanese flag and to go down and sign it on Martyrs Square. The message also stated that the entrance was free (to Martyrs Square???). The event got cancelled due to protests back then but I received another SMS a week ago asking me to donate $1 to raise the Lebanese Cedar in the whole world and preserve our existence. I’m guessing the last message is related to the event that took place today in Beirut where the largest Lebanese flag was signed by celebrities and placed on a boat that will roam the Lebanese coast and reach 52 different countries.
I’m still trying to make sense of this event but I’m unable to. Is it really the right time to waste time and money on such a thing? How will signing the largest Lebanese flag and sending it around the world help us resolve the garbage crisis? Moreover, do we need a huge Lebanese flag to start building a house for the elderly by 2018? How much did that flag and event cost? And who’s covering the trip expenses around the world? Can’t we help old people right now with all this money? Only last week, I posted about an old man who lived on the street and committed suicide because no one was helping him.
All in all, there’s no harm in raising our Lebanese flag all over the world but you don’t need the largest Lebanese flag for that. As for Lebanese abroad, I’m sure they’d love to sign the flag and dance dabke around it but what they really want is to be involved in what’s happening here and be able to vote and change things.
PS: This same 4-digit number was asking me to help multiple sclerosis patients to beat the disease back in May 2015.
Another Abou Rakhoussa market took place in Downtown Beirut yesterday, and while I still believe that it’s a diversion from the real problem at hand which is the garbage crisis of course, opening a permanent flea market in Beirut’s central district may actually be a good idea. Open food markets are always packed in Beirut Souks, the upper part of Solidere is practically empty now and it’s very easy to set up a market there so why not give it a try?
I say let’s have a flea market and let Chammas, Solidere and the Abou Rakhoussa people organize it together. People may actually look at it as a positive sign and go down in large numbers. After isn’t that what we all want? bringing Beirut back to life?
On another note, I never thought Beirut’s Central District was for the rich and I don’t think expensive restaurants and boutiques are the reason why Lebanese are staying away from the heart of the city. I remember the pre-2005 years when all the Lebanese used to go down to Beirut to eat, drink, smoke arguile, party or simply walk. You could spend as little as $10 and enjoy the night. I don’t want to dig further into this topic because it’s a very long and complicated one but Beirut has always been for all the Lebanese and no one can ever change that no matter how much they try.
Here are few pictures and a video taken at the landfill right on the Beirut River. Needless to say, the smell is horrible, garbage is everywhere and I even spotted someone living there. The authorities are supposed to remove all this garbage soon but what I don’t understand is why garbage is thrown so randomly and all over the place? Even if we’re having a garbage crisis, that’s not an excuse to throw garbage everywhere.
A week ago, I was checking out on Baby Ali under the Charles Helou bridge with a friend when we spotted a young man coming out of the station. His clothes were dirty and torn and he look weak and tired. When we asked him what is he doing in the station, he told us he’s been sleeping on the stairs for a week because he fled his parents’ house in Akkar. As it turns out, the young man wasn’t emotionally stable and needed assistance so my friend contacted an NGO who took him in. I don’t know how much he would have lasted living like that but we luckily found him before it was too late. That wasn’t the case for Tawfic Khawan though, an 87 year old Lebanese who used to live under the Basta bridge.
Based on the story that’s being shared online, Tawfic was homeless, disabled after an accident, with no medical security and barely any food to survive on. He always had a small flag that says “and Lebanon remains…” and was trying to join the #YouStink protests in Beirut and light himself up in Martyrs Square but no one would take him here, so he bought a bottle of petrol, poured it over his weak body and lit himself up. This is a truly heartbreaking story and I wish we would have known before about Tawfic and helped him out somehow. I believe it is important to shed the light on these people in need in order to raise awareness and figure out a way to assist them.
A small sit-in was organized yesterday under the Basta el Tahta bridge to commemorate his death.
May he rest in peace.
He asked a young man to take him to the martyr’s square but the young man refused, saying it was too dangerous with the protests and the violence occurring there.
Tawfic was homeless, disabled after an accident, with no medical security and barely any food to survive on.
The law 220/2000 states that the disabled are entitled to free healthcare among many other benefits, yet as many other laws in Lebanon, they remain only words on paper
Tawfic lived under the Basta bridge, his only decoration the Lebanese flag with the words “and Lebanon remains…”
He gave the rest of his money to the kids to buy sweets, and then with what remained bought a bottle of petrol. He drank some and poured some over himself and then lit a match.
He had wanted to light himself in the martyr’s square, to show the politicians of this country what it really means to rape their nation. But he couldn’t reach there. He committed suicide alone, on the street.
Tawfic’s death does not just represent the failure of the state. We also failed him.
The Abou Rakhoussa market that took place yesterday in Downtown Beirut was a funny reaction to Nicolas Chammas’ press conference, where he called on demonstrators to leave the Beirut district because they were “cheapening” it, but I don’t think it sent out the right message. The #YouStink movement, as far as I know, is about fighting corruption, defending our right to protest and resolving the garbage crisis, yet turning it into a class war is a very bad strategic decision.
While I partially disapprove of Solidere’s practices and what Beirut’s Central District was turned into, #YouStink and other movement organizers should set their priorities straight and keep their protests strictly against corruption and in favor of accountability and a transparent solution to the garbage crisis. A lot of people I know are already starting to lose interest because 1) they don’t understand who’s asking for what anymore, 2) they are not taking the organizers seriously and 3) they don’t agree with the “new demands”.
Garbage is still around us and the first rains are coming soon. This is the real problem now and this is what the movements (I lost count of all of them) should focus on. I know that they’re up against a ruthless, powerful and corrupt political class, but they need to have a clear plan of action and specific goals or else the movement will die out. Time is not on their side and as soon as people lose interest in the protest, politicians will reach a compromise (in the process) and solve the garbage crisis under the table and life will go on. I really hope I’m wrong but this is the way I’m seeing things.
Needless to say, I will always side with the demonstrators and their right to protest and I condemn the disproportional and unnecessary use of force against them. Nothing justifies what happened two days ago and what has been happening since day 1 against peaceful protesters.