The Sea Ahead Is a Lebanese Film, Not an Israeli One!
Ely Dagher rejects attempts at whitewashing his film's identity, loudly embracing the Lebanese-Arab roots of his project.
Palme d’Or-winning Lebanese filmmaker Ely Dagher is angry at certain French publications.
Dagher, 36 years old, was baffled at first when he found out that his film The Sea Ahead was labeled as an “Israeli” production in the renowned French magazines Telerama and Premiere. Despite the film being a joint Lebanese-French-Belgic production, with its details listed online months ago, the magazines somehow managed to describe it as “Israeli.”
The young filmmaker was furious, immediately contacting the publications, which rectified the mistake and claimed it was “a simple error.”
The Sea Ahead was previously selected in the “Quinzaines des Réalisateurs” at the Cannes Film Festival, and deals with issues of Lebanese identity and woes. Its story is set in Beirut with an all-Lebanese cast, which makes this error seem less likely and more malignant-looking.
In a statement by Dagher published on his Instagram page, he said:
“’Israel’ is an apartheid state that strives on ethnic cleansing, discrimination and dispossession and I refuse that our work and cultural identity be appropriated and labeled as ‘Israeli’, be it by malice or an imbedded post-colonial and orientalist perception.”
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The Lebanese artist was a recipient of the prestigious Short Film Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival for his animated short Waves ’98 (2015), exploring in a fascinating animated-live-action hybrid fashion the complex relationship between Beirut and its inhabitants.
This is not the first instance this year in which an Arab film has faced a similar attempt of whitewashing in favor of "Israel", paralleling a recent occurrence in which the Palestinian film Ahed’s Knee was categorized as Israeli by the Cannes Film Festival as it competed in the official selection.
The Palestinian cast was infuriated by this decision and decided to publicly boycott the festival, leading to a widespread controversy regarding the acceptance of Western institutions of Palestinians.