Lebanon: the Youth Roll

Lebanon: The Youth Roll is a participatory arts project exploring the multiple and often competing ways in which the legacy of Lebanon’s civil war continues to impact society today. The civil war lasted for 15 years, between 1975 and 1990. It was a hugely complex conflict, involving shifting religious and political alliances and causing widespread displacement of the population, with Lebanon providing the location for a conflict that spread far beyond its borders, a product of tensions in the geopolitics of the Cold War, on the one hand, and their particular manifestations in the Middle East on the other.

The focus of our project is on how this legacy is experienced by diverse communities of young people in Lebanon today. This is a generation that might have no direct knowledge of, or contact with this war, but who live in a society that has been fundamentally shaped by it. The project’s title draws on filmmaking terminology. In order to make a good film that tells a fully-rounded story you need different type of footage, generally termed ‘A Roll’ (or the main footage) and ‘B Roll’ (or supplementary footage that helps to enhance the story being told by the ‘A Roll’). In our project we’re looking to bring in a new dimension to the story of Lebanon’s troubled past that will raise awareness of questions the participants feel have largely been ignored by the mainstream media. Hence our project focuses on generating ‘Youth Roll’.

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A short film made during the initial project-team training week, which shows where the project began.

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This project, in turn, is part of a wider group of projects that form the Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) project Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Communities, led at the University of Manchester by Professor Stephen Hutchings. In particular Lebanon: The Youth Roll supports the Transnational Strand of this project, co-led at Durham University by Professors Andy Byford (MLAC) and Anoush Ehteshami (SGIA). The starting point for The Youth Roll was earlier work carried out by the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures for this OWRI project on how changes in the production, distribution and consumption of audio-visual texts have created opportunities for ‘subaltern’ voices to express their cultural and linguistic identity, acknowledging the influence of global north cultural conglomerates in shaping who can be heard. In this subsequent project we want to explore how digital media can be used to investigate the plurality of conflict landscapes in Lebanon, and the ways in which young people might co-create new narratives through creative practices that can challenge dominant discourse of war and silence.

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This project, in turn, is part of a wider group of projects that form the Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) project Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Communities, led at the University of Manchester by Professor Stephen Hutchings. In particular Lebanon: The Youth Roll supports the Transnational Strand of this project, co-led at Durham University by Professors Andy Byford (MLAC) and Anoush Ehteshami (SGIA). The starting point for The Youth Roll was earlier work carried out by the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures for this OWRI project on how changes in the production, distribution and consumption of audio-visual texts have created opportunities for ‘subaltern’ voices to express their cultural and linguistic identity, acknowledging the influence of global north cultural conglomerates in shaping who can be heard. In this subsequent project we want to explore how digital media can be used to investigate the plurality of conflict landscapes in Lebanon, and the ways in which young people might co-create new narratives through creative practices that can challenge dominant discourse of war and silence.

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This was a film made by the students from AUB talking about the project from their perspective.

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The film-making side of the project began with a week-long workshop, where young people from a wider variety of backgrounds, living in and around Beirut, came together with a group of students from the Media Studies Program at the American University of Beirut, to learn about using film to reflect on the legacy of the past for them today.

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A short film that's highlights the group's aspirations for their future life and their society.

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Groups of young people worked with an AUB student mentor to make a film reflecting on what they new about the country's past, its legacy for them today and what they hoped to achieve by taking part in the project.

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A short film that explores the experience of a group of young Syrians living in Lebanon due to the ongoing war in their country. While these filmmakers had little experience of Lebanon's Civil War, they were all too aware of the consequences of armed conflict, as they sought to make a new life for themselves.

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War and Drugs highlights some of the wider social ramifications today of Lebanon's history. Here the filmmakers use Hip Hop to communicate the reality of their lives.

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This film largely focuses on what the younger generation knows about the Civil War, highlighting the power of family stories in passing knowledge from one generation to the next.

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The groups then worked with their communities to uncover local stories about Lebanon's violent past and how this connects to their own experience, both in Lebanon and, in some cases, the countries they come from. They uncovered deeply personal, at times very painful, memories of the past.

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In this film we hear directly from the generation who lived through the war, hearing their views of what life was like before the war and what they consider to be the reasons behind it.

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This film puts people of different ages with different experiences into dialogue about their memories of Lebanon's past conflicts and its impact on themselves, their families and their communities.

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This film focuses on the experience of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, as they negotiate the problems of finding proper health care and social discrimination while also seeking to overcome the trauma of experiencing war in their home country.

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This film reflects on what life was like before the Civil War and the 2006 War, focusing on the human cost of conflict.

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The first purpose of the films was to generate dialogue across the group, to help people reflect on the different experiences of past conflicts that co-exist in Lebanon today, how these experiences are inflected by different community perspectives and what we can learn from each other. This project, and the insights learnt from the work it has produced are also feeding into the British Council's ongoing reflections about how it supports young people to become Active Citizens in and beyond Lebanon.

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Roula and Nour introduce their work to the festival, telling us about themselves and why they want to make these films.

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Some of the films were also selected to be shown as part of the Changing the Story international film festival. This also gave a platform for some of the filmmakers to introduce their work to an international audience, and for one person to take part in an international Q&A with other filmmakers working on similar projects around the world.

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Hasan introducing his film to the festival audience, what it's about and why he wanted to make it.

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