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Philippe Aractingi is a Franco-Lebanese director born in 1964. Self-taught, he begins his career by taking photographs of Beirut's daily life during the Lebanese civil war, and directs his first documentary at age 21. During an unstable period, he trusts his intuition, and launches into a profession that was almost absent in his country at the time.
In 1989, he leaves Lebanon, and moves to France. He opens himself up to the world, and until 2001, he directs around twenty films. As a multi-faceted director, he dedicates a film to the archeology in Sri Lanka, observes the daily lives of acrobat children in Morocco, and contemplates the giraffes in South Africa, always moving from one topic to another with the same passion of travel and discovery. In 1993, driven by the desire to experiment with various media and to touch on diverse topics, Philippe co-writes “Les Mères à l’Epreuve du Liban” with Lela Chikhani-Nacouz.
Meanwhile, he continues to devote part of his work to Lebanon, and to the aftermath of the war. Just as the latter ends, and as the borders are reopening between the Lebanese, he embarks on a journey to encounter the other by capturing the suffering of Lebanese women, the forgotten witnesses amidst the clashes. Through Mothers’ Eyes (1992) touches Lebanon in its entirety and beats audience records in France. In a poetic film, Beirut of Stones and Memories (1993), he reveals the scars of the city, associating texts by the Lebanese poet Nada Tueni with his images of Beirut ruins.
In 2001, Philippe Aractingi moves back to Lebanon and founds Fantascope Production; a content-driven company specialized in the production of all-format documentaries.
With Bosta (2005), his first feature-length fiction film, he offers an innovative look at Lebanon by directing a musical, a first for post-war Lebanon. With its 140 000 entries in Lebanon, a record number in 25 years, this road movie, both entertaining and realistic, reunites the Lebanese with their cinema, and paves the way for a new generation of films.
When in 2006 a new war breaks out in Lebanon, Philippe Aractingi, used to filming in a state of urgency, decides to shoot his second feature film. Filmed two days after the end of the war, Under the bombs (2008) places two professional actors in the heat of the moment, in the South of Lebanon, and confronts them with real actors (civilians, soldiers, rescue teams, etc.) who embody their actual roles. This fictional story with a real-life setting, which combines improvised and written scenes, has been distributed in around twenty countries. Under the Bombs has been selected at the Venice Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Dubai International Film Festival. It has also won 23 prizes to date.
Bosta and Under the Bombs have both represented Lebanon at the Oscars.
For his third film, Philippe Aractingi bets on yet another type of writing: the autobiography. Heritages (2013) narrates the exile of his own family across four generations and a hundred years of history. As in the circus tradition, each member of the family, from the youngest to the oldest, embodies the role of an ancestor in addition to playing him or herself. The film effortlessly moves between archival images, reconstructed scenes and home videos, all the while dealing with often-difficult subjects of memory and transference with a smile.
In a country where cinematic studies did not exist, Philippe Aractingi pictured and shaped himself as a director. Today, Philippe Aractingi continues to be an active advocate for Lebanese cinema. He is a founding member of the Fondation Liban Cinema (FLC), and is the Vice President on the board of the Screen Institute Beirut.
Film after film, Philippe Aractingi is constantly searching for a new cinematographic form, which rests between fiction and reality, and is able to represent this region of the Middle East where chaos is always intertwined with order, and tragedy with joy.
Today, Philippe Aractingi devotes more time to his first love: photography. As a young man, he had taken pictures of Lebanon, fascinated by a war that later disgusted him. It is now only for pleasure that he takes pictures.
An exhibition took place in 2011 at the Galerie Modus in Paris. The exhibition was called "Nuit sur Beyrouth" (Night on Beirut") and described the evolution of this city where all shapes and colors are present.
Other exhibitions are scheduled for 2013 and 2014.
Bosta (Bus in arabic) tells the story of seven former schoolmates who meet up again after 15 years to drive across Lebanese regions in a rundown school bus, which the repaint and renew as a wound they are healling. The group is trying to introduce a new blend of music in their native village, a mic of the traditionnal dance - the Dabkeh - coupled to a techno beat; a mix that embodies this generation that grew up too fast. This group of friends tries to bring a modern twist to the past in a world that has lost all bearings. The bus thus takes its passengers across Lebanon, on an emotionally bumpy journey of self-discovery and re-acquaintance with the multiple identities of their country.
Under the Bombs
Zeina is living in Dubai. In the middle of a divorce, she sends her son Karim to stay with her sister in Kherbet Selem, a little village in the South of Lebanon, to spare him his parents’ fights. A few days later, the war breaks out. Desperately worried, Zeina also leaves for the Lebanon, via Turkey. But because of the blockade she reaches the port of Beirut only on the day of the ceasefire. In exchange for a large sum of money, Tony, a taxi-driver, agrees to take her to the South. Tony is a Christian, he lives in Beirut and his brother lives in Israel, and Zeina is a Shia, so they have little in common. What difference does it make?. Together, they search the centres for displaced people as they cross through a ravaged landscape. When they get to Kherbet Selem, the town is in ruins. Zeina’s sister has been killed and Ali, a youngster from the village, tells them that Karim has been taken away by French journalists. Zeina and Tony go in search of the lost child…
To this day, Under the bombs has won 23 prizes among which
- Drama Award, Prize for Best Film, One World Media Award, London, 2009
- Golden Muhr Award, Prize for Best Film and Best Actrice, Dubai International Film Festival, 2007
- EIUC Human Rights Film Award, Venice Film Festival, 2007
- Price of the Critique and Price, International Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, 2007
- Junior Price for Best Film, Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur, 2007
- Fipresci of the International Critic, International Film Festival Bratislava, 2008
- Une terre pour un homme, En hommage à Ghassan Tuéni (2012
- Voyage en terre bio (2000)
- The Dream of the Acrobat Child, 1995 (Documentary - 52’)
- Grand Price of the Jury at the Beyrouth film Festival (1997)
- Beirut of Stones and Memories, (Beyrouth de pierres et de mémoire) 1993 ( Essay -18’)
- Gold Medal of the Jeux de la Francophonie – Paris (1994)
- Special Mention of the Jury at the Journées du Cinéma Africain et Créole - Montréal (1995)
- Libre vol, 1993 (Short film 18’)
- Price of the Jury at the Festival International du Vol - St Hilaire (1991)
- Through Mothers’ Eyes (Min Ouioun el Oumahat), 1992 (Documentary 52’)
- Official Selection at the Lyons Festival 1992
- Forgiveness (movie scenario, in preparation)
- London Halal (movie scenario, in preparation)
- Les mères à l'épreuve du Liban
- Book - Co-writer Léla Chikhany Nacouz / Publisher L'Harmattan
- Fantascope Production: http://www.fantascopeprod.com/
- IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2127004/
- AlloCine: http://www.allocine.fr/personne/fichepersonne_gen_cpersonne=172060.html
- Héritages (2013)
- Under the Bombs (2008)
- The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/starsandstories/3667436/Philippe-Aractingi-I-wanted-to-present-war-differently.html
- The Daily Telegraph "In a cinematic season of war, with a batch of heavyweight Hollywood films dealing with events in the Middle East, none was made under more treacherous, life-threatening conditions than Under the Bombs." David Gritten (UK / daily)
- Variety (magazine) "The docu-fiction road movie "Under the Bombs" plays like a cri de coeur. Shot during the fighting, apparently without a script, these improvised scenes score with their emotional authenticity." Alissa Simon
- Variety (magazine) "Aractingi's pic, partly shot during last year's hostilities, received a lengthy standing ovation following its Lido bow." Ali Jafaar
- Il Messaggero "Under the bombs has the merit to tell the facts without trading on them and adding something to our perceptive horizon." Francesco Alo’ (Italy / daily)
- Il Manifesto "Sous les bombes is one of the best film in Venice Days.Maybe the reference could be Germania anno zero (Germany year zero) by Roberto Rossellini. Classifying it as a fiction - or a documentary – is a limit : its substance is in the truth he tells and, at the same time, in the act of destabilizing its representation. An emotional film, without rhetoric." Cristina Piccino (Italy / daily)
- Il Sole 24 Ore "A bombproof location !" Cristina Battocletti (Italy/daily)
- Bosta (2006)
- Guardian Unlimited, UK, FEV 2006 "It’s a fast-paced, colourful movie that captures both the beauty and the problems of this country."
- The Washington Post, USA, MARCH 2006 "It was a breath of fresh air. It did not deal with the war in a blunt way, but indirectly. For once, the healing process that Lebanese society is supposed to go through is the focus."