Randa Chahal Sabag

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Randa Chahal Sabbag (also written Sabbagh) (born 11 December 1953, in Tripoli, Lebanon; died 25 August 2008 in Paris, France) was a Lebanese film director, producer and screenwriter born to an Iraqi mother and Lebanese father.[1]

She died from cancer at the age of 54.[2]


(See below for individual film awards and nominations)


Sabbag began her career with documentary films but shifted to feature films by the 1990s, though she retained 'a documentary-maker's nose for contentious subject matter'.[2] She is reported to have said, "You discover in my films a common denominator. You notice that the camera only moves from right to left exactly like Arabic writing."[3]

Les Infidèles, a 1997 drama, is about the relationship between a French diplomat and a former Islamist who agrees to turn over the names of his colleagues if the French government will release an imprisoned friend.[citation needed]

Civilisées (A Civilized People) released in 1999, is a black comedy about the Lebanese Civil War, which killed at least 100,000 people.[4] Sabbag deployed a 'vaudevillian cast'[2] including foreign servants and philanthropists, visiting expatriates, militiamen and criminals – in a profane and disunified story mixing elements of absurdist plays. Some 40 minutes of the film was censored for its 'obscenity' and 'uncomplimentary representation of Lebanon during this particularly unsavory spell of its history'.[2][3] It was subsequently screened only once, at the Beirut International Film Festival.

Sabbag became noted in 2003 with The Kite, which received the Silver Lion at the 2003 Venice Film Festival and won several prestigious prizes and international acclaim; the Grand Special Jury Prize, the Cinema for Peace Award and the Laterna Magica Prize.[citation needed] Set in a low-key South Lebanese village, the film is about love, life, death and the absurdity of the Israeli occupation, seen from the perspective of a Druze family separated following the division of their village into two with one half annexed to Israel. The story evolves around an arranged marriage between Lamia, a 16-year-old Lebanese Druze girl, (played by Flavia Bechara) and her Israeli Druze cousin (played by Maher Bsaibes). The drama unfolds under the vigilant yet impotent Israeli-Lebanese border guards; one of whom is played by renowned Lebanese composer, actor and playwright Ziad Rahbani. The Kite is used 'as a metaphor for love and for life at the border', it explores, with depth and sometimes humor, 'the meaning of brides, of the hope they represent for divided families and, sometimes, for divided nations'.[5][6]

In 2005, Sabbag started a new project with the distinguished Lebanese-American Hollywood film-producer Elie Samaha with the working title Too Bad for Them. The film was expected to combine comedy, music, dancing as well as politics, and North-South socio-economic disparities. However, the film was unreleased at the time of her death.[citation needed]


Year Title Notes
2007 Too Bad for Them
  • Forthcoming
2002 Le Cerf-Volant (The Kite)
2000 Souha, survivre à l'enfer
  • Documentary, 56 minutes
  • Selection Fipa, 2001
1999 Civilisées (A Civilized People)
1997 Les Infidèles (The Infidels)
  • Drama, 85 minutes
  • Official selection, Locarno, 1997
1995 Nos Guerres Imprudentes
1991 Ecrans de Sable (Screens of Sand)
1984 Cheikh Imam
  • Documentary, 52 minutes
1980 Liban d'Autrefois (Lebanon Long Ago)
1978 Pas à Pas (Step by Step)
  • Documentary, 80 minutes
  • Prize, Festival des Pays francophones de Namu


  1. ^ THE KITE (Le Cerf-Volant): Directed by Randa Chahal Sabbag
  2. ^ a b c d "Award-winning filmmaker Randa Chahal Sabbag passes away in Paris" by Jim Quilty. The Daily Star newspaper, Wednesday, August 27, 2008
  3. ^ a b "Randa Chahal": NOW Extra remembers the life and work of the great Lebanese filmmaker. By Louisa Ajami, NOW Staff, September 1, 2008 Randa Chahal
  4. ^ Lebanese Filmmaker: Randa Chahal Sabbag by Mai Hoang, World Press Review, March 2004 issue (VOL. 51, No. 3) Lebanese Filmmaker: Randa Chahal Sabbag
  5. ^ Film Journal International 2004
  6. ^ A critique of 'The Syrian Bride' (Eran Riklis) with a praise to "The Kite", by Maria Garcia, Film Journal International, Sept. 2008