VIFF 2010: Director Zeina Daccache cajoles prisoners in 12 Angry Lebanese: The Documentary
Lebanese theatre directorZeina Daccache staged her adaptation of Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men in Beirut’s toughest prison, with rapturous results for many of those involved: international press, heightened self-esteem for some of the prisoners, and even reduced sentences for some. But that she was able to turn the experience into the elegant, quietly explosive 12 Angry Lebanese: The Documentary (which plays at VIFF on Friday, Sunday, and Wednesday [October 1, 3, and 6]) is inspiring on even more levels.
Watch the trailer for 12 Angry Lebanese: The Documentary.
“We should have called it 45 Angry Lebanese and an Even Angrier Woman,” Daccache said by phone from Quebec, where her film is playing at the Montreal Lebanese Festival. Indeed, what the movie most astutely records is one tough female corralling, cajoling, and provoking almost four dozen criminals into improving themselves over the course of one relentless year.
“This is a very macho culture, obviously,” the director, who is coming with her film, said, “and most of these men are from villages and small towns where it’s not even as European as Beirut. At first, some didn’t trust me. They’d think, ”˜Who is this girl to come here and shout at us? This woman who is neither our lover or mother or the government?’ But after a while they realized that this experience had nothing to do with sex or power. And that’s when they started to call me Abu Ali, which is a nickname that means—well, the closest I can get has to do with cojones.”
She spent several years pleading with various ministries, prison officials, and funding bodies before the European Union—and especially the Italian office—ponied up the dough.
“I studied theatre in Beirut, then with Philippe Gaulier in London, and began volunteering at rehab centres. Then, in 2004, I learned about drama therapy and studied at Kansas State University, before taking this idea back to Beirut. The work is very consuming, but the government just renewed my contract for three more years. I feel like I just got my own life sentence!”