Doris Saba: Aaaand Action!

Although Doris had written stories during her time at school, she had not planned to go into filmmaking when she first started her communication arts degree. However, when the work became more practical, and she started digging into the world of cinema she discovered her passion for the field. Since then, Doris has been a very active member of the film community, having worked on over 40 short films, several of which went on to win awards and be screened at national and international film festivals. She also co-wrote and produced three feature films, including the Lebanese social dramedy C-Section, an official submission to the 2021 Golden Globe Awards, and the Chinese-Lebanese Feature Film, “Meido”, directed by award-winning director Guan Xi. Doris states clearly that the guidance and the support of her mentor Mr. Sam Lahoud positively affected her journey and her career a lot.

At the start of her journey, she received plenty of encouragement because the people around her perceived filmmaking as cool and fun; however, that slowly started to change since her career does not come with a fixed position or income, and is instead project-based and necessitates freelancing. To freelance, she needed to make connections. Building connections with others in the industry is especially important in her subfield, film production, as she has to secure funding, catering, equipment, locations, filming permits, and actors as well as manage the team and delegate tasks and responsibilities. However, to make connections, she needed to take on unpaid work, which can be financially draining and her family asked her to pursue a more stable form of income. Doris chose to push through and believes not having a fixed salary has played in her favor, especially given the instability of the Lebanese economy.

Being an accomplished woman in the film, Doris has had firsthand experience with how women are treated in the industry. “Some men ask you to come in for an interview, but proposition you in their offices. It is extremely uncomfortable, especially when it comes from men in powerful positions in the industry.” However, Doris says that it is important to project the image of a strong, powerful woman, “you have to force them to respect you. This is not an easy career; it can be a very dangerous and toxic environment.” She believes these experiences have made her more confident in herself and her capabilities, emotionally stronger, and more focused on her goals.

During her time in the field, Doris has watched how the media portrays women as stereotypes with no proper depth or plot, and how the media targets young girls and often position them as damsels in distress who need princes to save them. She strives to change that perception by taking on topics like women empowerment, children, refugees, and peace. She is passionate about responsible filmmaking she hosts a cinema segment on Al Jadeed, a Lebanese TV station, and uses this platform to promote responsible filmmaking. She is also the project manager of Beirut Film Society where she creates and supports projects and initiatives intended to raise awareness regarding the rights of children, refugees, girls, and women as well as to empower women and youths in Lebanon through film and art.

Doris has also started and led two initiatives advocating for human rights. The first, Girls for Change, is a capacity-building training that aims to empower adolescent girls and refugees in vulnerable areas in Lebanon through film and art by providing them with the means to express themselves and to create change in their environments. The second, Beirut My Child, is a capacity-building training that specifically targets children affected by the 2020 Beirut Blast by teaching them animation techniques so they can share their dreams for the future.

Doris is also the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Cinema for Peace Summer Camp Academy & Film Festival, and the Festival Coordinator for the Beirut International Women Film Festival, the Beirut International Children and Family Film Festival, the Golden Grenade Armenian Film Festival in Beirut, and the program coordinator at Beirut Shorts International Film Festival. She has also expanded her scope outside of Lebanon and she is the Program Coordinator of The Lebanese Film Festival in Canada.

Doris encourages young women and girls to follow their passions, “do what you love because this is your career. If you are working at a job you do not like, you will miss out on the chance to pursue something you are passionate about. If you choose a difficult career, you have to rise to the challenge, especially if you are faced with discouragement or criticism. Show them that you chose this and that you are going to go out and get it.”

She has further expanded her scope to include peacebuilding, believing that women can play a large role in crisis management, prevention, and mediation between different parties, countries, and individuals. Doris was nominated to be a member of the OHCHR ROMENA Youth Network (United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner- Regional Office of The Middle East and North Africa). She was also nominated as a Youth Peace Ambassador with the ICESCO (Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to represent Lebanon, and launched a leadership training in peace and security through her innovative project ‘Cinema for Peace’, an idea she created during her graduate course in Entrepreneurship in the Media. The project aims to promote cinema as a modern tool to build peace and resolve conflicts by providing youth with the necessary skills to become purveyors of a new cinema of intercultural dialogue.

Doris is currently working on Film Friendly Lebanon, a project that aims to transform the cities and villages of Lebanon, and more specifically the rural and the vulnerable areas, into film-friendly certified communities. Film Friendly Lebanon was selected among more than 550 applications from 93 countries to participate in the UN75 Online Contest with “Friends for SDGs” and Doris was also the only delegate from Lebanon to attend Saint’s Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2021 in Russia as part of Friends for Leadership to pitch the project. The goal is to create an online marketplace with detailed data information and description of the locations, local talents, crew, and industrial services so that the international community will be encouraged to film in Lebanon.

She believes that film-induced tourism could generate economic growth and opportunities for the country, especially in these communities. “We have very promising local talent and beautiful locations, but no proper film industry, no system to organize it, and very little support.” She believes it is imperative to invest in the sector and create initiatives and strategies to improve it.

This story was written by Ghada El Kawas

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