Christopher Sakr’s premiere of his documentary, LIGHT, will be happening March 10th at The Grand Ballroom located at 1219 SW Park Ave, and believe us when we say, it’s a party not to be missed. It’s not everyday you get a Lebanese bash in a ballroom…in Portland. For LIGHT’s first public viewing, its official launch and unveiling, Lebanese cuisine and drinks will be provided by Ya Hala Lebanese Restaurant and Barbur World Foods. Christopher wants you to “Don your most formal attire—and bring your dancing shoes” to share this special evening with him and the community.
Being avid eaters of Lebanese food and attending as many themed dance parties as possible, we were extremely excited to sit down with Christopher, talk about the details and what he has planned for the future.
E+E: How long did this project take in all?
Christopher Sakr: I filmed for a little over a month and have been editing for almost a year now. The first two weeks I stayed with my uncle in a suburb of Beirut and then my Dad was able to come for the second half of the trip and we stayed in our home village, Douar. I had a lot of family I had never met, basically the whole village (laughs). After filming I stopped in Paris for 4 days to kind of gradually make a return to the states rather than just jumping straight from Lebanon to America. It would have been a drastic change of atmosphere.
E+E: Has the focus changed much from when you were filming in Lebanon to coming back and editing?
CS: I Kickstarted this movie and I was very specific on Kickstarter saying I didn’t want to leave with any idea on how the movie would be structured. All I had was my own story and all I knew is I wanted it to flow like a dream. I wanted to take director Terrence Malick’s (Tree of Life) approach: shoot as much footage as possible and see what you have when you are done. It’s definitely a more visual documentary with no on-screen interviews in the film. I didn’t really even know what the theme would be until I got back and began editing. When I was there shooting, the only lightning bolt I had was knowing how the movie would begin.
E+E: Had you always wanted to do a film on Lebanon or was there something that sparked it?
CS: I never wanted to be a documentarian and I’m not sure if I will ever make another one. When I was 15 years old, I thought making a documentary would be a cool excuse to go back to Lebanon but never gave it much thought. Then, after my first feature, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next; my hands were up in the air and I had writer’s block. I thought briefly, “maybe I should do the Lebanon documentary”, and four months later I quit my job at Apple and I was on a plane. A lot of stuff happened in a short amount of time.
E+E: What are you most excited to show people with LIGHT?
CS: I am most excited to show people a side of the Middle East that some aren’t aware of. I show friends footage and they are so surprised about how gorgeous it is. It’s almost like Greece. You have everything there—snowcapped mountains, beaches, forests—it’s not all rolling sand dunes with guys in turbans lopping each others heads off. It’s not like that, it is a beautiful place. I hope the movie shows the richness of the culture, the beauty of the land and a sense of past, present and future we don’t always get here in the states. I think the difference between living in a place like Portland is, the history you see is something like a hundred-year-old tree, versus in other parts of the world, like Lebanon, you walk among thousand-year-old ruins. You consider the perspective of those who do that everyday and it alleviates a lot of the issues we tend to have here as young people, like “oh my god I’m going to die some day!” or “I’m getting so old”—they’re just accepting of it.
E+E: Who are the films narrators?
CS: I have three narrators, two of them are women (a middle-aged woman, Eva Bekahi and a 25-year-old, Nour-Petra Hamieh). You get a very female perspective with the film and I like it because with Middle Eastern themes you tend to hear the ‘oppressed woman’ perspective but these are definitely assured and educated women. I originally thought it would be two male narrators and one woman but have become much happier with the film having two female voices. It gives it a degree of heart you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I grew up around the Eva and I picked her because she has this gorgeous Maya Angelou voice. Michael Layoun is a medical student, I knew him when we were kids. I hadn’t talked to him in years but had a mutual friend so I got in touch with him that way. Nour-Petra is the cousin of the family that runs Ya Hala and Barbur foods.
E+E: What are your future plans with LIGHT after the premiere?
CS: I can’t really get too into it, a lot of it will come down to the “big” announcement that night. I would ultimately like to take it on some sort of tour. Possibly Seattle, San Diego, Detroit, Montreal and Rhode Island—places with Lebanese presence. It is all contingent upon how the event goes, really. Anything I do here I can easily replicate somewhere else and Lebanese families are pretty well connected around the world so someone will always know someone else I can connect with.
E+E: What’s your favorite thing about Portland? What keeps you here?
CS: I definitely went through a long period of “man, fuck this place” but I think honestly it is sort of what’s keeping me here is intangible. One of the main reasons I haven’t been pushed to move is because I’m most excited about where Portland will be in 10 years. I think right now, it’s a stepping stone to something else. I’ve always wanted to see Portland become a big city, and I know bad things will come from that as well. I am waiting to see the future when it strays from the idea that Portland is the place for young to retire but instead a place for young people to come and start a career.
Doors open at 6:30pm, March 10th. The screening begins at 7pm, after which, there will be an exciting announcement by Producer/Director Christopher Sakr, followed by the all-night celebration! The party ends at 1am, and we plan on enjoying every last minute! So, join in!
Noah Simons, of Larians composed the score for LIGHT.
BUY TICKETS HERE – We will see you there!