My friend Amine Khoury; a kind, thoughtful, gentle man of letters was telling me one fine fall morning that one of his greatest desires in life was to be able to fully share his love of his native Lebanon, especially Beirut, with the world.
As we talked, I felt his sadness about the lack of international understanding for the city. Sitting on his balcony far above the burgeoning populous, a gentle breeze carrying the aroma of the sea, the scents of thousands of flowers, and wafting smells of delicious cooking foods we spoke over strong coffee, wonderful Arabic bread and walnuts. He explained that if people could just see the love, life and laughter the city contains through children’s perspectives, the world would view the city as the vibrant metropolis it is – full of life, culture, food, music, grace and style.
Beirut is tucked tightly along the eastern edge of the Mediterranean—a city known for a long time as the Paris of the Middle East. As a man who made the first of at least 50 visits to Paris as a 15 year old, more than 40 years ago, I can tell you without question that the comparison fits—except I find the citizenry of Beirut far more affable and engaging than those of the French capital.
Beirut is a visually stunning place. The faces of the people are glorious. The fashion diverse, yet consistently immaculate. From the apartments overlooking the coast, snow capped peaks are visible much of the year. It’s magic.
There are of course the scars left by the conflict the place has endured. Those wounds are slowly being eradicated by booming real estate construction.
Lebanon itself is a small country, less than the size of Wales, but it’s people have had a massive impact on the history of civilization. From Byblos the ancient Phoenicians exported the alphabet making possible so many of the great literary joys and treasures the world enjoys. Perhaps the DNA the modern Lebanese share with their ancestors is the reason they venture far and wide sharing a marvelous sense of, well, simply embracing life with a joy, a fervor for education and the security of close companionship that is especially gained through a commonality of understanding.
It’s clear that children have a unique perspective, one that is not clouded with bias, and they are excited to share their ideas with the world. It’s Amine’s vision, and passion, and the love for country, family—both personal and his students that drove us to want to partner with the Eastwood College for the Beirut Through Our Eyes project.
I’m pleased that this week, we are back in Beirut, helping nine hundred students make a film about their hometown. Each level of the Eastwood College ranging from pre K to 12th grade will work together to document a different aspect of the city as only they can. The students will share their insights through words written and spoken, images still and moving, dance and drawing. The results of their work will be displayed in a short documentary film, and an iBook.
Beirut Through Our Eyes is about digital citizenship. It is about teaching storytelling. It’s about pride. It’s about sharing. This film festival is a way for the students to spread the joys of creativity, filmmaking, and education.
I hope you‘ll have a chance to follow the progress of the project on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtags #BeirutThroughOurEyes #LiveLoveBeirut #EastwoodCollege #EastwoodSchools.