Nagham Abboud grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, ten time zones and a world away from Hollywood. In the early nineties, the country was recovering from a civil war.
Power outages and bullet holes in building facades were common. Still,
“I remember waking up at four in the morning just to watch the Oscars.I remember practicing my own acceptance speech in front of the mirror.”
Nagham already knew that she wanted to become a filmmaker.
“I used to watch The Sound of Music and Peter Pan over and over till I knew them by heart.”
The Green Mile, Cinema Paradiso…Movies inspired her and shaped the person she is now: a young and bubbly creative entrepreneur “obsessed with films and storytelling.”
“Movies are magic. They lift you from reality to imagination, then from dream back to reality, from sound to image, from image to emotion. They are an ensemble of stories, images and people.”
The reality in which Nagham herself was in growing up in Lebanon was not one particularly conducive to a woman forging a career in the movie business. The film industry in Lebanon was and is still, small, competitive, underfunded. Even ten years later, she still struggles for her place within it.
“The main challenge is finding enough money to tell the stories I want. I juggle filmmaking with another job to pay the bill at the end of the month. You also have to prove yourself in this industry, that you exist and are ready for any challenge. To wake up early, show up, work late, start again. You have to love it.”
And she does, and loves Lebanon, which is why she returned after pursuing a graduate degree in filmmaking in Ireland.
“I learned a lot there and am grateful, but I love my country and my mission is to tell its story to the world.”
Her movies are about the relationships, people, and culture of Lebanon. In Behind the Window, which won the Lebanese Movie Award in 2012, Nagham takes the viewer on a sensory journey through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy who tries to get his hands on a used video camera. He needs it to record a declaration of love to a violin teacher in his neighborhood. With subtle lights and colors and shots, the movie showcases the poverty, social and religious divides of Lebanese society, but also its beauty.
She has directed other movies that view, from different angles, Lebanon’s multifaceted and rich identity. Notable among those are Where Do We Go Now, on religion and identity, by Nadine Labaki, to The Insult, on the Palestinian refugee crisis, by Ziad Doueiry.
Through these films, Nagham hopes that, gradually, the world will get to know and love the stories of her country and its people. On our end, we hope that we will one day get to hear the Oscar acceptance speech.