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French Version

Strictly Dabkeh! New Lebanese film 'Bosta' hits town

Phillip Aractingi makes no bones about it: "Bosta is a journey into the memory of Lebanon."

Featuring a plethora of mainly unknown Lebanese actors the musical film tells the tale of Kamal who returns to Beirut after 15 years of exile to reunite his old dance group, tackle his demons and conquer the traditional dabkeh dance scene with a new modern electro-dabkeh.

They tour the length and breadth of the nation in a brightly painted old public transportation bus - representing both the past and reconstruction - tackling all their personal issues along the way.

In the end "Bosta" ("Bus") is a slice of Middle Eastern kitsch, sweet loved-up filmmaking full of song and dance, a sort of Lebanese "Strictly Ballroom" capturing the people and flavors of the nation in a way that only a 100 percent Lebanese-made film could do.

And in that is the giveaway. Unlike many of the most successful Lebanese films in recent years - Danielle Arbid's "Maarek Hob" among others - "Bosta" was not paid for with European funding but wholly financed by regional investors, no easy task.

"I returned to Lebanon because I thought that the money that exists in the Arab world could be used for Arab films, and that it is time for us, filmmakers from the region, to be able to film the way we want to, rather than according to a certain frame that is imposed on us by a North-South paradigm," writer and director Aractingi explains.

"Bosta" thus feels contemporary and Lebanese in a way that not all European-funded Lebanese movies do. Aractingi, 40, gathered the approximately $800,000 needed to make the film through an innovative financial strategy set up by the Arab Finance Corporation - investment certificates.

Unlike shares, these certificates offer investors rights on future revenues but no right to vote. This means that they have a priority in the distribution of revenues until full reimbursement of their initial investment, and from then, until they reach a yearly cumulative yield of 15 percent of this investment.

In addition, they earn any surplus benefits up to 80 percent, with the remaining 20 percent going to Fantascope, Aractingi's production company. After five years, the production company will be earning all revenues - from DVD sales and stage adaptations to television royalties and soundtrack sales.

If "Bosta" is successful - and there is an audience of over 200 million Arab people who swallow up movies daily - it might even start to deconstruct the perception in local and regional financial circles that the movie-making business is not a money-making business.

One of the ingredients that might help make it a success is the music - perhaps the most innovative element of the movie and without which "Bosta" would fall flat on its feet.

Composed by Ali al-Khatib using the never before used 5/4 rhythm (traditional dabkeh is always based on either a 6 or a 4 beat) and tweaked by the British duo of Simon Emmerson and Martin Russell to give it an organic, western-flavored techno feel, the result is a foot-stomping alternative and addictive music that could well set off a new dance craze in Lebanon and the region.

Why dabkeh?

"Because it's festive and it's danced by many! Because it is a great illustration of the good-natured Lebanese spirit that loves to party and have fun," says Aractingi. "And because this festive spirit is one of the rare common denominators between these people of different religions and sects."

"Bosta" premieres tonight at theConcorde Cinema and is released in Lebanon nationwide on December 1.

Beirut,11 28 2005
The Daily Star
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