It’s a long journey from a school in Beirut in the early 1990s to a screening room at the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. But two school friends, director Samah El-Kady and writer Rani Nasr, teamed up with producer Michel Ayoub to bring to life the story of childhood innocence that collided with political reality in “The Chewing Gum Brigades,” a feature film project presented as part of the Red Sea Lodge workshop.
said the judge diverse That the real life “gum battalions” began as “a secret society where we used bubblegum as a bribery method to obtain members, then it became cooler, then we organized sit-ins and a revolution, and it failed as did every revolution that we were part of Lebanon after that.”
Commercials producer Ayoub first read the script in 2019. The story of the rebellion meshed with the political ferment at the time, and not just in Lebanon. At the same time, there were the Black Lives Matter movements, the LGBTQ movements, and the feminist movements. It all happens at the same time, which is why I felt the urgency of the script.”
Ayoub knew Al-Qadi as they worked together in commercials. Charged dexterity in their presentation, both during joint presentation sessions and while speaking with them diverse Later, he undoubtedly benefited from this background. Al-Qadi and Nasr have also collaborated on several short films, including the Emmy-nominated “Stardust” episode of the TV show “6:07”.
“Braids of Gum” is her first feature. The log line reads: “When 12-year-old Wael’s fantasies about time travel are shattered by his teachers’ unfair rules, he forms a brigade with his classmates to rebel against their corrupt school system using bubblegum, pink paint, and a donkey named BMW.”
The judge indicated that it is important for the film to be accessible to children and to talk about children, but it is not a film for children. “When adults write to children, they tend to forget that there is a very high moral code among children. It is worth reminding adults of this.”
The project passed the workshops given by the Red Sea Inn. “I have all the tools I need,” Ayoub says of the support. “They took us by the hand from the start, but they didn’t impose any kind of vision. They gave us a lot of options to choose from.”
How important is it that the project was sponsored by a Middle Eastern film festival? “It’s not that she’s Saudi: It’s a global film network,” Nasr says, adding that many Saudis in particular are more progressive than the people he meets in Brussels, where he currently resides. “The people you see here are the same people you see in Venice and Cannes. Saudi Arabia in general is opening up. It is experiencing what it saw in Italy in the 1960s: there is a renaissance in cinema. It is opening up to the world. There are still stereotypes in people’s minds, but For us when we implemented it it seemed very natural. And here you find women’s stories, LGBT stories. Not just daring. They have a lot of progressive ideas to bring to the table. And also co-run by TorinoFilmLab.”
The next step for the team is to begin filming “Ghostland,” a short film that in addition to being a proof of concept film, stands on its own as a personal film in its own right. The stadium was awarded a $20,000 grant from Film Lab Palestine and is scheduled to be shown in March. With this completed, the team hopes to assemble the “Brigade of Gum”.