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Interview / Meeting with Wissam Tanios, director of the film “far from home”

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Wissam Tanios was born in 1989 in Beirut. He studied cinema at IESAV, St Joseph University in Beirut. After two award-winning short films, he directed his first feature film, Far from with us, which he completed during a 6-week Global Media Makers residency in Los Angeles. The film follows the journey of two Syrian brothers, Milad and Jamil Khawam, cousins ​​of the director, who try to flee their respective countries to go into exile in Europe. The film is available on DVD since January 3.

Wissam Tanios : “ chaos creates something beautiful”

In far from home, Wissam Tanios leaves his two cousins, Milad and Jamil Khawamtake the camera in his place: “ Normally, a director chooses what he films. Here, not at all. Each of my cousins ​​had control on the one hand of the moments they wanted to shoot and on the other hand on what they wanted to send me. For example, I had asked Jamil to send me just a few images of his crossing. I received a lot of videos of this step. He had practically kept a diary, expressing his doubts, his fears… I didn’t expect that. Conversely, Milad did not send me anything at that time. I later discovered images where he had already arrived in Europe. After a few months, I told him that our cousin had sent me lots of videos. Surely out of jealousy, Milad then sent me his crossing videos. I didn’t include them in the film because I wanted to respect his original intention, which was obviously to forget this moment. “.

But Wissam Tanios very quickly adapted to having no control over the image capture. The fact that the camera is held by amateurs makes the film unique: “Jlearned that chaos creates something beautiful. I had no control over the images, sometimes too many rushes. Finally, my cousins ​​did not walk around with professional cameras. The images are alive, they move. I really like this final render. “.

The 34-year-old Lebanese youth talks about the production of the project: “ It was very organic. I didn’t know at first if it was a medium or a feature film. With the rushes, I made a trailer that I showed to friends. I applied alone to obtain creation funds, which were all refused. I then made a trip to Berlin and Stockholm. I met producers there, which launched the production of Far From Home “.

“I realized that by telling the story of my cousins, I kind of told my own story in Far From Home”

After making a short film on the death of his sister, Wissam Tanios indicates having wanted to take a little distance with his personal story to tell that of others “. The Lebanese director was quickly overtaken by his own emotions: “ I realized that by telling the story of my cousins, I kind of told my own story. At the end of the production of the film, we also integrated my voice into the film. I also inserted personal archive images that I had initially hidden to my producer by modesty “.

Far From Home movie picture 2022
© Epicenter Films

When asked if he was afraid for his cousins ​​during the filming of the film, Wissam Tanios explains having had a reaction in two stages: “ During the making of the film, I had not taken into account all the emotional content of these videos. I was focused on the act of creation. It’s when I rediscover them at festivals that I really appreciate them. I went from a very professional look when I was making the film to a totally personal look at the time of promotion. It was no longer ordinary characters who were on the screen, it was my cousins “.

“How can we consider creating a film when the people are in great poverty? »

Wissam Tanios today gives us news of its two protagonists since the end of filming: ” Jamil got married in October 2021, he is happy today. Milad is still in Berlin. It’s good there I think. His music was greatly influenced by the Berlin music scene. He does much more electro pieces using the trumpet “.

The director himself has come a long way since far from home : “ I have since left Lebanon. I think this whole experience was an exploration streak. I didn’t have the courage until then to leave. I’m grateful to my cousins ​​for letting me film them. This allowed me to make the decision to settle in Marseille “.

Far From Home movie picture 2022
© Epicenter Films

When leaving, Wissam Tanios makes a sad observation about culture in Lebanon: It’s as if we didn’t have the right to create in Lebanon because it’s secondary to what’s happening. How to envisage the creation of a film whereas the people are in a great misery? We do not see the end of this crisis. When I wanted to work on my second film, I couldn’t work in Beirut because I was constantly brought back to the difficulties that the population was encountering to feed themselves. In France, I can concentrate more on my projects “.

The director asks himself the question: can a Lebanese film deal with anything other than the social context in Lebanon? For example, can we be interested in a love story without mentioning the crisis? Not sure. It must be said that the population is very marked by what is happening at the moment. As a result, it monopolizes all the subjects. We don’t feel legitimate to deal with other things “.

Interview conducted by telephone on August 6, 2022

Learn more:

  • French cinema release date: 08/10/2022
  • DVD release date: 3/01/2023
  • Distribution France: Epicenter Movies

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