Just Celebrity Magazine had the pleasure of speaking with Lebanese director Wassim Geagea about his film Omé. A film inspired by a true event in his life, we had the chance to speak with Wassim about his film, his experience with the virtual editions of the 2020 Palm Springs International ShortFest and Huesca International Film Festival and how he is dealing with the lockdown.
How are you doing and how are you dealing with the lockdown?
First of all, thank you for giving me the opportunity to have an interview with your magazine, it’s a pleasure for me. Second of all, I’m doing good, of course, this lockdown had a negative impact on all of us and it was unexpected but we’re dealing with it. A lot of projects have been put on hold for now due to this situation but we’ll keep going through it all and we won’t let this pandemic affect all our hard work.
What inspired this story?
The movie was born from personal experience when I lost my mother at the age of four. I grew up trying to understand the true meaning of death and had a lot of questions like; where do we go after we die? Is there an afterlife? And many more questions that the main character Elias asked in the movie. However, this is not the only reason behind this movie, not everyone who undergoes a personal experience has to make a movie about it. Lebanon and the Arab world has gone through a lot of revolutions and protests recently, in order to change the political social and religious system that has been ruling the country for a long time and to fight for their rights and receive their minimum needs. From this point, I started asking myself how will we be able to change this country’s system if we can’t even change our own mindset and beliefs? For me, the revolution and the change start with us and our homes in order to reach what we want on a bigger scale. People reach the decision of a revolution when they undergo drastic experiences like death, hunger, and poverty. Due to all those questions in my mind, the movie’s idea was born.
Congratulations on being selected for Huesca and Palm Springs. Due to the virus, these festivals are online. Do you think that virtual film festivals could have the same impact as in-person festivals?
The first time I watched the movie on a big screen, I cried. Nothing can replace the feeling of watching a movie on a big screen because the image, the sound, and the ambience makes you feel like you’re inside the movie. You wouldn’t experience the same feeling if you’re watching the movie at home on streaming platforms because if you watch it in cinemas you will have to focus on it from the beginning till the end, unlike at home, and the ambience of watching with a big amount of people, having the same feelings and reactions as you, is also different in cinemas unlike at home. Even though the situation we’re living in right now isn’t the best time for the movie’s success, we should adapt to every situation in order to proceed and reach our goals.
We’ve already participated and won in various festivals like El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt and in Tampere Film Festival in Finland, it was an amazing experience to meet the audience and have Q&As after every screening of the movie. We would’ve loved to go through the same experience in different festivals but apparently, the situation is not helping us. The movie was selected in a lot of festivals like Uruguay International Film Festival, Bermuda International Film Festival and many others but due to the global pandemic, many of those festivals got cancelled, postponed, or went to online editions. But on a positive side, virtual events might bring more viewers than expected.
Do you think children should learn about religions from a very young age or decide on what faith they want to follow as they get older? Omé perfectly demonstrates how difficult it could be for a young child to understand religion and all of its principles.
For me, the most important point is that children should learn from a very young age all the ethics and morals in life so that they treat themselves and society in the right way, and to know that the earth is diverse where not everyone is the same. They should learn also to accept others’ differences in religion, culture, race, and nationality. Even though children are raised on specific religious ethics, they should know that when they grow up they have the freedom of change without suffering from the pressure of society. Even the children who want to live their religious beliefs when they grow up, they should always remember that they cannot be too extreme because this will lead to a stop in society’s growth. In my opinion, extremism does not build good humans nor a proper society.
What feedback have you been getting for Omé?
What’s special in Omé’s main idea is how to deal with death, because every person suffers from this drastic experience at some point so this idea reached every watcher’s heart all around the world. And the proof for this is that this movie won in various international festivals in different countries. Most of the people’s feedbacks were mainly positive because everyone went or will go through the experience of death so they all took the topic personally.
My biggest concern was screening the movie in the Arab world because its topic focuses on religion and how it brainwashes people, and Arabs suffer a lot from this issue. But when the movie was screened at El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt and got amazing feedback, my fear and concerns were gone, plus the Egyptian press considered the movie very bold and honest and that it broke all the taboos in the Arab society.
Many people asked if this movie were a feature film, would the censorship have allowed its screening in cinemas or would’ve it been banned just like various Arabic movies?
Referring to the last question, have you had any negative feedback back from religious viewers, especially for certain scenes like when the little boy wraps the holy statue of Mary with the rope?
I do not consider that the movie got negative feedbacks as much as it created debates between believers and nonbelievers. Cinema is made to open up these kinds of debates between people because it sheds light on various postulates in society.
The scene in the question above did not create big discussions as much as the last scene in the movie did because the relationship between the little boy and the statue reflects something superficial in religion, whereas the last scene breaks through religion’s depth.
Due to the current climate of coronavirus, do you think the world of film is going to be changed forever?
We all know that even before coronavirus people started to be more dependent on online platforms which is weakening cinema screenings. And due to this pandemic, people became fully attached and dependent on these platforms. Even though online platforms might help in getting the movie more viewers, we hope to soon go back to our normal lives where people will head back to cinemas because as I mentioned above, watching the movie in the cinema is more touching than watching it online.
Are you planning to make Omé into a feature?
From my point of view, a short film is not a feature film shot shortly, nor a feature film is a short film shot lengthily. When you have an idea it can be developed into a feature film if needed to, but if not it should be done as a short film. As for Omé, we felt that its idea doesn’t need more than a 20 mins movie in order to transmit its message, this is why I personally don’t think it can be developed further because we said what we had to say and our message was sent perfectly. We can make up a feature film with the same spirit and ideology as Omé but with a different idea like my new feature film BARKA.
Describe Omé in one word.
Omé is my pain on screen.
What upcoming projects do you have come up?
Previously, I didn’t like making short films but with time I realised that they are very interesting and powerful to make. For now, I’m preparing a new short film that will be shot in September. Also, in the meantime, I’m writing my new feature film that talks about a story that happened in my native village BARKA. And I hope this feature film reaches as much success as my short film OMÉ.
How can people keep up with you and your work?
You can follow my Instagram account: Wassim Geagea
or like our Facebook page OMÈ- a short film by Wassim Geagea.
Any last thoughts?
I really hope that one day, cinema in Lebanon becomes an industry so that we can make more movies that talk about our problematics in our society and deliver them to foreign audiences.
Lebanese cinema recently achieved a lot of success, so I hope that this continues. Thank you for giving me the chance to elaborate more about my movie through this magazine!