From the 14th to the 26th of November 2008, Lebanese youngsters from South Lebanon, members of the youth groups established by UNDP South Lebanon office, went for a mission to Italy in the cities of Gorizia and Venise as part of the UNDP Art Gold program. Nine youngsters from Lebanon and nineteen from Italy aged between 18 to 25 years old attended an intercultural workshop entitled “Peace path trough cinema” where the youngsters were initiated to cinematographic technical basis to create, manage and realize a film. The project helps the youngsters to reflect on peace inside schools, society, and human relationships through the cinematographic language. The second stage of the workshop will take place in Lebanon where each participant will teach the shooting techniques learned in Italy to their youth groups and will produce a short movie projecting the youngsters’ villages and livelihoods through the young’s eyes. The final output of this work will be later presented at the Venise International Cinema Festival, one of the most important cinema festivals in Europe. The project allowed youngsters to share their daily stories as well as to promote the development of peace, solidarity, friendship and cooperation between Italian and Lebanese communities by a common, coordinated and shared project.
14th November- Beirut International Airport 5 am : The nine Lebanese youngsters were overexcited, “I was so afraid to miss the plane and to ignore my alarm; I preferred to stay awake all night” said Charbel. For most of the participants this trip was their first out of the country, and surely their first towards Europe: “We are only two Lebanese girls going for this trip, it is the first time I travel and my parents were very encouraging, I actually can’t describe my feelings; the whole experience is overwhelming and completely new for me. I am afraid to see better things in Italy and keep comparing them to Lebanon, but I will use this as an opportunity to improve Lebanon” Diana declared. Hassan, who already travelled to Jordan with UNDP, is confident that this experience “will be very rewarding”, he is sure that he “will learn a lot” and hopes hat this project will help attract new activities and funds to the South. Lamice is looking forward for meeting new people, she is eager to learn new skills and apply them in Lebanon; she insists that what is more important to her is to have new friends within the Lebanese group “ we do not know each others well, and we are so different even if we are all Lebanese”. Nevertheless, Lamice is afraid of prejudice and discrimination against her, she is the only veiled girl among the participants “I am afraid of people’s first impression, but I will make sure to make myself know regardless of my veil” she proudly declared. Full of mixed emotions the young Lebanese joyfully entered the departure gate with their last instantaneous words directed towards the loved ones they were leaving behind: “tell my mom I love her”, “take care of Lebanon when I am gone”.
26 November- Beirut International Airport 7pm : The Lebanese group is back to their home country. Their eyes are glowing, they seem as if they have loads of things to say but lack the words to express their feelings, they look different; something enormous has certainly affected them the past two weeks. “It is so weird” said Mohamad confused “I don’t know if I should be happy to come back or sad to leave the Italian group”, “this is so unrealistic and unimaginable, I still can’t realize that Me, a young Lebanese from the South, just went through this dream experience” he exclaimed. One of the most important lessons Mohamad learned was discipline; “the Lebanese group was convincingly stopping at the red lights in Italy” he added amused. Lamice’s parents were so proud of their daughter “she is a very courageous Arab lady” said her father. Lamice directly replied to her father’s remark “my veil was what made me special, people were interested in me and were curious to know more”, “I was so proud to represent my people and correct the wrong picture people abroad tend to have about Arabs”, “people there understood me and respected my traditions and believes”, “Charbel is now one of my best friends” she also added while friendlily hugging Charbel smiling next to her. The youngsters were eager to spend time with their relatives and share with them their pictures and adventures; they still had a long road trip to reach their houses in the South.
28 December, Broummana : Even a month after their return from Italy, the group seems still overwhelmed by their Italian experience; something special was obviously linking them. They all agreed that the most rewarding experience was the intercultural and friendship relations they built. “The first five minutes when we met the Italians were the worst” Mohamad admitted, the atmosphere was tensed and no one knew what to say to break the ice; Italians were taking in Italian and Lebanese were talking in Arabic. It only took us 15 minutes to commit to only speaking in English as a common language. With time, Lebanese learned Italian words while Italians learned Arabic as well as the Lebanese traditional dancing. Charbel was specifically amazed by how close the two cultures and traditions turned out to be “ I felt that the only thing separating us was the language”, he explained that once he missed the bus with all the team inside, “a car realized that I was confused and proposed to drive me to destination, I was not scared for a second, I felt secure and at home”. With time, both group learned to know each others and corrected the prejudice they both had. Italian thought that all Lebanese were Muslims, wearing veils and traditional clothing, terrorists and educationally behind, “they were surprised we had laptops and that we were computer literate! We were even able to teach them some computer tricks”. Furthermore, after the Lebanese shared their villages’ pictures, explained about tourism in Lebanon and detailed the events of the 2006 war, Italians were shocked by how much the media could twist realities. From the other side, Lebanese thought that Italians will be showing off and will be having a patronizing attitude towards the Lebanese.
However, the Lebanese were not expecting to have gays among Italian participants, they were astonished by how humanly gays were treated In Italy “we make fun of them and even hate them in Lebanon, it is one of our biggest taboos”, “now, when I will come across a gay person in Lebanon I will respect him” declared Mohamad approved by the others. Moreover, Linda, among the Italians, was always sitting behind. Later, the Lebanese found out that she was afraid to interact with them because she was Jewish. The Lebanese took the initiative to reassure her “we treat people as individuals, we are aware that even among the Israelis many do not agree with their government’s actions”.
The last day in Italy was tough, the Italian woke up very early to say goodbye and many were crying. “I know that it might be easy to collect money and get a ticket to Italy, however, it is impossible to duplicate the spirit and atmosphere we shared” said sadly Charbel. The youngsters are currently daily communicating by phone and thank to facebook. Italians are gathering funds to travel to Lebanon and the Lebanese are ready to receive them in their homes. In the meantime, the Lebanese are spreading their experience with their youth groups and looking forward for the second stage of their workshop to start, confident that they should not loose hope of another similar experience to happen.
Source : UNDP