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Set in a twisted near-future in Lebanon, SUBMARINE follows Hala, a woman who is forced to live in a city filled with garbage, but doesn’t really want to leave either. The rest of the town is packing up to go, as the garbage is causing severe health problems, but Hala wants to find a way to stay, or at least find someone to stay with her. Directed by Mounia Akl, who answered some questions about her short and the reality that may not be far off from her story. SUBMARINE screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 5 at TIFF 2016.

Describe your film in 10 words or less: 

Submarine is where past and present meet, for a moment.

What inspired you to make this film: 

My home country, Lebanon, is my biggest source of pain and of inspiration. I wanted to be a witness of this very important and filthy year we had. Following the trash crisis and its extraordinary consequences, people starting to be fed up in a way I haven’t seen before. Our relationship to home again, was shattered. Not that it hasn’t always been unhealthy.

But again, had I always been living happy and in harmony here, I wouldn’t have anything to say.

What’s the best thing about production? The most challenging? 

The best thing about film production is also the most challenging thing about it: It offers a new state of being, an alternate reality, one that can sometimes distance you from the present moment and what it is made of. Finding that balance is what I constantly strive for. Without being fully in that present moment, and the reality I am in, I wouldn’t have much to say.

While your short is set in a drastic future situation, do you think it represents the challenges and fears of people who are leaving their home countries to a new home? 

Yes. My short happens in an imaginary near future but it very much could happen today. Maybe setting it in two years was just a form of denial on my part. I wanted to make my biggest fears a reality. But lately, they have been.

What’s the one thing you want people to know about your film? 

After many years of torment, lack of sound sleep and sociopolitical instability, Lebanese people have learned to repress and deny in ways that have become quite impressive. Submarine takes these unacknowledged and repressed fears to the surface, because only then, they can be understood.

What will you be working on next? 

I am currently writing my feature, The most Beautiful Place in the World, with Spanish screenwriter Clara Roquet. We have been developing it for a few months now, and I hope to shoot it as my first feature in the near future.

In parallel, I have a few projects between Lebanon and New York in the next few months, and I also periodically teach film directing.

Your film is screening as part of TIFF, what are you most excited about seeing or doing at this year’s festival? 

I have been working non-stop for a year now. When Submarine had its world premiere in the 69th Cannes Film Festival, I was so busy at the festival that I barely watched films. I’d like to avoid that in TIFF, which is why I am mostly excited about watching many, many films which is a luxury I couldn’t afford lately. In addition to that, I am very excited to meet the filmmakers of these films as well as people I could potentially collaborate with in the future. Film festivals are always full of beautiful encounters and I am definitely looking forward to that.

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