Whistler Film Festival 2018: Lara Zeidan, director of THREE CENTIMETRES

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In Lara Zeidan’s nine-minute short film is a dense and claustrophobic drama in which four teenage Lebanese girls go on a ferris wheel ride to cheer one of them up after a breakup. They find their friendships put to the test while they are suspended high above Beirut, as secrets are revealed and tensions rise. The drama culminates in an unexpected confession. Three Centimetres is nominated for an AWFJ EDA Award at Whistler Film Festival 2018.

Jennifer Merin: Please tell us what your film is about.

Lara Zeidan: Three Centimetres is a short film about four girls on a Ferris wheel. Suspended high above Beirut, the camera joins them while they share an intimate conversation. As secrets are revealed and tensions rise, this claustrophobic ride culminates in an unexpected confession.

JM: How is your film stylistically distinctive?

LZ: We shot the film in one take in the confines of a Ferris wheel booth with Beirut as its backdrop. Setting it in this claustrophobic open-air space, I wanted to emphasize the intimacy and the tension that rises during the ride through the choice of shooting style and location.

JM: How and why did you encounter and commit to the subject/theme of your film and the main characters in it?

LZ: It all began with a conversation I once had with a friend in Lebanon. She revealed that she had found a way to experience sexuality without compromising her virginity… and it involved three centimetres. Being very quiet at the time, I just said “okay”. However, the absurdity of the idea as well as the necessity to lead double lives stayed with me and inspired me to write this script.

JM: What did you learn about the subject/theme from making the film?

LZ: Through this film, I learned about the subject while making it and even more when it was shared with an audience. It allowed me to join a very interesting and important conversation about femininity and homosexuality, and the importance of its representation in film, especially in the Arab world.

JM: What did you learn about filmmaking from making the film?

LZ: The main thing I learned is the importance of trust in the process of making films. From the very beginning, my actresses knew that I wasn’t attached to the words in my script, and that I wanted them to express the characters in their own way. I saw them as collaborators and was very open to their suggestions, which made their conversation a lot more lively, dynamic and believable. Since the only other person with them on the gondola was the cinematographer Piero Cioffi, we thought of the shooting style and workshopped the script together months before shooting. As he didn’t speak Arabic, I had to put my trust in his understanding of the rhythm of the dialogue and our preproduction. As a director, I learned that the best thing I could do for my cast and crew was to empower them and give them the space and confidence to do their very best.

JM: What were your biggest challenges in making the film?

LZ: As a one take film set on a Ferris wheel, making the scene work as a whole was the real challenge!

JM: Do you think that being female gave you a distinct perspective and/or way of handling the filmmaking process?

LZ: Definitely! My story comes from thoughts and conversations that stayed with me growing up as a girl in Beirut. It puts on screen what is usually spoken in private, with my four female characters expressing themselves and challenging their perceptions of each other. I don’t think I could have portrayed such an intimate conversation without having my own female experiences and perspectives on the subject.

JM: What are your plans for the future?

LZ: In October, I had the great honor of receiving the IRIS PRIZE in Cardiff, which will enable me to make my next short film in the UK in 2019! At the moment, I am getting ready to start preproduction for this exciting project.

I am also writing my script for a debut feature. It is set 10 years ago in a politically unstable Beirut, where the mundane meets the unexpected on the eve of a young girl’s 14th Birthday.

JM: What advice do you have for other female Filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still male-dominated industry?

LZ: All I can say is keep telling the stories you want to tell!

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