Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 May 2019

Pioneering Lebanese filmmaker Georges Nasser dies at 91

The legendary filmmaker, who enjoyed relative obscurity in his later years, directed the first Lebanese movie to be screened at Cannes

George Nasr has died, age 91.
George Nasr has died, age 91.

Georges Nasser, the pioneer of Lebanese cinema, has died at age 91, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported.

Nasser was responsible for putting Lebanon on the international movie-making map, as the man who directed the first Lebanese movie to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

He was also one of the first Arab filmmakers to obtain a film degree from the US, after leaving his hometown of Tripoli to move to California to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Upon graduating, he moved back to Lebanon to direct his first feature film, Ila Ayn, which went on to become the first Lebanese film to be picked up for Cannes. It wasn't a critical success.

His second film, The Small Stranger (or Le Petit Étranger), was also selected for Cannes in 1962. It too was widely panned by critics, becoming a commercial failure, and ending Nasser's movie-making career.

The director spent the next 12 years as a peripheral part of the Arab film industry, before returning to the director's chair in 1975 for his last film, Only One Man Wanted.

The Lebanese Civil War, which also erupted in 1975, cut short Nasser's career and left him attempting to create a Lebanese film syndicate in vain (it never transpired), before becoming a teacher at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts.

Journalist May Chidiac, left, stands next to Lebanese director Georges Nasser as he accepts his Murex d'Or award for lifetime achievement during a ceremony at the Casino du Liban in Jounieh, north of Beirut, in June 2008. AFP.
Journalist May Chidiac, left, stands next to Lebanese director Georges Nasser as he accepts his Murex d'Or award for lifetime achievement. AFP

It wasn't until 2017 that the reclusive director got his day in the sun, when a documentary was made about his life. The film, Un Certain Nasser, was well reviewed by audiences and critics alike. It was also the year that his first film, Ila Ayn, was screened at Cannes on its 60th anniversary.

In some respects, Nasser could be considered an early pioneer of the feminist movement. His representation of women in his films was considered revolutionary for his time, as his female characters were usually strong-willed and liberal.

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Updated: January 23, 2019 03:56 PM

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