For the past year and a half, I’ve knocked around the idea of doing a documentary on Lebanon.
My curiosity was peaked when a Lebanese-American friend began teasing me. Telling me that I was a fake Lebanese-American who had never visited my grandparents’ country.
“Why haven’t you been to Lebanon?”
“Because isn’t it dangerous? Especially as a woman alone?”
“Amelia. Who told you that?”
“For starters, the news and the U.S. government. But, also my relatives…who haven’t actually travelled there, either.”
After losing the debate, I did some “research” - aka watched YouTube videos and began to follow beautiful Lebanese people on Instagram (kidding, partially). Reading about progressive initiatives, historic achievements and personal stories made me feel…so many things.
My biggest takeaway was shame over my offensively ignorant perspective. Who knew that I was actually the basic white girl that I had always wanted to be? Luckily, I am very comfortable with ignorance and shame as long as there are a few dashes of curiosity and motivation.
Since overthinking is one of my best talents, I sat with my ignorance for a little while. I also sat with my anger over other Americans’ ignorances. While the details may be different, I realized I was in the same boat as them. Perhaps, my boat was even more dangerous than their’s as I was discriminating against my own genetic history.
Feeling charged to do something positive for the current state of multiculturalism as a whole, I decided that I needed to go to Lebanon and share that story.
My initial idea: a feature that would address the misunderstandings that people, specifically Americans, have about traveling to the “Paris of the Middle East” and examine the reality behind their fears. I figured I could easily make that documentary with a very modest budget, 1 DP, 1 sound person, 1 fixer and 10 days traveling in the country with my dad (a first-generation Lebanese-American who has never been to Lebanon and is definitely scared to travel there).
However, that modest budget would still require financing and producing such an ambitious project on top of my all-consuming day job, it could not be a short-term reality.
I lied to myself and promised to be diligent with pitching the idea to media outlets and see if any interest or support would come from that. Unfortunately, I got stuck in a dark hole of discouragement.
#I haven’t produced a film in 4 years.
#2 I haven’t written a screenplay in 4 years.
#3 It’s been 5 years since I’ve steadily worked journalism.
#4 I have 0 connections and no representation.
#5 No one is going to hand me money to tell my little story.
Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s a trick!
The reality was that my grandiose dream was just a big, cozy excuse for me to hide behind. And I LOVE hiding because I am terrified of everything - like traveling alone throughout Lebanon.
Fear and anxiety have kept me from doing many things. When I share this with people I know, they laugh and think I’m joking.
“But, you go backpacking by yourself.”
“Only to places I know and feel comfortable.”
“But, you do stand-up comedy.”
“Because I’m not afraid of speaking; I’m afraid of engaging.”
“But, you’re a 36-year-old single woman and you don’t seem desperate to get married.”
“Was that a back-handed compliment?”
This whole fear thing has really affected me in ways that I didn’t understand until a few years ago.
From owning my own home and dating men I actually love to pitching myself for bigger jobs and taking career risks, I haven’t just avoided these scary milestones, I have run away from them at full speed.
Oddly enough, worry and fear also run rampant in my Lebanese-American family. Perhaps there’s a connection.
All I know is that after 13 years of hiding behind my work where I create other people’s visions, I am finally ready to take the plunge and create my own. Btw - I promise not to use the "word” vision (often) from here on out.
There isn’t any financing or a crew, so I’ve had to change some bits and come to terms with the fact that it’s not going to be a cinematic gem. And since I’m not doing this for my career, that’s perfectly okay and production will be as simple as possible.
This week, I’m heading to Michigan where I will interview a few relatives about their knowledge of Lebanon, my grandparents, Maronite history and the ways in which the Lebanese culture has been passed down through our American family.
As of now, this is the story plan:
Story A: My grandparents’ emigration and assimilation, along with their 11 children (loss of language, historic and regional misunderstandings, cultural-identity, etc.)
Story B: Making the documentary and why
Story C: Addressing the misunderstandings and fears of Lebanon by traveling there
(Heavy sigh). Yes, this is a very large undertaking, especially, on top of a very hands-on job.
This why I am making myself write about it, every step of the way. If you are interested or no someone who would be interested in participating (interviewees, sharing info, travel tips, contacts in Lebanon, etc.), I would love to connect!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for some video clips!