The other - L'autre

“The Other.” What does this mean? Who’s “the other”? I was intrigued and, for my new creation, I instinctively wanted to discover more about this “other.” Here’s how it all began.

July, 2016: I’m in Beirut, capital of Lebanon, in the land where I spent part of my childhood. I was invited to my friends’ wedding. The ceremony was held on top of Mont-Lebanon, in the fairytale-like gardens of Mzaar. I left the noise, the problems and over-population of the Lebanese capital for this heavenly island. While this wonderful event was taking place, I forgot that, only a few kilometres away from this sanctuary, “the other” was witnessing countless horrors.

The other - L'autre

The Lebanese population is made of a quarter of refugees.  A million people. These “others” live in camps, or in the streets—on the sidewalk. As unconceivable as it might seem, I’m witnessing the gripping spectacle of war: the “other” is fleeing the land of conflict in order to try to escape its horrors. These camps and these sidewalks suddenly become a symbol of security for entire grieving families, for widows. For kids. And at some point, some moment, I decided to get closer to a very specific “other”: the refugee child.

I need to act. Now. It’s like an emergency, an obvious and necessary creation—almost existential. In less than 48 hours, I put together a film crew. Soha Ghandour is a girl I met when I was 8; we were both going to the Protestant College of Beirut. The paths of two kids crossed again, almost twenty years later, to take a closer look at today’s kids. Soha took on the role of coordinator and interpreter during the project. No storyboard this time: we needed to capture raw lively instants as we perceived them. Camera in hand, the images were shot in a documentary dynamic. The essential part of the work and the conceptual design will be done in postproduction.

The other - L'autre

Ras Beirut, that day: me and Soha walk about streets that look very different from when we were kids. “The other” is surprisingly discreet: he’s gone off the streets. Mostly, I learn that he is begging or selling whatever he can find (chewing gums, flowers or napkins); he’s more often than not part of shady groups. Questions pop up in my head: are some of these kids left to fend for themselves? Are they still with their mothers? I realise I almost never see one with his father. Are they those who went to their death on the other side of the border? Are they those who fled because they desperately believed in freedom of speech?

The other - L'autre

Hamra Street, a commercial area, the following day: I give 5 dollars to the first girl we meet. “The other” has a name. They all have a name. Her name is Aya. She’s 8. Fifteen minutes later, we are surrounded by a dozen children. Word got around. One after the other, we asked them to draw or write something—I had bought a white board and pencils the day before so that the connection between us and them would be easier. “The other” sometimes makes the choice, sometimes draws because they don’t have a choice: some are illiterate. One word echoes then: education.

The other - L'autre

I kept hearing echoes of this word—I needed to look into it further. Despite extraordinary efforts of the government and several NGOs, the numbers are astounding: more than 200’000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon have no access to education. I realise that “the other” lives in a world that couldn’t be further away from the one I grew up in. But this “other” is no different from me, from us, from you. We live together, on the same Earth, and we all want the same things: love and serenity. “The other” is as important as anyone else. “The other” should have the same opportunities I had.

The other - L'autre

During the shoot, while I was trying to get to know this “other” better, I stumbled upon this restaurant signpost. An evidence, like this quest I had gotten myself into: the title of my composition will exactly that. “The other”, “L’autre” in french.

The other - L'autre

August, 2016, Switzerland: if getting closer the “other” was necessary, the rest of the creation naturally took a more multicultural turn. I begin the montage with a young directing student from another culture and another continent: José Manuel Garcia. He’s from Cuba and studying in exchange at the ECAL (Lausanne). His girlfriend, Manon Richard, became our external consultant. José unfortunately had to go back to Havana. For practical reasons, I decided to finish the montage and the calibration with Edouard Lichtenauer, French director and cameraman living in Lausanne. Keep them in mind, as my next projects will certainly be full of these talented people.

The other - L'autre

November 2016, Beirut: I feel that my heart got caught in this project. It is now crucial that this creation can become a possible answer to the misery I witnessed in the streets of the capital. I decide to go back. Through some acquaintances, I meet the representatives of Connect Children Now/Defence Children International, an NGO that provides precious support so as to render education accessible to refugees’ children. My idea is simple: I will donate 90% of the benefits of “The Other” to them.

We need to do more. We need to reduce the differences between “the other” and ourselves. A crowdfunding campaign is going to be launched on two different websites. It’ll begin in February. One will be profiled for the Americas, the other for Europe.

The other - L'autre

What’s more, a charity event will take place at the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne through the SSR (Student Social Responsibility) student committee in March. We will release the premiere of the clip there, and some guests will be invited to liven up the evening. The funds raised will be donated to the NGO Connect Children Now/Defence Children International. If we manage to raise enough funds, a small crew will go help the NGO in the field next summer.

The other - L'autre

End of March-beginning of April 2017: I will go back to Beirut. My wish? Find Aya again. The main character in the video. Asking her to get back to school will be my first motivation. I am committed to becoming her sponsor. If I don’t find her again, it’ll be another kid.

The other - L'autre

Join me in this adventure, follow its progress. Let’s not forget them!

“L’autre” Special Thanks

Equipe de tournage Ghandour S., Issa T., Hoster J., Reslan S. Cast Ahmed, Ali, Aya, Aysar, Ibrahim, Mohamed, Raha, Yamen, Hoster J., Ghandour S. Designer graphique Lichtenauer E., Shcherba K., Consultants Falda C., Goren D., Itani F., Jacazio J., Richard M. Piano interpret Froshhammer J. Ingénieur du son Abdulla W., Pittet F.