In 2012, just three months after the death of Gaddafi, the British Council invited Scottish Documentary Institute to Libya to run workshops with young local filmmakers.
At the time Tripoli was ravaged by the revolution but the mood was high and positive.
In 2013 we planned to return to the region and run the same workshop in Benghazi. Two days before our arrival, however, the American Ambassador was shot and Benghazi was declared closed to non-Libyans. Rather than cancelling it, the British Council relocated the workshop in Tripoli. The filmmakers, eager to attend, ended up travelling back and forth from Benghazi to Tripoli despite great potential danger to themselves.
Throughout 2014 we’ve been working with sixteen graduates from the Tripoli Art Academy to produce 4 x 3’ and 4 x 10’ films for our latest set of short stories, this time from Tripoli, Libya. The core idea of the workshop was to introduce young filmmakers to a new form of storytelling that is less news based, encouraging them to develop a love for creative documentary. The majority of them already had knowledge of the industry and brought with them their technical skills and experience of working for local Libyan broadcasters. The training would enable them to explore the chaos of their country through creative documentary and to connect their artistic voices to the rest of the world.
The delivery of the workshop was due to take place over a period of seventeen weeks, from February to June. However, we faced many delays due to the unsettled political situation in Tripoli and only just reached the finish line in December. It has been a real challenge for the participants to keep going through moments of complete isolation, without any contact to us, and often to each other. With so much violence and chaos around them, it is sometimes hard to find the motivation to keep going, especially when creating short films.Read more
Following the success of our Tripoli Stories, British Council gave us the opportunity to return to Libya for a second time. This time we were due to run our workshop in Benghazi and make another three short films, Benghazi Stories. Unfortunately, the political situation there meant that we had to relocate the workshop back to Tripoli but with participants coming from Benghazi.
Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya and the bed of the revolution, with the first uprising against Gaddafi taking place there in February 2011. Ever since last summer’s election, various militia have been exploiting a certain political unrest, reflecting Benghazi’s disappointment with the election results and their representation in parliament.
Of course, the killing of the US ambassador only days before our arrival was a drastic turning point. Banned from Benghazi for security reasons, we had to re-organize the workshop in order to deliver those “Benghazi Stories”. Prior to our arrival in Libya, we helped organize a camera workshop and briefed the participants to start researching potential stories with their cameras.
Starting the workshop in Tripoli, we spent the first two days exploring these rushes from Benghazi, and we shared a number of inspiring documentaries, offering solutions to questions raised about characters and structures. We had 48 hours to get the lads of Benghazi to understand the difference between “What is the story?” and “What is the film about?”Read more
Our arrival in Tripoli was an anti-climax, all the clocks had stopped. There was no life at the airport, even the duty-free shop was closed, the shelves empty. A driver from the British Council had patiently been waiting for our delayed flight. We would soon learn that time is of no consequence in Libya... But this whole workshop was going to be a race against time: delivering basic film skills, engaging our 13 participants with creative documentary, showing them clips of doc gems so they open up to a new form of storytelling – beyond their Aljazeera experience – and produce a short film suitable for international festivals. Yes, I agree, we were asking for the impossible – but hey, we are filmmakers!Read more