Through the Lens with Alessandra El Chanty
Years of Culture
Alessandra El Chanti is a Lebanese documentary filmmaker, activist, and artist with a passion for storytelling, teaching, and film production. Her interests lie in the stories of the Levant, ranging from its culture, social issues, and politics. El Chanti holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Northwestern University
She has directed multiple short films that have toured in film festivals internationally, and her 2021 animated documentary, When Beirut Was Beirut (2021) won the Bader Best Short Film Award at the Ajyal Film Festival in Qatar.
With her latest work, In // Between, El Chanty explores themes of identity and growing up far from one’s original culture. Written like a letter to a much loved friend, a voice speaks over scenes filmed across Beirut. These vignettes of Beirut appear on a black background, sometimes individually and others side by side, showing snippets of daily life in the city.
“The soul of the city of Beirut is hugely impacted by the urban planning and architectural sphere of the city, combining old and new buildings to form Beirut’s dynamic, authentic, bold character.” - Alessandra El Chanty
In // Between by Alessandra El Chanty
How are you doing?
I’ve missed you.
We haven’t seen each other in a while.
I apologise for not checking up on you often
Sometimes I wish talking to you was easier on me
Sometimes I feel like you have so much you want to tell me, but where does one even begin?
They always ask me about you because they hear your news often
I never know what to respond with
The only thing that comes to mind is that no matter what hardships one goes through, the tenderness of their heart is never phased
Your features look different to me this time around
Sometimes I tell people that I wish I was by your side, and they tell me that I’m crazy for saying that.
I’m by your side right now, but not for too long.
Tell me, do you still listen to the same playlist every morning? And do you still have your morning coffee on the balcony?
Is It still the same gentleman at the fruit stand? Or did he leave the country with his son after the crises?
Do you still go to Manara to take a breath of fresh air?
And is the ice cream shop on the street behind grandma’s house still hanging in there?
Just as much as things do change, so much does stay the same
And this is my favourite thing about you
I hear about your news often
But there are some things that need to be seen firsthand for one to believe them
You’re with me everywhere I go, do you know that?
You’re with me in the way I speak
You’re with me when I cook, in the way I dress, when I sing and when I dance.
You are in the way I joke, the way I read, the way I write
You’re also with me in my every prayer
I was raised by you even though I have never lived a day with you in my life
However, you’ve lived in me.
Music by Joey Semaan
Voiceover by Zainab W. Moukachar