Lebanese director Samir Habchi, who made his last film 14 years ago, made his comeback with the movie Dokhan Bila Nar (Beirut Open City). It was screened at MEIFF on Thursday night.

"The movie is a political one but in an unusual form," Habchi told tabloid! before the screening. "It is a people's movie, [about] life under war."

The story covers an unstable period in Lebanon from the Ta'aif agreement, which put an end to the civil war, until the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and the departure of Syrian forces.

In the film, an Egyptian director (played by actor Khalid Al Nabawi) goes to Beirut to shoot a film about repression in the Arab world, thinking the city is open to free speech, but he experiences a uniquely Lebanese style of repression.

Habchi worked on the script for 14 years. "I wanted it to be mature and complete as I want to correct the history. I may be naive but I just want to know the truth about the new global system that accuses fighters in any accident. Who dares to say I'm a resistant?" he said.

Young and handsome

The director choose Al Nabawi for the role of the Egyptian director "because he is young, handsome, and intellectual".

The two artists met at the Carthage Film Festival and have remained friends. "Al Nabawi took the great Egyptian director Yousuf Chahine to watch my movie Al Ea'asar (The Hurricane)."

Lebanese supermodel Sirine Abdul Noor also appears in the film. "She was chosen from 100 girls and she was marvelous. You will be surprised by her," Habchi said.

The film was shot during the clashes in Nahr Al Bared last summer. "I did not want to delay the shooting as we started filming when the fighting broke out. I considered our work a fight too," he said.

Al Nabawi loved the script when he first read it: "I liked the way it's written as it is a mixture between reality and imagination. When I first read it I just wanted to be part of it because it's for Habchi, who I have wanted to work with ever since I saw his movie Al Ea'asar."

All the scenes were filmed in Lebanon in unusual circumstances. "The security forces were on the road all the time and my trip to Beirut was delayed two times, though I never thought that anything bad could happen to me in that beautiful city," Al Nabawi said.

The film was a chance for Al Nabawi to test himself and capabilities. "In the torture scene I was hanged from my legs to the ceiling with a chain, and for the first time I experienced what is written about pain. It's so awful that I did not want to act any more… I just wanted everything to end," he said.