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Directed by Boudy Sfeir and co-written in the Lebanese dialect by Patrick Chemali, Azdashir Jalal Ahmad, and Boudy Sfeir, ‘Tnaash’ is highly inspired by the film ’12 Angry Men.’ After its release in Lebanese cinemas on November 16, the film debuted in Paris on November 23 at the opening of the Festival du Film Libanais (Lebanese Film Festival).

Tnaash has entered the official selection and won multiple awards at several international film festivals around the world. It recently won the Best Local Feature Fiction award at the Lebanese Independent Film Festival. Tnaash stars Tarek Yaacoub, Patrick Chemali, Yara Zakhour, Shady Ardati, Sara Abdo, Tarek Hakmi, Ali Choucair, Mouhammad Assaf, Sany Abdul Baki, Tony Dagher, Christina Farah, and Ali Al Najjar.

The movie is stamped with its sharp, realistic motion picture, focusing on close-ups of details and faces’ micro-reactions. The script is witty, with a Lebanese adaptation that tackles the Lebanese audience and society with a specific kind of humor adjusted to the diverse regions from which the men and women come. The characters, embodied by actors who delivered authentic performances, create crucial synergy by engaging in hard-hitting ping-pong discussions and fully exploring the characters’ psychology.

“I have always been thinking about what a group of Lebanese people from different sectarian and political backgrounds would do when stuck in a situation where they have to make a unified decision. Would they be objective, even for once?” questions director Boudy Sfeir. The topic is even more poignant in a society where cancel culture, discrimination, and bullying prevail. In an imaginary judicial reform, all eyes are on one human being. All voices unite as one, stating the undeniable truth… Would the ultimate truth ever exist? Who are we to judge? In fact, each person’s judgment of someone else is based on their own experiences, beliefs, and grudges.

In the film, all minds affirm that ‘he’ is the criminal, the bad guy, the one who should be persecuted to death for a crime that would bring back the death penalty. In a society where proofs are unquestionable, where people accused of wrongdoing don’t have a say or a word to defend themselves, not even a ‘what if’ question mark, what can one expect of twelve people who bear the weight of all the world’s injustice on their shoulders? Neither law nor experimental psychology, studying the collective subconscious and the circumstances, would be able to resonate in hearts full of anger.

In the movie, the death penalty is at the end of the tunnel. Only one person stands against the herd. Only one person asks, ‘What if?’ What if he wasn’t guilty? What happened to ‘a person is innocent until proven guilty’? When did our society transform into a jungle where only the law of retaliation prevails? Since when did twelve men — or women — have the power to stop a human being’s life? This movie opens doors. It opens the audience’s eyes to see beyond a refugee story; it’s about human compassion. The film transcends violence and the thirst for revenge. It questions the many ‘guilty of’ banned every day. It advocates for a ‘what if’. May we all understand that we have within, the power to give life, to make room, and to keep a place in our society, establishments, and homes each and every day.

The movie has a poignant message, as in Tnaash, humanity transcends peer pressure and all belongings, beyond each person’s hurtful experiences and collective trauma. To quote film director Boudy Sfeir, “Maybe we still have a chance. Maybe we still have hope.”

Having co-written the script and adapting it to Lebanese, theater and cinema actor Patrick Chemali, who had produced and adapted his latest play at Le Monnot, Tnayn Tnayn, co-starring Christine Choueiri and himself, replies to the question of how the onscreen adaptation process went, saying, “Adapting an iconic movie like 12 Angry Men was a challenge that I welcomed and also dreaded. Boudy gave me creative freedom with the structure of the story and the characters, and we joined efforts when we started writing dialogue. My main focus was to preserve the plot structure while making it uniquely Lebanese, and this meant I would do a lot of character building for each of the 12 well before we set any word on paper.”

Talking about playing the villain part in the play, he states, “I always loved performances of great actors in villain or anti-hero parts and found them to be multidimensional compared to the flat character of the typical hero or lead. So having the chance to play Juror number 3 while also being able to weave his dialogue was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will forever cherish.”

After completing her theatrical studies in New York, Christina Farah returned to Lebanon, bringing her experience from a captivating role in Chicago to the Lebanese stage. She shares, “I also worked on the movie editing for four months, which director Boudy Sfeir appreciated. My expertise also allowed me to assist in the production process. As for my role, I approached it with great affection, drawing from my exposure to similar people to shape the character. Each character hails from a distinct milieu, and I aimed to portray this diversity authentically.”

Addressing whether she possesses a sense of humor, Christina commented, “During my theater studies, I discovered my ability to make people laugh and cry simultaneously. I believe humor is rooted in a deep, archaic ache within us, a part of our collective heritage, humanity, and life. Yet, we smile, as we are inherently social beings.’

Tnaash Screening in Paris

Yara Zakhour, who won the Best Actress Award at the ‘Socially Relevant Film Festival’ in New York, attended the Paris screening of Tnaash, engaging with a packed audience post-show. Discussing her role right after the movie, she affirms, “The character I portray is extremely distant from my own personality. She is a very complex figure, extremist in her opinions and ideologies. She does not rely on logic but is driven by her emotions and traumas. I developed her through extensive anthropological and sociological research to understand her ideas and behaviors. Subsequently, I incorporated these elements into her body language. Every form of anger is different, whether it is impulsive or has been simmering for a long time. In my monologue, it’s my character who has fueled it, with a slight influence from my personal life.”

Regarding the opportunity to act in this film, Yara states, “Director Boudy Sfeir contacted me, asserting that this role was meant for me. He sent me the script, and I immediately fell in love with it, being familiar with the original version of the film. I saw this complex character as a challenge I was eager to take on at all costs.”

Instagram: @mariechristine.tayah