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Farah, a film by Hassiba Freiha and Kenton Oxley, premiered on the big screen at the Lebanese Film Festival in France, which was held in Paris from November 23 to 26, before its release in Lebanese cinemas. The screening was graced by the presence of actress Stéphanie Atala. The film features a cast comprising Stéphanie Atala, Majdi Machmouchi, Hassiba Freiha, Youssef Boulos, Nader Abd Alhay, Pierrette Katrib, Janah Fakhoury, Josyane Boulos and Assaad Rechdan.
After its Netflix screening and multiple festival appearances, Farah is now being screened in Lebanese cinemas.
The narrative unfolds around Lina, a Lebanese medical student in the United States plagued by intense, recurring nightmares. Sent back to Beirut by her father, she is prescribed a controversial antidepressant, Xapa, also known illicitly as Joy. However, as Lina’s disturbing nightmares intensify, they reveal a connection to her mother, Farah, propelling her on a journey towards an unsettling truth.
Majdi Machmouchi portrays the role of a tender, concerned father, entangled in the complex web of a secretive past and an uncertain future. Departing from comedic roles, Josyane Boulos delivers a nuanced maternal performance. Hassiba Freiha is described by Stéphanie Atala as “solar” and “flamboyant,” infusing the film with vibrant energy and a holistic dimension. Atala’s role demanded considerable personal and technical effort. Youssef Boulos skillfully navigates the delicate balance between reality and imagination, bringing lightness to the film’s tragic moments. Spectators enjoyed watching the other abovementioned actors perform their respective roles.
Following the screening, a panel discussion was held. Sharing her insights on her role, Atala stated, “Lina’s story is very heavy. There is a lot of trauma stemming from the mother’s issues and the relationship with the father. I imagined that playing Lina would be burdensome for me, given what the character experienced. Even during the filming, knowing that there would be a happy ending, the scenes were very hard for me to play as an actress, especially the hallucination scenes. I was alone as an actress. Although I was acting, it deeply affected me. This can be scary.”
This film marked a profound internal journey for Atala, who said that “in the end, I learned a lot. My discussions with Hassiba, the screenwriter, were also very enriching. She is someone who sees everything in colors. I saw her world and perception during the shooting; I drank juices, took vitamins, all through this adventure that touched on my personal journey… I have a particular sensitivity regarding mental health, especially as the subject remains taboo in our society.”
She concluded by saying, “As an actress, the perspective on mental health interested me. It was very enriching in terms of the research I did before filming. Beyond Lina’s personal sufferings, I discovered inter-generational traumas; our parents’ generation experienced war, as did their parents. It’s something passed down through generations. It’s something I was unaware of and that can be inherited… One should have more discussions with parents and uncover the roots of trauma. One also needs to be cautious; not to consult just any doctor or take just any medication.”