The Beirut International Film Festival is born.
The Beirut Central District is still in rubble since the end of the war, with a few cemented car parks.
The first trade fair exhibitions are held in huge tents, in one of these car parks opposite to what is now the Ferrari car agency in Saifi village.
The first edition of the Beirut International Film Festival is held in these same tents, in October 1997.
BIFF screens every single Lebanese feature film made during and after the war along with short films, documentaries, video clips and advertisements.
25 international and Arab films are screened, in the presence of the directors representing these films.
A huge closing ceremony is held in the tents whereby international and local artists were invited to perform for the ceremony.
BIFF moves to Sodeco Square before it is even completed. 4 theaters are used with 5 screenings held daily in each, commencing 11:00am.
ALL FULLY BOOKED, proving to us how hungry the Lebanese were for Art House cinema, which they rarely had the chance to screen in the past 25 years…
Beirut is named Cultural Capital of the Arab World.
BIFF hosts a very large number of Arab stars, mainly from Egypt.
The closing ceremony is held at the Casino du Liban.
2000 & 2001
The first big international names of the movie industry start to hear of BIFF, and some even attend the festival.
In 2000, BIFF hosts the Cannes Palme d’Or winner and famous Iranian Director Abbas Kiarostami, along with his producers and actors.
2002, 2004, 2005 & 2007
Lebanon goes through some very difficult and turbulent years and we therefore are unable to hold BIFF on these years…
The Beirut Film Foundation is established. A small festival was organized.
BIFF Director is invited to Venice to attend the Biennale right after the Summer 2006 war. A press conference is held for BIFF Director, along with the Venice Festival Director Marco Mueller and the famous Mayor of Venice, Massimo Catchari, in order to show the support of the Venice Biennale for BIFF.
Although it is a difficult task to hold a festival one month after the July 2016 war, BIFF holds a small festival with 16 titles only. The theaters are full. A few international guests were brave enough to come to Beirut to show support for BIFF, including Emanuele Crealese, Santiago Amigorena, Hala Al Abdallah, Ammar el Beik, Bader Bin Hirsi, Venice Biennale Director Marco Mueller…
BIFF had no sponsors in 2006 and was able to hold the festival thanks to funding from the Georg Gund III Foundation in San Francisco; Mr. Gund had been to Beirut and was impressed by BIFF and its determination to hold the festival so soon after the war.
BIFF holds a small festival and since this year, BIFF has continued no matter what.
BIFF hosts Francis Ford Coppola as guest of honor and opens with his movie Tetro. The Middle East talks about his coming to Beirut as the biggest film personality to ever come to the region.
BIFF is held with a lot of controversy over the selection. Many titles in the selection had been censored, resulting in the government creating a special committee to oversee festival films that are censored and then giving special permission to be screened at BIFF.
It is a victory for BIFF. After the creation of this committee, BIFF organizes the Forbidden Films Festival in order to screen all the films censored in 2010 to much local and international acclaim.
2011, 2012 & 2013
These 3 years are the most difficult years for BIFF: no one wants to come to Beirut. Even regional countries place a strong travel warning on Lebanon but BIFF defies the odds and introduces many films by directors who have a message to send out.
BIFF starts having problems again with the Lebanese Censorship department of the Ministry of the Interior due to heavy pressure applied by some Ambassadors to Lebanon. Fortunately, all this pressure on censoring films and the problems it creates for BIFF reinforces its reputation and makes it THE festival to submit films to.
BIFF becomes the launching pad for filmmakers with a message to send out, mainly from the MENA region but also from around the world. BIFF also becomes a hot subject for the press and since 2009, it enjoys massive regional and international press coverage. Hard copies of this coverage can be furnished upon request.
2014 confirms BIFF as the festival to submit to in the MENA region.
Its reputation, accumulated over the last few years, assures young filmmakers that in Lebanon, one has the opportunity to show the world films that no other country in the region allows.
This reputation differentiates BIFF from the other film festivals in the region. It also makes BIFF famous in the international community, and attracts bigger and bigger names to come to Lebanon. That year, BIFF hosts some very big names from Europe and the USA.
A big size festival is organized but due to the riots and sit-ins’ in the downtown district, which became quite violent, many of our guests canceled. BIFF therefore ends up without a jury and it is decided that the audience vote appoints the winners of this year’s competition.
2015 was a rich year for young Lebanese filmmakers: 3 short films that were in the competition managed to rake in 3 of the top prizes.
Over the years, BIFF has hosted many international and Middle eastern names such as Abbas Kiarostami, Isabelle Huppert, Umbert Balsan, Yusra, Lebleba, Francis Ford Coppola, Juliette Binoche, Julie Gayet, Marco Mueller (Venice), Tom Luddy (Telluride)…
In spite of the political and security situation in Lebanon, BIFF’s greatest success and pride is the number of guests who fall in love with BIFF and Lebanon and want to come back.
All our past guests have become the most efficient PR machine for Lebanon and BIFF. They encourage their friends to come to Beirut and every year brings us more and more new friends.
BIFF is equally very proud of bringing art house films to the Lebanese audience who would otherwise never have the chance to see these films.
In addition, we are happy to mention several parallel achievements of BIFF:
- The introduction of Abbas Kiarostami to IESAV for the purpose of holding a workshop. This initiative resulted in two workshops given by Mr. Kiarostami over a period of two years.
- The introduction of several Lebanese filmmakers to international producers. This resulted in their feature films and other films being produced and launched into the international film festival circuit and market; the most outstanding of which being Ziad Doueiri for his latest film, and Karim Rahbani. Both films will be doing the international film festival rounds in 2017.
BIFF survives entirely on sponsor generosity.
All ticket sales go to cover the cost of the theaters and nothing else.
Sponsor income covers screening fees for all films screened, additional equipment installed for the actual festival, guests’ airfares, hotel lodging, full board and local transport, and last but not least, the cost of the team organizing BIFF.