Beirut: The Last Home Movie (1988)

120 mins | Documentary | 29 June 1988

Director:

Jennifer Fox

Producer:

Jennifer Fox

Cinematographer:

Alex Nepomniaschy

Editor:

John Mullen

Production Company:

Zohé Films
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HISTORY

       The film opens with the following statements: “The people appearing in this film have done so at considerable risk to themselves and without foreknowledge of, or control over, how they would be portrayed. Their story could be told in many ways, each interpretation changing the entire meaning. The final story contained within this film represents the producer’s very personal interpretation of a family, a place, and a time. As such, the producer takes full responsibility for the views, focus, and characterizations within this work.”
       The picture is composed of contemporary footage of the Bustros’s home, the war torn city of Beirut, Lebanon, old family photographs, home movies, and interviews with the following: thirty-five-year-old Gaby Bustros; Gaby’s fifty-eight-year-old mother, Mimi Bustros; Gaby’s thirty-nine-year-old eldest sister, Mouna Bustros; Gaby’s thirty-six-year-old second eldest sister, Nyla Bustros; Gaby’s twenty-six-year-old younger brother, Fady Bustros; the Bustros family neighbor, Najibe; Mouna’s suitor, Mimo; foreign correspondent of The Washington Post, Jonathan Randal; Nyla’s husband and Mouna’s ex-husband, Maurice; a servant of the Bustros’s home, Trini; and soldiers fighting during the war in Beirut.
       Production notes in AMPAS library files state that writer-director-producer Jennifer Fox met Gaby Bustros while both attended the film program at New York University in late 1980. Bustros left for Beirut after a 9 Apr 1981 front-page article of The Washington Post reported that the area of her family’s home had been bombed. In Sep 1981, Bustros visited New York City for three weeks before permanently returning to Beirut. While meeting with Jennifer Fox, Bustros described how her family had chosen to continue living in their two-hundred year old mansion ...

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       The film opens with the following statements: “The people appearing in this film have done so at considerable risk to themselves and without foreknowledge of, or control over, how they would be portrayed. Their story could be told in many ways, each interpretation changing the entire meaning. The final story contained within this film represents the producer’s very personal interpretation of a family, a place, and a time. As such, the producer takes full responsibility for the views, focus, and characterizations within this work.”
       The picture is composed of contemporary footage of the Bustros’s home, the war torn city of Beirut, Lebanon, old family photographs, home movies, and interviews with the following: thirty-five-year-old Gaby Bustros; Gaby’s fifty-eight-year-old mother, Mimi Bustros; Gaby’s thirty-nine-year-old eldest sister, Mouna Bustros; Gaby’s thirty-six-year-old second eldest sister, Nyla Bustros; Gaby’s twenty-six-year-old younger brother, Fady Bustros; the Bustros family neighbor, Najibe; Mouna’s suitor, Mimo; foreign correspondent of The Washington Post, Jonathan Randal; Nyla’s husband and Mouna’s ex-husband, Maurice; a servant of the Bustros’s home, Trini; and soldiers fighting during the war in Beirut.
       Production notes in AMPAS library files state that writer-director-producer Jennifer Fox met GGaby Bustroswhile both attended the film program at New York University in late 1980. Bustros left for Beirut after a 9 Apr 1981 front-page article of The Washington Post reported that the area of her family’s home had been bombed. In Sep 1981, Bustros visited New York City for three weeks before permanently returning to Beirut. While meeting with Jennifer Fox, Bustros described how her family had chosen to continue living in their two-hundred year old mansion as the Lebanese civil war raged around them. Fox was very much interested in the Bustros family, “one of the original seven great families of Lebanon,” and their lives as they remained residing in a warzone.
       Fox and a small film crew traveled with GGaby Bustrosto Beirut in late 1981. Articles in the 26 Jan 1988 HR and 14 Jul 1990 The Philadelphia Inquirer noted principal photography in Beirut included six weeks throughout the city, and six weeks at the Bustros’s estate. After three months filming on location, a 1 Jul 1988 NYT news item reported Jennifer Fox returned to the United States, and worked on the film. A production chart in the 12 Dec 1984 Var noted production was underway in the spring of 1984 in New York City in association with Jennifer Film Prods. However, Jennifer Film Prods. is not credited onscreen. The Philadelphia Inquirer stated the picture was completed in 1987 with funding from “small donations by a number of groups, banks and individuals,” and money from Fox herself. The 26 Jan 1988 HR stated the cost to finish the film was approximately $500,000.
       The 23 Oct 1987 DV review mentioned that the film screened in Oct 1987 at both the International Documentary Film Festival in Nyon, Switzerland, and the London Film Festival. According to the 26 Jan 1988 HR, the American premiere was at the U.S. Film Festival in Park City, UT, in Jan 1988, where it received two festival awards: Grand Jury Prize Documentary, and Excellence in Cinematography Award Documentary. The film also screened at the 1988 Cinéma du Réel in Paris, France, where it tied for the festival’s grand prize, as reported by the NYT on 1 Jul 1988.
       The film opened in New York City on 29 Jun 1988, as stated in the NYT review of the same date. The picture opened on 28 Jul 1988 at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, for a three-day run, as stated by the 28 Jul 1988 LAT review. Modern sources state the film was edited to ninety minutes and aired on a special edition of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television program, Frontline in 1991. Two years after the film’s theatrical release, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Jennifer Fox as saying the Bustro family had influence on the picture, such as the desire to “control the footage” and being provided “final-cut approval of the film in order for it to be released.”
       Although there is a 1987 copyright statement on the film for Zohé Film Productions, Inc., it was not registered for copyright at the time of its release. WGBH Educational Foundation registered the film for copyright on 10 Mar 1993 under the number PA0000606227.
       The film marked the feature directorial debut of Jennifer Fox. As reported by the 1 Jul 1988 NYT, Fox left the New York University film program to make the film.
      End credits state: “This film was made possible through the generous support of: Max M. & Margery Fisher Foundation; PBS; WGBH Boston; Valley Filmworks, Inc.” End credits also state: “We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the very many people in Lebanon, who cannot be named, that helped the making of this film by providing us with funds, advice, connections, in-kind services, discounts, lodging, food, transportation, protection, energy and time. But most of all, we would like to thank the Bustros Family.” End credits acknowledge “Additional Thanks to: Chuck Bell; Wendy Blackstone; Barry Chase; Patricia Cisarano; Bernie Cooper; Judy Crichton; Josh Darsa; Tom DeLenge; Ceil Dietz; Shirley Dietz; Ghasem Ebrahimian; David Fanning; Cynthia Fetterolf; Max Fisher; Cielia Fox; Fred Fox; Geraldine Fox; Harry Fox; Michael Fox; Richard Fox; Avi Glaser; Jill Godmillow; Oliver Goodenough; Mercedes Gregory; Sonya Hadad; Jane Harris; Adelle Hauppman; Ard Hesselink; Pam Hill; Terri Iacuzzo; Cola Jackson; Mike Jacobs; Dennis Jaquish; Dan Jury; Dee Jury; Mark Jury; Harry Kafka; Jonathan Kaufelt; Barbara Koopman; David Lewis; Hillary Maddux; Bill Mardovich; Louis Mastronardi; Anatoly Nepomniaschy; Valentina Nepomniaschy; Andy Noren; Scott Osterweil; Frank Phillips; Ray Posel; Jonathan Randal; Rachel Reichman; Dick Richter; Rob Scheidlinger; Mark Sparachio; Steven Speilman; Tim Spitzer; Jorge Stolkiner; George Stoney; Amy Sumner; Suki Werman; Robert Werthamer; Marion Wescott; Cara White; Fred Wiseman.”

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1987
p. 14
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 1988
p. 16
Los Angeles Times
28 Jul 1988
Calendar, p. 7
New York Times
29 Jun 1988
Section C, p. 19
New York Times
1 Jul 1988
Section C, p. 7
Philadelphia Inquirer
14 Jul 1990
Section D, p. 1
Variety
12 Dec 1984
p. 107
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Zohé Film Production, Inc.
In Association With Valley Filmworks, Inc. and WGBH Boston
Presents a Film By Jennifer Fox and John Mullen
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Developing and dailies
Printing
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative matching
Negative matching
MUSIC
Orig mus by
Lebanese mus by
Sung by
Mus prod
SOUND
Loc sd by
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Syncing and coding
Sd transfers and mix
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opticals and titles
PRODUCTION MISC
Apprentice
Apprentice
Apprentice
Apprentice
Apprentice
Apprentice
Historical research
Proposal writing
Proposal writing
Proposal writing
Des consultant
Des consultant
Archival footage
Archival footage
Archival footage
Post-prod facilities
Transportation graciously provided by
SOURCES
SONGS
“In The Mood,” ©1939 Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., Inc., recorded by The Glenn Miller Orchestra, courtesy of RCA Records; “On A Little Street In Singapore,” ©1938 Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., Inc., recorded by The Manhattan Transfer, courtesy of Warner Special Products.
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 June 1988
Premiere Information:
U.S. Film Festival in Park City, UT: Jan 1988; New York opening: 29 Jun 1988; Los Angeles opening: 28 Jul 1988
Production Date:
began late 1981
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
WGBH Educational Foundation
10 March 1993
PA0000606227
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
120
Length(in feet):
4,600
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

The film chronicles a three-month period while the Bustros family resides in their two-hundred-year-old mansion in Beirut, during the Lebanese Civil War in the early 1980s. Gaby Bustros returns to her family’s home, after seeing The Washington Post’s front-page story reporting that the predominantly Christian district of Achrafieh, where her family resides, has been severely shelled. Upon arriving from New York City, Gaby hopes to convince her mother, Mimi Bustros, her eldest sister, Mouna Bustros, her second eldest sister, Nyla Bustros, and her younger brother, Fady Bustros, to leave war-torn Lebanon. After traveling through checkpoints and vehicle searches, Gaby finds her palatial childhood house still standing, and observes that her family continues their routines. The house staff serves meals, flowers are planted in the gardens, and social gatherings are held for those still in the area. Meanwhile, bombings and gunfire are heard nearby. Gaby attempts to talk with her family about selling the house and moving elsewhere, but they avoid discussing war and money. Instead, their focus is on the house itself, believing that if it is destroyed, then the country itself has been destroyed. The sisters reminisce about their childhoods, their parents, and the way of life they used to have. Gaby’s mother, Mimi, remains focused on social engagements and hosting card parties, just as she did when Gaby’s father was living. Nyla cares for the house with Mouna, and tends to her young son and Mouna’s teenage son. Maurice, Nyla’s husband, busies himself with setting up slideshows on multiple projectors to be screened for visitors. Mouna takes the most interest in remaining ...

More Less

The film chronicles a three-month period while the Bustros family resides in their two-hundred-year-old mansion in Beirut, during the Lebanese Civil War in the early 1980s. Gaby Bustros returns to her family’s home, after seeing The Washington Post’s front-page story reporting that the predominantly Christian district of Achrafieh, where her family resides, has been severely shelled. Upon arriving from New York City, Gaby hopes to convince her mother, Mimi Bustros, her eldest sister, Mouna Bustros, her second eldest sister, Nyla Bustros, and her younger brother, Fady Bustros, to leave war-torn Lebanon. After traveling through checkpoints and vehicle searches, Gaby finds her palatial childhood house still standing, and observes that her family continues their routines. The house staff serves meals, flowers are planted in the gardens, and social gatherings are held for those still in the area. Meanwhile, bombings and gunfire are heard nearby. Gaby attempts to talk with her family about selling the house and moving elsewhere, but they avoid discussing war and money. Instead, their focus is on the house itself, believing that if it is destroyed, then the country itself has been destroyed. The sisters reminisce about their childhoods, their parents, and the way of life they used to have. Gaby’s mother, Mimi, remains focused on social engagements and hosting card parties, just as she did when Gaby’s father was living. Nyla cares for the house with Mouna, and tends to her young son and Mouna’s teenage son. Maurice, Nyla’s husband, busies himself with setting up slideshows on multiple projectors to be screened for visitors. Mouna takes the most interest in remaining in Beirut and preserving the house as the war surrounds her. Fady states he does not possess political views on either side, and instead races cars for fun. He does not believe the war will end anytime soon, and proposes marriage to the woman he has been seeing. Though his mother does not want Fady to be married in Beirut, Mouna convinces the family to have the reception at the house. After living with her family in the middle of the civil war, Gaby develops the same connection to the house, and decides to remain in Beirut. On the day of Fady’s wedding ceremony, a reception is held at the house, and Nyla says the home has not seen its last party, nor has it seen the end of the war.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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