Life is a beautiful “Zyara”.
Interview with Director/cinematographer: Muriel Aboulrouss
Congratulations! Why did you make your series?
Zyara is a doc web series that was created by the impulse of needing to exist and survive. It was born from the need to express and be free in the creative act. It was born because we believe in true stories as life lessons, because we are here to testify of the magnificence of human experience through our art and life. Zyara is not just a project, for us it is a life mission and we will keep creating those portraits for as long as we live.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
I believe that art is a mirror and we all mirror each other in a way or another. Zyara offers you a mirror to look at and listen to with acceptance and an open heart. I feel that people watch Zyara because they need to be reminded of their strength and their capacity to turn their lives upside down.
People need heroes in their lives like superman … but Zyara offers real life heroes embracing their emotions and having the courage to show their vulnerability.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
In Zyara the universal themes are revealed through the visuals as much as the testimonials being told. The layering of images - that paints the person’s soul through their environment - are meant to erase their faces and transform them into an expression of life. The person being portrayed appears in the end of the film because it is important to hear them out first and then, as they appear you are ready to love them no matter what. Separating sound and image makes them complementary exactly like our eyes and ears are both and separately complementary to us as humans. The layers are unique to their character but they are universal because they are impressionistic in their impact. The stories are unique as well but because we see no one speaking, they become a voice in our head resonating in our hearts.
Zyara to us is a like a prayer, a slow meaningful prayer that can touch anyone in the world no matter where they are from. Zyara is a prayer of gratitude and positivity.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Let me tell you a story:
On a hot summer day, the creative producer Denise Jabbour and I, were sitting on a terrace wondering about life. Because we live in a country where war always floats, surrounded by many other wars that impact us greatly, we were in our 40s and we were sick of waiting for the phone to ring.
Denise has a passion for people and their stories and she said: lets go talk to people!
I said: interviews are boring!
She said: shoot it your way, do whatever you want but we can’t just sit like this anymore.
So be it!
We gathered the crew, who are friends and colleagues, and we set off to film our first encounter. I did not think or even prepare for this adventure, I decided to shoot what I felt like and I was free to do so.
While Denise was conducting the interview I found myself filming hands, eyes, ears etc… and I went with that impulse not knowing where it would lead.
The editing started and with that same impulse I told the editor Liliane Hanbali: Lili this shot will over lap on this shot… let's see what happens! When the first episode was edited, we all felt the need to do more and we fell in love with the poetry we have created.
We did not know Zyara will be a web series, we did not know where we were heading, we just knew something authentic and magical was born and we had to keep going.
After 4 episodes we decided to name it Zyara (visit in English).
We decided to submit it to festivals and have won 21 international awards for it so far.
It is addictive to be free in the creative act, it is addictive to feel love so deeply towards people we just met and witness the open heart Zyara with them, it is addictive to be happy and feel that we have found what we wee born and gifted to create.
Season one featured random people living in Lebanon but we have decided that from now on every season will have a theme. Season two features Lebanese people with mental &/or physical challenges… and the journey continues.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It is magical but also energetically logical… when you share love, you receive love in return.
Zyara’s feedback has been overwhelming since day one. We receive love messages everyday and we have witnessed it change people’s lives in so many ways.
Zyara season one has been distributed by Sundance AMC channel, Fandor, Twisted Mirror tv and 20/20 productions in the US.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It was positively surprising, as I did not expect people to embrace the visual language of Zyara.
Despite its very special and slow paced visual expression, Zyara has become like a meditation tool for many people who wait every two weeks for a new Zyara to be released.
To love and accept yourself just the way you are is what Zyara is teaching us everyday.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Zyara is a web series that holds in its core the message of Oneness, self-love and gratitude.
We aim to create a ripple of love in the world from Beirut.
Beirut is a magical chaos and the Middle East a land of struggle in so many ways… despite all that, we see love, passion and peace. Zyara is an act of resistance, a message of peace from us to the world.
We, the Zyara makers, were all born during the civil war. We were born and raised under the bombs until the age of 18… we know what hate, fanatics and fear can do and it's nothing compared to what Love can create.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We are seeking sponsorship for every season, season three will feature “Orphans” from all ages (no mother or father) and season four will feature “Addiction” (people who transcended their addiction for the love of life) and in order to keep going in our mission we need support. Sponsorship, distribution and exposure are all necessary to spread Zyara as widely as possible.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I believe Zyara exists to heal through emotional cleansing; it exist to connect us emotionally and make us realize that our fears are the same and Love is what we all are seeking in so many different ways. That is the Impact we seek.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Who are you?
Would you like to add anything else?
Zyara is our way of loving the world. Our motto: Life is a beautiful Zyara (visit)
What are the key creative developing or working on now?
Mainly now we are starting research for season three and seeking sponsorship/funding for it as well. The next two themes on the table are: Orphans and People with addiction.
Interview: February 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Life is a beautiful “Zyara”.
Length: max 5mins per episode.
Director/cinematographer: Muriel Aboulrouss
A multiple awad-winning cinematographer from Beirut-Lebanon, considered to be the first camerawoman in the Arab world. Her cinematography includes footage for a great deal of award winning documentaries, such as Mercedes by Hady Zaccak, and feature films such as Michel Kammoun’s Falafel and George Hashem’s Stray Bullet.
As a teacher and lecturer she created and led film workshops within the Cine-Jam film lab project. In 2014, she debuted as a director with documentary series Zyara. produced by her own production studio Home of cine-jam, which she shot together with Denise Jabbour.
Creative Producer: Denise Jabbour
Denise Jabbour is a Creative Producer from Lebanon.
After a few years of working as an agency producer in Dubai, she decided it was time for a change and moved back to Lebanon to work on story telling. She worked on a numerous award winning projects like ‘Shankaboot’ & ‘Fasateen’.
Since 2009, she has been handling Middle East productions for Visionaire Media & Layalina Productions.
In 2014, she produced “Zyara”, the award winning doc web-series, in partnership with Muriel Aboulrouss as the first creation of their hub “Home of Cine-Jam”.
Editor: Liliane Hanbali
Liliane is an award-winning editor and executive producer. Since graduating from the Lebanese American University (LAU) with a degree in Communication Arts, Liliane has amassed over 20 years of experience in creating artful montages that tell engaging stories. In 2010, she founded WAHM Productions, a Beirut-based production house that provides full end-to-end production services.
Liliane’s latest editing project is “Zyara” (Visit), an award-winning documentary web-series
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): funding and distribution
Funders: Home of Cine-Jam (represented by Muriel Aboulrouss & Denise Jabbour)
Where can I see it in the next month?
We release an episode every two weeks
Season two episodes will be fully online by end of June 2017.
Link to the Zyara playlist on youtube
Link to season two playlist on youtube: