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Home #Hwoodtimes Dania Bdeir’s WARSHA:  A Syrian Refugee Finds Personal Freedom

Dania Bdeir’s WARSHA:  A Syrian Refugee Finds Personal Freedom

Dania Bdeir, director of Warsha

By Jim Gilles

Mohammad (Khansa) up on the building crane

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/23/21 – Warsha is an impressive 15-minute short film by Lebanese-Canadian director Dania Bdeir. Previously it was part of the Berlinale Talents Short Film Station in 2019. It will have its USA debut at Sundance this year on Thursday, January 20, in a series of shorts that screen beginning at 8 AM (Location to be announced). The film is about a male Syrian migrant crane operator working at a construction site in Beirut who finds his sense of personal freedom when he is away from everyone’s eyes. Like many undocumented Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, he works at job that many Lebanese are unwilling to do – especially work at high-rise construction sites. He lives in a crowded apartment with six other Syrian men and treasures a battered photograph of an Egyptian female singer with heavy make-up surrounded by flowing red fabric.

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Mohammad (Khansha) looking up at the high-rise building crane

Each day Mohammad, the major character, boards a van that takes him along with his fellow Syrian construction workers to the high-rise construction site on which they are working. When Mohammad hears that a previous high-rise crane operator had an accident, he asks to take his position working the crane. We follow him as he experiences the heights with trepidation and then sits in the crane cabin contemplating what to do. What happens next is a revelation.

Mohammad (Khansha) dreaming about a Lebanese singer

Director Dania Bdeir started out with an idea for a film after seeing a high-rise crane operator up on the crane doing evening prayer outside the control cabin. Later she happened to see a dance performance by a gender-bending performer named Khansa and decided to ask Khansa to be in this film. She shot the 15-minute film at a real construction site in Beirut, using real Syrian construction workers and actors at a construction site. The actual scenes with Khansha operating the high-rise crane were later shot in a studio in France using HDR LED Walls and cutting-edge Unreal Engine Technologies. In a short introductory video on YouTube, Dania Bdeir explains “Warsha is about liberating oneself from any shackles that limit us be it gender, societal, cultural, or even self-imposed expectations and unleashing whatever desires are burning within.” Without giving any spoiler alerts, it is helpful to know that Dania Bdeir’s film has definite appeal for programmers of LGBTQ film festivals like Outfest in Los Angeles.

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Mohammad, riding up the construction elevator to the crane

Dania Bdeir is a Lebanese-Canadian writer and director. Her first film In White (2016) was selected for Clermont Ferrand IFF, BFI, Uppsala and won the Grand Prize at Curta Cinema Rio de Janeiro Short Film Festival, making it eligible for the 2019 Academy Awards. She’s a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective and has an MFA in directing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 2019 she was selected as a Berlinale Talent and participated in its Short Film Station with Warsha. Currently based in Dubai, Dania Bdeir is developing her first feature film.

Mohammad up in the crane cabin

Warsha is co-produced by GoGoGo Films (France) and with Né à Beyrouth Films (Lebanon, producer of the Oscar-winning film Capernaum by Nadine Labaki). The short has been pre-purchased by ARTE France, and supported in France by CNC, region Grand Est, région Sud, Martigues City, SACEM, and Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).