The life of Khalil Gibran gets the documentary treatment

FN Designs Studio in Dubai is screening a unique documentary about Khalil Gibran called Backstage with Khalil Gibran.

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Tonight, FN Designs Studio in Dubai is screening a unique documentary on Khalil Gibran.

Titled Backstage with Khalil Gibran,  the documentary is directed and produced by the emerging filmmaker Mona Ibellini and explores Gibran’s legacy through the cast of a London West End play based on his life. Ibellini has presented and worked with Al Jazeera International on programmes such as Street Food Jerusalem and Freedom Theatre as well as acclaimed documentaries such as Palestine Street.

“After being in the media industry for many years now, an independent project such as this was a challenge, but one that I was very passionate about and gladly welcomed,” she says.

Ibellini and her crew of two started shooting the documentary in June when the cast of Rest Upon the Wind started rehearsing, and followed them through to dress rehearsals, finally wrapping up post-production last month.

“The biggest challenge was to decide what to keep and what to cut,” reveals Ibellini.

“There was so much footage. We went from editing a three-hour film to one-and-a-half hours and then finally to 40 minutes. When you are talking about such an iconic figure, there is just so much to say, but I wanted to keep it concise.”

While the play recounts Gibran’s life as an Arab immigrant, the documentary gets up-close and personal with the cast and explores Gibran as a poet and a person.

"I really wanted to have a unique approach and I don't think anyone has ever done a documentary on Gibran through the eyes of a theatre production," says Ibellini. "In preparation for their roles, the cast had spent a large amount of time getting to know Gibran and his work, and had become so connected with him.

“It was interesting to get their feedback and thoughts. I would be with them while they were onstage and while they were backstage. When they weren’t reading through their scripts, they would be reading Gibran. Gibran was with us all the time – onstage, offstage and backstage. We were all learning a lot more about him than we expected to. I didn’t know much about him before I worked on this project and the cast has helped me along the way.”

Ibellini says that the documentary is “not just cultural but educational at the same time”.

•  Backstage with Khalil Gibran will be screened at FN Design Studio, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai, at 7.30pm