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Interview – Cyril Aris – ‘The President’s Visit’ – A Short Film


Posted September 16, 2018 by

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Interview – Cyril Aris – ‘The President’s Visit’ – A Short Film

The President’s Visit takes a farcical look at impressing the powerful by any means necessary. Director Cyril Aris’ little film has been making quite a mark on the film world, having been selected for over 50 high profile film festivals around the world and talking home the Grand Jury Prize at Nashville Film Festival.

The President’s Visit to the tiny seaside factory of the Sultan of Soap becomes a complete washout!

Lebanese Director and Screenwriter Cyril Aris earned an MFA from Columbia University in the City of New York, and taught Film at Columbia University, NHSI at Northwestern University and Barnard College. His debut feature documentary The Swing had its world premiere at the 53rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and was called “Intimate and moving” by The Hollywood Reporter, reviewed as a “meditation on truth, love and lies in the face of illness and death”.

Cyril’s previous credits include short film Siham, winner of the jury award at the Palm Springs ShortFest, he produced the award-winning film Submarine, which played in competition at Cannes, TIFF and SxSW, and is currently developing his first feature It’s a Sad and Beautiful World.

The President’s Visit premiered at the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival, won the US National Board of Review grant award, was shortlisted for a student BAFTA award, won the Muhr Jury Prize at the 14th Dubai International Film Festival, and the Oscar-qualifying Grand Jury Prize at the 49th Nashville Film Festival, making the film eligible for an Oscar nomination in 2019.

Mounia Akl co-wrote the film, her previous work includes Submarine, El Gran Libano and is currently writing her first feature film Costa Brava. Valerie Castillo Martinez and Marc Fadel produced this award-winning comedy, the beautiful cinematography was created by Joe Saade and the music composed by Paul Tyan.


To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘The President’s Visit’…

The President’s Visit is a satirical drama set in a coastal town of fishermen, where time stands still and nothing really happens… till one day, Nino, the local soap maker, receives a mysterious phone call from the presidential office informing him that the President, while on a “cleansing campaign” of the country, needs a whole lot of soap. So he plans to visit his soap shop, and purchase his entire inventory.

When Nino mistakenly leaks the intel to his Uncle, the whole town learns the news, and prepares – or rather: competes, for the attention of the President, when he will arrive… whatever damage this competition might cause.

Where did the idea come from? How did you get involved?

The idea came to me from the fact that in my home country, Lebanon, we did not have a President for over 2 years (2014-2016), simply because our parliament couldn’t agree on the ideal candidate. Stuck in a political limbo, the whole country was leader-less.

This rather absurd situation propelled me into setting this farcical story in a quiet town where townsfolk suddenly turn against each other over the idea of the arrival of the leader figure, driven with an urge to satisfy and impress their leader.

I partnered up with co-writer Mounia Akl, and we developed the script during that period. Later on, thanks to a few grants, the producers and I were able to make it happen.

Tell us about the cast, who is starring in ‘The President’s Visit’?

Fouad Yammine stars in the lead role of Nino. Yammine’s acting credits include The Insult, the Oscar-nominated Lebanese drama, as well as Very Big Shot, a Lebanese comedy and Nadine Labaki’s Where do we go now?.

Yammine portrays appropriately the tone of the film, as his rather comedic behavior blends in with an overall sadness, giving out this mixed tone of drama and comedy at the same time.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

A mixture of filmmakers across countries and film eras. This film has a weird tone, as it swings between drama and comedy, a bit like in the work of Aki Kaurismaki. His deadpan comedy echoes with the hilarious sense of humor of Buster Keaton or Jacques Tati, and his over-stylization of the dull worlds he portrays gives sense to his great empathy for his characters. I also love the comedy of the Coen Brothers and the social commentaries they make through their unique style of humor.

I love the work of Godard, Paul Thomas Anderson, Bela Tarr, Tarkovsky, Jim Jarmush, Michael Haneke, Elia Suleiman, Roy Anderson, Kusturica and many more.

What advice would you give any up and coming filmmakers, trying to crack the industry?

The only way to learn film is to make films.

When and where can we expect to see ‘The President’s Visit’?

The short is still touring the festival circuit, and has played in over 50 festivals. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2017, won the US National Board of Review (NBR) grant award, was shortlisted for a student BAFTA, won the Muhr Jury Prize at the Dubai International Film Festival, and the Oscar-qualifying Grand Jury Prize at the Nashville Film Festival.

When the movie is done touring festivals, we hope to make it available online.

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

I have a feature documentary currently going through the festival circuit, called The Swing. It premiered at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and revolves around a family tragedy, with the two protagonists being my 82-year-old grandmother and my 90-year old grandfather. It examines questions about mortality, and what remains by the end of life when we progressively lose our physical abilities and our memory.

The film also screened in London, and has planned screenings in Egypt, France, Rome, Budapest and festivals around the world.

In parallel, I am developing my first narrative work.


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