Jabalna (جبلنا) is a documentary love letter to Lebanon through a journey across the country on the Lebanon Mountain Trail. The film will feature no expository talking heads and instead employ the poetic and pure observational modes. Jabalna will be an audio-visual ethnography, a series of vignettes painting portraits of life on the trail, the fragility of Lebanon’s mountains, and the LMT’s unique ability to connect and reconnect both travelers and locals to Lebanon’s rich history, culture, and stunning geography.
Our vision is for the film to be screened at festivals, museums, Lebanese cultural centers, and to be accessible for free online. Beyond being an aesthetically significant work of art, our hope is that the film will come to be an object for Lebanese people to hold and cherish and to support ongoing efforts to protect Lebanon’s mountains.
To create Jabalna, we are relying on donations. The film is being produced in association with the Center for Independent Documentary.
Established in 2007, the LMT runs 470km, linked by a chain of Druze, Muslim, and Christian guides and guesthouses. As such, the LMT is a deeply communal experience - reflective of the country’s hospitable heart - and offers hikers not only an experience in nature, but a holistic journey into the country’s unique cultural heritage. Each person comes to the LMT trailhead with their own motivations and arrives at its terminus with their own experience, but everyone leaves the trail with a shared sense of awe and admiration for Lebanon’s majestic mountains and the generosity of its people. For Lebanese hikers, their time on the trail returns them to a time and place before the social schisms caused by civil war and serves as a modest vehicle for peacebuilding. For diasporic Lebanese people who feel out of place on their return trips to Lebanon, the trail has offered a familiar point of reentry and (re)connection with their homeland. For foreigners, their experiences on the LMT powerfully changes their perceptions of the country and often leads to return visits.
While the LMT passes through natural reserves and protected areas, the vast majority of the trail is unprotected. Since 2007, the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association (LMTA) has redelineated over 200km of the trail’s path due to unchecked real estate development, illegal quarries, and solid waste dumpsites. These threats to the trail are not unique to the LMT, but are symptomatic of the vulnerabilities faced by all of Lebanon’s mountains. In line with the film’s title, which means “our mountain” in Arabic, the finished product will stir a sense of collective responsibility for the protection of Lebanon’s mountains, by highlighting both the human and natural richness found on the trail as well as the fragility of Lebanon’s environment. As such, we hope our film will not only support the LMTA, but also other environmental activists and organizations in mobilizing public support for protecting Lebanon’s natural heritage.
To learn more about the trail and the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association’s work visit: www.lebanontrail.org
We will create a textured meditation of the LMT through a mosaic of portraits, poems, and snapshots, or a series of vignettes driven with stunning visuals, a layered soundscape, evocative music and intimate voiceover. Loosely framed around chapters such as village life, environmental preservation, identity, and the trail itself, the film’s mosaic will reveal the LMT not only as a vital environmental artery within the country, but as a cultural touchstone to connect - or reconnect - with Lebanon. In other words, with an artistic approach we will demonstrate the LMT’s significance, painting it as a national symbol to be treasured, preserved, and shared.
The team is sensitive to the ways in which local voices and perspectives fail to be reflected in the production of images of Lebanon and the Middle East more broadly. Thus, rather than this film being solely a collaboration between a Lebanese American anthropologist and American filmmaker, the team’s approach is process driven, incorporating local voices from across the trail’s ecosystem in Jabalna’s development and production.
Following recent trends in anthropological filmmaking, our process is inspired by ethnographic methods and “sensory” storytelling, the end goal of which is a tapestry of sound and image created in collaboration with those we meet along the trail. Rather than a designed process, this film will be a process of discovery. We will not be directing our partners in this film so much as capturing how hikers experience movement within Lebanon through their eyes and experiences. We intend to impose no strict narrative structure but instead offer a framework and invite the film’s participants to fill in the gaps with the moments of time and place that they allow us to capture, as flies on the wall.
help Make this movie!
Our goal is to make an enduring artistic and cultural document - not to make a profit. We want you, our supporters, to feel the same way. We have partnered with the Center for Independent Documentary (CID), so all of your contributions will come with a receipt making them fully tax deductible. Please click the link below for more information and how to donate. Checks are best, as a percentage fee applies for contributions made with credit card.
We see our network of supporters as partners in this venture. Every dollar will go towards what you see in the finished film, which will be freely available online and for screenings around the world. Any donation amount will help significantly as we work towards our budget of $100,000. Funds raised beyond our goal will be dedicated to promotion and outreach once the film is completed - remaining funds will be donated to the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association. For your help we are offering the following opportunities and benefits:
+Friend of Jabalna
Digital Cookbook featuring recipes from LMT guesthouses
Desktop and mobile wallpapers from production
+Oak Club - نادي السنديان
Early access to film
+Pine Club - نادي الصنوبر
Original print from production (16x20 on aluminum)
+Olive Producer - منتج الزيتون
Recognition as contributing producer
Invitation to both U.S. and Lebanon premiers with producer & director.
Photobook about making the film
+Juniper Producer - منتج اللزاب
Recognition as Executive Producer
In person meeting or video conference prior to production to discuss ideas for the film
+Cedar Producer - منتج الأرز
Presentation credit and 2 Executive Producer credits
Discussions throughout post-production/editing stage. Jabalna team will share cuts and solicit feedback with Cedar Producer.
Interview with Cedar Producer will be featured on website.
Kevin is a passionate hiker, photographer, and Anthropology PhD candidate at Boston University. With a research interest in heritage tourism and post-conflict reconciliation, Kevin recently completed 18 months of fieldwork in his home country of Lebanon, focusing on the Lebanon Mountain Trail. As a part of his dissertation research, Kevin has walked the length of the LMT twice, (re)discovering his own country alongside other hikers and sharing in their journeys. During his fieldwork, Kevin spent over a year assisting the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association in their efforts to develop the trail’s infrastructure and bolster community support for the trail. Production for this documentary relies on Kevin’s professional network in Lebanon, knowledge of the LMT’s touristic infrastructure, and photographer’s eye for Lebanon’s “hidden gems” found on the LMT.
Lewis is a documentary director, producer, cinematographer and editor. His first short film, “Running on Fumes in North Dakota” debuted on the front page of the New York Times as part of their Emmy-award winning Op-Docs series. It would expand into the feature film “The Bakken”, winner of the Audience Award in its debut at MSPIFF. His next major project, “Before The Bridge” debuted at the prestigious Dok Leipzig festival, winning its category, and screening at over a dozen festivals, winning three. Most recently, Lewis produced, directed photography, and edited the Netflix original docu-series “Westside”. In between, he has freelanced for clients including Anonymous Content, Intellectual Property Corp, IDEO, Swift, All3Media America, Gurney Productions, and as a member of Los Angeles art collective Arthur King. He brings a professional network including Oscar winners along with his own soup to nuts expertise in documentary filmmaking.