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LEBANON: Alien robot invades Beirut for groundbreaking Arab animation fest

A new invader has descended on Beirut: He is Grendizer. 

Beirut animated The iconic Grendizer of 1970s anime fame is the official poster boy (bot?) of the Beirut Animated film festival, which opens today as a collaboration between  Beirut-based Samandal Comics and the Metropolis art cinema.

Grendizer is a unifying figure for an entire generation of Lebanese who grew up during the country's bitter 15-year civil war. When Beirut was being torn to pieces by local warlords and their foreign-funded militias, the Grendizer cartoons were a welcome distraction for children who were more likely to miss school because of shelling than chicken pox.

Although Grendizer has been a great marketing tool, Metropolis' Rabih Khoury said he and the other organizers tried to emphasize the artistic range of animation, which is often dismissed as kid's stuff. To this end, Beirut Animated will feature 40 animated films and shorts, with a special emphasis on Arab productions.

The festival already has generated buzz with a number of clever mixed-media Internet shorts reimagining Beirut under siege by aliens, monsters and robots, both benign and menacing. The clip below features a somewhat awkward encounter between the cameraman and the robot guarding the entrance to the Candlelight Bar, an infamous prostitution den known locally as a "super nightclub," in West Beirut.


A number of serious feature-length films over the years slowly have been elevating animation in the eyes of film critics and fans. The recent success of "Persepolis" and "Waltz With Bashir" owes much to early pioneers like Ralph Bakshi, whose 1981 "American Pop" is considered by many to be the "Citizen Kane" of animation. The success or failure of the Beirut Animated festival could have implications for how young Arab filmmakers and audiences approach animation.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Videos: Shorts created by Samandal Comics reimagine famous landmarks in Beirut under alien robot invasion. Credit: Samandal Comics via YouTube

Photo: the poster for Beirut Animated, also created by Samandal, features the iconic Grendizer robot. Credit: Beirut Animated

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