“BREAD AND SALT” – UNIFIL launches new TV Series
One chance, one day, ten hours - Eight extraordinary students from the Lebanese University (LU) in Beirut successfully took part in a new UNIFIL television production capacity building project. Recently graduated from the school of journalism, Hussein Alayyan , Farah Amer , Gadir Hamed , Layal Hamze , Zeina Islambouli , Suzane Jaber , Manoella Msheik and Sana Seblani were chosen to each host two episodes of this new TV Series, by spending one day with a UNIFIL contingent to discover what their responsibilities are in relation to the mandate and activities of the peacekeeping mission. Each student effectively became the host and journalist, revealing not only the operational side of UNIFIL but who they are and where they come from.
UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major-General Paolo Serra and Deputy Head of Mission Mr. Milos Strugar held a ceremony on 26 September in Naquora to mark the launching of this new TV Series called "Bread and Salt", which will be at least 16 ten-minute episodes. Acknowledging the many challenges there are to shooting short films and that "this is the first time students have worked with UNIFIL in this manner ", the Force Commander congratulated the students for their enthusiasm and tenacity. The students went through an audition process, and Mr Ramin Francis Assadi, UNIFIL's TV Producer of the Public Information Office, who came up with the concept and directed the films, said he was overwhelmed with the professionalism, dedication and interest that came from the students.
Mr. Assadi explained that the idea behind the Arabic title "Bread and Salt" was fitting to the project as in Arab culture and in Lebanon the meaning has a deep rooted, symbolic significance. "So, when you say there is 'Bread and Salt' between us – there is friendship, a bond, a connectedness, loyalty to the point of protection...a symbol of UNIFIL's relationship with the people of South Lebanon for the past three decades and we want to bring this idea back to the people of South Lebanon." The eight students expressed tremendous gratitude for the unique journalistic experience they had gained during the production, and were pleased to have acquired hands-on knowledge of UNIFIL's mandate and activities on the ground. Sana said that her experience did reflect the title "Bread and Salt", which focused on the importance of shared values, duty and mutual support. Gadir observed that, once her initial fear of being in front of the camera had gone, she enjoyed learning about UNIFIL, in particular the assistance it provides to civilian populations.
So how did the project work? Each student spent one day with one of UNIFIL's contingents, including the Irish, Indian, Chinese, Italian , Brazilian, Cambodian, Nepalese, Indonesian, Malaysian, French, Turkish, Ghanaian, Spanish, Korean battalions and the Observer Group Lebanon to better grasp what it was like to be a peacekeeper and what kind of responsibilities they were tasked with. Hussein said that as a child, he would wave at UNIFIL peacekeepers as they passed by, but was unaware of what they were doing. Thanks to this project however, he has seen first-hand what UNIFIL is doing to achieve peace and maintain security in southern Lebanon.
Sana, who was embedded with a UNIFIL team patrolling along the Blue Line, caught a glimpse of UNIFIL's role in monitoring the cessation of hostilities and in 'Blue Line' marking. She focused on the cross-cultural interaction amongst soldiers of myriad nationalities and with the local population. Eating Indian food with the Indian battalion, Sana noted that culinary difference notwithstanding, we shared common values across cultures. Zeina also accompanied a UNIFIL patrol and visited a souk which the Irish peacekeepers visit regularly. She learned that playing the bagpipes was not as easy as it seems. Suzane, who spent much time with women peacekeepers, was overwhelmed by the human aspect of peacekeeping and the hardships associated with spending long periods away from home.
The students not only researched UNIFIL and their assigned contingent but prepared all questions for the interviews they conducted. In particular, they looked at the interaction between LAF and UNIFIL. UNIFIL's focus remains on the gradual assumption by the LAF of effective and sustainable security control of the UNIFIL area of operations, as a key element in supporting moves towards a permanent ceasefire. "It was the first time I saw the relations between LAF and UNIFIL and how well the people in the villages were treating UNIFIL, as if they were Lebanese," said Manoella. As for Layal, she was "impressed with the dedication and work of the (UNIFIL) de-mining team in helping a country that is not theirs."
At the end of the ceremony, the Force Commander presented the students with certificates. But more than these certificates, these students are proud to have proven through their short films that they have a voice, a voice they hope will be increasingly heard, as they continue to gain experience. Farah was unprepared to what she was to discover - and how much she would learn not only about UNIFIL but about herself by exploring new cultures.
The "Bread & Salt" TV Series launches on 1 October on NBN, New TV, OTV and Tele Liban, as well as on youtube.com/UNIFILARABIC; youtube.com/UNIFILVIDEOUNIT; Facebook page: UNIFIL-PIO and unifil.unmissions.org