“For me, everything starts with an impulse to create” | Meet Lebanese director and composer Firas Abou Fakher

By  | 

An award-winner, Firas Abou Fakher is a composer, director, writer and producer based in Beirut. His revolutionary work has been making a lot of noise, in the Arab world and internationally. Graduated as an architect from the American University of Beirut, Abou Fakher is a multidisciplinary artist who hasn’t ceased to explore his passions. One of the founding member of Lebanese indie-pop band Mashrou’Leila, with whom he’d been writing and composing for over 10 years, Firas decided to go into directing and launched Last Floor Productions (LFP) in November 2019. And that was surely a grand idea: his debut film It Gets Darker’ (2022) has been winning awards around the world. Until now, It Gets Darker’ won best Horror in Tokyo, premiered at the prestigious Screamfest LA, has been selected at the Flicker’s Rhode Island International Film Fest and won Best Horror at the Seoul International Short Film Festival. We spoke to Firas to hear about his creative process, life in Beirut and different projects.

Interview/Cynthia Jreige

Hello Firas! First of all, how have you been and how is life in Beirut? 

Hey! Things in Beirut have been better for sure, but I’ve been lucky to be able to work on creative projects in film and music recently and I’m particularly happy that the projects feature a lot of home-grown talent, which has been especially satisfying during these times.

You’re a man of many talents – graduated as an architect, musician, director, owner of your own production house… How do you manage it all? Have you faced many challenges along the way?

Each project has its own set of challenges and opportunities, whether in design, music or film. For me, everything starts with an impulse to create, regardless of the medium. I find the challenges of learning a new craft or a new method enriching and I am able to reinvent myself through them. Learning a new craft sheds light on the other things I have learned, and allows me to create in new and unexpected ways.
The desire for creating Last Floor Productions came from a similar place to creating Mashrou’ Leila: I had a deep dissatisfaction with the fact that the film and television projects from the region are out-of-touch with the pulse of our generation, so I thought I would try and do something about that.

Is there any discipline you practice that has a slightly more special place in your heart?

Music and composing has been with me the longest and is still my deepest passion, and I try to sneak in as much music into all my projects as I can. 

Tell us more about your first movie, “It Gets Darker’” and how did it come about?

The idea behind It Gets Darker is simple: how far are you willing to go to refuse being silenced? Spurred by personal experiences with censorship and vilification, I wanted to portray the effect this can have on people.
I’ve always been attracted to genre films; horrors, sci-fi, thrillers etc. Both for their accessibility  to a large audience and for their ability to probe and examine the anxieties and traumas of people in an engaging and immediate way.  With my writing and directing partner Daniel Habib, we were able to put together a script that is dynamic, powerful and entertaining while posing important premise.
What’s amazing is that the scariest and tensest movies are the most fun to make. We shot the film on the desert border between Lebanon and Syria in 3 days, living and shooting on location with an incredible cast and crew.

Surely many fans will want to know; can we expect a Mashrou Leila reunion anytime soon?

After 12 years of non-stop touring and working, we’re each taking time to focus on personal ambitions that had been set aside, I had been wanting to take a step as a director for many years, and I’m humbled by the incredible success the film is finding internationally and locally.

How has it been operating your own production agency, Last Floor Production, from Lebanon and what has been one of the most rewarding projects you worked on since founding it?

Last Floor Productions came about from a desire to see film and television productions that deal with relevant issues in a contemporary way, far from the tired melodrama in the region. I had very little knowledge about the ins and outs of the industry, so a special thanks is due to my partners and the writers who put up with all my questions and mistakes as I learned. 
I’m always most excited about whatever project I’m currently working on, using the things I’ve learned from previous things to feed into the new work.

What is next for you, Firas?

Right now at Last Floor Productions we are creating and writing three extremely exciting projects that will be revealed very soon. I am also focusing on a big musical project that is unlike anything I have done before, combining music, design, film and technology. 
I am also trying to spend as much time with my family as I can, I tend to deep dive into whatever passion I am currently pursuing but it’s very clear as I get older, the more you invest in meaningful time with family and friends and partners, the richer your work will be.

Keep up with Firas’ work on his Instagram, right here!