Student Screenwriter Roberto Attieh Wins Audience Choice Award at Cannes

Roberto Attieh (screenwriter), together with Corine Colors (director) and Chrystel Ghanem (co-screenwriter) accepting the “Audience Choice Award” at the Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase.

Third-year Faculty of Arts student Roberto Attieh has been having an inspiring summer. Shortly before his twentieth birthday, the budding screenwriter won the “Audience Choice Award” at the Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase for Bittersweet – a project he worked on with two of his closest friends and artistic partners.

“The story was inspired by an experience I witnessed of two powerful and creative women standing up to a tyrant,” says Attieh, who was the film’s main screenwriter, assistant director and assistant producer.

Attieh hails from “the breezy, historical ex-capital of Lebanon: Deir El Kamar” which he says roughly translates to Monastery of the Moon. He came to UBC in 2015, as a recipient of the International Leader of Tomorrow Award.  He is currently pursuing a major in Film Studies, with a minor in Creative Writing.

We caught up with him to hear about how he got into filmmaking and his future creative plans.

How did you start making and writing films?
As a kid, when I wanted to be myself, I found myself naturally seeking to be involved in the art of storytelling. I would write up small sketches and perform them with my classmates at school or around a campfire (as a scout).

My thirst for storytelling bloomed when I realized the magic and charm unique to cinema. To quote Hannah Arendt, “Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it” and I believe that cinema, by nature, holds a special connection to this reality because the essence of motion pictures is a lie: Frame by frame, one after the other, at a speed that the eye cannot single out, the illusion of motion is created. But it is an authentic illusion rooted in and depicting Truth, without committing the error of defining it.

What was your reaction to winning the Audience Choice award?
As a storyteller and filmmaker, rejections are like brushing my teeth – I deal with one every morning. It is support and recognition like this that helps me refresh my stamina and resilience to keep moving forward – naturally, this was an immensely overwhelming and beautiful experience.  Bittersweet was the only debut independent short film production from Lebanon competing in an independent section at the 70th Cannes Film Festival. The Award fills me with gratitude and determination, and reminds me that I am only a storyteller because my culture and its context has brought me up with a desire to share what many of us have experienced: fleeting moments of outstanding resilience in the face of devastating corruption.

What’s next for you in the writing world and at UBC?
I’m part of the socially-conscious and culturally-rooted artistic collective Colors in Motion – along with Corine Colors (director of Bittersweet) and Chrystel Ghanem (co-screenwriter). Bittersweet was our debut short film production as a collective. Next stop is a creatively-twisted, psychological thriller feature film with inspirational elements from Bittersweet. You can learn about our future projects on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @CColorsInMotion.

As for my journey in Vancouver and at UBC, I plan on bridging the gap between Lebanon and Vancouver and acquiring the knowledge and skills to further my career as a screenwriter and producer in “Hollywood North” –  Vancouver, BC.