A Love of [Lebanese] Trains

Originally published on Hummus For Thought on April 13th 2012.

The short documentary by Guilhem Bertran and Marc-Antoine Bindler was listed at the “Festival Européen des 4 Ecrans” which took place in Paris from the 18th to the 20th of November 2009 in the category “Un amour de train” (A love of trains).

Guilhem Bertrand and Marc-Antoine Bindler are French students in Journalism at l’Institut des médias-ISCPA of Paris. Taking advantage of an internship in a Francophone newspaper in Lebanon, they went looking for old Lebanese train drivers to film this “web-film” of 3 minutes with an amateur camera.

The documentary is in Arabic/French subtitled in French and I’ve written a rough English translation below:

Title: in their veins runs the train

– If there are no trains, there is no commerce, there is no life

– This railway was the basis for the nation

– A country that has no trains is not a country

In Lebanon, obsolete facilities, the civil war, political instability and the flight of skills has condemned train running since 1995. French students in journalism, we went to Lebanon during the summer of 2009. With out small camera, we have found the last train lovers…

Welcome to Lebanon

– In the whole world, countries base themselves on their railways. And we had one, thanks to the almighty, like nowhere else in the Middle East.

Beirut Station (Mar Mikhael)

Bchara Assi, President of the Lebanese Union of Railwaymen

– The train brought a lot of money to the state. It even allowed us to pay the port employees.

– My name is Assaad Namroud, son of Georges. I entered the office of railways in 1946. I entered as a driver. The machines used to function on coal. I drove the trains from Beirut to Tripoli between 1976 and 1977 in the middle of the [civil] war. My director Abdallah Chem told me “Mr Assaad, you have to take care of the trains from Beirut to Jbeil. You’re the only one who can do it. ” I told him “Why? do I look like a victim?” and he told me “No one dares to anymore. The others are but simple employees”

– In Beirut we used to receive phosphate from Turkey and send it to the whole of the Middle East. We used to receive livestock as well. Lebanon was the hub of commercial trade.

– If the train came back..

– .. the people will live. The new generation would enter the active life and find work again. People would think about something else to do than war.

– They stopped the train until now. The railway can start again, if the State decides to do so. But in my opinion, they must take that decision because there isn’t a country on Earth that doesn’t have a train.

– If the train passed by here once again, how would you feel?

– My heart would.. it’s in my blood