This weekend was a great time to be part of the Lebanese community in Los Angeles, CA. Two great events punctuated the weekend: L.A. Beirut Sister Cities Committee annual Gala held on Friday, November 7, and the Arab Film Festival, which held screening all weekend before heading to San Diego to close out the festivities. The theme of this year’s L.A. Beirut Sister Cities Committee (LABSC) annual Gala, “Gatsby Night in all White” drew an exceptional crowd to the Taglyan Cultural Complex in West Hollywood, CA on Friday night. The night centered on honoring Council Member Mitch O’Farrell and Adib Kassis, US General Manager of Middle East Airlines-Air Liban for their continued support of the Lebanese community. Los Angeles May Eric Garcetti, also an advocate of the community, was in attendance to present O’Farrell with his award and to articulate his continued love for his adopted country of Lebanon, which he visited in 2006 on a LABSC-led delegation to promote understanding and sensitivity to issues in the Middle East. Besides throwing a great party, LABSC are involved in student cultural exchanges. This year, the Committee raised enough money to host 4 engineering students at university in Lebanon. They spent most of their time at Loyola Marymount College, in Los Angeles, but traveled throughout the U.S. to guarantee distinctly American experiences. As engineering students, they also engaged seriously on issues of water distribution during drought conditions, the use of solar power, and technologies the U.S. is employing to better maintain natural resources. The entire evening was impeccably arranged and scheduled, the attendants felt immediately like a large family, and the spirit was one of celebration, education, and enjoyment. The following evening was a film festival not to be missed. In its 18th year, the Arab Film Festival (AFF) boasted 91 films over 3 cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego). Of those 6 films focused on Lebanon and different aspects of Lebanese culture. Saturday evening’s Los Angeles screening, Heritages, was a remarkably poignant, intimate, and generous chronicle of a Lebanese father coming to terms with the Civil War he endured, and the times he was forced to flee Lebanon for safety. The last time, in 2006, Phillipe Aractangi, who compulsively filmed his experiences, decided to create a narrative to gain clarity on his life and decisions. He directed, wrote, and starred in the film, while also engaging wife and 3 children in making this autobiographical account. The film took place in present-day Lebanon and France, where he and his family fled each time. Arantingi also used flashbacks, uniquely superimposing he and his family into archival footage and images. This honest portrayal posed more questions than answers, upholding the truest form of story-telling. He left a few ideas lingering in the minds of the whole audience: How often can one return home? How does war impact our daily lives? What value can our experiences bring to others? Check out the film trailer, and reviews here and here. And follow them on Twitter and Facebook. The Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies will be bring the film, Heritage, and the director to NC State’s Witherspoon cinema on Tuesday, January 20 @ 7 PM. For more information see our events calendar.