According to Mohamed Ferjani’s book The story of Libyan cinema, first official department for cinema in Libya was established in the early seventies of the last century as The department of cinematic production, the department was provided with full equipment of film editing and film developing labs and soon few attempts of short films followed.
In 1973 a public company was established under the name The general institute for cinema, the institution deputed a number of students to study different cinema specialities, and bought a big number of cinema halls across the country.
Two high-cost production historical films were produced: The message 1976 and The lion of the desert 1981 directed by the Syrian American director Mustafa Akkad, after the success of those films the institute made its first bet on the first high-cost Libyan feature film about the war on Italian colonization, the majority of the film crew were Libyans who worked in television and media, The battle of Tagrift 1981 was filmed under the supervision of The department of morality guidance of the Libyan armed forces (a special department of the army that works on spreading the regime’s propaganda) The result was an improvised film that has very weak storyline and many artistic and technical issues.
In the early eighties after the decision to change the management of all the institute that remained from the previous regime (the monarchy) the Institute for cinema was one of the victims of this law, suddenly the Institute of cinema was managed by the ideological revolutionary committee members (Gaddafi henchmen) who have no background or knowledge about the nature of the institute’s work.
Soon after the institute started to struggled with a massive amount of debt and unpaid salaries and was dissolved in the early nineties and it was officially cancelled in 2002.
After 2011 there was a sudden openness towards the idea of filmmaking, the restrictions of filming in the streets and in public spaces were lifted, a lot of short documentaries was produced both independently and by organizations.
The ministry of culture opened a department of Cinema and theatre which had several activities until 2014 but slowly it followed the steps of its ancestor.
During that time there were several workshops and training from both local and international organizations but the issue of moving the wheel of cinema still remains, the lack of an existing healthy industry and cinema halls is the main obstacle.
Currently, graduates of film schools in Libya find themselves lost after they leave the bubble of cinema theory in their institutes, they suddenly face the reality of the non-existent industry, these graduates either head towards TV or advertising or something completely different.
After the decline of experienced technicians in the field made the gap bigger between theory and practice for aspiring filmmakers and that resulted in a shift towards digital platforms and social media for quicker production and quicker feedback regardless of the content and its quality artistically and technically.
At Khayal we’ve been working on bringing those artists and filmmakers together through local screenings and gatherings to help nurture the culture of Cinema, our short films produced in the last years have been made by cinema graduates and aspiring filmmakers together in difficult conditions and with no support from the government.
In our latest film Prisoner and Jailer we worked with two actors from the generation of the cinema institute one of the actors is Eisa Abdolhafeez has worked in the mentioned film “The message” by Mustafa Akkad, through connecting this generation with the young generation who grew up learning from social media and youtube, we can help set the ground to a healthy dynamic Cinema society in Libya.
We’re very aware that the path to a cinema industry in Libya is very long and difficult but we’re very much set on pursuing that goal.