The Lebanese Rocket Society “Avant Première”
The avant première of the documentary film The Lebanese Rocket Society: The Strange Tale of the Lebanese Space Race by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige was held on April 9, 2013, at the Metropolis Empire Sofil in Ashrafieh, two days before its official theatrical release in Lebanon. The film had been awarded Best Feature Documentary at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival 2012 “in recognition of its immense efforts of research and its ability to build a dream.”
In attendance were Minister Chakib Kortbawi, Members of Parliament Jean Oghasabian and Shant Chinchinian, Armenian Ambassador Ashot Kocharian, President of the Union of the Armenian Evagelical Churches in the Near East Rev. Megrdich Karageozian, University President Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, LAU President Dr. Joseph Jabbra, Bourj Hammoud Municipality Mayor Antranig Messerlian, in addition to a big crow of faculty, staff, media representatives and friends of the University.
The opening word was given by Haigazian University Public Relations Director Mira Yardemian, who gave a brief introduction to the 1960s project that was the Arab World’s first foray into space travel. This “unbelievable and surrealistic” journey that began with a group of Haigazian students and Mathematics professor Manoug Manougian evolved into a national enterprise. The movie retells this forgotten page of Lebanese history through “eyewitness accounts and archival images,” added Yardemian.
Haigazian University President Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian then offered his welcoming remarks and warmly recalled the university’s 50th anniversary in 2004, in which the Rocket Society was highlighted, and which was attended by General Yusef Wehbi, an integral member of the rocket project, who recently passed away.
Haidostian also conveyed his gratitude and acknowledged the great effort that went into producing this film, welcoming to the podium Joana and Khalil. Armenian Canadian actress and producer Arsiné Khanjian, who had flown in to Lebanon for this occasion, was invited to present the directors with a token of appreciation.
Joana and Khalil expressed their gratitude to all those involved in the movie and announced that their film was “a tribute to those dreamers that managed to change the world.”
This was followed by a special appearance by the guest of honor, Manoug Manougian, who had made the trip from Florida to be here for the first time in 47 years. As one of the founders of the rocket society, Manougian shared some of his experiences, recalling how his dreams of space travel began when he read a book by Jules Verne as a boy and led to his pioneering experiments at Haigazian College, as it was known at the time. Believing in the power of the imagination in that it has “no boundaries” was something he always emphasized with his students. “What happened in Lebanon is something nobody else in the Middle East did and a few college students were able to do,” he affirmed.
Manougian ended his speech with words of appreciation and President Haidostian then presented him with the Haigazian University Distinguished Scholar Award.
The audience was then able to relive this incredible space adventure in the 90 minute documentary film.
Public Relations Office