The history of winemaking in Lebanon is the subject of the new documentary film WINE and WAR: The Untold Story of Wine in the Middle East, by Mark Johnston and Mark Ryan. The film will have its virtual theatrical release at Laemmle Theaters on October 9th (and will be available at wineandwar.com).
WINE and WAR is a feature documentary about the history of winemaking in Lebanon and the resilience of the Lebanese entrepreneurial spirit seen through the lens of war and instability. The film looks at the challenges of making wine in a region that has always witnessed upheaval, and yet one that around 7,000 years ago, through the Phoenician trading empire, did nothing less than give the gift of wine to the world.
The documentary explains this historical journey, focusing on latter part of the 20th and the early 21st Centuries, with testimonies from those who fought to make wine in the 1975-90 civil war, the 2006 Summer War, and those who continue to produce in the shadow of regional instability.
Inspired by the award-winning book Wines of Lebanon by Michael Karam, a writer who lived in Lebanon for 25 years and who is no stranger to war himself, the winemakers’ astonishing stories tell of bravery, determination, and survival and how wine can be a unifier and a metaphor for life, hospitality, civilization, and above all, a force for good in a region defined by turmoil and animosity. But above all, it is a compelling story that has not been told about a region that is not automatically associated with wine, one that shows the best side of Lebanon, its history, its tradition of hospitality, and its generosity of spirit.
Featured in the documentary are the legendary Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar, Eat, Pray, Love author Liz Gilbert, wine celebrity Jancis Robinson, high-profile Lebanese winemakers and winery owners, including Michel de Bustros of Chateau Kefraya, Karim and Sandro Saade of Chateau Marsyas, Domaine Bargylus and Ramzi and Sami Ghosn of Massaya, and a host of other characters that bring this thrilling story to life.
All proceeds from the film’s release will be donated to CAP-HO, a charity providing much needed medical care to children without insurance at the St. Georges Hospital in Beirut, which hit hard by the August 4 explosion in the Lebanese capital.
In 2013, inspired by the book Wines of Lebanon by Michael Karam, filmmakers Mark Johnston and Mark Ryan set out to change the perceptions of the Middle East – and in particular the tiny nation of Lebanon – by examining an enigmatic and misunderstood part of the world with winemakers who had a story to tell.
Johnston and Ryan met in film school at USC in 1999. In 2014, they released their first award-winning documentary The Invisible Front, but by then they were already in Lebanon, recording stories of courage, adventure and determination.