Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons released their sophomore album Heart Of Sky back in July. The soulful record meshed the strengths of the various artists in the group, blending soul house and a bit of funk. Now the group has teamed up with Lebanese director Jessy Moussallem to release a short film titled Heart Of Sky, which offers a different perspective on the record.
The video goes to Moussallem’s home country of Lebanon and blends documentary and fiction, telling the story of workers in the Bekaa Valley, where Lebanese Red hashish is grown. It goes into the communities where the crop is grown and cultivated, focusing on a group of teenage boys who dream of escaping to Europe, women who diligently work at their tasks, keeping the community together and elders.
“The cinematic qualities of the Heart of Sky album directed me to find a special filmmaker who could take various strands of the music from the album and weave them together in one visual masterpiece,” explains Lazarus in a statement. “I wanted to find a cosmic basis for the work, a theme that was universal but also very personal and in Jessy’s idea to film the families of the people working in the Lebanese desert cultivating hashish I felt we had hit on the perfect idea. Working closely with Jessy on this movie has been a brilliant symbiosis and I feel the result is a work of significant beauty.”
Moussallem spent a long time working on this project. She spent time living in the valleys to learn from the people working in the industry
“While I was scouting for another film in the Bekaa valley a year ago, I came across a beautiful green stretch of marijuana. A group of women laborers were sitting on the ground surrounded by the spiky leaves, taking a break from their work and drinking tea as their children played beside them. The peaceful scene in the controversial setting made a strong impression on me” explains Moussallem on the creative inspiration behind the film.
“The hashish trade is illegal in Lebanon. Hypocritically, however, they are operated and protected by political sectarian militias who benefit from the profits.”
She eventually worked her way up the ladder from laborers to big time drug movers.
“This was a wild journey from start to finish. I lived in the valleys doing research for a month and a half, where I met people from every level of the industry. I spent time in the fields with the farmers, in manufacturing garages with the laborers, with outlaws in hiding, in the homes of small time dealers and the mansions of big time ones. Somehow, I worked my way up until I found myself in the presence of the Middle Easts’ Escobar.
“After all this, my intuition led me back to the scene and the people that I first met, those who see the red hash as the valley’s gift, the community that tends to the fields," she explains.
“The film blends documentary and fiction. The scenes were scripted around real people and real situations, people who, despite difficult working conditions and an existence that seems suspended between the valley and the sky, live and labour with gratitude for the gifts of the earth, and with faith in god and in each other.”