Lara, a 24 year old Lebanese artist living in NYC, returns home to Beirut for her father’s funeral. Her elegant strong-willed mother, Mona, pushes for Lara to behave in accordance with the social mores of Beirut and the traditional ways of grieving. Lara, in mourning and in need of her family, yields. Her Jewish American fiancee, Noah, shows up to support her - but is surprised to discover that Lara has never told her family about him. Lara can’t bring herself to risk losing her family but eventually must find a way to be true to herself.
When one moves from a country like Lebanon to the vastness of New York city, they are bound to go through a relentless process of change. Lebanon is small, 4,036 mi2, and the culture is built on the premise of family lineage, and upholding the reputation of the family. Life is intertwined in far reaching ways, where uncles and aunts are the equivalent of second and third mothers and fathers, neighbors are closer than family, and everyone’s life choices are subject to the community they exist in. Tradition and societal norms are strong forces that drive the way people interact with each other, and ultimately with themselves.
New York city is, as it seems to me, the direct opposite of life in Lebanon. The city is too large for people to know about each other, neighbors are strangers, some roommates hardly even speak. Peculiar characters are on full frequency, your understanding and perception of the world is pushed to its limits, boundaries and habit are broken on a daily basis, and you end up meeting and living with people with experiences very far away from your own.
The city is skilled at forcing you to face yourself, on multiple levels, and in relation, it puts you in a position to choose what you want more of yourself, and what you want, and somewhere need, to let go of.
I’ve witnessed this big change happen in myself. It’s inevitable. When living in New York, you shed a lot of preset notions that were etched into your being just by being exposed to such diversity. It makes way for different narratives to unfold in front of you. Furthermore, you quickly realize in New York that there is no such thing as “what’s expected of you” because it’s too big and you’re just anonymous, a person who can do whatever they want, without it necessarily reflecting on your entire family or society. It’s utmost individuality as opposed to Lebanon’s collectivism.
After achieving and living such freedom, a physical freedom as well as a mental one, you can truly find yourself in the realest way. Yet when you go back to Lebanon, that world doesn’t want to accept or see your change. You’re forced to regress and fill back the shoes of the person you once were unless you have the strength of character to stand up for yourself and stand out.
You’re surrounded by warmth, family, support and love on the condition that you conform. But is it truly home? Is that where you are the truest version of yourself?
IN WHITE is about straddling two opposing worlds and finding your place within them. What is home? Is it when you are at peace with yourself, or at peace with the culture you belong to? What if the person your heart has chosen to love is at odds with the culture you belong to?
It’s a story about a strong mother and a daughter whose strength is revealed when she is away from the force of her mother. It’s a story about the overruling notions of society, when to adhere to its implications, when not to, and the cost of both. It’s about religious segregation in an area of the world where religion dictates, culture, society, politics and belonging. It is a story about questioning social mores in order to serve deep, personal, and emotional forces that oppose them.
It is a story about forbidden love. It is a story about living a life expected of you versus a life you choose and vice versa. It is a story about family versus self, traditional versus modern in our ever changing global world and the third world that is so far behind.
It is a story about the hardship of having to decide between the family you were born into, and the family you want to make for yourself.