The new documentary film “On the Edge of Time – The Story of AUB” was screened several times last week to students at the American University of Beirut.
The special screenings, which started on Monday, April 3 and will stretch out until Wednesday April 19, are being held in several auditoriums on and off campus.
Directed and produced by Tony Oyri, Media and Communication professor at the university, the film covers AUB’s history from the year of its establishment in 1866 until current day. The movie, which as produced on the occasion of the AUB150 celebrations, includes various archived images and interviews with alumni of different generations and individuals who have lived through the experiences that AUB had to offer.
”From the beginning, it was clear to me that the film should try to convey some of the key themes in the history of the university through major events that the AUB community has tackled head on; Its identity, liberal arts education, innovation, impact, tolerance, and above all the strength of the AUB community,” said Oyry.
The movie flips through different personalities that had been part of AUB, specifically previous presidents, beginning with Daniel Bliss and his vision and establishment of the university, leading to current president Dr. Fadlo Khuri.
“Even though the film is a historical documentary feature, my aim was to take the audience to a journey through the history of AUB from the perspective of the people who have made it what it is today,” said Oyry. “The film doesn’t take any sides, it tells the story of the AUB community as the past 150 years unfolded.”
It shows the events that had affected the university in becoming what it is today, namely and most importantly the happenings of the Lebanese Civil War which began in 1975 and ended in 1990. The documentary shows how this affected what was both inside and outside the university at the time, showing a parallel between political and educational affairs.
AUB is shown as a place where students, no matter the circumstances, unite and work together in order to live through the blood-shed and events of the war. Even under the flying bullets, students still showed up to university in order to continue their education and also build new ties outside the classroom. For example, Outdoors is one event that clubs got together in order to organise and make in 1982, when it was originally “Indoors.”
The film shows, in the words of FAS Dean Nadia El Cheikh, Ph.D., that AUB is “a space of not only education… but of one that gave a sense of what life could be.”
The film manifests the perseverance and their will to stand together in the face of hardships and continue to create new ideas, cooperate, and learn.
Director Toni Oyry, he expressed how privileged he was to be part of the institution and to be able to speak to the interviewees, “some of the true heroes of our society.”
When asked how he related personally to the content of the film, Oyry stated that his first introduction to AUB was 13 years ago, when he met his future wife in London.
“At our first date she was telling me how she was an AUB graduate and how the university had changed her life,” said Oyry. “Few years after she had finished her Ph.D., we moved to Beirut and she was also a professor at AUB. So even though I did not study at AUB, it truly has affected my life the past 13 years in a way that one can only dream of.”
Oyry also highlighted how he wished this movie would impact students.
“I hope that this film will empower the students to work even harder and believe that everything is possible, after all, the students of students at AUB are following on the footsteps of some of the greatest minds that have come from the region and the world,” said the director.
The documentary successfully did that, for it left students exiting the screening inspired and more enlightened. Daniel Bliss would be glad, for the university remains open to students of different race, sex, and various religious and political beliefs, who are building a community filled with acceptance, knowledge, and unity.